Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Movie Rewind: Where Were You in ’83?

by ScottDS

1983 might not be quite the banner year that 1982 was but there are still some classic films to be found, along with a few merely average films we still remember, and a couple of bombs best forgotten. (The following list – heavy on the genre stuff – in no way constitutes a “best of” compilation!)

Twilight Zone: The Movie – I’ve had a morbid fascination with this multi-segmented film for years. Steven Spielberg’s “Kick the Can” is cheesy, Joe Dante’s “It’s a Good Life” is bizarre but effective, and George Miller’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” might be a mini-masterpiece, though the original episode on which it’s based is more ambiguous regarding the nature of the creature on the wing. And then there’s John Landis’ “Time Out,” based on his own original story. Actor Vic Morrow and two child extras were killed when a helicopter crashed on the set. Landis and four others were found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 1987. See more here. “You wanna see something really scary?”

A Christmas Story – A modern classic that was mostly ignored upon its release, this film tells the story of 9-year old Ralphie who just wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. It’s mainly a collection of vignettes set around the holidays in 1940s Indiana, based on the autobiographical short stories of Jean Shepherd who also narrates. Darren McGavin steals the show as “the Old Man” and many gags have now entered the pop culture lexicon, from the leg lamp to “Fra-JEE-lay” to “Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra…” I can see why this film might grate on people (the repetitive TV airings don’t help) but it’s all harmless fun. “Oooh fuuudge!” (Sadly, director Bob Clark and his son were killed by a drunk driver/illegal immigrant in 2007.)

Jaws 3-D – This film might’ve had potential had the studio gone ahead with its original plan: a spoof titled Jaws 3, People 0. Instead, we got this film, directed by Jaws production designer Joe Alves. It was one of many films in the 80s to revive 3-D technology and the results are laughable at best. A baby shark is captured at Sea World, but unfortunately the shark’s mother is after it. Dennis Quaid (!) plays Mike Brody (son of Roy Scheider’s character) and Bess Armstrong plays a marine biologist, but really, who cares? Louis Gossett Jr. chews the scenery as park manager Calvin Bouchard and be on the lookout for Simon MacCorkindale (Manimal himself) as a shark hunter and a young Lea Thompson as a water skier. “You're talkin' about some damn shark's mother?”

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life – For some reason, this seems to be my favorite Monty Python film. It begins with Terry Gilliam’s short film The Crimson Permanent Assurance and along the way, we meet (ugh) the ridiculously fat Mr. Creosote, the Grim Reaper, the machine that goes “bing!” and we sing along to “Every Sperm is Sacred” and “The Galaxy Song.” Like any sketch film, some segments are funnier than others – if you’re not laughing, just wait five minutes. “Englishmen! You're all so f---ing pompous! None of you have got any balls.”

National Lampoon’s Vacation – The classic comedy that introduced us to the Griswold family, directed by Harold Ramis and written by John Hughes, based on his National Lampoon short story "Vacation '58." Clark Griswold is hellbent on getting his family to Walley World and he’s not going to let anything stop him, including vandals, a lack of funds, a dead dog, a dead aunt, and a park that ends up being closed for repairs. Chevy Chase is excellent in one of his signature roles, Beverly D’Angelo gives as good as she gets as Clark’s long-suffering wife, and Randy Quaid and Imogene Coca steal the show as Cousin Eddie and Aunt Edna, respectively. “This is no longer a vacation. It's a quest. It's a quest for fun.”

Never Say Never Again – James Bond’s unofficial brother from another mother. The story behind this Thunderball remake could fill several volumes. In short, Ian Fleming had once collaborated with writer/producer Kevin McClory who later claimed rights to certain elements. Sean Connery was convinced to return as Bond and he seems to be enjoying himself. Barbara Carrera is a blast as femme fatale Fatima Blush while Kim Basinger is merely okay as Domino. Klaus Maria Brandauer plays the villainous Largo but comes across as more of a middle manager at Initech. The film is… okay, but it looks bland. Hard to believe it was directed by Irvin Kershner who directed the best (and best-looking) Star Wars film just a few years earlier. “I hope we're going to see some gratuitous sex and violence in this one!”

The Outsiders – I wonder if English teachers still show this film to students. I must’ve seen it three grades in a row. Francis Ford Coppola directs this adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s novel (written when she was in high school). Amazingly, he was compelled to direct it after a group of Fresno middle school students wrote to him about it. It tells the story of two gangs: the rough and tumble Greasers and the wealthy Socs (pronounced “sowsh-es”). This film is notable for its cast of young up-and-comers, including Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, and Diane Lane. “Let's do it for Johnny, man!”

The Right Stuff – If there’s such a thing as a quintessentially “American” epic, this is it. Adapted by Philip Kaufman from Tom Wolfe’s non-fiction book about the early days of our manned space program, this film features two plots running in parallel: the early adventures of the Mercury Seven and the trials and tribulations of Chuck Yeager. The all-star cast (including Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, and Sam Shepard) is excellent, many of the flying effects still hold up, and there’s just a wonderful old-fashioned sense of bravado and derring-do on display. “No bucks, no Buck Rodgers.”

Return of the Jedi – The final Star Wars film, at least until George Lucas started work on the prequels a decade later. Looking back, this film is certainly better than its reputation suggests though all the warning signs were there, too, including a few too many “cutesy” moments and a preponderance of critters for the kids. It also drags a bit in the middle. However, the Luke/Emperor scenes are still some of the best in the saga, the visual effects are excellent for their day, John Williams’ score is perfect, and at the end of the day, the father is redeemed by the son. “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.”

Scarface – I finally watched Brian DePalma’s Grand Guignol story for the first time in film school… and I liked it! It tells the story of Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee who comes to Miami in 1980 and becomes a drug kingpin during the cocaine boom. This movie… it’s over the top and decadent but in the end, Tony reaps what he sows. Al Pacino is a force of nature and the rest of the cast (including Steven Bauer, Robert Loggia, F. Murray Abraham, and a young Michelle Pfeiffer) is pretty good, too. This film has since taken on a life of its own and is very popular among the hip-hop community. (God, I’m so white.) “Don’t get high on your own supply.”

Superman III – For whatever reason, this film is still fun to watch, though the opening slapstick montage is just ridiculous and the final battle is even weirder. Christopher Reeve once again gives it his all as both the Man of Steel and Clark Kent, who goes back to Smallville for his high school reunion and spends time with Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole). Margot Kidder only appears in the opening and closing ten minutes but the film is probably best known for Richard Pryor’s role as schlub computer programmer Gus Gorman who is blackmailed by his new boss, evil industrialist Lex – I mean, Ross Webster (a slithering Robert Vaughn). The fight scene between “good Clark” and “bad Superman” is probably the best part and Gorman’s embezzlement scheme was later used in Office Space. “Never underestimate the power of computers.”

Sudden Impact – Clint Eastwood directs the fourth film in the Dirty Harry franchise which features his then-girlfriend Sondra Locke as a rape victim exacting revenge on her aggressors in the town of San Paulo. This is actually my favorite Dirty Harry sequel and Eastwood gives it a nice stylistic touch. Some familiar face show up, including Pat Hingle as a police chief who knows more than he lets on and this film introduced us to Dirty Harry’s other signature line: “Go ahead. Make my day.”

Curse of the Pink Panther – As talented as he was, I don’t think I can forgive Blake Edwards for continuing the Pink Panther series after the death of Peter Sellers. The previous film consisted of Sellers outtakes from the other films and in this one, we’re introduced to bumbling American detective Clifton Sleigh (Ted Wass) who is hired to find Clouseau and the illusive Pink Panther diamond. This movie just isn’t funny but then again, I’ve always felt the other films tended to grind to a halt whenever Sellers or Herbert Lom weren’t on the screen. Brief highlights include appearances by series veterans David Niven and Robert Wagner along with the score by the ever-present Henry Mancini, not to mention a bizarre Roger Moore cameo.

Also: All the Right Moves, The Big Chill, Blue Thunder, Brainstorm, Christine, The Dead Zone, Doctor Detroit, Easy Money, Flashdance, The Hunger, Krull, Octopussy, Risky Business, Valley Girl, Trading Places, WarGames, Zelig, and Terms of Endearment.

Will 2013 prove to be as memorable? We’ll see…


shawn said...

Twilight Zone- Was exicted to see this and then it ended up mostly as remakes, sigh, what a missed opportunity here.

Christmas Story- Loved then and still love it now.

Jaws 3-D- I stopped at Jaws 2.

The Meaning of Life- My friends and I saw this 4 or 5 times in the theater, and would quote stuff from the movie quite often. Recently saw this again, and for me at least, I think it has aged poorly.

Vacation- Caught it on HBO, Chevy Chase doesn't do much for me outside of Fletch and Caddyshack.

Never Say Never Again- I liked it. But Connery will always be my Bond. The film felt a bit long however.

The Right Stuff- Excellent, nostalgic film about when America still dreamed big.

Return of the Jedi- I enjoyed this movie as teen, but even back then it was the weakest of the 3. Imperial troops, which had been badasses in Star Wars and Empire were rendered a joke by teddy bears. Sigh. At least we had "Slave Leia".

Scarface- haven't seen but a few snippets here and there. Never appealed to me.

Superman 3- I was so looking forward to this. Wow, was it bad.

Sudden Impact- Saw this several times at the theater. Excellent Dirty Harry flick.

Curse of the Pink Panther- No Sellers? Not interested. Did not go see it.

'83. I was in High School, living in Southern California. Reagan was President and life was good.

Anonymous said...

shawn -

Re: Twilight Zone - the ironic thing is that the only original story was Landis' segment and because of the tragedy, he wasn't able to finish it the way he wanted. And the other segments aren't even based on Rod Serling stories!

Re: Jaws - good idea, though the third and fourth films might fall into the "so bad, it's good" category.

Re: Vacation - I know Chevy Chase doesn't do it for some people but I'd put this movie alongside the two you mentioned, forming a kind of "Chevy Chase trinity"

Re: Scarface - definitely not for everyone! It was worth watching once but I have no interest in seeing it again anytime soon

Re: Superman 3 - yeah, it's not great but I can still kinda enjoy it, as misguided as it is

Re: Pink Panther - stay the hell away from this one!

'83 - I was born. I turn 30 in a few weeks. (Ugh!)

Outlaw13 said...

Trading Places was an awesome movie, one that gets quoted quite often around here.

"It ain't cool being no jive turkey so close to Thanksgiving!"

I was a fan of the book "The Right Stuff" long before the film came out and had read a lot about GEN Yeager as well. Wasn't really happy with the casting, and wasn't a big fan of the film for a while, but it has grown on me over the years.

Anonymous said...

Outlaw -

"Yeah!" :-)

I didn't mention Trading Places because Andrew already reviewed it.

I never read Wolfe's book but I only saw the film for the first time a few years ago. I enjoyed it very much and I look forward to the eventual Blu-Ray release.

Outlaw13 said...

I have said this before about going to a film based on a book your are a fan of (most reciently with Jack Reacher), more often than not you will be disappointed with the adaptation. I know I was with Clear and Present Danger. I've learned over the years to try and look at the movie based on its own merits and not what my expectation are based on the book that I enjoyed. Sometimes however it isn't so easy. :)

BIG MO said...

Didn't see WarGames in the theater, but it became an instant favorite when I finally saw it on VHS. WarGames has one of my all-time favorite movie exchanges, between Barry Corbin as the Air Force general commanding the Cheyenne Mountain complex and Dabney Coleman as lead engineer McKittrick over the JOSHUA/WOPR project:

General Beringer: Mr. McKittrick, after very careful consideration, sir, I've come to the conclusion that your new defense system sucks.

McKittrick: I don't have to take that, you pig-eyed sack of s***.

General Beringer: Oh, I was hoping for something a little better than that from you, sir. A man of your education.


tryanmax said...

To be very technically accurate, Serling did write the teleplay for "It's a Good Life," but it was an adaptation of an existing story. The crazy thing is that Serling wrote 94 of 156 TZ episodes, so Spielberg accomplished something of a feat by not including any Serling originals. I would have liked to see "The Obsolete Man."

Anonymous said...

Outlaw -

I agree - you really just have to separate the two. And then there's The Lost World: Jurassic Park where the book AND the movie weren't very good. :-)

Anonymous said...


Man, I haven't seen WarGames in years! Reading your post reminds me I need to rectify that situation.

Anonymous said...

tryanmax -

I didn't know that. I do know that Spielberg wanted to film "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" but after the accident, he decided he didn't want to film a segment at night involving kids.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Thanks for the reminder. I'll comment a little later when I'm done feeling like I'm going to die. :)

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

Sounds like a plan. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, What's funny is that I like the "also ran" films you mention a lot better than the list itself.

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, One thing I really liked about Wargames was that the General wasn't an idiot. That's so rare in films these days. Plus, he's got some great lines. I love it when he says, "I've come to the conclusion that your new defense system sucks." Talk about an understatement!

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

It's not that funny; it only shows how warped my priorities can be! :-)

On one hand, I've said before that I'm behind on my classic films which is why Terms of Endearment isn't specifically mentioned.

On the other hand...

-I wanted to include WarGames, Blue Thunder, and Zelig but I ran out of room

-I left out Octopussy because you'll be reviewing it at a later date

-You already reviewed Trading Places... though I'm definitely including Ghostbusters - which you also reviewed - on the 1984 list since that one has more personal meaning for me

-I included The Curse of the Pink Panther because, while I thought about it for a while, I really have no interest in reviewing those films, so this brief mention pretty much represents my thoughts on the entire franchise

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

As an addendum to the above comment, it's always more fun looking back at bad movies!

And re: the general in WarGames, it's not that military personnel are portrayed as idiots, it's that they're portrayed as bloodthirsty. (Certainly not all the time but enough that it's become a cliche.)

TJ said...

Brainstorm brings back some memories for me. Mainly because they came to my neck of the woods (Outer Banks of NC) to film a portion of the movie. My dad had a rental car franchise back in 1981 and the film crew rented a couple of cars from him. I was also hired as a “gopher” for them to run errands. I drove the chef to one of the few grocery stores we had back then and took one of the producers around the area to get some still photos of town signs and things like that. It was so much fun - and I got $50.00 per day! Back then, that was pretty good money (I was 18).

It was a shame that Natalie Wood drowned just about a month after they left the area. I never got to meet her, but I did get to watch her film some of her scenes. I haven’t watched the movie very often over the years, but when I do it’s cool to see those scenes on the screen and remember that I saw it live.

EricP said...

The Outsiders 1983 movie damn good, The Complete Novel version released a few years ago on DVD (and coming soon on Blu-Ray -- yes, I'm a WB-employed pimp/whore) one of the best examples of a Director's Cut being better than the original. Also includes commentary from Coppola, plus a separate live-in-studio running commentary with Diane Lane, Macchio, Howell and the Swayze (with pre-recorded cut-ins from Lowe and Dillon).

My mother-in-law had been showing the original to her classes for years, but got her the upgrade a couple years ago. Time-tested and now charter-school approved.

rlaWTX said...

I turned 11 that year. I think the only ones we actually saw then were RotJ and Superman3. Since then I've only seen a few more of them - WarGames stands up remarkably well despite the out-of-date technology shown. Trading Places is hilarious.
Haven't seen all of any, nor have I liked what I've seen of any, National Lampoon anything (yes, I am apostate). Don't like A Christmas Story either.

PikeBishop said...

"The Big Chill:" To me still the best ensemble drama/character study ever made. Lawrence Kasdann's direction and writing still shines, some of the most quotable dialogue bits ever (For fun go back and check out the exchange between Hurt, Berringer and Kline when they are jogging) And as an 18 year old College Republican/Reaganite I loved watching the hollow idealism and bull shit philosphy of the Sixties come crashing down around their ears.

"The Right Stuff" Excellent on all levels.

"Blue Thunder:" Schieder at his best and McDowell chewing the scenery. (One note to male viewers of a certain age: Guys, did you ever see a more flexible.....ahem performance in your lives on screen, and when the show hit HBO the next year, how many of you hit pause and super slow that you did indeed see what you thought you saw.......something that was not seen in R movies let alone PG, back then? Ah good days!)

Anonymous said...

I'm out of town but I'll be back on Saturday to reply to everyone's comments...

EricP -

I have to ask, is WB working on bringing Innerspace to Blu-Ray? If you can't say, I'll understand.

And if you're working on the Police Academy films, don't forget the deleted scenes! (Only the DVD of the fourth film included any.)

Okay, I'm done now. :-)

EricP said...

Nothing on the schedules for those, but give WB time. Everything else seems to be released to Blu-Ray eventually around here. Not so much on the Police Academies, maybe, but can't imagine they'd leave Innerspace off the list.

Tennessee Jed said...

Missed this while traveling Wednesday. An interesting overview, here, Scott. Highlight for me was "ah, but it is wafer thin, monsieur!" Worst idea? "Never Say Never." I mean really . . . . . Connery should have said something like "suck it, Trebeck." Well, I can't really say that was worse than Jaws with any kind of numeral behind it.

I'm with you on Sudden Impact. The franchise had been getting a tad stale, and this revived a bit of interest. Loved "The Right Stuff." Real heroes for real Americans. Jedi was a huge film that tied up the trilogy, although my perspective is slightly different since the entire series was created and existed during my adulthood.

Loved "the family trickster" scene, and our very first introduction to "Eddie" in the Vacation franchise.

T-Rav said...

I liked Scarface, even though I found quite a bit of it disturbing. Ditto on ROTJ; even though it was starting to go downhill, it's still part of the original trilogy, so I give it a pass.

Twilight Zone was just okay--in my opinion, they lost the magic that made the original series work--and as for A Christmas Story, I hate that movie with the heat of a thousand suns.

Anonymous said...

I'm back!

TJ -

Cool story! Showbiz isn't as glamorous as people think it is - it often involves such basic tasks as driving people around. :-)

Definitely a shame about Ms. Wood. From what I've read, the studio wanted to shut the film down but Douglas Trumbull insisted the show must go on and, as a consequence, he was pretty much persona non grata afterwards and later moved his operation out of Hollywood.

Anonymous said...

rla -

I was born that year. :-)

The National Lampoon name (such as it is) used to mean something - it's pretty meaningless today. But Animal House and Vacation are definitely the crown jewels in their movie catalog, though they're certainly not for everyone.

Same for A Christmas Story but as I wrote above, I can understand how people could get sick of the film with its constant TV airings on Christmas Day.

Anonymous said...

Pike -

I still need to see The Big Chill. I vaguely recall a pretty funny SNL parody of it but I was younger and didn't get it. :-)

I wanted to elaborate on Blue Thunder but I ran out of room. They actually talk about that, uh, performance on the DVD extras.

"Catch ya later!"

Anonymous said...

Jed -

Nice to see you back.

I'm lukewarm on Never Say Never Again. I understand why it was made and it was nice to see Connery back at it but it's all completely unnecessary. Fun at times but also slow and dull to look at.

I think you mean "family truckster." :-) (And I'll never forget the color: "metallic pea" if I'm not mistaken.)

Anonymous said...

T-Rav -

I had no idea how much hate there was for A Christmas Story! I like it and I don't even celebrate the damn holiday! :-)

Scarface needs to be watched once but even though I liked it, I have no need to see it again. (Go to YouTube one day and search for the montage of TV-friendly edits - yikes!)

Tennessee Jed said...

Scott - yes, Truckster; just a typo. And, a "woody" to boot, I believe.

Do you remember when Connery did a film "Robin and Marion" when he played a middle aged Robin of Locksley? See, my problem with "Never Say Never" is that I WOULD have respected an aging Bond in a new adventure where he used his experience and wiles to compensate for his fading physical skills. But to wear a toupee and do a half baked re-make of Thunderball? Never was I so disappointed, and this from a guy who felt Connery is the ultimate and legitimate Bond. Now, I don't know what rights were involved since, as I recall, that film was NOT done by the Broccoli's.

Anonymous said...

Jed -

That definitely would've made for a more interesting and thoughtful film. And you're right - it wasn't produced by Cubby Broccoli and none of the usual Bond technicians of the time (Peter Lamont, John Glenn, John Barry, etc.) worked on it.

Volumes have been written about this but for the quick version, click here.

Tennessee Jed said...

great link, Scott - Thanks!!

Mr_Severus_Snape said...

Where was I in '83, you say? Unfortunately, I was not born yet. 1985 FTW!

Surprisingly, I've only seen about 40% of the movies listed and I watched A LOT of movies.

I love "The Christmas Story"! Best Christmas movie, IMO! I watched it twice in a row, this year! TBS always show a 24 hour marathon of TCS. My fiancee never saw the movie, so I made her watch it. She thought it was "weird"...

I loved "Trading Places", "Vacation", "Zelig", "The Big Chill", and most of "Return of the Jedi".

"Meaning of Life"? Never a hugh fan of Monty Python. Don't know why...

"Scarface"? I only watched it once, a long time ago. I thought it was overrated. I never felt the need to watch it again.

2012 was a pretty good year for movies. I enjoyed most of the movies, I've seen this year. The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, The Avengers, Django, and The Raid were all perfect movies, IMO!

2013 looks good so far. Iron man 3, Star Trek 2, Man of Steel, The next chapter of The Hobbit, and Hangover 3! What more can you ask for! I keed on the last movie...

Jen said...

Scott, where was I in 1983? Trying to have fun, yeah, maybe. Scarface is the only one on the list that I can recall seeing, probably 1985 (Clint's too, but can't remember enough to say).

My brother came over, and my boyfriend was asleep (he never knew my brother was there). We sat and watched Scarface, and the one thing I can remember--is Tony ever going to die? I can still see that scene in my head after all these years.

My brother then had to walk home, a few blocks away, and it was snowing like crazy. That's how vivid my memory is of that movie, and also the memory of my brother who died five years after that. It was one of the few times we sat and watched a movie together.

Anonymous said...

Snape -

Finally, someone younger than me!

Oddly, I've never seen Monty Python's show - only the movies and this one seemed to click with me the most, though I haven't seen any of them in years.

As for 2013, lots of sequels there! I have no expectations where The Hangover 3 is concerned - I didn't think the second one was that funny, unfortunately. And I hope they don't make Man of Steel too dark and "gritty" - leave that for Batman!

Anonymous said...

Jen -

Memories are funny that way. :-) Sorry about your brother.

Re: Scarface, I was in film school, so we're talking almost a decade ago. A friend of mine bought the remastered DVD for a friend of his but opened it anyway and we watched it at my apartment. It was fun, though like I said above, I have no need to see it again anytime soon.

Jen said...

Scott, Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't even born until 1985, which is funny, considering that I share a birthday with a sci-fi character also born in that time, and my name sounds similar, but don't worry, I'm not the guy to help save you from Skynet in a Post-Nuclear holocaust world; at least I don't think so, anyways.

Anonymous said...

obiwan -

Good to know, but if Skynet does declare war on humanity, then I'll see you on the battlefield! :-)

(I was born in '83 - I turn 30 in a couple weeks. Ugh!)

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