One of the things I miss most dearly from the 1980s is the plethora of fantasy films that were strewn about theaters throughout the decade. Fantasy took the form of all kinds of things from body-switch movies to BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. On a larger scale, things like LEGEND and WILLOW found their way into theaters. THE NEVERENDING STORY proved true to its title when it had sequel arrive at the turn of the decade into the 1990s. People seemed to enjoy fantasy films of all kinds and to a degree they absolutely still do. The mega blockbusters of the present are mostly super hero movies that inhabit their own fantastic and epic universe. But in the 1980s, fantasy could be more intimate and frankly more silly and that seemed to be alright. MANNEQUIN is a perfect example of a movie of this type that I feel could only be made in the 1980s. Even movies like TEEN WITCH live on as a cult favorites today and I don't think many people could have seen that coming. Even TEEN WITCH's plot isn't quite as ludicrous as MANNEQUIN's though. I mean this in a good way. When other than the 1980s would Hollywood have thought to make a film about an ancient Egyptian Princess (Kim Cattrall), trapped in the body of a department store mannequin who can come to life at random moments and present herself to just one dude. And only in the 1980s would that one dude be Andrew McCarthy. McCarthy is an interesting cat in that he took hold and became popular via the Brat Pack movies but he was a much quieter and more reserved leading man than a lot of his contemporaries. I understand that his soft-spoken/high pitched voice way of being might grate on some folks, but he did have legit appeal for a little while (though I never totally understood the draw he was supposed to have for Molly Ringwald in PRETTY IN PINK). So anyway, when you have a film that has a magical girl that only one other character can see, you know it's a recipe for hilarity (and inferred perversion). More memorable than Cattrall and McCarthy in this movie is the late great Meshach Taylor as "Hollywood". He may have been one of the first gay characters I was exposed to in mainstream cinema as a young kid from south central Wisconsin. I can't remember what I thought of him then, but now I find him to be pretty adorable in both this movie and its sequel. He is just a character that does his own thing and makes no apologies and I like that. He also has awesome sunglasses and that can't be underrated.
One thing I learned from this rewatch of MANNEQUIN was the value of store window displays. I have tied this movie so directly to window displays over the years now that when I see a lackluster display I can't help but be saddened by it. I was just shopping at one of those seasonal Halloween stores over the weekend and I notice they had a lovely display window, but no display in it at all! Talk about a missed opportunity. I really do believe that in this ay and age of online stores beating the crap out of brick and mortar institutions, it really behooves business to do interesting and dynamic window displays. But I digress.
MANNEQUIN is an 80s classic and any kid who came of age during that time knows not only the film itself, but also the famous Starship song, "Nothings Gonna Stop Us". I am honestly torn between this song and "We Built This City" (which is a karaoke duet favorite of mine) as to which is my favorite Starship tune. Depends on my mood. If I'm feeling more sentimental, "Nothings Gonna Stop Us" is just the ticket. I saw MANNEQUIN at a drive-in theater when it came out and I still remember my family loading into the car and driving off with the radio (tuned to the drive-in's station) still blaring that tune as we headed home. If the 80s taught us nothing else, it taught us the importance of a good closing credits song and we have let that lesson fall by the wayside.
I have an odd fondness for Judd Nelson's non-BREAKFAST CLUB films. I've seen FROM THE HIP, RELENTLESS and also MAKING THE GRADE (more times than is like to admit). I'm even a fan of the true strangeness that is THE DARK BACKWARD (see that movie ASAP if you haven't). What it is about him as an actor that compels me I cannot quantify at all. He's far from the greatest thespian of his generation, but it might go back to his career-defining portrayal of John Bender in that John Hughes classic. Something about his irreverent, blue collar James Dean act just hooked me. He does kinda do the same sorta thing as far as character goes in a lot of his films, but what can I say - I enjoy a good smart-ass. All that said, I'd never seen BLUE CITY. I'd circled it for years and even picked up a used VHS of it when I was in my 80s-movies-collecting prime. Never took the time to watch it though so seeing it for the first time on Blu-ray was nice for sure. It's fascinating to me to see the various paths the different Brat-Packers took as they were becoming Brat-Packers.
Judd Nelson plays a troublemaking son of a small town mayor in this particular movie. The titular Blue City is a coastal Florida village that's become a much darker place since Nelson was last there. When he returns home from a period of gallivanting about the country he finds that his father has been mysteriously killed and the local police seen pretty apathetic. He makes it his mission to find his father's murderer. To help him, he has his old best friend (David Caruso) and a local gal he used to know (Ally Sheedy). Everyone lives in fear of a local scumbag (Scott Wilson) and his goons (watch for Tiny Zeus Lister as one of them). The whole thing has a film noir-lite feel, but Judd Nelson brings his classic audacity to liven up the proceedings.
A few other interesting tidbits about this movie. First, it is given a bit of extra personality via a guitar-based score by the great Ry Cooder. It's also co-written and co-produced by Walter Hill.
BLUE CITY can be purchased on Blu-ray here:
BLUE CITY can be purchased on Blu-ray here: