Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '86 - Hal Horn ""

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Underrated '86 - Hal Horn

Hal Horn runs the irreplaceable Horn Section Blog ('reviewing the obscure, overlooked and sometimes the very old' - which I can totally get behind). He is a veteran contributor here and always gives good list.

THE BEST OF TIMES (1986; Roger Spottiswoode)
Hard to believe that a film with Kurt Russell and Robin Williams would be quietly released on January 31 and would end up 84th at the yearly box office.  While THE BEST OF TIMES was doomed to a short theatrical life, it gained an audience on cable and VHS.  Written by Ron Shelton (BULL DURHAM), this is another in the long line of highly rewatchable Russell flicks 9.   Small town banker Williams lives in daily regret of a dropped perfect pass that would have broken a string of Taft (formerly Moron), California losses to hated rival Bakersfield.  Fourteen years after the fateful game, Williams is reminded of his failure daily by his boss, father-in-law Donald Moffet.  Meanwhile, star quarterback Russell, injured on the play, is a broken down van specialist with a failing marriage.  Williams resolves to get the gangs back together and play the game over; Russell, whose reputation locally has only grown with the passage of time, doesn’t want to tarnish people’s memories.   Rousing finale is surprisingly touching; a real sleeper.  With Holly Palance,  Pamela Reed, M. Emmett Walsh, R. G. Armstrong, Carl Ballantine and Kirk Cameron, just a few months away from GROWING PAINS.    

MALIBU BIKINI SHOP (1986; David Wechter)
a.k.a. THE BIKINI SHOP.  Still not on DVD, and virtually straight to VHS in ‘86.  But still better remembered than many of the year’s wide theatrical releases.  Michael David Wright is a recent college graduate engaged to prudish Debra Blee.  His social climbing marriage will have to wait, though, since news of his aunt’s untimely passing takes him to Malibu, slacker brother Bruce Greenwood--and the bikini shop the siblings have inherited.  Since Blee wants nothing to do with the West Coast, Wright is ready to find a buyer.  However, Greenwood sees an opportunity to run his dream business, and employee Barbara Horan takes a shine to visiting Wright, something that doesn’t sit well with the bride he’s jilting or her powerful family.

MALIBU BIKINI SHOP had the misfortune of coming along rather late in the cycle of raunchy teen comedies that arguably peaked four years earlier with PORKY’S, but gained a following on cable.  Even in its edited form, it was a USA Up All Night!  Gleefully un-PC (there’s a two-way dressing room mirror in the shop!), it follows all the genre conventions to a T, including appearances by old pro character actors like Jay Robinson, Harvey J. Goldenberg and (in his final role) the “Yeeeesssss” guy himself, Frank Nelson.  Former Playboy playmate Rita Jenrette plays the late, generous Aunt, and perhaps best of all, Galyn Gorg is onscreen in a bikini for about half the picture.  Directed and Written by David Wechter.

THE BOSS’ WIFE (1986; Ziggy Steinberg)
Stockbroker Daniel Stern is trying to “get out of the bullpen” and into an analyst’s position that is also sought by toadying co-worker Martin Mull.   Stern is also seeking to have a baby with wife Melanie Mayron, and he’s failing at both aspirations.  The first is hindered by a plunging outlook for Stern’s upcoming presentation to boss Christopher Plummer: the second, by a low sperm count.  But neurotic, train-obsessed Plummer is the quintessential “style over substance” boss (mentor Lou Jacobi advises: “no facts--they only confuse him.”) and Stern is able to regain ground--just in time for the company weekend.  Plummer expects to make up his mind there, and titular Boss’ Wife Arielle Dombasle takes more than a shine to Stern.

Okay, this effort from writer/director Ziggy Steinberg (ANOTHER YOU) barely got released in November 1986, and it’s hard to argue it deserved a better fate, but it isn’t without points of interest.  Mainly, hilarious performances from Christopher Plummer (in one of his few comedies) and a profane, tactless Fisher Stevens, who is always working on his pet project, a photo book entitled “Faces of Anger”.  Plummer’s Roalvang is arguably more of a worker’s nightmare than Bill Lumburgh, egocentrically placing his logo everywhere and making it clear that competence means nothing to him.   The far superior SO FINE (1981) will come to mind while watching this one.   Steinberg lacks Andrew Bergman’s ability to maximize comic possibilities, but he provides enough funny moments to make this one worth catching once.

THUNDER RUN (1986; Gary Hudson)
I’ve written about this classic slice of Cannon cheese for other lists, but it belongs here too.  There were far worse action films in 1986, and THUNDER RUN deserved better than to be dumped in only 254 theatres on May 30.  Besides, it’s the great Forrest Tucker’s final starring role (he died five months later).  Tuck is an aging trucker with a failing cobalt mine, desperately needing an infusion of capital.  Enter Korean War buddy John Ireland, who has a $250,000 proposition for him: delivering a plutonium shipment to a Nevada test facility, a few hundred miles down the lonely desert road.  One catch: terrorists led by Alan Rachins (DHARMA AND GREG) will be trying to steal Tuck’s cargo every step of the way.

It takes half the film to get to the non-stop action along the road, with some mediocre teen hijinks periodically interrupting Tuck’s methodical preparation, but despite a few plotholes and plenty of silliness, the action is worth the wait.  Tucker’s gadget riddled semi does battle with roadblocks, moving trains and missile-launching VW dune buggies--for starters.  It may not make a lot of sense, but it’s a lot of fun, and having an old pro behind the wheel helps a great deal.  If you’re a Cannon fan, it’s a must see.

1 comment:

George White said...

The Zero Boys never appealed to me, it felt like one of those music videos with horror stylings that went on forever, things that now exist thanks to things like the Devil's Tramping Ground.