Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '85 - Daniel Budnik ""

Monday, March 30, 2015

Underrated '85 - Daniel Budnik


Daniel Budnik is the co-author of Bleeding Skull!: A 1980s Trash Horror OdysseyHe is currently at work on another book and a new blog, possibly focused on BJ & The Bear. He believes the world is ready for it.
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I’d like to start this list by disclosing a fact. Although I went to see Back to the Future twice in the theaters at the age of 12, I did not see (and have still not seen) The Goonies. Oh, I know of the film. My brother watched it on Beta about 20 times. I’ve seen many of the scenes. But, I’ve never actually sat down and watched the film all the way through. I now wear that fact as a badge of honor.
Anyway…  the five films I’ve chosen are ones that I believe are underrated from the great and glorious year when prime time soaps gave up their #1 spots to sitcoms and the word “Sussudio” became part of the lexicon. I was tempted to add some obscure films. However, I reasoned: if no one’s really seen the film, how can it be underrated? (Well, there’s one on here that is close to obscure but I had to let one pass.)

Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985; Jerry Paris): As anyone who knows me knows, every year I have a Police Academy week in my home. Across seven nights I throw a party and watch all of the Police Academy movies. Last year, attendance was up. Both my dogs stayed in the room. So, there were three of us. Their First Assignment was released at that interesting moment whenthe whole “police academy” concept might have ended with this movie. History, and my dogs, can confirm that this did not happen. Part 2 is the only sequel that has anything close to character development (Tackleberry’s romance). It introduces Lt. Mouser. It has some of the best pranks played on saidlieutenant. Proctor first appears. And the gags are funny. Also, like most of the sequels, characters are forgotten about for long periods of time. (Hooks and Fackler are barely in it.) The editing leaves something to be desired. Jokes that feel like they should be big laughs kind of fizzle out. (The non-shootout in Sweetchuck’s store is an example.) And, there’s very little structure to anything. But, it is still funny and fun. You got the power of Guttenberg on your side. Roll with it!

Loose Screws (1985; Rafal Zielinksi): In rarefied quarters this is known as Screwballs II. Where I live it is just Awesome. Rafal Zielinski can do no wrong! A bunch of guys try to get laid. They dress up as women. There are naked ladies. The guys are really dumbThere are funny “joke” names. (I could be thinking of another movie for any of those points I’ve just listed. It doesn’t matter.) There is nothing resembling logic or storytelling as one has come to know it on the planet Earth. I enjoy a good T&A comedy. I really do. But, I like them with as little sense as possible. King Frat and Fireballs are my two favorite examples. Loose Screws is right behind them. I don’t know if I’ve actually laughed when I’ve watched this film but I’ve always enjoyed myself. Netflix used to have it on their Instant and I used to loop it…  over and over..  and over…  If you only plan to see, say, four or five1980s sex comedies before you die, please include this.

Shadow Chasers (1985)
The lowest rated TV show of the 1985-1986 television season began with a 2-hour TV movie, co-written and directed by Kenneth Johnson of V, The Incredible Hulk The Bionic Woman. And it’s a very entertaining, bordering on wonderful, time. Sort of a post Ghost Busters, pre-X-Files sort of thing. A stuffy British anthropology professor at Georgetown University is, more or less, blackmailed by his head of department into going on paranormal investigations across the United States. He somehow winds up teamed with a tabloid reporter with a taste for Hawaiian shirts. It’s an odd couple! But, really, they’re great. Jonathan MacKenzie and Edgar Benedek go to a small Californian town to investigate the apparent spontaneous combustion of a man in the attic of his huge creepy house. It’s funny. It’s got some scares and it is so, so 1985. One of the best ways to spot 1985 is the music. This is the period when Hollywood began doing all-synth scores, just like cheap exploitation films had been doing for years. The music for Shadow Chasers is the only tricky part about it. With the worst offender being the excessive use of slap bass whenever something suspenseful or scary is supposed to be happening. I’m trying to remember if that worked in 1985 and I’m unsure. Shadow Chasers has another great distinction: it was one of the first (of many) causalities of the NBS Thursday night sitcom line-up. Anything that went up against The Cosby Show andFamily Ties (later A Different World) was doomed to fail. I remember seeing a list of the ratings for one week and Shadow chasers was, literally, at the bottom. But, don’t let that deter you.Shadow Chasers is a cool TV movie and the regular hour-long episodes are pretty great too. Here’s an odd thing: Shadow Chasers has 13 episodes total. Only the first 9 episodes aired on the network. Not that many people actually saw it. But, if you fish around online, you can find quite a lot of fan fiction written about it. Quite a lot. I know, surprised me too.

American Ninja (1985; Sam Firstenberg): Dudikoff! James! Firstenberg! A silly title turns out to be hiding a well-directed, exciting and, at times, almost whimsical action film. What else do I need to say? Give it a try. Part 2 is even better. Part 3 and 4 get a bit weird, especially 3, but they are still entertaining.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985; Guy Hamilton): I went to see this in the theater because of the ads with Remo hanging from the Statue of Liberty (which was covered in scaffolding that year as it was being renovated). I really enjoyed the movie. But it did, in fact, feel like a beginning. More time is spent on Joel Grey’s character training Remo than the actual mission. So, I waited anxiously for the sequel. (Hey, if they made a sequel toScrewballs, why not Remo?)It never happened. And my heart was broken. However, it is still a great action/ adventure film as long as one forgives the overly hopeful structure. And, it contains three fantastic action scenes: the gradually escalating training scene, the bit with the dog who can do anything and, of course, the Statue of Liberty scene. That scene still stands as several minutes of some of the most thrilling stunting since Harold Lloyd got scared off that ledge and wound up hanging from a clock back in 1923.

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