The concept of this latest amazing series of posts from Rupert Pupkin Speaks is simpatico to me on a number of levels: first, being that I’ve toyed with christening personal classics annually as a new crop of films turn 25 years old (my personal threshold); second, is of course that this list is about the 1980s the decade in which I was born, and thus, love.
First, some quick honorable mentions and explanations of exclusions:
Underrated Disney is rarely underrated overall so The Black Cauldron can’t make it. The same would go for Henson fare, though Follow That Bird does need a lot more love.
Things like Demons and The Stuff are out because those who know those directors and genres know those films well and love them.
Some may see D.A.R.Y.L. as overlooked but I include an even more obscure kid-as-robot title from the same year. That should take care of those titles I struggled to omit. Now to the list itself…
Colonel Redl (1985, Dir. István Szabó)
I saw this in a time when I was watching literally any Hungarian film I could get my hands on, as I had recently fallen in love with the aesthetic and philosophy many of these films seemed to share. This film is directed by one of Hungary’s more renowned directors and was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film; however, the film didn’t make much of a dent in limited release that year, nor have I heard it much discussed since.
Konrad (1985, Dir. Simon Wincer)
A 1985-released film about a humanoid child that is not D.A.R.Y.L., it may be hard to believe but such a thing does exist. As opposed to the aforementioned film the film does not focus on a child struggling to recall his past. In a manner not unlike the later-released A.I., Konrad is a factory-made child. The events of the film kick into gear when he is delivered to the wrong house.
Adding to the uniqueness of this title its an adaptation of a German kids novel (giving it a link to The Neverending Story). It also features ’80s staples Polly Holliday, Max Wright and Ned Beatty. It also features Huckleberry Fox as the titular character; Fox is most well known as playing Teddy Horton in Terms of Enderament.
Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer (1985, Dirs. Bernard Devriès, Kimio Yabuki)
The ‘80s brought us many new things for better or worse, whether we realize it or not. One of those things is the more overt tie-in of product and film. Care Bears and Rainbow Brite were rival franchises created by greeting card companies in competition with one another, American Greetings and Hallmark. Rainbow Brite was Hallmark’s first property to go to the screen. Of course, since then they created an MOW series and eventually channels.
Being a kid at the time some of these things I only learned later. I knew of merchandise and shows, and movies for these properties but was unaware of the origin. I also have revisited many of these titles in my adulthood and they still work for what they are.
The reason is that not only is this film the more overlooked of its kind I also prefer it. The humor brought to it by Murky and Lurky balance the super-villain gravitas the evil Princess brings. Not only that but the film introduces a new character (Chris) that works as a great ally, and is rare in movie versions.
Ok, yes, this is a Stephen King adaptation, but as opposed to Disney films adaptations of King’s work can be dismissed even when they should not be. Cycle of the Werewolf, the novella upon which this story is based, is a tight, little, frightful affair that in rococo fashion ticks through the months of the year tracking a werewolf through a small Maine town. This leaves a fairly simple blueprint to be followed, but the film still excels greatly in departments that are not the adaptation from prose to screenplay namely Gary Busey as Uncle Red, Corey Haim in his most down-to-earth character aside from Lucas and Everett McGill as Reverend Lowe.
Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985, Dir. B.W.L. Norton)
Now this may have been something I saw on HBO or something not that long after, but it was one I viewed as a kid, and have not seen in quite a long time. Having been a kid is key because just in hearing the synopsis:
A paleontologist and her husband discover a mother and baby brontosaurus in Africa, and try to protect them from a group of hunters intent on capturing the dinosaurs.
That is enough to get one hooked into watching it. Upon seeing it even more so. The allure is an obvious and naturalist one. The story is derived from the legends of a Brontosaurus surviving in the Congo (the African equivalent to Nessie). What captures the imagination is that its not only a dinosaur still alive, its a baby that must be protected.
This differs obviously from Jurassic Park, but its the willful application of genetic engineering, ethical conundrums and monster movie tropes that have given that franchise legs. However, this is a story I’m curious to see again because just because dinosaurs were larger than life does not mean all the stories have to be and a smaller, closer look can be taken.