Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Unsung Movies

Sometimes the ew.com blogs are so great, I have to use them as starter material.

Check out this Pop Watch item about 80s movies which don't get enough credit. All of us who are of a certain age, who grew up in houses with HBO, Showtime, or Cinemax, have seen our fair share of craptacular 80s B movies. And if you're like me, you love some of these movies, "bad" or not. There's something about being 10 years old, staying up late on a Saturday night, watching something utterly forgettable like The Last Starfighter, that will make the movie itself transcend its own worth and become beloved and notalgia-inducing.

The commenters before me hit most of the ones I would've suggested, but I have a few to add. And of course, I want you to add, to.

Here are the rules: it can't be a really well-known, popular movie. If John Hughes had something to do with it, it doesn't count. We are looking for those films that didn't rake it in at the box office, or get critical kudos. We're looking for the ones you might find marked down to $4.99, hanging out in a big metal bin next to the checkout at Target. And that if you found in such a time and place, you would totally buy.

Here are mine (with IMDB links to jog your memory):

1. The Last Starfighter. It was a poor man's Star Wars with battle-scene special effects that would barely have been good enough if seen on an Atari console. But I am a sucker for cute underdog young men reluctantly saving the world (Frodo, Luke, Ash, etc.) And it gave me hope that if I kept practicing Space Armada on my Intellivision, that Star Fleet Command would call me to be a gallactic fighter pilot, too. Hey, a kid can dream.

2. Enemy Mine. One of a handful of movies that made me cry so hard when I watched it as a kid that I got sick afterwards (to this day, my mom talks of how she thought she was going to have to have me committed when she couldn't get me calmed down after watching Snoopy Come Home.) Lou Gosset Jr. stars as an alien who is the mortal enemy of, then friend of, a stranded and crashed human alien-fighter played by Dennis Quaid. When Lou's alien gives birth (the male of that species is the "mother") and then dies somehow or other, Dennis's human risks his life to save his former enemy's son's. I can't remember all the details, but I remember being pretty upset when the alien kid was in grave danger. I hadn't yet realized that Hollywood never, ever, lets the cute kid die. If I had remembered that fact years later, I wouldn't have been such a basket case during Crash, either.

3. Fright Night. The vampiric transformations and gore in this movie scared the bejeezus out of me, but in a good way. I was 13 when I first saw this; just old enough to appreciate Chris Sarandon as a seductive head vampire. It was also darkly humorous. I watched it so many times that I cannot believe the number of people I mention it to who have no idea what movie I'm talking about.

4. Once Bitten. OK, so Cranky loves her vampire stories. This movie was on cable one late night this summer, and after this most recent viewing I was torn; how can such a thoroughly bad movie be so irresistible? The answer? Jim Carrey. Ahh, I had a crush on him from the time I saw this movie through his first appearance on Carson to today. And then I married a Jim Carrey lookalike (just kidding, honey! Most of the time you only bear a passing resemblance!) Never mind that I get embarrassed thinking that I watched a movie this overtly sexual as a kid. With my family.

5. Midnight Madness. If you have ever seen this movie, I will buy you a Dr. Pepper. People look at me like I'm nuts when I mention this movie. But I swear, it was aired on HBO the first year we had cable at least once a day. And the reason for the Dr. Pepper? It stars David Naughton, of "I''m a Pepper, he's a Pepper, she's a Pepper, wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?" fame. I thought he was terribly cute, even when my sister scarred me for life by taking me to see him in An American Werewolf in London in the theater. OK, I would also put that movie on my list, but then I would feel the need to go to therapy to find out why I like so many vampire movies and why I find vampire figures in 80s movies so attractive. One more thing about Midnight Madness (besides that it has absolutely the worst get-stuck-inside-your-head theme song of any 80s movie): it also features a pre-Family Ties Michael J. Fox. Yowza.

6. House. Before Hugh Laurie helmed the hit TV show, that guy from Greatest American Hero starred in the campy horror comedy. Yes, a horror comedy. Richard Moll of Night Court fame plays a solider who was tortured and killed in Vietnam who comes back from the dead to wreak spiritual havoc on a surviving member of his unit. Features such classic lines as, "Damn. Came back from the grave but ran out of ammunition." When I was 12, that was hilarious.

What have I left out? What little-known 80s movie rocks your socks? And are you with me on any of the above choices? Anyone? Anyone? No? Just me? Mmmkay.

1 comment:

Angi Fulk said...

Who could forget Heathers! It starred pre-stardom Winona Rider and Christian Slater. Also a pre 90210 Shannon Doherty.

What about Clash of the Titans. It starred a pre LA Law Harry Hamlin as Perseus and Lawrence Olivier as Zues.

All I have to say is Beast Master!