#1077 Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Panned by the critics and loved by the broad audience, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark is a wonderfully quirky comedy powered single-handedly by the actress Cassandra Peterson and her wonderful, quick witted late night TV host character.

On the superficial level Elvira, who makes absolutely zero effort to hide her abundant bosom, might seem sexist especially from today’s puritanical point of view. But it has to be noted that this is her fantasy character, created and made iconic on her terms. Far from a victim of male-driven entertainment industry, she’s kind of an epitome of girl power; not willing to take cheap from anyone and ending up on the upper hand thanks to her sharp tongue. And it’s these witty comebacks that are the real comedy core of the movie and did provide plenty of few good laughs along the way.

Had the movie pressed on the gas pedal towards the end instead of sliding to the finish line like it had ran out of gas, and wrapped up without the uninspired Las Vegas bit, my final score might’ve been even more generous than Elvira’s famous cleavage.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 90%

#1001 Mannequin (1987)

If a shopping mall doll coming to life as a real life woman sounds a bit far fetched, no worries; Mannequin has the back story covered from the get go as she’s helped by the Egyptian gods to escape an arranged marriage.

While its kind of a mess as a movie, its kind dodgy storyline, overacting and sheer stupidity become somewhat easier to stomach once you accept that you are actually watching a farce – or a modern fairytale – instead of your typical comedy. With this mindset even the nocturnal musical number inside the shopping mall gets not only tolerable, but actually pretty delightful.

The leads Andrew McCarthy and Kim Cattrall pull through the nonsense with charm. On the other hand James Spader’s overacting as the shopping mall manager is really taxing to watch and the comedic talent of G. W. Bailey is wasted in the dimwit night watchman role written very much in the vein of his Police Academy Lt Harris – minus the funny.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 60%

#989 The Devil and Max Devlin (1981)

A lousy landlord gets a second chance for life after he dies and makes a pact with devil to return to earth to sign in three souls for the eternal damnation in a stuffy old movie called The Devil and Max Devlin, starring Elliott Gould and Bill Cosby.

The landlord goes on to do a little magic mumbo jumbo along the way to help the victims get what they want, but later quite expectedly learns to be less self-centred and not to exchange others’ souls for his freedom. It’s a movie hard to stomach on its own right, but watching the Cosby play the machinating devil feels almost morbid given his recent sentence.

The Devil and Max Devlin is an odd move from The Walt Disney Studios; a misfire with really no apparent target audience to recommend it to.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 17%

#945 Halloween 2018: Phantasm II (1988)

It could be because I’ve missed the original Phantasm – released in 1979 – but I had no idea whatsoever what was going on in its sequel for the first 30 minutes. And even later to the movie it all seemed to make a very little sense: Who are these main characters, what are they after, who is the Tall Man and what is his agenda?

It was only after giving up the hope of making any sense of the movie and just going on with the flow that I started to enjoy Phantasm II for what it was: A collection of scenes to justify some inventive and gruesome F/X. There are tons of individual things to like here, like Reggie, the ponytailed, balding middle-aged protagonist and the imaginative guns he and his teenager friend Mike have put together to fight the Tall Man. Also, the movie manages to have a good ol’ horror movie ending to it, redeeming some of of the points in the last minute.

Phantasm II is a stylish, cartoony show not unlike the Evil Dead series, and a movie that relies heavily on its gory effects at the cost of its plot. It’s the incoherent story that makes the movie a hard one to recommended, but the admirers of hand crafted 80s F/X will surely find a lot to like here.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 61%

#907 Warlock (1989)

What a mouth-watering setup: A 17th century Warlock jumps through the time to present day to reassemble a Satanic book that will unmake of the creation, and a Witch-hunter named Redferne follows him through the portal in an attempt to foil his plans.

A much remembered classic for a generation, this was my first time seeing the movie, although the I knew the movie well by its reputation. Given its cult status, my expectations weren’t met, but the movie is entertaining nonetheless. To me it seems like the setup would’ve lend itself for much much more, like those few well-known scenes including tongues, frying pans and spiritual channeling well demonstrate. Visual effects are also quite weak considering the late 80s release.

If you haven’t ever heard about Warlock and enjoy time travelling stories, chances are that you will find a lot to be love here. If you are aware of the movie, be advised that it might be not as epic as you’d expect. Either way the movie makes for quite an easy recommendation.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 72%

#894 Space Raiders aka Star Child (1983)

Ah, Star Wars. The 1977 space saga years ahead of its time that then spawned numerous late 70s and early 80s copycat movies that never really bothered creating something of their own. Space Raiders definitely takes this route as well, and the loaning here goes as far as one of the pilots uttering out ’Look at the size of that thing’ upon confronting a mothership – a line well known from the Star Wars merchandise.

The movie is targeted to the sub-12 year Mickey Mouse Club audience, telling a story of a young kid who wanders into a space pirates’ ship during a battle and gets abducted incidentally as the pirates flee. Most of the movie’s offering – including the sets and music recycled from earlier titles – is tired and subpar, but I actually enjoyed much of the early 80s style effects and the look of the ships as they pass by in the vast frontiers of the outer space.

Space Raiders is the kind of a movie that gets all of its mileage from being set in the extra terrestrial backdrop. Strip out the setting and move the story to a, say, wild west and you admittedly wouldn’t have much of a movie going on here.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 37%

#858 Willow (1988)

You have to excuse me for having always mixed up Willow with Ridley Scott’s Legend; another mid-80s fantasy movie with stunning, faerytale like visuals. While Willow might not be as beautiful a movie, it’s still stunning to look at and the groundbreaking special effects by ILM still look mostly impressive, despite their age.

Story-wise there isn’t anything extraordinary going on here: Your usual fantasy stuff with evil queens, dwarfs and dragons. But it’s the way that the director Ron Howard manages to tell the story that makes it truly captivating. Young Warwick Davis makes for a terrific, unlikely hero of the story, and although Val Kilmer at first seems to overact the role of the mischievous thief, he soon grows on to you.

Fantasy movies are not my cup of tea, but in Willow’s case, the end result is just much too charming to pass by with just a shrug.

80’s-o-meter: 48%

Total: 84%

#837 Streets of Fire (1984)

I’m fond of movies that don’t look like real life – I get plenty of that just by looking outside the window. It’s in this aspect that Street of Fire more than delivers, taking place in an alternative reality, even making a note about this at the start of the movie.

It may be due to the amount of music involved coupled with the lead actor Michael Paré’s mysterious presence, but Street of Fire reminds me a lot of his earlier movie Eddie and the Cruisers, released year earlier. Street of Fire ends up a weaker movie of the two, both in storyline and the music, which mostly suits the mood, but that last music video part movie really just felt like a filler for to make it to the 90 minute mark.

Streets of Fire is style over substance, which is definitely not a sin in my book. But if all that great cinemating style was stripped out of Streets of Fire you simply wouldn’t have that much of a movie going on here.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 68%

#819 Nightmares (1983)

As usual I try not to read any info about the movie I’m going to watch to avoid any spoilers. In the case with Nightmares it might’ve been a good idea for I would’ve figured out I was watching an anthology instead of a horror movie with an exceptionally hard to follow plot. When it finally dawned to me, well — you can only imagine the amount of facepalms.

This anthology consists of four short stories, based on urban legends. The first one starts off strong with a great buildup towards the end payoff. Second one is my favorite, starring Emilio Estevez as the penny arcade wizard caught in a web of a mysterious co-op machine. From hereon it’s a slight downhill with the third episode involving a priest, a killer on a 4×4 and some magical holy water that’ll save the day. The last part of Nightmares features our favorite 80s self-absorbed company man Richard Masur as the head of the family getting a special kind of rat infestation. Too bad this is the part that drags far behind the others, relying much too heavily on subpar special effects lifted straight out of 50s monster scifi movies.

Probably one of the least known of all the 80s anthologies, Nightmares is very uneven like most movies of the genre, but still definitely one of the more interesting ones, largely thanks to its strong cast.

80s-o-meter: 79%

Total: 68%

#799 Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

A movie with tremendously good production values, made by the very best talent of the Hollywood Who Framed Roger Rabbit is ultimately ruined by its now outdated gimmick of mixing in cartoons with live camera action.

A big part of why I love the 80s movies is that I’ve always preferred well executed puppeteering magic to using CGI characters. As much as we humans want to buy in to the stories, we’re really sensitive for any glitches in the matrix; it’s usually enough to break the illusion if one of the actors is watching to a slightly off direction when trying to interacting with the imagined character. The effects also tend the look cool at the time, but grow old just in few years.

Roger Rabbit’s very experimental nature mixing cartoon characters with live introduces many of the same problems: The novelty off the effects has worn off and the resulting movie lacks the needed immersion.

Then, there’s the obvious problem with the characters. Roger Rabbit, a character cut and pasted together for this movie is annoying. I’m talking about Jar Jar Binks annoying. Even worse yet, the character and its constant screaming around paired with the slapstick humor is totally devoid of any laughters. As a proof, Roger never became a classic character that’d go on to live outside the movie. The actual actors luckily do much better here: Bob Hoskins is choice for the classic film noir Hollywood sleuth and Christopher Lloyd makes his vulture-like Judge Doom character a perfect human-cartoon character blend.

The movie was received well by the critics and went on to win three Oscars. I can’t help but to think many were blinded by the novelty of the movie’s technical merits.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 48%

#793 Xmas 2017: Babes in Toyland (1986)

Babes in Toyland is a kids’ movie that probably should’ve been disqualified from this list, but its interesting cast got the best of me: There’s Keanu Reeves as the male lead, Drew Barrymore as the girl hero who helps to save the day, Richard Mulligan as the antagonist and Pat Morita as the toy master, all delivering some decent acting work as always.

Although the most well known from this years’ christmas movie featurette, the movie is still totally unknown in these parts of the woods and never was a part of our christmas tradition. After seeing it I doubt I’ll make it there either, but the little ones really seemed the enjoy the movie.

Babes in Toyland is enjoyable in the context of being a made-for-TV christmas movie with a well known cast, but adults without any nostalgic connection to the movie should probably look elsewhere for their christmas entertainment.

80s-o-meter: 64%

Total: 48%

#778 Goddess of Love (1988)

Vanna White, best known to the general public as the hostess of Wheel of Fortune stars in Goddess of Love, a made-for-TV romantic comedy. Although is safe to say the movie wasn’t destined to steal away any academy awards from the theatrical releases, it’s still somewhat passable as a real movie even if the obvious commercial break transitions are a straight giveaway.

The plot: Zeus turns Venus – the goddess of love – into a statue that turns alive in 1988 Los Angeles, causing all sorts of silly events and misunderstandings to unravel. For a plot this fluffy and trifle the movie is surprisingly entertaining, and even the suspension of how it all will turn out in the end is kept admirably.

While it’s impossible to recommend the movie to anyone and still save one’s face, for those who know what they’re getting into Goddess of Love offers solid 90 minutes of nonchalant – and totally trivial – entertainment.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 67%

#731 Masters of the Universe (1987)

As it turned out only years later, Masters of the Universe was the biggest scam of my childhood. A franchise created by the toy maker Mattel just to sell some overpriced plastic figurines, Masters of the Universe and the accompanied animated television series swept the US and Europe, netting billions of dollars.

And thus enters the movie. What makes the movie interesting to the adult viewer is its strong cast. Although Dolph Lundgren later listed this movie the least his favorite one, his looks and physique as the He-Man seem a step up from the original cartoon character. Although buried behind a thick latex mask, Frank Langella manages to bring Skeletor fabulously alive through intensive eye acting and body movement. Billy Barty makes a perfect Gwildor, a Thenurian inventor dwarf created specifically for this movie, and last but not least, James Tolkan creates one hilariously relentless character in Detective Lubic who manages to steal every scene he’s in.

Compared the stinkers like Flash Gordon and the Superman line of movies, Masters of the Universe’s production values are sky high. While the film is not exactly my cup of tea, this is pretty much as good a movie that’s possible to make from such a two-penny concept as He-Man.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 70%

#708 Teen Wolf Too (1987)

Everything I said I didn’t like in Teen Wolf goes for the sequel as well. You see, Teen Wolf Too plays it too tame and safe and pretty much just reprises everything seen in the first movie, just replacing the actors involved and takes the story to another high school. Every character in the movie and the members of the audience already know how the movie is going to play out and Teen Wolf Too goes to great lengths to make sure it doesn’t take one step outside that sandbox.

Michael J. Fox, a force of nature who pretty much was the only reason to watch the first movie is now gone and replaced with Jason Bateman in his feature film debut. He plays the role just as as predictably and safely as the rest of the movie with little to none surprises.

Whatever little freshness there was in the concept in the first run, it’s all gone, and Teen Wolf Too is stale like a bowl of yesterday’s oatmeal.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 32%

#707 Teen Wolf (1985)

I’m pretty sure that by 1985 Michael J. Fox knew he was destined for something bigger but just needed the right vehicle to get there.

Teen Wolf isn’t that vehicle.

It’s a weak movie and I’m not even hundred percent sure why. Michael J. Fox seen here is pretty much carbon copy of the same likeable Marty we saw in Back to the Future. The manuscript isn’t anything to write to home about, but I can see the whole concept working if given to the right hands.

Most of the right elements are there, but Teen Wolf just misses that special something that a few directors can deliver. Some call it magic, some plain talent, but whatever it is, this movie lacks it and the end result feels flat throughout.

A part of the wave of werewolf movies in the early-mid 80s, Teen Wolf was launched simultaneously with Back to the Future, which undoubtedly helped in boosting the box office result of this movie. Without it the movie would be very much forgotten.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 52%

#643 Sorceress (1982)

Starting from very weird dubbing to sub 60’s style special effects, there’s very little to like about Sorceress: It is noticeably bad even midst other Sword & Sorcery movies, a genre known for some notoriously awful stinkers.

It starts weakly and yet somehow manages to get even less entertaining by the minute. Limited camp value and numerous tits on screen really don’t make it worth one’s while.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 8%

#632 Child’s Play (1988)

After a somewhat silly initial plot Child’s Play makes sure to shake off any traces of being just a silly comedy by offering plenty of thrilling suspense, action and all those little things the nightmares are made of. The co-operation between the director and the dolls’ animators is flawless, making Chucky feel like an actual, demented character on the screen.

Child’s Play and Chucky became, and still remain, synonymous to 80s horror milestones – and deservedly so as the movie hands down fulfils its premise: An animated doll has never managed to be more scary.

80’s-o-meter: 95%

Total: 92%

#631 Legend (1985)

Quite possibly the most visually stunning movie of the 80s, Legend’s vision and craftsmanship is easily 20 years ahead of its time with movies made in the early 2000s reaching the same visual finesse. Tom Cruise carries the role of the forest dwelling Link-like adventurer with affection, and generally the whole cast comes out with flying colors in their portrayals.

Story-wise the movie wanders far too deep in the fantasy land, and it’s ultimately only the stunning visuals that manage to keep up my interest up until the end credits roll.

80’s-o-meter: 45%

Total: 65%