Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '85 - Hal Horn ""

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Underrated '85 - Hal Horn

Hal Horn is an institution here at Rupert Pupkin Speaks. He is always Mr. Johnny-On-The-Spot with a great list of truly underappreciated cinema from a man who clearly adores it. I love his blog, The Horn Section( and give it my highest personal recommendation, so scoot on over there!

KRUSH GROOVE (1985; Michael Schultz)
The same year he directed THE LAST DRAGON, Michael Schultz (COOLEY HIGH) also helmed this exhilarating film based on the early days of Def Jam records.  Blair Underwood made his feature debut (playing a renamed Russell Simmons) signing the likes of Run-DMC and Kurtis Blow to his record label and trying to win the heart of Sheila E. (understandable!).  A great soundtrack also featured Chaka Khan, the Gap Band and the Fat Boys; Rick Rubin and the Beastie Boys were among many others playing themselves.  Debuted at # 2 at the box office in October but quickly faded.

The wild success of THIS IS SPINAL TAP in 1984 created a ton of interest in mockumentaries, and who better to follow in Rob Reiner’s footsteps than director Harry Shearer and writer/host Martin Mull?  Mull gets a chance to skewer middle American culture as he had in his seminal work, the talk show parody FERNWOOD2NIGHT.  And yes, he’s working with Fred Willard again, which alone would make this droll, brief (48 minutes) worth watching.  Spawned a sequel in ’86.  

GET OUT OF MY ROOM (1985; Cheech Marin) (VIDEO)
Another mockumentary, this one from Cheech and Chong.  GET OUT OF MY ROOM was far from a classic, and you could say the same for the companion album.  Still, the hour-long video venture was Cheech Marin’s directorial debut and ended up being the last Cheech and Chong teaming for two decades.  John Paragon interviewing the duo throughout the making of their LP, interrupted periodically by one of the project’s four music videos.   GET OUT OF MY ROOM has its moments, especially for long-time fans, and generates more than enough smiles to be watchable.  That alone made it the team’s best since 1982’s THINGS ARE TOUGH ALL OVER.   Jan-Michael Vincent, Beverly D’Angelo and cult favorite Mary Woronov cameo, and as you might expect, the highlight is the music video for their hit “Born in East L.A.”, which Marin would expand to feature length in August 1987.

MISCHIEF (1985; Mel Damski)
Mel Damski’s MISCHIEF passed through theatres quietly in February ‘85, perhaps due to its period setting (Nelsonville, Ohio in 1956) and competition for the same audience from HEAVEN HELP US (released the same week).  For my money this very likable sleeper is the year’s most underrated film three decades later. 

MISCHIEF is at heart a buddy comedy, with virginal nerd Doug McKeon hoping to bed lifelong crush Kelly Preston.  (Didn’t we all hope to back in ‘85?)  McKeon is helped in his quest by the worldly, Fonzie-esque new kid in town (Chris Nash) and is completely oblivious to the fact that Jami Gertz (still recognizable despite glasses and braces) is crushing on him.  Meanwhile, Nash uses his own advice in his quest to woo Catherine Mary Stuart from the town’s rich bully (D.W. Brown).    While MISCHIEF does feature a nude scene from Preston (which gave it the R rating that likely also hurt box office numbers in ‘85), the 1950’s setting gives it an innocence that most other teen films of the era lacked, and a terrific 1950’s soundtrack (Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Fats Domino) sells the era well.  Written by Noel Black (PRETTY POISON), who was taking a second (and much better) stab at the genre after 1983’s PRIVATE SCHOOL.

THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN (1985; Matthew Robbins)
The anti-commercialism theme and non-ironic folk hero of this film would have been well received in either the 1970’s or the angsty early 1990’s (witness PUMP UP THE VOLUME‘s success), but was completely out of step with the times during the summer of BACK TO THE FUTURE.  While THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN was D.O.A. in theatres in July of 1985, it found its cult on cable and VHS in the late Eighties.  Helen Slater and Christian Slater are sister and brother in Corpus Christi, Texas.  After a run-in with bullies (who destroyed Christian’s bike) and an attempted rape of Helen by the head bully’s father, Christian accidentally shoots the assailant.  The Slaters are forced on the lam, taking willing hostage Keith Gordon and inspiring massive media coverage and a number of would-be profiteers, including Helen’s would-be rapist.  Hurt by too many contrivances, THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN is nevertheless distinguished by a refreshing viewpoint for its era and Texas locations (underutilized in youth films  until Richard Linklater came along).   Heavily promoted by MTV, with Pat Benatar’s “Invincible” becoming one of her biggest hits.

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