Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '85 - Some Favorites from 30 Years Ago ""

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Underrated '85 - Some Favorites from 30 Years Ago

So for this new series (and several series to follow), I decided to look back several decades and try to pluck some underappreciated movies from way back when. For this first group, let's set the wayback machine (or the DeLorean) for thirty years ago. Here are a few of my underrated favorites from 1985. A word of warning - being that we're talking about 1985 here, some of these films are not necessarily the most towering examples of groundbreaking cinema, but all of them are quite entertaining...

INTO THE NIGHT (1985; John Landis)
One of my very favorite "One Crazy Night" movies. I often describe it as AFTER HOURS-lite. It's a fun and wacky tale of one man (Jeff Goldblum) and his journey all over the greater Los Angeles area one evening after he becomes embroiled in some craziness when he bumps into Diana (Michelle Pfeiffer) by chance. This would probably have been a straight film noir if it had been made in 1947. The film is absolutely smothered in cameos and one fun thing about it is to watch for who might pop up next.  I do miss the "One Crazy Night" films of the 1980s and 90s, I wish they would bring them back in a big way. Edgar Wright screened this a while back and the New Beverly Theater in L.A. as a double feature with AFTER HOURS and it was fantastic.

THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN (1985; Jeremy Kagan)
When I was very young and my family got our first VCR, we rented a whole lot of Disney films. We ran out of animated fair real quick so my parents started renting live-action Disney movies. I remember we must have seen a trailer for this one on one of the HERBIE films or something and we tracked it down. This was my introduction to the young and lovely Meredith Salenger. I was instantly smitten and my smit would only continue as I'd see her in films over the next 3-4 years. Here, she plays the title role of Natty Gann - a runaway tomboy in the 1930s on the hunt to find her real-life father (Ray Wise) who had to leave her in foster care because he was seeking work some 2000 miles away. Natty Gann is totally cute, an absolute badass and made even cooler by the fact that she had a pet wolf in the movie. This was one of the darker, grittier Disney films I'd seen at the time and I was quite taken with it. The supporting cast is quite spectacular and includes the likes of John Cusack (in that charming sweet spot as his career was taking off), Lainie Kazan, Verna Bloom, Barry Miller and the always amazing Scatman Crothers. It was also directed by Jeremy Kagan who did one of my favorite Underrated Detective/Mystery films in THE BIG FIX.

PERFECT (1985; James Bridges)
It's hard not to look at that poster and completely write this movie off as 80s fluff. That's fair and there certainly is some 80s fluffiness to it, but I like it for more than that. People can forget how good John Travolta used to be in his prime and though this is pushing the edge of that prime period, he still has that dynamic, charismatic star power and it shines brightly. Here he plays a journalist for Rolling Stone who ends up doing a piece on health clubs being the singles bars of the 1980s. As part of the story he ends up getting to know an aerobics instructor (played by Jamie Lee Curtis). It's more interesting than it sounds and keep in mind it's from director James Bridges who did URBAN COWBOY with Travlota as well THE PAPER CHASE, MIKE'S MURDER and THE CHINA SYNDROME. Plus, there are few creatures that look better in a leotard than Jamie Lee. She is stunning here. I've always had this odd fondness for aerobics movies which I can't explain (see PULSE BEAT below) and PERFECT falls into that category as well.

RUSTLER'S RHAPSODY(1985; Hugh Wilson)
Wonderful, silly spoof of 30s & 40s B-westerns with a comically underappreciated Tom Berenger at the center. This film lands tonally somewhere between BLAZING SADDLES and THE BIG LEBOWSKI for me as far as genre bending comedies go. Apparently a passion project for POLICE ACADEMY director Hugh Wilson and it shows. The "good guy" standoff is quite memorable. I'm also a big G.W. Bailey fan so seeing him as the town drunk/narrator was quite welcome. I was first turned onto this film by Mr Beaks (Jeremy Smith) of Ain't It Cool News and I thank him for it.

THE NEW KIDS (1985; Sean S. Cunningham) / SECRET ADMIRER (1989; David Greenwalt)
I think we can all agree that Lori Loughlin is one of the most adorable ladies ever yes? Good. I first began crushing on her when I first saw her bicycle boogie-ing in the BMX classic RAD (before I ever saw Full House). From then on I swooned pretty much any time she popped up onscreen. Thanks to VHS and the horror sections of my video store haunts as a youngster, I was able to come across THE NEW KIDS. I can't recall if it was Lori Loughlin or the fact that it was directed by FRIDAY THE 13TH's Sean S. Cunningham that first got my attention. Either way, it had Lori, Eric Stoltz, Tom Atkins and an extremely evil James Spader so it was a winner already in my book. Though this one has made it to DVD, I'm holding out hope for a Blu-ray even if it ends up being from Mill Creek or somewhere. And as a follow-up to THE NEW KIDS, why not throw on something a bit lighter? How about another Lori Loughlin move from 1985 even. SECRET ADMIRER is just the ticket. It's kind of like an 80s high school movie directed by Robert Altman. Okay it's not quite that, but the way that it encompasses as many characters as it does all around an anonymous love letter (and people mistaking who it is from) kinda felt like an Altman type thingy to me. Maybe it's like SHORT CUTS HIGH or something. Very silly and pretty funny. And let me just name off the actors: Lori Loughlin, C. Thomas Howell, Kelly Preston, Corey Haim, Dee Wallace, Fred Ward, Cliff De Young, Casey Siemaszko and Courtney Gains! Amazing.

FEVER PITCH (1985; Richard Brooks)
Gambling movies make me tense, but I love them anyway. I think of them as that moment when a character does something dumb in a movie and you yell "No! Don't do that!" at the screen, except stretched to feature length. Watching gambling movies is much like gambling itself. You can hope that the main character doesn't end up desperate and in the whole a ton of money by the end and it's a 50/50 shot, but often these stories don't end well. This one is pretty enjoyable though. I think I first heard of it when Tarantino ran it during one of his many film fest in Austin in the late 90's or early 2000's. Ryan O'Neal is great in this one. And it comes from writer/director Richard Brooks (THE PROFESSIONALS, IN COLD BLOOD, WRONG IS RIGHT).

THE LOST EMPIRE (1985; Jim Wynorski)
Wynorski's debut feature is one of those movies that has so much crazy stuff packed into it and it feels so wonderfully "Wynorski" in its nuttiness. SOUTHLAND TALES meets CONAN THE DESTROYER would be one way I could think of to describe it. 

MISFITS OF SCIENCE (1985; James D. Parriott)
Alright, I'm cheating a bit here as this is just the pilot for the far-too-short-lived 80s TV Show MISFITS OF SCIENCE. It was put out as a standalone VHS and I remember putting it in my employee picks for a time when I was finally able to track it down. Think of it as a cheesy X-Men for the 80s kinda thing. Cast includes Courtney Cox, Kevin Peter Hall and Max Wright.

I was mad aware of this Canadian film exclusively through some trailer I saw on a New World VHS tape (I can't recall which one I first saw it on). I was immediately captivated by and smitten with Carolyn Dunn who plays the lead role. Something about her taking on this new punk look and being on this sort of coming of age adventure was quite titillating to the teenage me who was watching that trailer for the first time. I also loved that it was part of that long standing 80s tradition of movies that had their own theme song that you would get to hear a snippet of in the trailer. Somehow those cheesy 80s title songs just made the movie feel like something more of an event than it probably was. This one isn't available on a U.S. DVD that I could find, but I did see it's on Youtube and import DVD if you're interested.

UFORIA (1985; John Binder)
This one is also unfortunately tricky too see (on VHS for sure but that is the main way you might be able to track it down). Fred Ward stars as a drifter and small time con man who reunites with his brother (Harry Dean Stanton) who is running his own faith healing racket. Ward falls for a lonely supermarket checker (Cindy Williams) who has a grand premonition of the arrival of aUFO. It's a quirky, interesting little flick that very few have seen. I think i first saw it noted in the back of Danny Peary's Guide for the Film Fanatic.

PULSEBEAT (1985; Maurice Tobias)
This movie is kinda nutty. If you've not dipped your toe into the waters of the "aerobicsploitation" films of the 1980s, you'll want to first begin with the amazing HEAVENLY BODIES and work your way over to this one. This one has a similar plot to that in that it involves competing health clubs and a prestigious aerobics competition. Cheesy 80s fun. VHS only I believe.

FAST FORWARD (1985; Sidney Poitier)
Speaking of 80s cheese, this slice of it was directed by the great Sidney Poitier! This one plays like the shaggy distant stepfather to the STEP UP films (it's kind of like FAME meets a STEP UP movie with some BREAKIN' thrown in). A group of kids from Ohio who call themselves "The Adventurous Eight" make a pilgrimage to New York City to try to audition to become the next big thing. That audition doesn't goes as planned so they have to find a way to make it in the big Apple for a bit until they can audition again. This goofy and sometimes emotional flick is available as part of Sony's MOD DVD series.

BAD MEDICINE (1985; Harvey Miller)
Okay, so admittedly, this might be the weakest of the group I've selected here, but I still have something of a softspot for it. Steve Guttenberg (hot off his success in POLICE ACADEMY the previous year) brings his madcap "Mahoney-isms" to "Somewhere in South America". Basically, it's POLICE ACADEMY MEDICAL SCHOOL. It's rated PG-13 though, so not as raunchy as it could be. And I can't defend the film's use of some pretty offensive stereotypes, but I still find it fun. The cast is a blast and includes Julie Haggerty, Alan Arkin, Curtis Armstrong, Robert Romanus, Taylor Negron, Julie Kavner and Gilbert Gottfried. So as you can see, they were really trying to pull in folks from REVENGE OF THE NERDS and FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH to help give this movie some cred. Sadly, the film is not currently available on any U.S. DVD that I can find (though it is on Amazon Instant), but is out in a region 2 import.

1 comment:

beamish13 said...