#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%

#1319 Big Trouble (1986)

Who doesn’t like a good scoundrel movie?

A surprising (as well as the last) comedy from the director John Cassavetes, Big Trouble walks on the silver screen a somewhat surprising comedic duo of Peter Falk and Beverly D’Angelo that go against Alan Arkin, a mild mannered insurance agent lured into scheme that soon gets out of hand.

All of the casting works like a treat, but it’s particularly Falk as the devil-may-care mastermind – resembling somewhat his famous Columbo character – that gets the best laughs from me.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 85%

#1316 Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989)

Bloodhounds of Broadway is an ensemble comedy based on four Damon Runyon stories: ”The Bloodhounds of Broadway”, ”A Very Honorable Guy”, ”The Brain Goes Home” and ”Social Error”, written in the 1930s.

I’ve often criticised period pictures for having their historical settings without any point but to provide nostalgia, but as Bloodhounds of Broadway is more of an adult fairytale, the setting actually works here. I liked quite a lot in the way that the various personas and their stories intertwined during the movie, and the screenplay and direction of Howard Brookner works exceptionally well.

The casting also works well with Matt Dillon, Jennifer Grey, Esai Morales, Steve Buscemi, Randy Quaid, Rutger Hauer and Madonna seen in atypical roles.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 89%

#1306 Sitting Ducks (1980)

There’s an aspect to the story telling in Sitting Ducks that works and another one that lacks a bit. What works is the improvisation of the dialogue between the characters, something very typical for Henry Jaglom’s films.

Where Sitting Ducks falls short is the plot that is just plain silly, and frankly, I expected much more out of the ’big surprise’ in the act 3.

Zack Norman and Michael Emil make for a good anti-heroes in the lead roles, with surprising traits to them, not least of which being having the appearance of a middle aged losers while being pretty ripped (for the time) as they strip to show off their physique at the hotel pool.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 55%

#1299 Zoot Suit (1981)

Zoot Suit is the lavish and showy outfit with high-waist, wide-legged trousers and a ridilously long coat with wide, padded shoulders, coupled with a overlong watch chain dangling below the knee, and worn mostly by the youngsters of African-American, Latino, Italian American, and Filipino descent in the 1940s. What makes Zoot Suit interesting is its rebellious statement of self expression and the showiness of it by using excessive amount of materials, making them a luxury items and the way to show the neighbourhood (and the ladies) how much of a cool cat you were.

This is where the interesting part of Zoot Suit ends. The movie itself is an adaptation of a 1979 musical of the same name with possibly the worst music I’ve heard and the movie itself is shot with theatrical setting as if it was a play, likely to underline the fairy tale like nature of the movie, but to me it just did not work, give a take a few scenes. What worked though was the narrator and the ’Zoot Suit Spirit’ played by Edward James Olmos.

Like most of the musicals, Zoot Suit has a limited, but die hard fan base that rates it up there with the actual musical timeless classics.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 18%