Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '86 - Gems from 30 Years Ago ""

Monday, April 25, 2016

Underrated '86 - Gems from 30 Years Ago

1986 was another good movie year for me. My family had a VCR so we were constantly renting movies on VHS, but we also made a regular habit of going to the movies. Mostly we went to double features at our local drive-in. The place ran mostly first-run films and I saw many of my 80s favorites there. ARMED AND DANGEROUS is the only one of the films on my list that I actually saw at the drive-in. The rest had to be discovered later. Though folks are aware of these movies, I believe them to be a bit under-loved. 

ARMED AND DANGEROUS (1986; Mark L. Lester)

Was reminded of my affection for this movie when it cropped up in a significant way in the second episodes of Netflix's recent show LOVE. Honestly, it was references to the movie that kinda won me over whole-hog to the series. As was the case with many films from 1985-1987, I saw ARMED AND DANGEROUS at our local drive-in theater (looong since closed) - probably as the second half of a double bill. John Candy was simply one of the funniest guys in movies in the 80s and you couldn't help but adore the guy in just about every film he ever appeared in. He's paired with the great Eugene Levy here and they are fantastic together. They play a disgraced police officer and a terrible lawyer who find jobs for themselves at "Guard Dog Security", as night watchmen, but they can't help but get into trouble. Tangent - some t-shirt company out there, please make a Guard Dog Security shirt - I would buy it in a heartbeat. This movie is also  yet another feather in the cap of cult filmmaker Mark L. Lester - who brought us gems like COMMANDO, CLASS OF 1984, ROLLER BOOGIE and TRUCKSTOP WOMEN. This was actually his follow-up to COMMANDO (which is my favorite Schwarzenegger flick) and it would make an interesting double bill with that movie.
I love the alternate poster I found for it above - had not really seen this one before.
The Image Entertainment Blu-ray is available here:

THRASHIN' (1986; David Winters)
"Tear it up today, Thrashin' U.S.A. uh-huh."
THRASHIN' started as kind of a joke movie to me. It was always "that skateboarding movie" that was kinda silly and starred Josh Brolin from GOONIES and Robert Rusler from WEIRD SCIENCE. It wasn't a movie that I watched a ton as a kid so it had some nostalgia for me, but not nearly as much as something liked RAD (the BMX movie) which was a true classic for me and my family watched it often when I was a younger. I still love RAD to death, but I've totally come around to THRASHIN' and it's become a true favorite for me. I love basically everything about it. The cast, outside of Brolin and Rusler also has Sherilyn Fenn, Pamela Gidley, Brooke McCarter (THE LOST BOYS), Josh Richman (HEATHERS, RIVER'S EDGE) and Chuck McCann. And who isn't down for yet another revamp of WEST SIDE STORY, but with skaters? 
Also, it has one of my favorite opening songs ever. What can I say? Hot, reckless and totally insane is how I life my life.
The Olive Films Blu-ray is available here:

AT CLOSE RANGE (1986; James Foley)
In case you missed it somehow, Sean Pean has made a crap-ton of good movies in his many years as an actor. As you might expect, some of them are more well-remembered than others. Everybody knows him as Jeff Spicoli from FAST TIMES, but fewer recall his extremely sharp turn as Mick O'Brien in BAD BOYS. Fewer still have seen he and Nic Cage so good together in RACING WITH THE MOON. Such are the pitfalls of a long, illustrious career. AT CLOSE RANGE is a really an interesting mix of story elements. I'd describe it as one part small-town coming of age romance and one part Michael Mann's THIEF. Hopefully that summary intrigues - it should. Penn is great in it as you would expect and Christopher Walken is dynamite. This may be my favorite Walken performance actually. The supporting cast is remarkable and includes the likes of Candy Clark, Millie Perkins, David Straithairn, Chris Penn, Stephen Geoffreys, Crispin Glover, Keiffer Sutherland, and the "Plate of shrimp" guy from REPO MAN.
The Twilight Time Blu-ray is available here:

THE QUEST (1986; Brian Trenchard-Smith)
Long, long before I ever knew the name Brian Trenchard-Smith, I saw his film FROGDREAMING (or THE QUEST as it was known on VHS where I found it). It was also put out as THE GO KIDS with a very GOONIES-esque cover (see below). I was fascinated with this movie as a kid. It dealt with a young boy (Henry Thomas) who was living in Australia and his discoveries of some strange goings on at a nearby national park. The movie has some kind of scary moments (or at least they were for me at the time) that at once frightened me, but also compelled me to want to watch the film more than once. I think the Henry Thomas factor helped because my sisters and I had taped CLOAK & DAGGER off of cable and had watched it a bunch. We had seen him in E.T. too of course, but C&D was more our jam and so it made THE QUEST instantly accessible to us. Sadly, the film never got much of a home video release outside of VHS, so I'm hoping it gets picked up by some boutique label for Blu-ray (or even DVD or digital) domestic release at some point in the near future.

MY CHAUFFEUR (1986; David Beaird)
I realize that I have declared my love for Deborah Foreman here before, but let me just reiterate how much my crush on her persists to this day. Between VALLEY GIRL (one of my wife and I's favorite films), REAL GENIUS (one of my personal darlings) and APRIL FOOL'S DAY, she basically has a pass for life with me. In MY CHAUFFEUR, she plays a feisty girl who gets a job driving for Brentwood Limonsine Limited (run by the great Howard Hesseman). She deals with some pretty crazy rich folks including one played by Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon himself) and ends up charming a lot of them. This is a buoyant, silly comedy, but one that brings a grin to my face whenever I revisit it.
This movie is currently available on DVD and Amazon Prime:

8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE (1986; Hal Ashby)
This much maligned, late film from the great Hal Ashby is worthy of re-examination. Here's what you should know: It was written by Oliver Stone and an uncredited Robert Towne. It stars Jeff Bridges, Rosanna Arquette, Andy Garcia (in his first lead role), Alexandra Paul and Will Smith's Uncle Phil from THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR. It's also the first crack at adapting author Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder character for the big screen. While the movie may not live up to that pedigree, but it's an intriguing view nonetheless. Apparently there were some conflicts between what the studio wanted (let's just say that MIAMI VICE was very popular at the time) and what Ashby wanted to give them (a much tougher, grittier neo-noir). The result is a bit choppy at times (it feels like more than a few scenes were dropped from the finished film), but it holds together enough for me and I really enjoy Jeff Bridges in just about everything. Rosanna Arquette too. Wish they had done more films together. 
This movie is on VHS and seems to be running on Starz at the moment.

YOUNGBLOOD (1986; Peter Markle)
This somewhat forgotten hockey movie with Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze is all-in-80s from the opening credits. The slow-motion sequence features Rob Lowe, skating, sweating and shooting goals. It reminds me of the bicycle dance scene in RAD (another kinda underrated movie from 1986). This movie also kinda feels like it has some working class character types in common with GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN. Another thing it has in common with that movie is the casting of the amazing Ed Lauter. Lauter plays the coach here and he is as good as ever. The movie also has that very adversarial Swayze, the way he used to play it back then. Oh and there's even a small part for a young fella named Keanu Reeves, so there's a POINT BREAK prequel happening. And last but the farthest from least is Cynthia Gibb, one of my top-rated 80s crushes from such movies as MODERN GIRLS, MALONE, SHORT CIRCUIT 2, JACK'S BACK and more. She is basically adorable incarnate in YOUNGBLOOD and her haired looks to have been feathered by the gods. So there's all that and then it's a sports movie and I'm a stone cold sucker for those (even though I'm not a big sports fan) so I'm totally on board. Also - there's a scene where Cynthia Gibb bumps into Rob Lowe outside of a theater playing SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, and that's just extra added cool as far as I'm concerned.
YOUNGBLOOD is only available on DVD at this time and the transfer isn't even 16x9. Shameful:


PineappleBoy said...

Oh, no way! The Quest was so incredible. That whole opening where he created the rail bike. Outstanding. I wanted a couple pretty Australian girls with puffy bangs to like me as much as they liked Cody. I watched that movie so many times... True fact, to this day I'll sometimes just say "Donkegin... Donkey engine!" unbidden. Out of nowhere.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Haha, thats awesome! My sisters and I watched THE QUEST soo much as kids!

beamish13 said...

"See how my pussy hair glows in the moonlight?"-Actual line of dialogue from 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE. I adore that film. A scuzzy, brutal portrait of awful people. The shootout on the tram along the Malibu bluffs is incredibly creative, too.

Jonathan said...

At Close Range was shot in Franklin, TN where I grew up. I actually met Walken randomly while he was there shooting and he was as interesting in person as he is on the screen.

Love that other people have fond memories of The Quest. I'm a huge Block fan who has never given "8 Million Ways to Die" a chance. I should remedy that at some point.

jerebo said...

I still think "Live to Tell" from AT CLOSE RANGE is one of Madonna's best songs.

C Chaka said...

Man, I've been waiting for this one! 86 was such a good year. I can't believe I missed the Quest all these years. I'll have to track that one down.

I've been reading your stuff for a few years now, but just recently got into movie blogging myself. I can understand why you do this, it's the most rewarding thing I've done in a long time. I'd be honored if you could take a quick look at my work and tell me what you think.

Rupert Pupkin said...

I agree!

Rupert Pupkin said...

Thanks so much for reading! And I'll check out your site!

Gerald said...

Love 8 Million Ways To Die. I don't understand why it's so derided. So many great lines ("A louisville slugger, you dumb son of a bitch"), one of my favorite set pieces in a movie (the warehouse confrontation with everyone shouting at each other right before it all goes to shit), and great performances by Jeff Bridges and Andy Garcia. It's definitely way underrated in my book.

George White said...

The Quest is fun, and also has ex-Doctor Who companion Katy Manning once again being a bit screamy as an eccentric mother. It's in a rights hell. No one is sure who owns it, last time I heard. Miramax lost the rights apparently, as the Weinsteins liked the film and wanted it released again, but couldn't find the rights. Maybe, they're bullshitting.