Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Olive Films - MAKING THE GRADE and CLEAN SLATE on Blu-ray ""

Friday, March 18, 2016

Olive Films - MAKING THE GRADE and CLEAN SLATE on Blu-ray

MAKING THE GRADE (1984; Dorian Walker)
So it wasn't until this viewing that I realized that this movie has a very screwball comedy way about it. I mean the opening feels like it could come out of  a Preston Sturges movie (in terms of the setup). One of the opening scenes consists of a gentleman's gentleman/butler type giving a speech to a rich oaf about how he has to finish prep school or he'll be "cut off" and have to get a job. This oaf decides he'd rather pay a streetwise dude (Judd Nelson) to finish school for him. But this street kid and prep school are like oil and water. This means comedy. But 1980s style so there are a few more montages. This film has both a "getting ready in the morning" montage AND a "trying on clothes" montage. Your average movie only gives you one or the other. MAKING THE GRADE takes it up a notch. There's even a breakdancing scene and a bonus "crazy party" montage!
Judd Nelson is one of the few actors that can pull off that kind of swagger he does. I mean physically. He used to have this "cool guy" strut that he would do in movies and he just made it his own. He owned it in such always as to make it believable. As a kid (and even now), I watch him do that strut and I think, "If I saw that guy on the street, I believe that he was a cool guy". I mean cool in that Arthur Fonzarelli kinda way. Clearly Judd Nelson was a Henry Winkler fan. He really does feel like he's inhabiting a more dramatic version of The Fonze in a lot of his movies. This is a good thing. What's interesting though is that MAKING THE GRADE came out before THE BREAKFAST CLUB. Nelson is clearly already working out the John Bender character in this movie. It plays a bit like "John Bender: The College Years" but as a prequel or something.
What's near about this movie is that it's a Cannon film. So you get a little more edge and gritty-ness to your sex comedy. You get Andrew Dice Clay as a scummy club owner who is owed a good amount of cash. You get a sexier movie. I mean the presence of Jonna Lee alone makes the movie sexier than most 80s movies. I cannot fully explain it, but Lee has been one my biggest crushes for as long as I can remember. She's adorable and elevates this movie quite a bit as the rich girl object of desire for Judd Nelson in this movie. It's a classic case of an actress that should have been in way more movies than she was. You may remember her from cult favorites THE MIDNIGHT HOUR, LOVELINES and CHAINED HEAT, but other than those (and numerous 80s TV appearances) and THE QUARTERBACK PRINCESS, Lee didn't do enough films. 
Gordon Jump (of WKRP) also makes an appearance as does Dan Schneider (of HEAD OF THE CLASS & BETTER OFF DEAD). How great is that? One more fun fact - Dana Olsen (who plays the preppie dude that Judd Nelson is going to school for) also wrote THE 'BURBS!
MAKING THE GRADE is a classic that has never quite reached its proper appreciation level. I put it up there with movies like SECRET ADMIRER AND THREE O'CLOCK HIGH that are not remembered as well as they should be (especially. THREE O'CLOCK HIGH - that's one of my favorites). Anyway, MAKING THE GRADE is a whole lotta fun and the closing credits even promise a sequel BUCKAROO BANZAI AND THE WORLD CRIME LEAGUE-style. Sadly that never happened. 
(but it's never too late!)
MAKING THE GRADE can be purchased on Blu-ray here:

CLEAN SLATE (1994; Mick Jackson)
I always thought this movie had a neat premise back when I first saw it on VHS.It was basically about a guy who had some severe memory issues to the point that he had to leave himself notes and a tape recording every night to help remember who he is.
Sound familiar? It's a lot like MEMENTO. CLEAN SLATE is sort of a comedy version of MEMENTO. Sound weird? It kinda is, but it also kinda works. It's a decent fit for Dana Carvey, who the film was supposed to be designed around. Carvey had a spotty film career and ended up in things like MASTER OF DISGUISE and OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS. If you haven't seen MASTER, you should do yourself the favor - it's truly one of the strangest things you'll ever see (and it's unfortunately pretty bad). I actually enjoy OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS, but this may be my favorite Carvey movie. 
The movie opens with some voice over from Mr. Carvey and it seems like it's playing as old film noir stuff (his character is a low rent detective named M.L. Pogue who lives off the Venice boardwalk). What's really happening though is that Pogue is listening to his own voice from the aforementioned tape recorder. He's explaining to himself what the deal is with his Korsakoff's Syndrome - a special kind of amnesia wherein he loses his memory when he goes to sleep at night. First thing every morning he must review his tape recording to get the lowdown. He must also remember to record anything that happened to him every night before he goes to bed so that he can keep track of what's going on in his life. Interesting setup right - and very much like MEMENTO, as I said. Pogue doesn't have tattoo reminders or anything, but he leaves himself notes in addition to the tape recording. 
One thing that he implores himself on the recording is to not talk to anyone and to just stay in bed. You see the accident that caused his illness was trigged by an explosion set by some mob guys. He's supposed to be a key witness in the case against said mob guys so if anyone finds out he's lost his memory, everything goes kaput. So what does he do when he hears a knock at his private detective glass door? He answers it. And in true film noir style, it's a dame (the lovely Valerie Golino). She's got a case for him. Somebody's trying to kill her (and him as a result). It's complicated and it only gets worse. I love this kind of scenario. When Pogue meets people he has to go through the process of trying to figure out if he knows them and how he knows them. He has to look for little clues to who they are and then obviously put them together with the other clues about the bigger mystery at hand. It's fun and it allows Carvey to be kinda silly as he makes things up to cover the fact that he can't remember anything. A lot of SNL actors have spun off into making movies and many of them aren't very good. This is one of the better ones.
Supporting cast includes James Earl Jones, Kevin Pollak, Michael Murphy, Michael Gambon, Oliva D'Abo and even bit parts for Bryan Cranston and Bob Odenkirk.

CLEAN SLATE can be purchased on Blu-ray here:

1 comment:

Hal said...

Looking forward to revisiting MAKING THE GRADE again; haven't seen it since its mid-80s run on cable and VHS, but remember it and the other two forgotten classics well. At least THREE O'CLOCK HIGH has had sort of a rediscovery the last few years.