Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Olive Films - SECRET ADMIRER, BEAT STREET, CLASS, MYSTERY DATE & SERIAL on BLu-ray ""

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


SECRET ADMIRER (1985; David Greenwalt)
SECRET ADMIRER is one of the nearly forgotten high school movie gems of the 1980s. I often describe it as kind of an Robert Altman style 80s flick. By that I don't mean that there's a whole bunch of overlapping dialogue or anything, but it has that "all the characters are connected" kind of tapestry feeling that things like NASHVILLE and SHORT CUTS have. It's all about a love note gone awry and the note finds its way into the hands of several people and is interpreted in a few different ways. It's a high school movie, but it also brings the kids' parents into the mix as well. The cast is really remarkable and is sure to please any fan of 80s actors. C. Thomas Howell, Lori Loughlin and Kelly Preston are the high school headliners and their folks are played by Dee Wallace, Cliff De Young, Fred Ward and Leigh Taylor-Young. If these names don't immediately register with you, believe me, you know their faces. The supporting ensemble only offers more familiar folks like Casey Siemaszko, Courtney Gains, Corey Haim (as C. Thomas' little brother) and Doug Savant. Speaking personally, I can't get enough of Lori Loughlin in movies. Her BMX film RAD was a regular viewing favorite for my family when I was growing up, so I was crushing on her long before FULL HOUSE. I'll watch anything she's in from THE NEW KIDS, and the THE NIGHT BEFORE to BROTHERHOOD OF JUSTICE. SECRET ADMIRER exemplifies one of her bigger and better roles and one of the best movies she was ever in. Sure the cheesy 80s-ness is pretty heavy and the story isn't groundbreaking, but it has some fun moments of farcical misunderstanding and cleverness throughout. All I can say is that if this cast doesn't get your attention, then maybe this isn't your kind of 80s flick.
The Blu-ray can be purchased here:

BEAT STREET(1984; Stan Lathan)
"This ain't New York City! This the Bronx!"
This lesser seen, but enjoyable breakdancing movie from the 1980s always plays second fiddle to the BREAKIN' films and that is a shame because it's a solid little movie. What BEAT STREET has though is heart and even in its silliest moments, it is nowhere near as goofball as the BREAKIN' movies. Part of the charm of BEAT STREET is that is more grounded and seems to come from a more genuine place than the other films. I have to think that part of the quality of this film comes from the fact that is was produced by Harry Belafonte (who also helped produce some of the music too) and David Picker (producer of LENNY, SMILE, THE JERK...). The film also incorporates more of the other aspects of the hip hop culture of the time by bringing in stuff like graffiti art and tagging as well as mixing music and scratching records. It exhibits a lot of the predecessors to the modern day mashup culture we see today in some scenes. So it's this whole melange of music, dancing and art and it makes for a delightful breadth overall. The cast is a little stronger here too. Rae Dawn Chong had had a few roles prior to this, but BEAT STREET was something of a good-sized part for her and she elevates the material. Co-star Guy Davis (who is also a musician) is also pretty good and compliments her nicely - as does the youthful and talented Robert Taylor (as his younger brother "Lee"). The soundtrack includes music (and performances) by Grandmaster Melle Me and the Furious Five, Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force and more.
The dancing in BEAT STREET is quite entertaining and there are some nice battles like this one:
The whole production has a very DIY/let's-put-on-a-show kinda vibe and it all feels very organic to the characters and what they love to do. The movie has an earned sense of celebration by the end and that is often rare I must say. It really is the best of the breakdancing movies and it's great for a nice shot of 1980s nostalgia if you are looking for one.
The Blu-ray can be purchased here:

CLASS (1983; Lewis John Carlino)
The 1980s was the decade of Andrew McCarthy and CLASS was his kickoff party. It's not a particularly upbeat party either. McCarthy plays a farm kid from rural Pennsylvania who got himself a scholarship to a prep school called Vernon Academy. He's got his eye on Harvard and his farm dad (played briefly by Rance Howard - who played more than a few farm dads) would certainly be proud of him if he did well at Vernon and got in. He's got a few problems though. A couple secrets that he'd rather not be known by anyone. One of them he brings with him as he enters Vernon and the other becomes a thing when he meets and becomes involved with an older woman. The film itself seems like it might be something of a sex comedy at the start, but it turns quickly to a more somber direction. It has some funny moments certainly, but there's some heavier stuff in there too.
A colorful cast of 80s kids make up the student body of Vernon Academy. Rob Lowe is the co-lead here and does a solid job as McCarthy's rich kid roommate. John Cusack, Alan Ruck and Casey Siemaszko are among their student buddies at Vernon.
I find it interesting that Lewis John Carlino directed this movie. He was primarily a writer and worked on the scripts for things like THE MECHANIC, SECONDS, THE BROTHERHOOD and CRAZY JOE. None of those films would lead you to think he'd make a prep school dramedy like this. He didn't direct much and only made three films in total. His first film was THE SAILOR WHO FELL FROM GRACE WITH THE SEA with Kris Kristofferson. After that made the film that he may be most known for - THE GREAT SANTINI. Now SANTINI has some similar tonal elements to CLASS so his wanting to make it from a director standpoint makes a little more sense. 
(Note: the TV Trailer below kinda spoils something in the movie, so if you haven't seen it, maybe don't watch).

MYSTERY DATE (1991; Jonathan Wacks)
In the tradition of things like AFTER HOURS, INTO THE NIGHT and ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING, MYSTERY DATE is part of the rarified subgenres that I like to call, "One Crazy Night" movies. I'm personally a huge fan of this type of film and AFTER HOURS happens to be one of my very favorite movies of all-time. That said, I'm kind of a sucker for these kind of movies in general. I think I just love to see the wacky journeys that the characters end up finding themselves on and the cavalcade of oddball people they end up meeting along the way. MYSTERY DATE delivers quite well on this subgenre and its tropes. In this case, Tom McHugh (Ethan Hawke) musters up the courage (with some help from his big brother) to ask out the sexiest gal in his neighborhood (Teri Polo). Their date can only be described as comedically Hitchcockian. Hitchcock is certainly part of the DNA of this movie and Ethan Hawke even first discovers Teri Polo via binoculars a la Jimmy Stewart in REAR WINDOW. The film also employs the classic Hitch device of mistaken identity and goes to some kind of dark and macabre places in parts. Overall, MYSTERY DATE is a solid good time though and reminds me that they don't really do these kind of movies so much anymore and that is a shame. It has several fun cameos including one recurring but with Fisher Stevens as a vengeful flower delivery guy. It also has a neat BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA connection in that both James Hong and Victor Wong make appearances. Any movie with both those gents in it gents extra points from me.

SERIAL (1980; Bill Persky)
SERIAL is one of those "Isn't California a crazy place?" kinda movies and it's more of a goofball satirical farce. Cocaine sniffing, jargon-spewing therapists for kids, consciousness raising groups, weed smoking pool guys, and a general use of the word "rap"(instead of "talk"), violent gangs of gay bikers who listen to Judy Garland records,  It's not a spoof on the level of the Abrams/Zucker films by any means, but it is pretty funny in parts. 
This particular slice of California happens to be Marin County
It's that exercise/fitness/new agey California of the 1970s. You get glimpses of it in movies like ANNIE HALL, but rarely is it the focus of a movie.
Martin Mull plays a banker who bikes to work because his wife is into an ecology committee and doesn't want him to pollute. Sally Kellerman can really play this kind of free-spirited, out-there and silly/"progressive" hippie type character remarkably well. She has a naturally flamboyant style of acting and dialogue delivery that works perfectly for her character. Martin Mull plays the square/straightman as it were, but is kind of our surrogate/stand in for observing the weirdness.
The Blu-ray can be purchased here:

1 comment:

Marc Edward Heuck said...

SERIAL was based on a best-seller by Cyra McFadden which essentially was a sort of ripoff of the better-acclaimed TALES OF THE CITY by Armistead Maupin, substituting trend-happy Marin County for gay transgressive San Francisco. Always fancied the girl playing Martin Mull's daughter in that one.