#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%

#1666 Endless Love (1981)

Endless Love is one of those movies that you learn to appreciate much more after you realise it’s a pure work of fiction not even meant to resemble anything that might take place in real life.

It’s after this realisation that you might find yourself enjoying the movie, like myself. In fact the whole concept of a love story gone horribly wrong is a really interesting one, and one that I can’t find any resemblance from the movies I’ve seen.

It’s only the weak, open ended ending that felt to me keeping this movie from greatness; after creating such a bold plot twists I hoped the movie makers had the guts to ride the wave all the way to the ending.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 76%

#1665 The Seduction (1982)

The Seduction takes a tone inspired by the late 80s TV and series like Dallas, marching to the stage one ridiculously good looking character after another, leading a picture perfect life. Now, I don’t have any problem with beautiful people, but having even the antagonist look and dress like a model just makes everything feel a bit plasticky.

Talking of good looking people, The Seduction stars Morgan Fairchild, of Dallas fame herself.

As far as thrillers go, The Seduction may not be anything special, but luckily it’s quite easy and effortless to watch. The traits of the antagonist (gets into fights, but gets his ass easily handed over to him) are quite odd, but at least they made the experience just a little bit more memorable.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 60%

#1662 Prime Risk (1985)

The poster for Prime Risk makes a bold comparison to War Games, stating this movie will make it look like ’kid stuff’.

The reference is not unfound as prime risk successfully draws from its paragon, presenting us a similar setup where youngsters’ mostly innocent tomfoolery turns out something much more than they originally bargained for. In Prime Risk, it’s hacking credit cards that leads to a plot of a hostile nation aiming to crash the U.S. monetary system.

What it comes to hacking and peeping behind curtains of state secrecy and international politics, Prime Risk is an excellent contender to War Games, only taking a few missteps towards the end by turning more into an action packed agent movie rather than what War Games ingeniously pulled off. Still, anyone who enjoyed War Games will find a lot to be loved here.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 84%

#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%

#1660 Lisa (1989)

And interesting twist on similar thrillers where the main character gets into telephone conversations with a mysterious stranger, here that main character is Lisa, a 14-year old girl who can’t wait but to be grown up and not treated like the kid any longer.

This setup creates an extra layer of suspension as she is not only in the danger of being exposed to the main antagonist, but also trying not to get caught by her protective mother – although in this case we root for the mother to find out and stop the calling before things escalate any further.

Lisa makes for one of the better thrillers of the era while being a true time capsule of its era.

80s-o-meter: 93%

Total: 83%

#1659 Hitcher in the Dark aka Fear in the Dark aka Return of the Hitcher (1989)

An Italian horror movie directed by Umberto Lenzi leveraging off the success of The Hitcher (1986), Hitcher in the Dark is very different from its paragon, but for the good: it delivers the uttermost tension seen in the original Hitcher, but manages to successfully stand on its own.

Hitcher in the Dark would not have worked if it was tame, and it acknowledges this by making some very dark moves along the way that really work for the movie’s advantage. It leaves the viewer with an uneasy feeling, with no wish to ever engage into hitching a ride from a stranger.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 79%

#1654 Wavelength (1983)

Last one in late unexpected wave of surprisingly good low budget scifi movies arriving to my desk is Wavelength, a movie that had a feeling of something being off (in a good way) from the get go.

But it was only after the actual secret and its alarming consequences are revealed that Wavelength starts to find its own unique tone and plot line unlike anything I’ve seen to date, and really starts to whet one’s appetite as what will happen next.

Obviously done with a shoe string budget, Wavelength manages to stretch that dime amazingly far, concentrating on the atmosphere rather than special effects. The few effects there are are made in good taste, and don’t feel distracting at all unlike other low budget movies.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 71%

#1645 Atlantic City aka Atlantic City, USA (1980)

Atlantic City is a movie about transition periods and change. Sally is learning the ropes to be a dealer to be able to leave to Monaco to work on a casino. His former husband, now with Sally’s sister has arrived at the city to makes some money selling drugs, and they run into Lou, a small time old crook looking forward to finally becoming the big shot gangster with the money and a woman he could show off to his Florida pals.

And all this is taking place in Atlantic City that is going through sizeable changes where hotels and casinos of the old glory days are demolished to make room for new buildings.

The real gem in Atlantic City is the interesting array of characters with real yet a bit childish and silly aspirations, and in this sense the movie manages to positively surprise time after time: we don’t have to relate or even like the characters to be able to sympathise with their dreams.

80s-o-meter: 63%

Total: 87%

#1641 Gleaming the Cube (1989)

What do you get when you put 80s up and coming skating legends like Mike McGillMark ”Gator” RogowskiRodney MullenLance MountainMike VallelyNatas Kaupas, Tony Hawk and Tommy Guerrero into the same movie with young Christian Slater on the top of his game, mix it up with a kick ass soundtrack and Californian scenery?

A totally rad 80s action adventure movie – that’s what.

Gleaming the Cube is enjoyable on most of its aspects and a movie that offers tons of aspects that make it worth revisiting time and time again.

80s-o-meter: 100%

Total: 92%

#1609 Midnight Crossing (1988)

I don’t know if such sub genre exists, but Midnight Crossing falls into one of those movies where the plot line resembles a cheap paperback thriller you’ve picked up for the tropical vacation from a discount bin. It does its job in entertaining you as you lay beneath a palm tree, but upon completing it gets forgotten before you finish your next piña colada.

The movie delivers much of the same: some thrills, erotic scenes, highly implausible plotline and the main character with an impaired vision with no other motivation than to drive the plot.

Now, after a few weeks seeing the movie I can’t say whether it was good or bad as nothing of it has sticked with me – I guess it did do its job, delivered the lighthearted entertainment producers had aimed for. I recall that Midnight Crossing was not that awful to watch, but that’s pretty much all I can say about it.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 60%

#1602 Halloween 2021: Pieces aka Chainsaw Bastard aka Chainsaw Devil aka The Night Has 1000 Screams (1982)

Pieces, a Spanish horror movie shot in Spain with American actors gained cult fame with its cruel depictions of deaths by chainsaw, and inexplicable encounter with a martial artist, totally detached from any events in the movie.

The movie does a fairly good work presenting itself as an American movie, and even if the movie isn’t anything extraordinary, it’s still one of the better and more original slashers of the era, and definitely earns its place alongside the most iconic examples of its genre.

80s-o-meter: 56%

Total: 60%

#1599 Halloween 2021: Deadly Daphne’s Revenge aka The Hunting Season (1987)

Deadly Daphne’s Revenge kind of shouldn’t be in this Halloween feature, but little did I know it wasn’t strictly speaking a horror movie, but more of a thriller. It seemed to be made in the vein of I Spit On Your Grave and its numerous 80s copies, but what it ends up is kind of a made for TV style movie that looks like it was shot in mid seventies, with quite terrible acting, a few quite interesting plot twists, and an ending gone horribly wrong.

It’s in this ending that the movie finally claims its name, and introduces some horror elements, but .. well … it’s just plain stupid, isn’t it.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 43%

#1568 Halloween 2021: Night Warning aka The Evil Protege aka Thrilled to Death aka Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1981)

Halloween 2021 kicks off with a movie with an awful lot of alternative titles, one worse and more confusing than another.

Much to my surprise Night Warning is actually one of the better horror thrillers that starts well, and antes up multiple times towards the end, eventually getting pretty weird and downright sick. Other than that, it’s hard to describe the movie more closely without giving something away.

Susan Tyrrell is a perfect fit for the weird ant, and Bo Svenson’s role as a ridiculously hard boiled detective is written smartly to play it away from the typical clichés; I for one did not see the ending turning out as it did. I also found the young Jimmy McNichol previously unknown to me due to his short-lived acting career a surprisingly radiant lead, with the boyish charm not unlike that of one Matthew Broderick.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 82%

#1564 Thief of Hearts (1984)

The second collaboration between producer wizards Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer responsible for such 80s gems as Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun, Thief of Hearts failed to find its audience in the box office.

The story of a thief falling in love with one of her victims and using ill gained information to win her heart over does not reach the epic levels of Bruckheimer & Simpson’s top movies, but the story is still unique and interesting – basically nothing like I’ve seen before.

There is a moment of bad writing though when the couple finally clashes, as it really feels forced and out of character for the thief figure. But the ultimate plot twist (for the lack of better wording) manages to fully redeem the movie, making for one a totally satisfying finish to the movie.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 80%

#1563 Extremities (1986)

Well, here’s a weird sort of screen chemistry ongoing: Extremities is a tragic movie of horror of the events that unfold when an intruder enters the home of a woman, with the intention of performing sexual (and deadly) violence on her – and it therefore feels odd to say, but the leads Farrah Fawcett and James Russo actually go well together on the screen.

Extremities is rooted in female revenge movies genre first capitalised in I Spit On Your Grave (1978) and continued in the 80s with the likes of Naked VengeanceMs .45Extremeties and The Ladies Club. But similarly to the recent Positive I.D. (1986), Extremities bravely wanders off the trashy path of the genre to try something new.

The exploitative revenge porn aspect is still there, but here the heroine stops to think about the morals of her vigilant act as she balances on the very verge of the point of no return, realising she’s damned is she don’t and damned if she does. It’s this part that totally make Extremities worth checking out as it begs us as the viewers to ask ourselves those very same questions.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 85%

#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%

#1560 The Lightship (1985)

Three thugs kidnap a lightship – an anchored boat that acts as a floating lighthouse – and its crew in this very mediocre action thriller, low on action and thrills.

The look and feel of the movie is from early 80s, that furthermore reminds me of North Sea Hijack – a similar, but far more superior aquatic thriller. With The Lightship I pretty much kept on waiting for some interesting plot twist until the very end, unfortunately in vain: it plays out much as expected.

The positive aspects of the movie are its moody setting, the two highest billed antagonists Robert Duvall and William Forsythe, plus that amazing looking poster that manages to be much less wishy-washy than the movie itself.

80s-o-meter: 27%

Total: 37%

#1553 American Rickshaw aka American Risciò aka American Tiger (1989)

With American Rickshaw the director Sergio Martino bites a bit more than he can chew; a movie about a Miami rickshaw driver mixed with Chinese supernatural mumbo-jumbo gets outright ridiculous quickly. On the other hand it’s this nonsensical, over the top aspect of American Rickshaw that makes the movie if not enjoyable, at least an experience to watch through. This is definitely one more movie to the ”so bad it’s almost good” -category.

An Italian movie shot in Florida with American actors, American Rickshaw does its very best to underline its American origins – up to the title of the movie – by showcasing well the 80s Miami (beach) life. But, there’s something weirdly and wonderfully off about the movie throughout its running time that is somehow a straight giveaway that it’s not a Hollywood movie we’re talking about here.

I can’t rate American Rickshaw too generously because it’s just not a good movie per se. But take the low rating with a grain of salt, as it does have other interesting qualities to it, and if unorthodox movies are your thing, you might find a lot to enjoy about this wonderful train wreck.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 60%

#1549 The First Deadly Sin (1980)

Although Frank Sinatra did a notable career in movies, I’ve either consciously or unconsciously steered away from them, so I did not have any sort of expectations (in good nor bad) towards Sinatra in his comeback movie role. And I liked what I saw. Sinatra makes a great character as an ageing detective in the last leg of his career aiming to solve one more case.

As far as thrillers go, this is your basic early 80s stuff, easily overshadowed in wittiness by almost anything seen today. What makes the movie worth one’s while is Sinatra’s character who is no super cop by any standard, but much more human than almost any other detective I’ve seen on the silver screen, and it’s truly refreshing to see this kind of writing that does fall back into the cliches of the genre – like, whiskey sipping detectives surrounded by femme fatales – but instead actively plays away from them.

Here’s a detective who is pressured by his personal events and work place, and makes multiple mistakes along the way, resulting in a much more three dimensional and relatable character, much more noteworthy than the movie itself.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 70%