#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%

#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%

#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%

#1543 Positive I.D. (1986)

Positive I.D. is probably the best twist I’ve seen to date in the woman revenge genre as it concentrates more on the identity – and loss thereof – affected by personal violation.

And its study on its female suspect and the enigmatic change she goes through is really interesting. Much more so than any your typical female revenge porn movie could provide.

A low budget movie shot with mostly unknown cast, Positive I.D. manages to find its own, weird slightly out of tune tone of voice that makes the movie viewing experience quite unique and rewarding.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 85%

#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%

#1537 Alphabet City (1984)

Alphabet City is one of those movies that has only night scenes with tons of smoke and bright neon coloured lights, and it’s stylish all right ..and it’s mostly style over substance.

Which is not necessarily bad at all. I’ve enjoyed tons of movies for the mood only if they represent well a movie world that fascinates me. But even then the movies do need some substance, even if it’s through an interesting main character – and this is where Alphabet City fails. Vincent Spano seems to have been hired for the role for his looks only and his character and his representation of it feels paper thin, even for a superficial movie like this.

The movie reminds me mostly of video games that appeared years later, and the way that the movie looks totally fresh still to date is totally a feat on its own. But judging this by the story only, I’ve seen better plots written on the side of a yogurt can.

80s-o-meter: 95%

Total: 58%

#1466 Stark Raving Mad aka Murder Run aka Rockaday Ritchie aka Execution (1981)

Another late 80s drawn to look cool to hide the fact that the movie itself is almost one decade old and made with a small budget, Stark Raving Mad is one of the movies I always thought to be a cult classic, but isn’t. The probable reason for this is the classic Simpsons episode from the season 3 (1991) that had a similar word play, Stark Raving Dad – but the two aren’t connected in any way.

Stark Raving Mad is an exploitation movie done in the vein of Bonnie and Clyde of a 19-year old greaser who starts dating a 14-year old and they end up starting a crime/murder spree. The official blurb of the movie states the following: while awaiting execution, a convicted serial killer relates the story of the circumstances that led to his present situation – but this kind of prologue was missing on my DVD copy. There is however a final sentencing closure present.

There isn’t much info nor reviews available for the film online, so it can be considered an actual movie lost in time. Plot and production wise it’s a pretty inept movie, but not a complete stinker. Knowing the downward spiral will end unfortunately for the duo, watching the proverbial noose tighten around them still makes for an interesting if not thrilling experience.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 52%

#1450 Blue City (1986)

Blue City is the kind of a movie that’s firmly detached from any reality and where there are no real motivations or consequences for the actions of the characters.

Judd Nelson as the lead proves to be a tough cookie for me handle; he always seems to be borderline annoying in his roles, and unlike in From The Hip where he managed to turn his negative traits into something positive, in Blue City his totally wild and rebellious character comes off totally unlikeable.

The quite implausible events in Blue City would be easier to accept if the cinematography supported the fantasy aspect of the plot with a more fictitious setting and characters. But, if you manage to accept early on that Blue City takes place in Fantasyville, Hollywood, chances are you will enjoy the movie more than I did.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 60%

#1414 Native Son (1986)

I don’t know how well the original Richard Wright’s 1940 novel of the same name captures the stomach turning feeling of have done something so horrible and irreversible that you feel almost separating from your own body and wishing for the relief of waking up from a bad dream, in vein – but this is what the Jerrold Freedman’s 1986 movie adaptation does exceptionally well.

It would have been great to see Sangre Negra, an Argentinian 1951 movie adaptation of the novel to see how the newer version stacks up compared to it as judging by the film clips they both seem much alike.

To movie seems to rush to its ending and end just when things are getting really innocent, but as whole Native Son left a permanent impression on me. Finding forgotten gems like this is what makes the whole project totally worth the while.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 82%

#1413 Appointment with Death (1988)

A pretty tame whodunnit even in Agatha Christie’s scale, Appointment with Death is a Hercule Poirot story that brings the very familiar elements of aristocrats, murders and exotic locations to the table.

For anyone accustomed to thrillers of this decade, Appointment with Death will feel excruciatingly slow, but the fans of the classic Christie novels will probably feel at home.

Travel and exotic locations have always been the salt and pepper of Christie’s murder mysteries, and the biggest drawback of Appointment with Death remains its cinematography and directing that fails to capture the magic of the faraway spots that end up feeling dull and unexciting.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 37%

#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%

#1366 The Jigsaw Murders (1989)

I’ve gone through this before; given the sky high quality of the thrillers these days that offer plot twists after plot twists, it’s hard to get impressed with the 80s offerings.

But what actually works for the benefit of The Jigsaw Murders is the way how refreshingly straight forward it is: someone gets murdered, the evidence gets piled up against a suspect, and finally it’s a question of getting enough evidence (with legal means) to put him away.

As the book of movie clichés would have it, the senior detective struggles with alcoholism, but the movie handles this side of the story interestingly, stripping any sorts of movie glamour out of it.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 72%

#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%

#1342 Eyewitness aka The Janitor (1981)

Very interesting cast of super talented William Hurt, gorgeous Sigourney Weaver, Christopher Plummer, James Woods and Morgan Freeman star in little known early 80s murder thriller Eyewitness that was originally planned for release as The Janitor, but after lousy initial box office feedback the name was changed.

I’ve always mixed up this movie with the 1987 Broadcast News – William Hurt’s other movie involving TV reporters – and Eyewitness turned out to be completely different from what I was expecting – both in good and in bad.

The plotline has far too many coincidences to make it really believable, and Hurt’s poetic janitor character also seems quite far fetched and theatrical choice. The movie is quite watchable though and the end showdown is both thrilling and uniquely something I can’t remember seeing before.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 70%

#1341 Nadine (1987)

Let me start with a confession: I’ve browsed through this poster in my collection about a thousand times and always skipped the text, looked at the picture and assumed that it was Patrick Swayze who is starring in Nadine with Kim Basinger. I was therefore more than a bit stunned to see Jeff Bridges instead.

Not that I mind, Bridges is one of the greats that I always enjoy seeing on the silver screen. In fact, he is much too good to be in Nadine, a pretty tame action crime comedy set in the 1950s Texas.

On the positive note he does make the movie better than it rightfully deserves to be; the tale of an impulsive hairdresser and his soon-to-be bum ex husband is not very interesting nor is their constant quarrelling funny. The movie does have its exciting moments though as the shady real estate kingpin played by the great Rip Torn finds out the couple has obtained a confidential document he has been looking forward to getting in his hands.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 61%

#1340 Down by Law (1986)

Jim Jarmusch’s follow up to the surprise hit 1984 indie movie Stranger Than Paradise is not without similarities; both are shot in black & white, feature John Lurie and his straight from 1940s film noir rugged looks, have posters not exactly unlike each other and introduce a fish out of water foreign character as the comic relief.

In Down by Law that comic relief is the great Roberto Benigni who in his trademark style delivers great energy and hilarious lines and saves the movie just in time before it’s about to turn stale.

Tom Waits can be seen as the third lead in the movie, and the movie seems almost tailor made for him in its aesthetics and lines that compliment his deep, gravelly voice.

80s-o-meter: 20%

Total: 87%

#1337 The Trouble with Spies (1987)

The Trouble with Spies was originally shot in 1984 as a made for TV movie but released three years later as a theatrical release. But make no mistake, this spy comedy looks and feels very much like your average early 80s TV movie.

Special Agent comedies have been already done to death by 1984, and The Trouble with Spies is really nothing more but yet another poor man’s Pink Panther copy. There was two upsides seeing this movie, first one being seeing Lucy Gutteridge (who ended up mostly in made for TV movies) starring in another movie besides Top Secret! – a movie I’ve seen about gazillion times as a kid.

Another upside? That adorable guard dog towards the end of the movie.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 38%