Tag Archives: 1982

Throwback Thursday: “War of the Worlds” (2005)!

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog,  I will never stop loving Steven Spielberg’s 2005 take on H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.”  It was a damned decent science fiction epic, the special effects were fabulous, and it’s actually pretty scary upon its first viewing.  The movie successfully channeled post-9/11 anxieties without exploiting them, and Spielberg characteristically humanized the story’s apocalypse by framing it through the eyes of a realistic, relatable modern family.  (The terror of the genocidal monsters is a little ironic, too … when I was a kid, Spielberg was known for the wondrous aliens of 1977’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and 1982’s “E.T. — The Extra Terrestrial.”)

Say what you want about Tom Cruise … I think he’s a decent actor, and he’s led some really terrific science fiction films.  Dakota Fanning was fantastic child actor here, and Tim Robbins was predictably brilliant (even if his story arc, in my opinion, was largely unnecessary and too depressing).

This was a great flick.

 

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Throwback Thursday: The “WKRP in Cincinnati” Turkey Drop Scene (1978)!!

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

I’m not sure if the below scene from “WKRP in Cincinnati” (1978-1982) is overexposed; it annually pops up a lot before Thanksgiving.  (I’ve shared it on Facebook at least once, I’m sure of it.)  It is, of course, the famous “turkey drop” scene from the Thanksgiving episode of the show’s first year.  (WKRP would have been on the air only two months when this episode first aired.)  The title of the episode was “Turkeys Away,” and it’s still quite well remembered by people interested in television pop culture.

The scene is really funny — people went nuts for it back in the day.  I still remember my parents and older siblings truly cracking up over over it.  And it really is all tied together by Gordon Jump’s perfect delivery of its feckless final line.

Hey … there’s actually another bit of WKRP trivia that’s been making the rounds lately on social media.  It turns out that the lyrics for its closing theme, which many people my age remember quite well, are actually nothing but gibberish.  Seriously, check it out.

 

So I’m introducing a dear friend tonight to “28 Days Later.”

So I’m introducing a dear friend tonight to “28 Days Later” (2002).  It is possibly my favorite horror film of all time, maybe even narrowly beating out “Aliens” (1986), “Alien 3” (1992), John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982), the Sutherland-tacular 1978 version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and George A. Romero’s first three “Dead” films (1968, 1978, 1985).  (Whenever “Star Wars” fans refer to their “Holy Trilogy,” I muse inwardly that those last three are its equivalent for zombie horror fans.)

My friend thinks it’s funny that I refer to “28 Days Later” as “my sacred cow.”  I’ll be crestfallen if she does not like it, and I told her as much.  And that’s weird for me … I usually don’t feel let down when someone doesn’t enjoy the same books, movies or music that I do.  Not everything is for everyone.  Art would lose its mystique if it weren’t subjective.  If all art appealed to all people, it would lose all its appeal altogether.

Part of me feels, unconsciously perhaps, that “28 Days Later” is the kind of film that “redeems” the horror genre (even though no genre needs such redemption — if art is well made or if it affects people, then it’s just fine).

Most comic book fans of my generation can tell you how people can occasionally roll their eyes at their favorite medium.  (Comics have far greater mainstream acceptance today than when I started reading them in the 1990’s.)   For horror fans, it’s sometimes worse.  Horror is a genre that is easily pathologized — and sometimes with good reason, because a portion of what it produces is indeed cheap or exploitative.  I wish I could accurately describe for you the looks I’ve gotten when acquaintances find out that I’m a horror fan.  They aren’t charitable.

“28 Days Later” and movies like it are so good that they elevate horror to a level that demands respect from the uninitiated.  It is an intrinsically excellent film — it just happens to have a sci-f-/horror plot setup and setting.  It’s beautifully directed by Danny Boyle, it’s perfectly scored and it’s masterfully performed by its cast — most notably by Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson.

Moo.

 

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It’s here — November 2019.

How do you suppose we “Blade Runner” (1982) fans should celebrate?  How do we commemorate the final arrival of the setting for the greatest science fiction movie of all time — and arguably the greatest film of all time?

There aren’t many terribly good suggestions from the movie itself.  It’s not like “Animal House” (1978) or “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975), which lend obvious themes to a party.   If you think about it, much of “Blade Runner’s” action consists of people having labored, intense conversations in dimly hit, high-ceilinged rooms.  There’s also a lot of screen time devoted to Harrison Ford brooding while he drinks alone.  Those things are not exactly the stuff that good times are made of.

I suppose that the idyllic drive through the mountains with a loved one at the story’s end would be a nice way to mark the occasion … but that particular coda is only part of “Blade Runner’s” theatrical release — and most people I know prefer the director’s cut.

And learning origami takes too much time.

Should we … flip a turtle on its back in the desert and resolve not to help it?

Tortoise.  I meant tortoise.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “Willard” (1971) and “Ben” (1972)!

“Willard” (1971) and its sequel, “Ben” (1972), were another pair of 1970’s movies that got plenty of airtime on 1980’s television.  I read both books when I was a kid too.

First I picked up Stephen Gilbert’s Ratman’s Notebooks at a yard sale, because that’s how you found cool horror books during summer vacations when you were too young to drive.  (Sometimes adults had few compunctions about what they sold to minors too.  I bought a vampire book in gradeschool that was full of nude photos, for some reason, and that led to what I’m sure was an interesting conversation between my parents and the neighbor-proprietor down the street.)

Anyway, I absolutely loved Ratman’s Notebooks (despite its lamentable absence of nude photos) and I finished it in a day or two.  The novelization of the “Ben” film by Gilbert A. Ralston was somewhat less impressive, but I still enjoyed it.

If you’re a comics fan, like I am, then it might occur you that “Willard” and his army of trained rats seem to inspire a villain in Batman’s rogue’s gallery — Ratcatcher.  Ratcatcher has been a minor league villain since he debuted in DC Comics in 1988, but he’s a pretty neat bad guy when placed in the hands of the right writer.

I feel certain that anyone will recognize Ernest Borgnine in the first trailer below– his  face and voice are impossible to confuse with those of another man.  If the disaffected, spooky, eponymous Willard looks familiar to you, that’s none other than a young Bruce Davison.  He’s a good actor who’s been in a lot of films, but I think a plurality of my friends will know him as Senator Kelly from the first two “X-Men” movies (2000, 2003).

You’ll note the presence of flamethrowers in the trailer for “Ben.”  Flamethrowers were a staple of 70’s and 80’s horror films; it was just part of  the zeitgeist.  They were handy for heroes fighting any nigh-unstoppable nonhuman baddie — think of “The Swarm” (1978), “The Thing” (1982), “C.H.U.D.” (1984), “Aliens” (1986), and “The Blob” (1988), for example.  Hell, 1980’s “The Exterminator” featured a vigilante using a flamethrower to kill criminals.   It was a weird time.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “Kingdom of the Spiders” (1977)!

“Kingdom of the Spiders” (1977) was yet another 70’s bug-apocalypse flick that aired from time to time on 1980’s television.  As I recall, this one was kinda good … or at least it was scary enough to impress me as a grade-school kid.  The movie wisely made use of a truly frightening adversary (and used live tarantulas for filming).  And it had the kind of jarring, open-ended final scene that I hadn’t seen before for a sci-fi/horror film.

The only thing that detracted from its creep-factor was the presence of William Shatner as the lead.  It wasn’t that Shatner did a poor job with the role — it was just that he was indelibly linked in my young mind to his iconic role in the original “Star Trek” (1966-1969).  I simply couldn’t get past the idea that Captain Kirk was an ordinary veterinarian; it took me out of the movie.  I’m willing to bet that Shatner was helming the cop drama “T.J. Hooker” (1982-1986) at around the time that I saw “Kingdom of the Spiders,” but that was a show I didn’t watch.

Anyway, if you want to catch the flick in its entirety, you can find the whole thing over at Youtube right here.

 

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Throwback Thursday: Rutger Hauer in the 1980’s

If you’re acquainted with this blog at all, then you’re already aware of the sheer reverence I have for Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” (1982).  So I won’t belabor that subject yet again in order to note Rutger Hauer’s passing this past Friday.

Hauer was a prolific actor, and his fans can remember him fondly from any number of roles.  Below are the trailers for my three favorites.

The first is 1986’s “The Hitcher,” which might have been the first modern, adult horror film that I truly loved.  (This is leaving aside Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 “The Birds” and various monster movies aimed at kids.)  I’m a little concerned that the trailer below misrepresents the movie, though.  “The Hitcher” aspired to be a serious film, and was truly a great horror-thriller, in my opinion.  It was moody, atmospheric, thoughtful and methodically paced (although it didn’t lack blood and violence either).  It was far better than the 80’s action-horror boilerplate movie that the trailer seems to depict.

Hauer was terrifying.  (If you are wondering, that is indeed C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh costarring.  And if you watch the trailer very closely, you can see Jeffrey DeMunn — who contemporary audiences will recognize as Dale from “The Walking Dead.”)

The second is movie is 1985’s “Ladyhawke,” which saw Hauer co-star with none other than Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer.  It had far more mainstream appeal, and it reliably kicks up nostalgia every time it’s mentioned on social media.  (Seriously, go try it.)

The third is one that far fewer people will remember –1989’s “Blind Fury,” which rode the tail end of the decade’s martial arts craze.  It was zany stuff, and it didn’t hold back on the 80’s-era cheese, but it had a lot of heart and was surprisingly earnest.  Some of the action sequences were damned impressive too.  (And if you were a nut for 80’s ninja movies, you’ll of course recognize Sho Kosugi as the acrobatic villain here.)

 

 

 

 

A review of “The Dead Don’t Die” (2019)

“The Dead Don’t Die” indeed has the greatest zombie cast ever assembled.  Seriously, just look at that poster below.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the best zombie screenplay ever written, or the best direction ever seen in a zombie film.  This would-be classic was a surprisingly average viewing experience; I’d rate it a 6 out of 10.

I almost feel guilty for feeling so unenthusiastic, because I like so many of these actors so much.  Bill Murray and Adam Driver actually are quite funny as the movie’s two torpid police officers; Chloe Sevigny makes them even funnier as their panicked straight man.  And the addition of Tilda Swinton’s zany Scottish samurai undertaker makes them the perfect comedic quartet.  (I think this is the first time I’ve seen Sevigny in a movie, as she mostly does arthouse films — including 2003’s ignominiously reviled “The Brown Bunny.”  And I had no idea that Driver was this talented, given his milquetoast turn as a villain in the most recent spate of “Star Wars” films.)  I honestly would love to see the four of these characters battle apocalyptic threats in a series of comedies — aliens, vampires, killer robots from the future … whatever.

Other big names shine here as well.  Tom Waits and Caleb Landry Jones are both surprisingly funny, delivering little bouts of quirky, laconic, character-driven dialogue in a film that seems intended as mashup between “Cannery Row” (1982) and the first two “Return of the Living Dead” films (1985, 1988).  (I first saw Jones as the creepy kid in 2010’s “The Last Exorcism;” I suspect that more of my friends will recognize him as Banshee from 2011’s “X-Men: First Class.”)

The problem is this — although many of the characters are engaging, they populate a subdued, disconnected movie that is frequently quite slow.  Writer-director Jim Jarmusch’s heart is in the right place — assembling this oddball ensemble cast for the mashup I mentioned above is actually a terrific idea.  But “The Dead Don’t Die” ultimately lacks punch, and even a tongue-in-cheek horror-comedy needs a minimum of tension.  The movie is a bit too lethargic to become the truly great film that the trailer led us to hope for.

Complicating matters is the fact that that several groups of characters follow story arcs that go nowhere — sometimes literally.  (Where did the kids from the juvenile detention center run off to?  Why were they included at all?  Not much happens to them and they have nothing to do with the rest of the movie.)  This movie often felt like a number of comedy skits stitched together — some were admittedly quite funny, but they didn’t add up to a cohesive story.

Oh, well.  It’s possible that you will like “The Dead Don’t Die” much more than I did.  I might be the wrong audience for this, as I’ve never cared much for horror-comedies.  (The aforementioned “Return of the Living Dead” films are on the short list of those that I like.)  Your mileage may vary.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “Bosom Buddies” (1980-1982)!

Here’s some more early Tom Hanks weirdness …  he starred in ABC’s cross-dressing comedy “Bosom Buddies” between 1980 and 1982.  The show ran for just two scant seasons.  I’m surprised at that, because I seem to remember it being a much bigger deal in the 1980’s — maybe just because it was a big hit at my house, when I was in second and third grade.  I wanted to be like the guys in the show, albeit without the cross-dressing.  I wanted to be grow up to live in New York City with my best friend and a beautiful blond girlfriend name “Sunny,” and get into zany hijinks.

I remember thinking that Hanks’ co-star, Peter Scolari, was the cool and funny one.  I thought Hanks was annoying, even if he did look like Billy Joel, whose music my older sister had taught me to really like.  (Joel’s “Glass Houses” album was stacked vertically with the others beside the living room record player, not far from where I watched this show on the family’s color television.)  And that is indeed Billy Joel’s “My Life” playing as the show’s theme song — but it had a different vocalist, for some reason.  (No matter how many times I hear it, that song will always take me back to the 80’s.)

Scolari’s career following the short-lived “Bosom Buddies” certainly hasn’t paralleled Hanks, but he’s still done a hell of a lot of television.  (Among many other things, he surprisingly starred as Commissoner Loeb in “Gotham” in 2015.  I didn’t see that one coming.)

As you can see from the opening credits below, the central plot device for “Bosom Buddies” was that the two guys had to pretend to be women in order to live at an all-women’s apartment building.  It only occurs to me now as I’m writing this that the show’s title was a double entendre.  I actually asked my Dad what the word “bosom” meant when I was a kid, and he gave me an answer that was accurate, if incomplete.  (He explained the colloquial meaning of the expression — a “bosom buddy” was a best friend, who you figuratively held close to you.  I subsequently told my best friend next door that he was my “bosom buddy” at one point.)

Yeah, I know it’s strange that I can remember a conversation from 39 years ago about an obscure TV show.  It’s weird what people remember.

 

Throwback Thursday: 1980’s urban legends on Long Island!

I mentioned last week when I wrote about “Mazes and Monsters” (1982) that the pre-Internet age still had its share of urban legends.  They were definitely a part of 1980’s kid culture in my little stretch of New York suburbia.  (Would they be suburban legends, then?  Borderline-rural legends?)  They were bandied about most often during the summertime — maybe because there were long, idle days when grade-school boys had little to do beyond swap the scary stories they’d heard.

A lot of it was predictable horror-movie fare — we’d all compared tales about prowlers who killed babysitters, or babysitters who killed their charges, or about a friend’s cousin’s neighbor’s classmate who’d discovered a razor blade in the their Halloween candy.

Some of the legends stemmed from our geographic area.  There were the giant turtles, for example, that emerged from the Long Island’s waterways to stalk our neighborhoods — that one I actually believed (and still do).  A fellow Cub Scout and his Scoutmaster father had both seen one, and if there’s one person you trust when you’re a Cub Scout, it’s another Scout and his Scoutmaster dad who backs up his story.  And every kid had heard about the Amityville Horror house.

Another local myth was the “gangs” who tore through our imaginations as nefariously as we thought they tore through the region’s woods and marshes.  (In addition to farmlands, Long Island has plenty of protected woodlands and wetlands.)  There were definitely adults who went into the woods to break the law — I think it was primarily drug users and underage drinkers, and people who dumped cars illegally and then stripped them for parts.  There were a few deep-woods graveyards, for example, of rusting white Volkswagen “Bugs.”

But in our fecund imaginations, the petty criminals who’d left them there were gangs of bikers and hippies and devil-worshippers and ruthless car thieves, who just might kill a few young kids if they found them playing army or going on a hike.  (All of us occasionally ventured miles into the woods for such avocations, while we told our mothers that we were only going to the next block.  If you were a boy in my neighborhood who didn’t lie to his mother to leave the area, you were considered a wimp.)

When you’re in the second or third grade, bikers and hippies and devil worshipers and car thieves all blended together in your mind into one single nebulous group.  (As an adult today, if I ever met someone who was a biker, a hippy, a devil worshipper, and a car thief, I would be thrilled to interview them for this blog.)  We’d found evidence.  There were frequently peace signs spray-painted on or around the junked cars we liked to play on; it was just a motif of the prior decade that was still a popular graffito.   One of our number gravely explained to the rest of us that it was actually a coded symbol for Satan — if you turned it upside down, the lines in the circle represented the head of a goat.

Continue reading Throwback Thursday: 1980’s urban legends on Long Island!