#1678 Halloween 2022: Doctor Hackenstein aka Dr. Hackenstein (1988)

A parody of Frankestein line of books and movies, Troma’s Doctor Hackenstein cannot be discussed without comparing it to the great Re-Animator that has a similar premise, and was released only three years earlier.

Where Re-Animator reinvents the mad doctor turning dead into living beings, and does so with hilarious results, Doctor Hackenstein remains strangely tame, only ending up a slightly gorier, more naked and a bit sillier version of its paragon.

If Re-Animator did not exist, Doctor Hackenstein would have been a nice breath of fresh air in horror comedies. Even though it’s nowhere near the stinkers often seen in this genre, the team should have really leveraged upon learnings from Re-Animator and try to do something much more outstanding, instead of settling for playing the second fiddle.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 60%

#1672 Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

A costume drama I was for once actually aware of for once, Dangerous Liaisons marches in a quite unexpected cast (at least for a historical drama) consisting of Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, Uma Thurman and Keanu Reeves.

Those familiar with my page know that historical romantic dramas aren’t exactly my cup of tea, so at least here the consolidation was the interesting cast I was looking forward to seeing. I perceived Dangerous Liaisons as it was: a drama taking place for some unexplained reason in the make believe history with bored aristocrats in funny wigs delivering an endless stream of witty and pretentious dialogue in a pompous manner.

But – fortunately – there’s an end to all the wittiness, and this is where Dangerous Liaisons actually becomes interesting, to the point of redeeming itself in the final act.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 70%

#1669 Apprentice to Murder (1988)

A US-Norwegian-Canadian co-production Apprentice to Murder portrays of Pennsylvanian folk healer and his apprentice getting far too deep into dark powers of their craft in a story that very successfully blurs the line between real and make-belief, wrong and right, and good and bad.

I was surprised to learn the movie was shot entirely in Norway, so my hat is off to the production team who very skilfully concealed this fact, and totally sold me the location of 1920s Pennsylvania.

Although shot in mainstream Hollywood fashion, Apprentice to Murder (apparently based on a real historic event) is a very untypical movie but in a good way. It boldly goes quite deep into religious fanaticism, dark sides of human psyche and superstition.

80s-o-meter: 11%

Total: 72%

#1667 The Bostonians (1984)

I sigh audibly every time I’m to sit down and watch another period picture set in 19th century, especially one with a romantic theme to it.

The Bostonians wasn’t as bad costume drama as I feared, though. Its manuscript based on Henry James’ novel of the same name has some interesting aspects to it, like women’s rights movement and the implied one sided love story between the female leads, but as with many similar movies the end result is just plain dull, and the plot is stuck in the same place pretty much throughout the movie.

I was surprised by the ending, though.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 32%

#1664 The Killing Fields (1984)

A  biographical drama film about the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, based on the experiences of journalists Dith Pran and Sydney Schanberg, The Killing Fields may a British film taking place in Asia, but there are numerous things that make it interesting, and very much worth your time.

First of a all, it was nominated in seven categories in the 1985 Academy Awards, taking home awards for Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Actor in Supporting Role for Haing S. Ngor, for whom this was amazingly his first acting experience ever.

Secondly, it’s a good movie about an interesting historical events, told in a realistic – even nihilistic – way, but spiced up with interesting supporting characters we learn about, and soon learn to care for. Its story about journalistic integrity, human rights and inequality is every bit as relevant today as it was 40 years ago.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 87%

#1661 Mata Hari (1985)

After starring in Emmanuelle, Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel got typecast to movies of the similar nature, ie a sexually liberated young woman in seek of erotic moments, tied together by a very loose plot.

The value of these erotic movies in these days and times are close to zero, and Mata Hari is no exception. It is a shame since some real effort was done to put the movie together, and the locations, costume design and war scenes are pretty well done, considering how weak the movie is otherwise.

80s-o-meter: 13%

Total: 11%

#1652 In the Mood aka The Woo Woo Kid (1987)

In the Mood is another movie that very likely would not be made today due to its controversial theme of an underage boy falling in love and getting into relationship with married women.

In fact, I was at first curious how the movie was even made back in 1987, until learning that it’s based on the true story of one Sonny Wisecarver, and it was only after that that I begun to enjoy the movie a bit more, as it felt much more credible from thereon. Patrick Dempsey did not seem to mind to portray the young casanova, and it’s all done in a quite uplifting mood and good spirit, and I for one never felt like it was made to promote such activity. This is furthermore aided by the fact that the movie takes places in the 1940, when the times likely were a bit different.

In the Mood will not go into my pile of movies to watch again, but for what it is, it’s still a feel good movie with a lot of good things going for it.

80s-o-meter: 32%

Total: 63%

#1649 The Aurora Encounter (1986)

Sometimes the story behind a movie is more interesting than the movie itself. I was at first put off by the fact how The Aurora Encounter had cast one Mickey Hays based on his appearance caused by progeria to portray the role of an alien out of space, until I learned that it was actually Make-A-Wish Foundation that had made Mickey’s dream come true to get to act in a Hollywood movie.

Now, for the movie itself, it’s another prime example how much further ahead the marketing and art departments ofter were to the movie crew itself. The poster art is absolutely stunning, with a great promise of an engaging scifi adventure.

What you actually get is haphazardly made western where a space ship quite obviously held by crane and often visible wires lands and takes off, with the alien stepping out, visiting and scaring a few people. It’s tediously boring thing to sit through, with no real engaging plot going for it.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 7%

#1648 Under the Rainbow (1981)

It’s fun to watch one of those dreaded really bad movies of 80s, only to find out that it’s fame as one is highly exaggerated. It needs to be said though that Under the Rainbow is a dud. It’s a mess of a movie that mostly consists of scenes of little people acting and goofing off like they were circus clowns. But, the plot itself is easy to follow and seems to make at least some sense, and there’s something entertaining about all the hectic action similar to what’s seen in Get Crazy.

Under the Rainbow isn’t a Chevy Chase show and he never carries the movie, as he did with his forthcoming hits of the 80s. Although he is playing the lead here, it really feels as if he was playing a distant support role.

80s-o-meter: 5%

Total: 41%

#1643 Cross Creek (1983)

I’ve a strange kind of romantic longing for the Everglades, and similar wetlands located in the southernmost states of the eastern USA. Strange because I could likely not stand the weather or humidity, or the isolation. But I guess its the quite unique, secret and hidden world of these parts that manage to catch my imagination.

80s offerings in this area has been something of a hit and miss. Starting from a-ok Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing to pretty nice The River Rat to complete stinkers like Shy People and Soggy Bottom, U.S.A there hasn’t been one definite movie that has been able to provide me the swamp experience what I’ve been looking for – until I came across Cross Creek.

On paper Cross Creek is a movie that was likely to be one of those slow, pompous, utterly boring period pictures, but this director Martin Ritt’s depiction of the author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings pushes all right buttons, managing to capture an array of greatly interesting and multi-dimensional characters. I was eager to get back to the movie’s world every time I had to pause the movie, and I felt the movie inviting me already to revisit it some time in the future.

80s-o-meter: 11%

Total: 96%

#1630 A Man for All Seasons (1988)

Apparently Charlton Heston would have wanted to star in the 1966 version of A Man for All Seasons that took home six Oscars in that year’s Academy Awards.

To the extend that to rectify this wrongdoing he would go on to direct his own made-for-TV version some 20 years later where he this time around stars in. Based on a play by Robert Bolt of the life of Sir Thomas More, this newer version of A Man for All Seasons still maintains the great wit and charm of the original.

Historical dramas – especially the made for TV ones – aren’t my cup of tea, but in this genre A Man for All Season definitely holds its own, thanks to its strong manuscript.

80s-o-meter: 2%

Total: 70%

#1629 Round Midnight (1986)

A fictional tale loosely based on African-American jazz musicians’ life and influence in late 50s Paris, Round Midnight feels an exercise too keen on substance and being accepted as a cool cat piece of French cinema.

Although I understand the intention for going for an atmosphere that can be sold to American cinema goers, it all frankly feels far too clichéd to be taken seriously: dark, smoke-filled rooms, a gloomy and dark Paris where it always rains, and characters (despite of battling with serious personal problems, like alcoholism) that feel naïve caricatures instead of actual persons.

The musical pieces composed by Herbie Hancock and performed by a bunch of skilled musicians are the best aspects of the movie, hands down. As I enjoyed the jazz pieces, but not so much the interludes between them, I could not but to think that for the selected fictional style of the movie it would’ve been better to go all in and make Round Midnight a full musical instead.

80s-o-meter: 17%

Total: 54%

#1595 Halloween 2021: Edge of Sanity (1989)

Eroticism, lust and decadence are the main themes here, and the movie is more of a cheap late night peep show rather than a horror movie. I know it was Perkins himself that has agreed to make the movie, but still seeing him in a humiliation like this almost turns my stomach.

The worst Halloween movie and quite possibly one of the worst horror movies I’ve seen to date comes from a very unexpected place. Anthony Perkins of the Psycho fame stars in this erotic Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde movie, but unlike the quite capable 80s Psycho sequels, Edge of Sanity is an irritatingly bad movie.

Edge of Sanity is one of those rare movies that one does not only without any merits or redeeming qualities, but that you start to hate so much you hope they never actually existed.

80s-o-meter: 1%

Total: -1%

#1566 Tin Men (1987)

Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito, the two best disgruntled, conning scoundrels ever on the silver screen in a movie where they get involved in a massive feud? Sign me in!

Honestly, the movie seems such a good fit for both personas it feels like it was written specifically with these two gentlemen in mind. A story that starts from one bad day and unfortunate accident between two rivalling house aluminium siding salesmen soon gets out of hand, and what seems an bitter downward spiral escalating further and further soon turns out a totally unexpected, beautiful love story.

An already enjoyable comedy, surprisingly it’s this romantic part of Tin Men that ends up its strongest asset.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 91%

#1561 Lassiter (1984)

Lassiter is a hit-by-the-handsome-stick gentleman cat thief living in London on the verge of WWII that ends up recruited against his will by FBI to break into the heavily guarded German embassy to steal gems from the nazis.

The plot puts further pressure on Lassiter and his relationship with his love interest (Jane Seymour) as he first has to seduce the nazi femme fatale (Lauren Hutton) to gain access to the base.

40-year old Tom Selleck handles the role with expected charisma and the movie portrays well the era – or at least the movie version of it – without redundant underlining or overselling.

80s-o-meter: 5%

Total: 73%

#1559 Uphill All The Way (1986)

Imagine any Burt Reynolds’ action comedy of the late 70s / early 80s, change the setting to the wild West, take out Reynolds and any other notable star – and you’ll end up with Uphill All The Way.

Roy Clark and Mel Tillis – both unknown to me – lead this cowboy Cannonball Run, going from one hardship to another, even more boring one.

Reynolds actually visit that set in a quick uncredited cameo as a poker hustler, which only confirms there was some some of connection going on behind the scenes.

80s-o-meter: 8%

Total: 14%

#1556 Mr. North (1988)

Anthony Edwards appears in Mr. North as Theophilus North, a young bright student who arrives at a wealthy Rhode Island community with big plans. He soon starts to leave lasting impressions on the locals, some of which he befriends with, while other take him for a miracle healer, thanks to his natural tendency of stacking up static electricity.

Mr. North is one of those period pictures that heavily relies on nostalgic scenes of the yesteryear’s America: a small knit together community helping each other, old money, people dressed up smartly and innocence. And it works out for the movie, making it somehow soothing and relaxing to watch.

But if one’d take the concept to the current day, thus stripping out the nostalgia and the related glamor, there wouldn’t just be much of a movie going on here.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 40%

#1551 The Sting II (1983)

A sequel for the 1973 The Sting starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, The Sting II loses all of its star power that no doubt helped to leverage the original scoundrel comedy to success.

But what The Sting II loses in Newman and Redford, it gains in Jackie Gleason who is a perfect fit for the role of the gang leader aiming to pull off a boxing match scam of a century.

The movie establishes well its 1940s New York era, and Gleason’s persona and the natural appearance of the golden era star no doubt helps to sell this idea. While not exactly match for its predecessor, The Sting II makes for a totally worthy heir to the original.

80s-o-meter: 2%

Total: 70%

#1509 Raggedy Man (1981)

Raggedy Man almost feels like three movies blended into one. First of all you have a story of a single mother (Sissy Spacek) caught in a dead end job as a switchboard operator in a small rural town. Secondly there is a movie about a sailor (Eric Roberts) on a four-day furlough passing through the town, who grabs onto the chance of some day having a family of his own. And thirdly there is the thriller about times for Luke, the gossipy, sometimes violent bunch of people amongst whom is a mysterious old man everyone calls just a Raggedy Man, keeping mostly to himself.

The good news is that every single one of these stories is an interesting one, backed up with smart screen riding and skilled acting, and it was especially the story of the young soldier that stayed with me long after the end credits had rolled: what ever become of him? Did he ever find happiness, or a family of his own?

Such is the power of a good movie that I ended up caring for this totally fictive person.

80s-o-meter: 41%

Total: 85%

#1506 Tempest (1982)

One more to the pile of movies portraying the 80s New York jetset intellectuals who wallow in money and self pity.

Shot half and half in New York and a remote island in Greece, the movie establishes the vast difference of both well: when we move from New York to the island, the change feels genuinely relaxing, and when we finally get back to the big apple, it again feels like a breath of fresh fresh air after the stuffy island and it’s perverted inhabitant Kalibanos (Raul Julia).

But what happens in both locations is hardly interesting or logical. At 140 minutes the movie is also far too long. It’s so long that it feels downright arrogant from the production team as there really is nothing that epic or interesting on display here.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 14%