#1084 Savannah Smiles (1982)

I can think of thousands of ways Savannah Smiles could’ve gone very wrong; a tale of two criminals in a run after a jailbreak inadvertently kidnapping a young girl is a delicate subject even for 1982, and a theme that would never go through the executives these days.

What happens afterwards is of course foreseeable. The young girl touches the hearts of the fugitives who let their shields down for the first time and grow attached to her. And Savannah in return finds love and comfort she lacked back home.

What makes this movie tick is the heartfelt change the leads Mark Miller and Donovan Scott manage to convey, as well as the the apparent love that Miller – who also wrote the manuscript – had for the subject.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 65%

#1081 Shanghai Surprise (1986)

Shanghai Surprise was supposed to be a sure hit: A comedic adventure taking place in the exotic 1930s Shanghai featuring Madonna and young Sean Penn, both guaranteed box office magnets.

The general finger or blame seems to point to Madonna – a pop star turned to actor – but despite being really uncomfortable in her role as a missionary, the real problem of the movie is that it’s just plain dull to watch. George Harrison who produced the film deemed necessary to write the soundtrack as well, and his Beatlesque pop songs just don’t work at all – not with the setting nor the era. Penn who has an uncanny ability to make any role his, can’t do much with the two dimensional frames he is given here and ends up creating some sort of weak pastiche from various men leads from classic romantic adventures, with a stub that pretty much looks like it was doodled on with a ball point pen.

Shanghai Surprise is an UK production that got picked up for the blog merely because of its leads and a little bit of personal curiousness – and I got a good reminder to be a little less curious in the future.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 45%

#1080 Vibes (1988)

Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Goldblum and Peter Falk as the leads are the part of the Vibes that works.

Much of the adventure bit really don’t, and Vibes ends up something of a weaker iteration of The Golden Child released two years before, with bit of additional psychic mumbo jumbo and a hint of Indiana Jones thrown in the mix. While the first half of the movie feels like stalling as the protagonists never seems to be able to make it to the actual expedition, as the adventure part starts it turns out to be much weaker portion of the movie. Including the final encounter with the pyramid that looks as if was haphazardly put together with bit of a plexiglass and hot glue, making it one of the least impressive MacGuffins I’ve seen to date.

Luckily much of the humour works, which along with the strong cast makes Vibes tolerable, if not outright recommendable experience.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 61%

#1076 Roar (1981)

It’s nothing short of remarkable that nobody got killed while shooting Roar.

Shot with wild cats of various species without any post processing or camera trickery, it’s truly blood-tingling to see the actors – including one young Melanie Griffith – taking part in wrestling matches with the giant beasts that in many case end up with actual bleeding wounds requiring medical care. As we’re accustomed to seeing online videos of similar play of Russian roulette ending in sudden disaster, Roar really keeps one glued to the edge of the seat.

Most people checking out the movie will do it purely out of curiosity to see the most dangerous ever filmed. And admittedly with Roar that a pretty valid reason in its own right.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 57%

#1071 Hanky Panky (1982)

Hanky Panky plays it safe.

Far too safe, in fact: It gives us the basic story of a man wrongly accused of a murder that soon finds himself tangled in an international espionage ploy.

It really feels like a rehash since Gene Wilder’s previous comedy Stir Crazy already presented us with a similar plot. There are some funny aspects here, like Wilder foolishly trying to outwit the powers that be, but otherwise Hanky Panky ends up pretty eventless, predictable and bland adventure comedy.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 43%

#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%

#1036 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

The last movie of the Indy trilogy (refusing to acknowledge that 2008 movie as part of the franchise), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade brings back everything we loved in Raiders of the Lost Ark while amping up both the adventure and lighthearted humour, making it the most well rounded Indiana Jones movie.

I was lucky enough to see The Last Crusade on an actual silver screen as the trilogy was shown from the original film reels in one of the screenings the Finnish national audiovisual institute arranged. Once again, I found myself enchanted from the very first seconds to the movie and the movie kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through it.

Sean Connery makes an appearance as the Indy’s somewhat eccentric father who creates many joyful moments as the know-it-all dad who keeps on talking down to his son like he was still twelve. It’s a delightful comic relief that almost seems to write material by itself thanks to the onscreen tension between the two high caliber actors.

The Last Crusade is a triumph of an adventure, taking everything that worked in the first movie and adding some very brilliant elements of its own.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 100%

#1035 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

A prequel set one year prior to the events in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a much darker, violent and, unfortunately, less fun adventure movie than the original.

For one reason or another, Temple of Doom is also a much more generic adventure movie than its predecessor. While still a clear notch above all of its competition thanks to first rate production values and Harrison Ford as the Indy, the story could’ve been well passed off as one of the adventures of Jack T. Colton or Allan Quatermain instead. Unlike in Raiders of the Lost ARk, there’s really no iconic scenes in Temple of Doom that would’ve become a part of the pop culture folklore.

Temple of Doom is not a bad movie by any standard, especially compared to the other adventures of the era. But it is a victim of a middle child syndrome, paling in comparison to what its go-getter elder and younger brother have to offer.

80s-o-meter: 77%

Total: 86%

#1034 Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

If you have never heard of Indiana Jones, chances are you’ve been living under the rock for the last 40 years. The franchise and the line of movies, kickstarted by 1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark have been featured so much in the popular culture, articles, studies and reviews that there’s frankly little left to say about them that hasn’t been better worded elsewhere.

A testament to the iconic status of the movie is how many of its scenes, gear and clothing have since had a life of their own outside the movie: The rolling boulder, melting faces, bringing sword to a gunfight scene and revolving airplane, as well as the fedora, bullwhip and the leather jacket are all immediately recognised to be part of the Indy saga as soon as they are featured elsewhere in the pop culture, usually as a nod towards the original. There are pages that list these references, but there are quite frankly so many that nobody can really keep up with them – and they still keep pouring in day after day.

Due to the massive impact the it had when it was released, the movie remains much more than just a perfect adventure; Raiders of the Lost Ark is the very definition of an adventure, and an undertaking still waiting to be topped.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 96%

#1029 Unmasking the Idol (1986)

Unmasking the Idol is yet another nominee for the worst Bond copycat movie of the decade.

The film looks exactly like many of the various super agent movies that came out in the late 70s and early 80s, and is such very much a late comer both in its formula and style. The mimicking of Bond movies goes much too far in the very first scenes to the film; after the movie marched in Sato, an asian version of the agency’s inventor Q, I had to recheck I was really watching an independent action adventure, instead of something categorised as a Bond spoof.

Still, there’s something sympathetic about the whole looney underdog ninja adventure. As crappy as it is, its comic book mood with zany monkey sidekicks and caricaturistic baddies kind of grows on you. Had I seen the movie as a kid, I’d probably still think very highly of it.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 59%

#1020 Outrageous Fortune (1987)

Bette Midler had a running streak of four solid comedies in just two years, all of which were solid box office successes.

Looking at Outrageous Fortune it’s no wonder: The movie is an obvious crowd pleaser and presses quite a lot of right buttons for moviegoers wanting a nice nonsense escape from reality for 90 minutes.

Personally I found all the agent nonsense totally unnecessary. The chemistry between Midler and Shelley Long works a treat and personally I would’ve been pretty happy just following the urban love triangle that was already well established and appetising. Luckily it all wraps up satisfactorily in the end in a finale done in the very best tradition of the 80s.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 71%

#1016 Sunset (1988)

Second cooperation between the director Blake Edwards and the up and Bruce Willis (the first one being a failure of a comedy called Blind Date) Sunset is a modern Hollywood take of a crime story taking place in the classic Hollywood of the late 1920s.

Willis shows a lot of the same onscreen magnetism that made him a superstar later in the same year with the release of Die Hard, and fits well to the part of a fancy pants silent era western star. James Garner also plays the role of the aged Wyatt Earp with a similar charism and his presence on the screen is always a pleasure to follow. And that’s pretty much all the movie has going for it.

Despite all the action the movie just doesn’t have the momentum to keep things interesting enough and I did notice I had to struggle a little to keep up the interest, and Sunset is ultimately kept afloat solely by its above average cast.

80s-o-meter: 59%

Total: 61%

#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%

#1000 Blade Runner (1982)

The poster on the left is from the Australian release of Blade Runner. A cinematic landmark of its time, it’s also one of the main drivers why this blog came out to be in the first place.

The director Ridley Scott had already demonstrated his prowess for crafting impressive sci-fi worlds oozing with atmosphere with the 1979 Alien, but it was Blade Runner that saw his craftmanship come to full fruition. Aided by the concept artist Syd Mead, cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth and an exceptionally talented team of FX artists, Blade Runner came into form in 1982 as a movie years ahead of its time, leaving its footprint in the history as the cinematic template for the dark dystopian future.

Equally impressive is Vangelis’ haunting synth track that at times is able to paint the film’s aesthetics on an even deeper level than the moving images can. Synonymous with the movie itself, Vangelis’ Blade Runner suite sets the mood right from the very first second of the movie and continues to do so until the end credits have stopped scrolling.

Harrison Ford who was on a winning streak at the time after starring in Star Wars and Indiana Jones movie series creates another character here that is very exclusively his. In a similar fashion Rutger Hauer crafts his portrayal of a replicant on the run to such perfection that it’s hard to fathom anyone else playing the role.

Essentially a futuristic film noir, the original Domestic Cut was compromised by the studio who after showing it to a test audience changed the ending and added a very unfortunate narrative voiceover. The 1992 Director’s Cut improved on the original theatrical cut by removing the aforementioned faux pas, and the movie finally saw its ultimate form in 2007 Final Cut, still the preferred version of the movie.

Blade Runner has established its status as a classic and arguably stood the test of time still feeling fresh almost 40 years since its initial release; every viewing of the movie seems to unfold just another layer of it, serving as a somewhat bittersweet reminder of how science fiction of this caliber does not come by often.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 200%

#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%

#993 Dragonslayer (1981)

The eighties marked a huge evolutionary step for art of movie effects, that hadn’t really come that far from the stop motion used in the 1933 King Kong. And once that train started rolling we were presented throughout the decade with some absolutely mind blowing effects work pioneered and engineered by some very talented people, compared to which a plethora of the later cheap computerised effects have fared the test of time generally speaking much worse.

A great portion of this breakthrough is to be credited to Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), founded in 1975 to create the effects for the Star Wars movie series. Dragonslayer was the first movie outside Lucasfilm Ltd using their services, and the results are so stunning that one could argue the creature seen here is still the best, lifelike dragon seen on the silver screen to date.

I did not care for the sorcery bits of Dragonslayer much, but they do give a good opportunity to showcase some of the nice effects. The movie would go on to get nominated for the Academy Award for best visual effects, only to lose to Raiders of the Lost Ark – another 1981 title featuring the effect wizardry of ILM.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 71%

#976 Halloween 2018: Waxwork (1988)

A group of kids get invited to a wax museum where the exhibits come to life in Waxwork, a horror movie made in the best tradition of the late 80s Hollywood cinema.

While a triumph in most aspects, my only grief with the movie is that the waxwork theme would’ve lent itself for even more imaginative and outrageous wax scenes than the ones presented here – excluding one specific scene with Marquis de Sade that goes a bit too far out for my taste.

Waxwork offers some unique, tongue in cheek, Amazing Stories style of entertainment that’s admittedly a bit tame as a horror movie, but very recommendable as an adventure with a spooky twist to it. The movie would go on to gain a weaker sequel, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, released in 1992.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 87%

#934 North Shore (1987)

North Shore is a surfing movie that at first seems like the most douche 80s piece of cinema: There’s surfer dudes, bikini girls and, like, totally groovy look and feel to it all. It was only after the actual surfing started that the movie seemed to find a tone of its own.

Don’t get me wrong. The depth of the movie is still on par with an average episode of Beverly Hills, 90210: The baddies are comical, there’s an idiotic subplot about a forbidden love and as it is a sports movie you pretty know how it is going to turn out in the end. Nevertheless, it has to be said that there’s a certain kind of undeniable enjoyment to watching the stunning Hawaiian setting coupled with some nice surfing action by the top surfers of the 80s.

North Shore is fluffy, insignificant movie that takes itself serious in a most adorable fashion. But it is also a decent escape if you need some surfing, ocean, endless summer mixed in with a dose of innocence of the youth.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 58%

#924 Cherry 2000 (1987)

A white collar worker’s last of its line fembot – a Cherry 2000 – short circuits and ends up beyond repair. To find a replacement, he sets out to find a tracker to bring him one from the forbidden Zone 7, and soon unwillingly finds himself in the midst of an adventure.

Mixing various genres is always a huge gamble, but in Cherry 2000’s case the inventive forces behind it seemingly have a good time borrowing elements from sci-fi, cyberpunk, western and road movies and mixing them with elements of dystopian deserted world, 1950s and even some maniac campers. Unfortunately this lead to the movie ending hard to explain to the movie going masses and was deemed a straight to video instead of a theatrical release.

After its release the movie started gaining a cult following and has since inspired various movie and video game makers alike.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 81%