#1169 Halloween 2019: Transylvania 6-5000 (1985)

Picking fun of Glenn Miller’s song Pennsylvania 6-5000 – a pun that wasn’t much fun back then, and even less today when the song is long forgotten – Transylvania 6-5000 unsuccessfully aims to poke fun of two reporters of a sleazy tabloid flying over to Transylvania to investigate a reported sighting of the Frankenstein’s monster.

The word on the internet is that the movie was financed by a chemical company that had frozen finances in the former Yugoslavia that couldn’t be used in the U.S., and the movie was written to accommodate that problem. When the motivation to shoot a picture is this, you can only imagine the hollowness of the end result.

The movie gets absolutely no mileage out of the foreign location and gathers up a remarkably strong cast that it then wastes due to a remarkably lousy script. Out of Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr., Jeffrey Jones, Geena Davis and Michael Richards it’s only Richards that manages to provide with little entertainment with his physical humour.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 17%

#1160 Halloween 2019: Sundown: Biohazard (1985)

If the name Fred Olen Ray rings any bells, you probably know already what to expect from Biohazard: a low budget scifi horror movie hoping one day to be a B-movie.

Long story short, Biohazard is bad. But, it’s also borderline bad enough to be funny. An example: The ‘notorious’ killer who looks like a 5-year old kid running around in a dodgy alien costume makes much more sense when you find out that it is in fact the director’s 5-year old kid running around in a dodgy alien costume.

If you hang around long enough to witness the last five seconds and the almost heartbreaking blooper reel revealing how unprepared most of the actors are and are really struggling with remembering and delivering their lines, there’s no way you can stay completely mad with Biohazard wasting 80 minute of your life.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 51%

#1153 Moving Violations (1985)

Moving Violations is a film known for most as the only film release featuring John Murray, Bill Murray’s baby brother.

While John is no Bill, he actually fares surprisingly well here. While the constant wise cracking is right there on the verge of getting tiresome, I can imagine how annoying it might’ve gotten in someone other’s hands. But John Murray does not carry the movie through, the movie actually does it all by itself.

A comedy in the vein of Police Academy about bad drivers forced to attend to a traffic school has some actually funny moments throughout and ends up a well above average comedy in the best tradition of the 80s, including the ending that wraps up the movie in a more satisfying way than almost any other comedy out there.

80s-o-meter: 95%

Total: 85%

#1148 Tenement aka Game of Survival (1985)

Tenement is an exploitation action thriller that follows a hoodlum gang taking a hold of an old apartment block building, consequently trapping all of its habitants inside.

The violent and graphic – although with some of the pinkest blood ever seen on the silver screen – exploitation angle feels really distracting at first, but as the plot evolves further, the inhabitants withdraw to the higher levels of the apartment and finally start fighting back, the movie does get a whole lot more interesting.

While I can’t say that Tenement would have many merits, it does have some interests aspects and both stylish and hilariously goofy design choices going for it. I did not at all dig the cinematography that has has that distinctive mid 70s look & feel to it, but I loved the way the gang members were so indifferent when finding one of them brutally eliminated by the inhabitants and how proudly this flick just embraces its B-movie status and runs with it.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 61%

#1146 The Sure Thing (1985)

The first lead role for John Cusack and the one that made him an overnight success, The Sure Thing follows two college students on a road trip to California.

They begin the trip an unlikeable companions, hating each others guts – and you pretty know how it’s going to play from there. But as with every road trip, it’s not the destination but the journey matters, and that journey is mostly likeable, although the role of a boorish loudmouth does not seem to sit that well with Cusack.

On a whole The Sure Thing ends up a decent little comedy that manages to be more than the sum of its – at times – meager parts.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 82%

#1141 Pale Rider (1985)

Often dubbed as the best western of the 80s, Pale Rider reintroduces Clint Eastwood as the mysterious drifter with no past.

It’s a role Eastwood was born to play and the thirteen something years since his last western movie have only given him more charism. The movie and especially Eastwood’s work on the screen is delightful to watch, especially the way he is much more comfortable here than, say, in the stinker that was his previous movie.

Pale Rider does not revolutionise in the genre, nor does it set out to do so. On the contrary; it offers exactly what western fans wanted, and does so with a solid, fresh feeling way, coupled with top notch and modern (compared to the earlier decades) production values. And as such it’s a winner of an action movie.

80s-o-meter: 51%

Total: 87%

#1135 Trouble in Mind (1985)

I wish I’d checked out the poster of Trouble in Mind before watching the movie as I was more than a puzzled at first what to make of the movie that first looks like your ordinary film noir influenced action movie featuring a cop beaten by life.

Trouble in Mind is all this, but what sets it apart from similar movies is its comedic, surreal tones that I first thought were completely unintentional misfires by the director Alan Rudolph. But I’m not completely to blame for this as the movie starts pretty normal but turns somewhat quirky only later as the story moves on to showing the underworld of the fictional Rain City.

While I did not care much for Trouble in Mind, I did find something intriguing in its setting of an alternative timeline combining 50s and 80s and it will go my list of movies to check out later again. I might like it more on the second run.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 48%

#1134 Alamo Bay (1985)

”I don’t know what to tell you, Dinh. You gotta be one of the last cowboys left in Texas”.

Alamo Bay, a fictive movie about actual clashing between refugee Vietnamese and local fisherfolk around Galveston Bay, Texas in the turn of the decade did not catch my interest at first as I was excepting yet another superficially inspirational tale of prejudice and racism rooted deep within the people that just gets sorted with overnight. But the director Louis Malle does not let things slide that easily and turns the movie into nerve wrenching thriller where in the end there might not be any winners at all.

Ed Harris delivers something of a immaculate performance as the unforgiving local fisherman who seeks for vengeance after losing his boat to the bank.

80s-o-meter: 77%

Total: 84%

#1130 Ladyhawke (1985)

Sad news hit us this week with the news of Rutger Hauer passing away at the age of 75.

To commemorate him I watched through Ladyhawke, a fictitious fantasy tale taking place in the 13th century. It was only too bad that pretty much the only interesting bit for the movie was Mr.Hauer himself, and I really didn’t find other aspects of the movie that interesting.

Shot in location in Italy, the damp and drafty atmosphere did not lure me in, and although I’m not a fan of sword and sorcery movies, I wished the movie had had some more interesting fantasy element to it than the dodgy shapeshifting to animals, like the landmark movies Willow or Legend did.

The movie does have a strong fan base that really seem to dig it, so if the genre interests you, you might still find something here to love.

80s-o-meter: 38%

Total: 51%

#1122 Silverado (1985)

A tale of misfit scoundrels with a heart of gold, Silverado joins Pale Rider, Young Guns and The Long Riders as one of the most essential western movies of the 80s.

This is very much a romantic, Hollywoodian take on the western, and takes place in some alternative reality where even the hookers look like immaculate fashion models, but I dig the way the movie totally embraces its approach and does not even try to represent itself as being historically accurate in any way.

While one could make a case for Silverado to being unrealistic, they’d be hard pressed to ever calling it boring.

80s-o-meter: 45%

Total: 77%

#1103 Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985)

Sporting one of the most cryptic movie names ever, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend is a dinosaur movie, and something of an unrelated 80s predecessor to the now iconic Jurassic Park.

Done in the time before CGI, some of the action effects shown in the wider shots have surprisingly fared adequately, and it’s only when we get to the static closeups that the illusion of actual, living jurassic creatures is completely shattered.

Much bigger problem than the effects is where the movie tries to position itself audience wise: on the other hand there’s tons of family movie elements here – like that cutesy little Brontosaurus baby – and on the other some surprisingly graphic gun violence as well as borderline sex scenes. Although the movie does definitely have its strong points, namely the dinos and its overall sense of an adventure, on the whole the movies just isn’t well balanced at all.

It’s a shame since on paper the movie seems like an easy win that could’ve ended up another E.T. of the era.

80s-o-meter: 73%

Total: 51%

#1101 Rustlers’ Rhapsody (1985)

A comedy that lampoons the cowboy movies of the 30s and 40s Rustlers’ Rhapsody is a delightful little western adventure – as long as you mostly forget about the lampooning part. Why? Well, it’s not very topical subject pick fun of. The film makers were apparently aware of this so they’ve chosen to carefully point out and underline what they’ve parodied, which helps for the frame of reference, but also robs the viewer the joy of making any connections themselves.

Also, what little I know of those movies, the parody here seems something of a hit and miss.

Luckily Rustlers’ Rhapsody is a movie that’s enjoyable even without the frame of reference: It’s a likeable little fairytale like good vs bad story where the good still wins, always.

80s-o-meter: 41%

Total: 65%

#1088 Runaway Train (1985)

Another movie I recall seeing right before starting this project, Runaway Train is a standout movie that has sticked with me to date.

What we have here is an extraordinary movie that combines prison escape, disaster movie, action and thriller in a truly unique way. Star of the show is the cold, harsh and ethereal setting resembling an alternative reality of a video game or an absorbing book that the director Andrey Konchalovskiy manages to forge here.

Similarly captivating are the performances of Jon Voight and Eric Roberts, former of which manages to create one of the most vile, savage and multi-layered delinquents even seen on film.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 93%

#1053 Volunteers (1985)

Tom Hanks and John Candy star as Peace Corps volunteers send to a small Thai village to build a bridge in Volunteers, an adventurous, never-quite-funny comedic take on The Bridge on the River Kwai, something of an odd target for a parody.

It takes quite a while for the Volunteers to find its tone of voice; it’s only towards the last 30 minutes of the movie that it starts to be enjoyable. Before that the movie feels much disoriented and shoddy and the bad camerawork where most subjects seem out of focus and oddly framed. It seems that the movie can’t really make up what it’d want to be, exactly; even the elements of crazy comedy are tried out at one point when the characters start reading the subtitles superimposed to the screen, which seems bit of a faux pas.

If I was to judge Volunteers only by its end part, it would rate nearer the 80 point mark as it manages to press many feel good buttons in the last minutes. But as a whole the movie can’t really be recommended, even if you’re a fan of the comedy of Hanks or Candy.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 61%

#1047 Gotcha! (1985)

Like mentioned numerous times before, there was a hangup in the 80s to do movies based on Europe. Paris in particular was a popular location, due to its romantic and mysterious reputation to the US public, with many dreaming to travel there one day. Unfortunately the European locations rarely translated well to the American cinema and the endless number of films with out of the water US citizen involuntarily getting into all sorts of mishaps are often only tedious to sit through.

Gotcha! breaks this spell .. sort of. I don’t find the locations fascinating, but they do feel less distracting than usual. It’s an interesting little espionage story that manages to pull off something refreshingly different.

Young Anthony Edwards proves he can carry a full length feature film as the sole lead, most likely somewhat saving Gotcha from total oblivion.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 74%

#1013 Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

It was only now during my second time watching the movie that I realised how much Spongebob Squarepants (and his movie) owe to Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.

I never was big fan of the lead who seems mostly annoying most of the time and rarely likeable. In fact, he always seems the weakest link in an otherwise above average movie. Although the premise with the character is finding your inner child and overcoming problems with sheer stupid luck, there’s just something very dark and heinous about him.

A Tim Burton’s directorial feature debut, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is colorful and technically well made movie, but a very hard one to to recommend to anyone since I’m not quite sure to whom it is aimed for. In the end, being something of a catalyst and a paragon for Spongebob might just be the movie’s best asset.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 59%

#1011 Wheels of Fire (1985)

Six years after the first Mad Max movie started the post-apocalyptic wasteland craze, Wheels of Fire finally joins the party as a latecomer pretty much at the following day when the host is already done cleaning up the pool.

But it’s ok to come in late if you bring something new to the table, right? Unfortunately in Wheels of Fire’s case the movie feels exceptionally void of any innovation as it seems to follow the very same route set by other ripoffs. In fact, Wheels of Fire might be closest one to original Mad Max series – and this is not a compliment, believe me.

Driving around the desert with the 80s cars, wearing hockey elbow pads spray painted to black and shooting useless weirdly modded weapons has always represented the lowest form of scifi to me, and Wheels of Fire serves as a prime example why.

80s-o-meter: 76%

Total: 13%

#997 The Journey of Natty Gann (1985)

The Journey of Natty Gann pictures the 2000-mile long pilgrimage of the young Natty through the depression era America to find her father.

For being a Disney family movie, it’s a movie painted with surprisingly dark tones, ultimately making it a movie I wouldn’t necessarily want to watch through with my kids. On the other hand being a Disney family movie it is a bit too much of a sugar coated family picture to really dig into the grim reality of being a homeless kid during the great depression, and I had this constant nagging feeling throughout the film that I wasn’t in the core audience the movie was made for in the first place.

But the movie is still a delight to look at; the cinematography is top notch and the time period feels a somewhat movie like, but well established and believable. Relationship of Natty and her wolf is a thing of beauty, as well as his friendship with the fellow vagabond Harry, played by John Cusack. It’s ultimately those small moments of carrying each other through the moments of despair that make the movie wholeheartedly recommendable – even if you’re not dead center in the target audience.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 62%

#975 Halloween 2018: Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except (1985)

More of an action thriller than a horror movie, Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except (also known as Stryker’s War) follows Vietnam war buddies searching for their old friend and finding lots of trouble in a form of a vicious motorcycle cult.

For a movie that boasts one of the most awkward titles out there and that hasn’t got too many interesting events in it, Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except is a surprisingly easy movie to sit through.

Many have decided to take a look at the movie for it has Sam Raimi playing playing the part of the cult leader, but rather than that the movie is more worth checking out for being a small movie with a brave heart.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 67%

#966 Halloween 2018: Day of the Dead (1985)

The third film in Romero’s Living Dead series that started already in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead takes the franchise to the underground tunnels where the last few survivors of the humankind are hiding from the hordes of zombies that roam the earth. Sheltered behind barriers, they catch and examine the living dead to gain some knowledge about them.

The concept feels fresh on paper but the execution is on the stuffy side, resembling the 1978 Dawn of the Dead much more than a modern take on the subject. Romero’s camera lingers on the zombies for much too long, many of which are pretty poorly masqueraded and would’ve been more effective dwelling in the shadows rather than exposing them to spot lights where they look mostly goofy. On the other hand the effect work is far ahead of rest of the movie and feels extra effective thanks to the overall shoddiness of the movie.

It’s towards the end of the movie that Day of the Dead finally starts moving forward, and as the zombies pour into the vault in masses there’s a decent amount of action and thrills to be had here, including a pretty satisfying ending.

Day of the Dead earns my respect for its courage of taking a road less traveled. I just wished the execution was a notch or two sharper.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 68%