#1557 Below the Belt (1980)

A talent scout talks a waitress into entering a sherry show wrestling team. She befriends this motley crew of journeymen, travels around with them, and finally is put against her arch enemy as the so called climax of the movie.

A Rocky this isn’t, nor is it All The Marbles that at least had the star power and indisputable charisma of Peter Falk going for it. In fact, if All The Marbles was a disappointing movie, Below the Belt does it all in a little more disappointing and banal way.

The most interesting part of below the belt is its love story between two worn out wrestlers in the crossroads of their lives where one wants to go in one direction – and one to another.

The one without wrestling.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 31%

#1552 Stardust Memories (1980)

Although I do enjoy Woody Allen’s writing – he is the only author that makes the rich neurotic self centred adults caught in their first world problems movies tolerable – Stardust Memories and its insight into the life of the rich and famous seems more targeted to a selected group of his New York intellectual friends to enjoy, rather than something I could really relate with.

Allen is being his base neurotic screen persona and inconstantly disillusioned in his relationships with the fellow men, especially his love interests. And in this movie there are many of them.

You can’t blame the writing from not being smart; it is – and that if anything is what makes the movie enjoyable. But I left Stardust Memories thinking that a movie needs something more than just endless stream of wittiness to be really enjoyable.

80s-o-meter: 45%

Total: 58%

#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%

#1540 Defiance (1980)

Tommy is a wandering seaman who arrives at early 80s New York to wait for a new ship to take him in. Meanwhile he find a house in a small worn out neighbourhood terrorised by a hoodlum gang called The Souls.

As you might have guessed, Defiance draws its inspiration from Death Wish and its numerous heirs: the main character inadvertently clashes with the gang, but remains hesitant to really stand up against them.

After seeing many similar gang movies, The Souls seems pretty lame bunch of misfits – almost caricatures – in their silly outfits, an do not really feel imposing enough to warrant a violent revenge. And unlike Death Wish, Defiance does not really deliver one. Oh, and if you’re into Jan-Michael Vincent, you might want to learn that Defiance is among the best, or if not the best movie of the decade for Vincent, before his unfortunate downward spiral.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 48%

#1508 Raise the Titanic (1980)

The movie knows what its money shot is: it uses minutes to show the surfacing of the Titanic model from under the sea shot from a dozen of different angles in one of the most expensive special effect sequences in a movie at the time.

And it pays off; this is why we sat down to see the Raise the Titanic for in the first place. Otherwise the movie is not bad an adventure movie at all. It manages to sell us the idea of being able to lift up the iconic ship from the bottom of the sea and gives a good reasoning for doing so. Although the movie does feel dated, being already 41 years old, it’s definitely ahead of most movies of the 1980 and in a way a promise of all the great summer blockbusters we saw in the 80s.

Watch closely as the ship finally surfaces to catch a hilarious easter egg put there by the effects team: two crewmen still onboard, frantically pumping water off the deck.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 74%

#1492 Island Claws (1980)

I’m not quite sure if it’s an accidental or intentional, but Island Claws is a flawless homage to the 1950s gigantic monster movies.

In fact, it totally looks and feels as if some old black-and-white movie had been AI coloured posthumously. The small village, idyllic little bar, main male leads and the research faculty are all charmingly familiar.

It’s therefore a shame such a nice set up is wasted on a totally average monster movie. I would’ve much preferred seeing some kind of a thriller/drama taking place in this same setting, instead of this low-quality monster nonsense.

80s-o-meter: 4%

Total: 50%

#1483 Resurrection (1980)

What Resurrection has going for it is an interesting premise where a woman discovers she has developed a healing powers after getting nearly killed in a car crash. How the movie handles dramatic structure after this is bit of a hit and miss though.

Her self discovery after the accident, first realisation of the power, relationship with the community and difficult relationship with her father are all very interesting themes, but the latter two could’ve been explored much further. Instead the story drifts off to involve her difficult relations ship with her lover along with religious themes that are far less interesting.

Ellen Burstyn has been flying totally under my radar despite her winning the Oscar for best Actress in academy awards on 1975 with Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. In Resurrection she is simply wonderful, portraying a person with warm supernatural power in her without overdoing or overselling it one bit.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 71%

#1448 North Sea Hijack (1980)

North Sea Hijack is the kind of perfect little action thriller one would’ve been super glad to find in the first small video rental stores in the early 80s.

The lead Sir Roger Moore brings a lot of the same charism and screen presence he possesses as Bond, but manages to make his character much more interesting given the jagged edges and peculiarities that the manuscript provides. His womanising trait remains in this movie as well, but instead of trying to get every woman between the sheets, he treats them equally to men – if not always quite respectfully.

The setup of criminals holding an oil rig as a hostage works well, and Anthony Perkins does a wonderful acting work as the criminal mastermind of high intelligence, but manages to avoid the pitfall of going overboard with the characterisation.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 86%

#1447 The Alien Dead (1980)

A subpar zombie movie disguised as a subpar scifi movie, The Alien Dead tries to sell a concept of living dead sort of aliens living in the bottom of a swamp who devour local fauna and humans.

Directed by Fred Olen Ray also known from abominations such as The Phantom Empire and Biohazard, The Alien Dead is bad even by his standards. Not only is The Alien Dead super uninteresting, but every imaginable technical shortcoming is to be found here as well.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 9%

#1445 Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype (1980)

I hated Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype – a tired word play if I’ve ever seen one – as soon as I heard about the movie, and that feeling got more intensive upon seeing the film poster.

Again, that feeling deepened as soon as the first few moments passed, The movie was just as inept and useless as I’d anticipated.

There’s not much positive to be said about the movie. It’s not as bad a shipwreck as the 1982 Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again, but it’s just bad in various other ways; if neither one of these movies would have seen the light of the day, we’d been better off as the human kind.

The shit they greenlighted at one point of time, sheesh..

80s-o-meter: 22%

Total: 4%

#1415 The Last Married Couple in America (1980)

Yet another early 80s comedies in the vein of 70s sexual revolution, The Last Married Couple in America actually manages to find a tone of its own, picturing a couple who find themselves happily together, surrounded by the peer pressure coming from their swinging, divorcing friends.

George Segal and Natalie Wood both possess a great screen presence and make a sympathetic couple in The Last Married Couple in America, awkwardly trying out extramarital affairs.

The movie loses most of its oomph after a strong start, but finally wraps up in a satisfactory fashion at the end. Not a good comedy, but definitely one of the easiest sexual revolution comedies to stomach.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 65%

#1409 Border Cop aka The Border U.S.A. aka The Border (1980)

I’m usually particular including movies other than of American origin here, but as the British-Mexican Border Cop makes an attempt to present itself as one (and I had it laying around), I thought what the hey.

Shot in Mexico with a bunch of second and third row Hollywood actors, Border Cop is a story about young Mexican couple that gets involved with a local crime boss smuggling people over the border, and it’s US border patrol agent Frank Cooper who needs to save the day. Terry Savalas (of the Kojak fame) plays the lead as the agent that has to take on the powers that be to protect the common Mexican folk.

The movie plays as expected out of very early 80s production with no real highlights to speak of – but deserves credit for pulling off an almost picture perfect imitation of the American cinema.

80s-o-meter: 77%

Total: 57%

#1405 Halloween 2020: The Children (1980)

A bus full of children are exposed to a chemical that turns them into manic killers capable of turning everyone in their way into a steaming pile of flesh.

Creepy children are not a new thing with horror movies, but the approach in The Children works better than any sings in the movie would suggest. It’s clumsy almost to the extend to being unintentionally funny, but makes the best out of concept and does feel menacing and ominous at the same time, making it a positive surprise overall.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 60%

#1399 Halloween 2020: Maniac (1980)

Although previously an unknown movie to me, Maniac as a title always had an ominous sound for me. As the movie kicked off I was thinking if this is one of those over hyped horror movies of the era; the overall quality definitely looked like there was very little to be expected out of the movie.

But as the movie finally takes off, it’s one gruesome, palm-sweating ride. Joe Spinell whom I previously haven’t registered as a talent plays to a perfection the role of a man haunted by his demons, going from a violent rage to self pity quick enough to turn the viewers repulsion into compassion within seconds.

Still, the movie is perhaps best known for its graphic bloodletting orchestrated by the special effects wizard Tom Savini, who later admitted that maybe he went a bit too far with some of the FX. As Maniac hit the theatres it caused outrage with many critics at the time and admittedly the violence here is still very impactful even today. But beyond that Maniac is also an interesting study into the mind of a madman, only really shadowed by the totally unnecessary, clichéd ending.

80s-o-meter: 62%

Total: 83%

#1398 Halloween 2020: He Knows You’re Alone (1980)

A serial killer is loose in He Knows You’re Alone, killing young women in Staten Island.

He does the expected: spooks around the bushes to provide that eerie feeling before entering the houses of his bride-to-be victims and wasting them. And he is very smart about his moves, until it’s time to kill the main character, whom he fails to dispose of so that they have to run around a morgue until the most disappointing twist ending I’ve seen to date.

Only notable thing about Twisted Nightmare is the debut role of Tom Hanks who was at first ear marked as one of the wasteable side characters, but whose role was expanded for a few scenes more after the director Armand Mastroianni noted Hanks’ exceptional screen presence.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 37%

#1394 Halloween 2020: New Year’s Evil (1980)

A mysterious stranger calls a TV host to let them know there’ll be one murder at the clock as each states from east to west coast reaches new year, and that the host herself will be the last victim.

Although classified as slasher, New Year’s Evil is actually a horror thriller that sidesteps all the banalities of slashers. We follow the maniac cruising around L.A., picking up his victims, and the story at this point is told much more from the killer’s point of view rather than the victims’, which makes for an effective design choice. I also applaud how the filmmakers don’t view the killer as an omnipotent super human, but rather show him fumbling along the way, struggling to make it to the killings in time and even having to escape an angry mob.

New Year’s Evil has a lot of good thing going for it, but it suffers a bit from at times less than stellar execution. Here’s one of those movies that could benefit of a modern remake.

80s-o-meter: 73%

Total: 72%

#1388 Halloween 2020: Terror Train (1980)

One of the few Canadian horror movies to make it to this site (they also had a flood of their own), thanks to starring the then-slasher queen Jamie Lee Curtis, Terror Train’s effort to add something a little new to the slasher formula feels fresh at first.

The revenge story taking place in a moving train rent for a fraternity’s new year party is a great idea on paper but it’s the stuffy 70s execution that drags the movie down quite a bit. More of a whodunnit than your typical slasher, the lack of a menacing form of evil also makes the movie pale in comparison with the best of the genre.

As a sort of a curiosity the young (and very skinny) David Copperfield can be seen in one of the supporting roles, which turned out to be his first and last of its kind.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 38%

#1387 Halloween 2020: Fiend aka Angst (1980)

I was initially put off by Fiend due to its amateurish look and feel, but after reading some favourable reviews I decided to give it a go – and I regret to say my initial impression was pretty much spot on.

I did find the concept of a evil spirit – the Fiend – possessing corpses and using these decaying flesh vessels to kill people to gain rejuvenating life energy before coming apart a refreshing twist to the zombie genre. It’s therefore a shame the movie isn’t able to do much with the concept. I’d for example liked to see it getting into sticky situations where he is quite literally falling apart while struggling to find victims and hide his true identity.

Production quality wise Fiend is way below a B-movie; not only does it look totally 70s, but also fails to provide any imaginative kills or effects that is the only thing many of its counterparts have going for them.

80s-o-meter: 12%

Total: 9%

#1369 Halloween 2020: Beyond Evil (1980)

Possibly one of the lamest horror movies I’ve seen to date, Beyond Evil is in all of its aspects very much a 70s movie that doesn’t have anything else to bring into the 80s but only the stale smell of the past.

A witch like creature possesses the woman who’s just moved into the mansion with her husband and makes her do all sorts of evil. What follows is a lame collection of jump scares and dodgy, drawn on film effects that couldn’t have possibly looked convincing even back in early 80s, let alone in 2020.

80s-o-meter: 30%

Total: 8%

#1362 Oh! Heavenly Dog (1980)

An early 80s Chevy Chase comedy I had been storing for a bad day turned out to be a complete letdown.

As a matter in fact, it isn’t a Chevy Chase comedy to begin with, but a Benji adventure where Chevy Chase plays a detective who gets killed while investigating and comes back from heaven as a dog to solve the case. Yawn.

This is one of those movies where its really hard to tell to which audience segment it was meant for; too childish for the grown ups and too violent and raunchy for the kids, Oh! Heavenly Dog makes a hard case to recommend to anyone but die hard Benji fans.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 17%