Film Review: Nightmare (1981)

Also known as: Blood Splash, Nightmare in a Damaged Brain (alternate titles), Schizo (Australia)
Release Date: October 16th, 1981 (New York City sneak preview)
Directed by: Romano Scavolini
Written by: Romano Sacvolini
Music by: Jack Eric Williams
Cast: Baird Stafford, Sharon Smith, C.J. Cooke, Mike Cribben, Danny Ronan

21st Century Film Corporation, 97 Minutes

Review:

“Now Paul, you… you believed in these drugs. And, you rebuilt this man. And you did put him back out on the street. But now, he’s out there killing people. And we can’t have that. Now you find him… and you fix it” – Man with Cigar

Nightmare is an Italian slasher film shot mostly on the Florida Space Coast. Sadly, this isn’t a slasher picture that takes place at NASA but how cool would that have been in the ’80s? Like SpaceCamp meets Friday the 13th. I would’ve loved that shit.

Anyway, this primarily takes place on Cocoa Beach but there are a few New York City scenes as well.

The story follows a psycho that has been released to the public, he goes down to Florida and tries to fight his killer tendencies but he can’t. This all ties back to a horrific event from his childhood.

The film is far from spectacular but it is a good example of extensive gore used in a way that has some actual artistic merit to it. The gory scenes are very well done and as tasteful as they can possibly be. Yes, it is absolutely gratuitous but it feels like there is actual purpose behind it and it serves to have meaning to the plot and to character development. You’ll see what I mean when you get to the big reveal (a predictable one) at the end.

I can name dozens of slasher films that are better than this one and there isn’t a ton of killing but for whatever reason, this one does stick with you and it stands out, as it doesn’t try to emulate or blatantly ripoff other films in the genre, it explores different territory making it fairly unique. Also, I’m a Florida boy and I love the setting.

Strangely, being that this is an Italian film with a slasher premise, it doesn’t tap into the giallo style too much. The only thing remotely giallo, besides narrative similarities to that style and slasher films, is the vivid look of the blood once it really starts flowing. I think the director was more interested in trying to make something much more American feeling than replicating other, more famous, Italian horror directors. Kudos to him for that.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Don’t Go In the HouseBlood RagePieces and Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker.

Film Review: Final Exam (1981)

Also known as: Examen Final (Spain, France), Examen (Germany)
Release Date: June 5th, 1981
Directed by: Jimmy Huston
Written by: Jimmy Huston
Music by: Gary S. Scott
Cast: Cecile Bagdadi, Joel S. Rice, DeAnna Robbins, Sherry Willis-Burch, Ralph Brown, John Fallon, Timothy Raynor

Avco Embassy Pictures, Motion Picture Marketing, 89 Minutes

Review:

“People are killed every day for no reason at all.” – Radish

This film has characters named Radish and Wildman in it. What’s not to love, right?

Final Exam is one of the seventy dozen slasher films to come out in the early ’80s. It is also one of the most forgettable. It tries to be several things at once but fails at all of those things.

This is a film with multiple personality disorder. It wants to be a teen sex comedy and also wants to be a clone of everything better than it in the slasher genre. It doesn’t meld the two things together very well and it doesn’t do either of the two things very well either. It’s not funny, not scary and the biggest crime against it is that there is barely any blood in it.

Another problem with the film and I’m not sure if it’s an attempt to be artistic or just pure laziness but the slasher has no backstory, no name, no real motivation that you’re ever made aware of and looks generic as hell. He’s just some dude that looks like Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men but severely deficient in coolness.

The dumbest thing in this entire film is the sequence where some frat bros stage a fake terrorist attack on the school in an effort to create a distraction so their other frat bros can cheat on their exams. Seriously, these doofusauruses roll up onto the university lawn in a van and start machine gunning people and then steal the corpses of their victims. Of course, none of this is real, as the corpses come to life, laughing their asses off in the van. It’s a bizarre scene that just comes off as random nonsense that contributes to the overall nonsense that is this stupid movie.

Final Exam sucks. I love slasher films, even really bad ones, but this is such an awful pile of shit that the flies would rather commit suicide than hang around this massive mound of crude excrement.

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: Other college/school themed slasher pictures of the era: The ProwlerGraduation DayNight SchoolThe Dorm That Dripped BloodBlack ChristmasThe House On Sorority Row and The Initiation.

Film Review: The Prowler (1981)

Also known as: Most Likely to Die (working title), Pitchfork Massacre (reissue title), Rosemary’s Killer, The Graduation (alternate titles)
Release Date: November 6th, 1981
Directed by: Joseph Zito
Written by: Neal Barbera, Glenn Leopold
Music by: Richard Einhorn
Cast: Vicky Dawson, Farley Granger, Lawrence Tierney, Christopher Goutman

Graduation Films, Sandhurst, 89 Minutes, 87 Minutes (edited cut)

Review:

“I want you to be my date, Rose.” – The Prowler

I haven’t watched The Prowler in a long time but I did like it enough to rent with some regularity when I was a kid in the ’80s and ’90s. I also thought that “The Prowler” had a really cool look. The best slashers always have a cool outfit and a unique gimmick. This is the same reason why I love the bad guy in My Bloody Valentine. Like that movie, this is a film that isn’t spectacular but is made better by having a cool killer.

The film starts with a prologue that takes place in the 1940s. It is used to setup a connection between that time and modern times (or 1981 when the movie was released).

As is typical, someone is murdering young hot girls. It’s a big mystery and the murders are gruesome. You’ve probably seen this all before, maybe dozens of times, and there isn’t much to set this movie apart from its competition but slashers are rarely great and fans of these films don’t watch them expecting to experience a masterpiece like Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho.

Compared to some other films in the slasher genre, this one is a bit tame. Yes, there’s stabbings and gruesome murders but this is nowhere near as gory as some of the harder stuff out there. It certainly can’t compete with something like the Spanish slasher Pieces.

Surprisingly, this was a one and done slasher picture and didn’t churn out a bunch of sequels. But I guess that this early in the genre, studios were more into just making slasher pictures in general and not developing franchises. Friday the 13th only had one movie when this was made and A Nightmare On Elm Street was still three years away. The early ’80s were full of these one and done slasher pictures.

There isn’t much else to point out with this movie other than mentioning that it had two classic film-noir actors in it: Farley Granger and Lawrence Tierney. Modern film fans probably know Tierney best as Joe Cabot, the mob boss, from Reservoir Dogs.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other early ’80s slashers: The BurningPiecesMy Bloody ValnetineTerror TrainNew Year’s Evil, Happy Birthday to Me, The Mutilator, Sleepaway Camp, The House on Sorority Row, The Initiation, etc.

Film Review: For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Release Date: June 24th, 1981 (London premiere)
Directed by: John Glen
Written by: Michael G. Wilson, Richard Maibaum
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: Bill Conti
Cast: Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Topol, Lynn Holly Johnson, Julian Glover, Cassandra Harris, Charles Dance, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell

Eon Productions, United Artists, 127 Minutes

Review:

“Mr Bond! We can do a deal! I’ll buy you a delicatessen! In stainless steel!” – Blofeld

This used to be my least favorite Roger Moore James Bond movie and because of that, I hadn’t watched it in a really long time. Having revisited it now, I’m not sure why I considered it so low. I actually enjoyed it but maybe that’s also because I hadn’t seen it in over a decade.

I guess what I like about this is that it feels more serious than Moore’s other Bond movies. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Moore era cheese but this showed me what he was capable of had his scripts been a bit more refined and less campy. And while this does have some campiness, it’s not there to greet you with a wide smile every five minutes. This is action heavy and some of the moments in the film have serious consequences. The tone is similar to the more serious Connery pictures or the Timothy Dalton ones that came later.

The big dune buggy battle on the beach is pretty intense and it leaves you with a similar feeling of loss as the painful and emotional ending of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Granted, it’s nowhere near as impactful as that but it does parallel that situation in some ways and it shows that this chapter in the Moore era isn’t just a live action cartoon.

This film also calls back to the Connery era with its underwater scenes that feel like they’re straight out of Thunderball. These scenes look a little more polished however, as it’s been over fifteen years since Thunderball was released.

Also, we get Connery’s big bad guy in the opening sequence of this film. We see Ernst Stavro Blofeld return and pretty much get killed off, as he wouldn’t return to the series until the modern Daniel Craig era. This was probably due to the studio losing the rights to SPECTRE after the Connery films. This was Eon’s way of killing SPECTRE and frankly, everyone was clamoring to see Blofeld finally get his just desserts after mysteriously disappearing from the series before Bond was able to get some proper revenge.

One cool thing about For Your Eyes Only is that the villain is Julian Glover a.k.a. Walter Donovan from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and General Veers from The Empire Strikes Back. I’ve always been a big fan of Glover and he has been a villain in three of my all-time favorite franchises. He is pretty tame as a Bond villain though and isn’t as memorable or gimmicky as some of the more famous baddies but he had a good presence in the film nonetheless.

I also really like the young ice skater girl. Sure, she was a bit annoying and too young for Bond but I found her charming and entertaining. Kudos to Lynn-Holly Johnson for bringing her to life and making her a character that contrasts her more famous role in Ice Castles. My mum loved Ice Castles, I was tortured by it as a kid. That and The Cutting Edge. My mum loved friggin’ ice skating movies. She said Slap Shot didn’t count though, even though I pointed out the skating skills of the Hanson Bros. on numerous occasions.

Back to the topic at hand, For Your Eyes Only was a Bond film that I wasn’t super fond of. But it’s moved up the mental list stored in my head and maybe I should update the list I posted on this site awhile ago.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Roger Moore James Bond movies.

Film Review: The Loveless (1981)

Also known as: Breakdwon (Locarno festival title), Black Leather (Sweden), U.S. 17 (working title)
Release Date: August 7th, 1981 (Locarno Film Festival)
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow, Monty Montgomery
Written by: Kathryn Bigelow, Monty Montgomery
Music by: Robert Gordon
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Robert Gordon, Marin Kanter, Danny Rosen, J. Don Ferguson

Pioneer Films, Atlantic Releasing, 85 Minutes

Review:

“You never can tell on a day like this – things could be goin’ jake one minute, then, presto – before you know it, you’re history.” – Vance (narration)

Man, oh, man… what a cool movie.

I can’t believe that I have waited this long to actually watch The Loveless, as it is Willem Dafoe’s first film, as well as the directorial debut of Kathryn Bigelow (alongside Monty Montgomery, who has done some really cool shit as well).

The film is essentially a character study of two people: Vance, a motorcycle riding ex-con, and Telena, a young girl from a very small town who has a horrible, abusive father. Things change for both Vance and Telena when they come in contact with one another and two people who feel like standard archetypes, evolve into very human and complex characters.

I guess what really made this film work is the subtlety of the storytelling. It didn’t need to spell everything out for you. It just played out and the emotions of the characters were pretty clear. Sadly, the film leaves you with an incredibly tragic ending but despite Vance appearing like a real shithead, you felt for him. You also really feel for Telena and her fate is a real punch to the gut.

In its simplest form, this is a movie about an ex-con biker gang that rolls into a small town, pisses off the townsfolk but refuses to budge or put up with their Podunk bullshit.

Dafoe’s Vance is a well layered character who you feel has something of real significance to offer the world but he is a victim of his own flaws that is uncompromising to his detriment.

His gang is mostly made up of actual shitheads but I liked Robert Gordon’s character and it was cool seeing him in this, as he’s a musician I have listened to for quite some time and he actually provided the music for this film.

If you are a fan of rockabilly music and the style, you’ll probably really enjoy this movie. It has a sort of punk edge to it, even though it takes place a few decades before punk rock was even a thing.

You can see where it was inspired by The Wild One, the classic bike film starring Marlon Brando. Yet this still has its own voice and stands strong on its own.

This picture also flows really well with Streets of Fire, where Dafoe plays another rockabilly biker that is a more despicable character than Vance in this film.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: The Wild OneStreets of Fire and Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark.

Film Review: Humanoid Woman (1981)

Also known as: Cherez ternii k zvyozdam (original title), Per Aspera Ad Astra (Soviet title), To the Stars by Hard Ways (Australia), Angels of Space (worldwide English title), Niyya: Artificial Person (alternate worldwide English title), Through the Thorns to the Stars (newest worldwide English title)
Release Date: April, 1981 (Soviet Union)
Directed by: Richard Viktorov, Nikolai Viktorov (restored version)
Written by: Richard Viktorov, Kir Bulychov
Music by: Alexey Rybnikov, Sergei Skripka
Cast: Yelena Metyolkina, Vadim Ledogorov, Uldis Lieldidz

Gorky Film Studio, Goskino (restored version), M-Film (restored version), 148 Minutes (original version), 123 Minutes (restored version), 118 Minutes 

Review:

Humanoid Woman is a Soviet sci-fi film from the early ’80s. Some people seem to like it but the version that exists, at least the version I’ve seen, is excruciating to get through. This certainly isn’t the near masterpiece that the Soviet’s showed they were capable of with 1972’s Solaris. But that was also directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, who many will argue is a true auteur. I’ll say he isn’t, as it is hard for me to give that distinction to a director with only seven films under their belt.

My sentiment doesn’t seem to be just my own, as this film was featured in the first season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 back when it was still on local Minnesota television. Granted, Joel and the ‘Bots never brought this picture to the nationally syndicated show. Maybe it was just too hard to get through the first time.

The film is about an alien woman that is brought to Earth. She has memory loss and doesn’t remember anything before being found on her derelict alien ship. The mission leader brings her to Earth to study her and to try and uncover what’s buried in her mind. A bunch of really boring stuff happens and it is hard to make sense out of a lot of the film. This could be due to the condensed version of this that I saw, however. But to be honest, I doubt that a fully restored version would be enjoyable and would probably just drag out this awful picture much longer than it needs to be.

I could knock the special effects but the truth is, they’re not the fault of the filmmakers. The people behind this did the best they could with what they had available to them. Filmmaking in the Soviet Union was very difficult because they didn’t have the resources Hollywood did and since they weren’t too keen on letting American culture infiltrate their borders during the Cold War, there wasn’t much to try and live up to.

Humanoid Woman is easily one of the worst things I have watched so far this year.

It certainly deserves to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 7 Stool: Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely Liquid.”

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: A meat clever to the head. But don’t do that. Seriously, it’ll hurt and maybe kill you.

Film Review: Nighthawks (1981)

Also known as: Attacks, Hawks (working titles)
Release Date: April 10th, 1981
Directed by: Bruce Malmuth
Written by: David Shaber, Paul Sylbert
Music by: Keith Emerson
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Billy Dee Williams, Rutger Hauer, Joe Spinell, Lindsay Wagner, Nigel Davenport, Persis Khambatta

Martin Poll Productions, The Production Company, Universal Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, DaSilva! Come off this cop on the beat mentality! Your wife left you for it! Wasn’t that enough!” – Peter Hartman

I wish I would have found this movie when I was younger in the ’80s but it eluded me until I saw it on television in the late ’90s. I liked it for its roughness and for the fact that Sylvester Stallone, Billy Dee Williams and Rutger Hauer where in a movie together. However, discovering it in my late teen years allowed me to not fall victim to the nostalgia bug.

Still, I really like this movie for what it is. It’s a no frills, straight up, badass cop hunting a badass psycho movie. It benefits from the urban grittiness, its testosterone heavy stars and Stallone’s friggin’ beard!

In the film, Stallone and Williams are cops. They deal with the scum of the Earth and have to do some serious dirt in an effort to keep the streets clean. They are then recruited into an anti-terror task force by their superior, played by Stallone’s buddy Joe Spinell, and a British terror expert, played by Nigel Davenport. Their purpose is to track down international terrorist “Wulfgar”, played by Rutger Hauer.

The film isn’t exceptional and the plot isn’t unique or surprising in any way. It plays like a standard angry cop hunting mad man picture but I do get pulled into the film’s visual aesthetic. There’s nothing unusual or unique about the visual style, it is actually pretty pedestrian, but the urban nighttime scenes just have this sort of majestic allure about them. The nightclub scene is especially enthralling. Granted, I feel like all of this was unintentional and it was the locations that just came alive on their own without any extra flourish. It felt magical in the same way The Warriors does regardless of that film’s unique fashion sense.

Nighthawks is a raw and intense film. Plus, seeing Stallone face-off with Hauer with Williams thrown into the mix is exciting stuff for anyone who grew up loving these guys throughout the ’80s. And again… Stallone’s friggin’ beard, man!

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Stallone’s Cobra and Schwarzenegger’s Red Heat. If you want to see more of Hauer in a similar type of role, check out Blade Runner and The Hitcher.