2020年5月20日 星期三

Some Other Movies From 1981 (2)

For further background on the year in film please refer to the Some Other Movies From 1981 entry.

Some things that happened in 1981:
  • Palau became a country.  Can you find Palau on a map?  Quick!  I'll be timing you!
  • The Iran Hostage Crisis came to an end with the release of 52 hostages.
  • The first DeLorean rolled off a production line in Ireland.  It was later sent back... to the future!
  • The pope visited the Philippines.  They had just lifted martial law there.
  • John Hinckley Jr. tried to kill President Reagan.
  • Coca-Cola opened the first bottling plant in China.
  • A panel selected Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam War Veteran's Memorial in Washington D.C.
  • Bob Marley died.
  • The American CDC discovered unusual cases of pneumonia among homosexuals.  These cases would later be recognized as AIDS.
  • Donkey Kong arrived in arcades worldwide.  I spent a lot of my seventh year playing that one.
  • Prince Charles and Lady Di got married.  I remember seeing that on TV.
  • Belize became a country.  Easier to find on a map, I think.
  • The Police released Ghost in the Machine.  Great album.
  • "Luke" and "Laura" got married on TV's General Hospital.  This was a huge deal at the time.
  • The Iran-Iraq War was a thing.  To quote a famous comedian: "It's spelled with an 'N!'" [firing] "No, it's spelled with a 'Q!'" [firing back].
Linked entries can be viewed in their entirety on YouTube.

1. The Howling

An almost perfect horror movie with a sense of humor.  My only complaint is the transformation scenes, which a) go on too long, and b) suffer by comparison with An American Werewolf in London, which came out the same year.  To be sure, director Joe Dante squandered the credibility he'd built up with The Howling, but this movie is a glimpse at what he might have achieved if he hadn't pursued more populist forms of entertainment later on.  Dee Wallace is also excellent in the lead role.

Fun Fact: John Carradine, who appears as "the old crazy guy" in this movie, is the father of David, Robert and Keith Carradine.
Some Good Ones

1. The History of the World Part 1

"It's good to be the king."

Mel Brooks' take on world history.  It's still funny, but not hilariously so.  Watching it in 2020, it's hard not to reflect on how much more successful Monty Python was with similar material, and also how the relative popularity of both this movie and the various Python films makes more sense now. 

Not-So-Fun Fact: Richard Pryor was originally signed on to play Gregory Hines' role.  Unfortunately he SET HIMSELF ON FIRE prior to production, and while this movie was being filmed he was in the hospital.

2. Southern Comfort

It's a Walter Hill movie, so you know it's going to be MANLY.  Hill would go on to direct 48 Hrs. the following year.  Keith Carradine (best actor of all the Carradines), Fred Ward and Powers Boothe star as Louisiana national guardsmen pursued through a swamp by vengeful Cajuns.  It's watchable, but these guys accelerate into Stanford Prison Experiment-style dementia WAY too fast.  Ry Cooder's soundtrack is probably the best part of the movie.  I loved the ending, but cutting 15 minutes out of the swamp pursuit would have made this movie a lot better.

Fun Fact: Another Predator connection?  Without Warning (below) was the inspiration for that later movie, but Sonny Landham, who plays the Native American guy in Predator, is also in Southern Comfort.  The plot of Southern Comfort and the plot of Predator are also in some ways very similar.

3. Nighthawks

Sylvester Stallone and Billy Dee Williams star as two New York cops assisting a counter-terrorism effort.  It takes forever to get going, but after Stallone spots Rutger Hauer in the nightclub it gets a lot better.  It's one of Stallone's more forgotten movies, following 1979's Rocky II.  He wouldn't be an 80s superstar until the appearance of both Rocky III and First Blood the following year.

Fun Fact 1: This was Rutger Hauer's first American movie.  He'd do Blade Runner after this one.

Fun Fact 2: Lindsay Wagner's in this.  It's one of the handful of films she'd do after The Bionic Woman TV show.

Fun Fact 3: Plagued by production difficulties, this project began as The French Connection III.  Two directors left the project during filming, leaving Stallone to complete the film.

Was artificial insemination not a thing in 1981?  According to this movie, it wasn't.  Burt Reynolds stars as a man looking for a surrogate mom for his potential offspring, with Beverly D'Angelo as the surrogate mom.  The creepy title sequence aside, there are a few funny scenes, and this movie finds Burt Reynolds stepping very obviously into the 80s.  Critics were not loving it, however.

Fun Fact: D'Angelo appeared in this movie after playing Patsy Cline in Coal Miner's Daughter (great movie) and before playing Ellen Griswold in the first Vacation.  She'd eventually have kids with Al Pacino, though they never married.  These kids were conceived via in-vitro fertilization.

Sure, Wolfen, An American Werewolf in London and The Howling all came out in 1981, but what about Full Moon High?  Maybe it's easier to forget about it because it's a comedy, and also because it was made on a miniscule budget.  It's about as funny as Paternity above.

Fun Fact 1: The star of this movie, Adam Arkin, is the son of actor Alan Arkin.

Fun Fact 2: Both Bob Saget and Pat Morita are in this for a few minutes each.

Speaking of Coal Miner's Daughter - a movie for which Sissy Spacek won the Best Actress Oscar in 1981 - both her and Eric Roberts star in this drama about small town romance.  It's not bad, but it definitely has its faults.  The Raggedy Man character could have been better developed, more scenes of Spacek interacting with the townspeople would have helped the story, and the suspenseful ending doesn't match what has come before it.

Fun Fact: Henry Thomas appears in this movie as one of Spacek's two sons.  Thomas would appear as Eliot in Steven Spielberg's E.T. the following year.
Not Bad, But Not Really Good

1. The House by the Cemetery

A professor and his family move into a spooky New England house.  It's Lucio Fulci, so I wanted to like it more than I did, but the first half is WAY too similar to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, which came out the year before.  The characters in it also look and act too Italian to be taken seriously as New Yorkers.  The second half, however, is more like the slasher picture you'd expect.

A couple of the death scenes in this movie really bothered me.  Why would someone just stand or sit there and allow another person to stab them to death?  I get that one person's foot was stuck in the floorboards, and that another person was locked in a basement, but really?  You're just going to remain where you are, screaming passively while someone murders you?

Parenting Pro Tip: When your young son tells you that he saw his babysitter beheaded on the stairs it's probably better to believe him.

2. Private Lessons

Teenage boys of the 1980s, begin your furtive, shame-ridden masturbation in 5, 4, 3, 2...1!

This movie is NOT great, but it was the beginning of a whole series of "Private" teen sex comedies in the 80s.  None of these other teen sex comedies were great either.  Sylvia "Emmanuelle" Kristel is in this, and there's a lot of nudity, but that's all I can say in its favor.

But if I might return to the film's first scene for a moment, what's going on with Philly's friend?  He thinks his sister is sexy, and he wants to see her naked?  His sister?  Not even his step-sister?
Some Bad Ones

1. Saturday the 14th

Painfully unfunny horror parody that has absolutely nothing to do with Jason Voorhees.  Had I purchased a ticket for this movie in 1981, I'm sure I would have asked for my money back.

2. Roar

FUCK this movie is terrible.  On the one hand you've got this American Humane Society-sponsored view of African wildlife (what happens when those animals get released?  If ever?), and on the other you've got a story that's just barely there AND some of the worst acting I've ever seen.  Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith are in it, but the stars of the movie are the big cats in the sanctuary.

Fun Fact: Griffith bailed on this movie halfway through the shoot.  She stated that she didn't want to leave the movie "with half a face."  There were multiple injuries from animal attacks during filming, and Roar has since been described as "the most dangerous movie ever made."

3. S.O.B.

Bored me to tears.  Did this really come out in 1981?  Feels a lot more like something that would've appeared in the late 70s.  Blake Edwards, entertainment types, Hollywood... it's all very familiar... too familiar.  The plot centers around a movie that bombs - or a movie that's going to bomb - I'm not sure - and a studio executive losing his mind.  I guess it was supposed to be funny, but it wasn't doing anything for me.  In terms of Hollywood satire, I think Robert Altman's The Player is much better.
So Bad It's Good

1. Without Warning (a.k.a. It Came Without Warning)


You know clay pigeons?  Those things used for skeet shooting?  Well imagine living clay pigeons that propel themselves through the air.  Once the clay pigeons hit you they shoot out gross, mucus-covered tentacles into your body.  Case closed.  Exit stage left.  No extra lives.  I'm not sure why Jack Palance and Martin Landau are in this - maybe they needed the money.

Fun Fact 1: David Caruso's in this movie until he isn't.

Fun Fact 2: This movie was the inspiration for the far superior Schwarzenegger vehicle Predator.  The guy who played the Predator also played the... whatever-it-is in this movie.
And the Award for Most Unintentionally Hilarious Movie Goes To...

1. Tarzan the Ape Man

"I wallow in me."

Yes, Richard Harris.  Yes you do.  And to my great surprise Bo Derek is far from the worst part of this movie.  She looks great naked of course, and yeah, she has her share of cringe-worthy dialog, but the worst (or best?) part of this movie is the script, which does no one any favors.  It's full of long conversations that make little sense, and at the halfway mark it puts its characters into the most unlikely situations, almost as if they were all suffering from heatstroke and had temporarily lost their senses.  And what's the deal with that swimming scene anyway?  Is she afraid of Tarzan or the lion?  What's Tarzan trying to do?  Why is the lion even there?  Where were her dad and the rest of the party?  Why suddenly decide to take a nude bath in the ocean, and then later decide to put your clothes back on? 

The mind reels.  In 1981 a lot of critics were nominating either this movie or The History of the World Part 1 for "worst picture."  In my opinion Mel Brooks' movie doesn't even approach the monumental badness of Tarzan the Ape Man.  Don't believe me?  Watch it... and be amazed!

Fun Fact 1: The director of this movie, John Derek, was Bo Derek's husband.

Fun Fact 2: Contrary to what you might think, this movie actually turned a profit.

Fun Fact 3: Before he turned his attention to writing the (abominably bad) script for this movie, one of the screenwriters had been commissioned to write a script centered around the comic book character Dazzler.  Bo Derek would have starred in the Dazzler movie if Tarzan the Ape Man hadn't been made instead.

Related Entries: