Also known as: Sledge Hammer (alternative spelling) Release Date: 1983 Directed by: David A. Prior Written by: David A. Prior Music by: Ted Prior, Marc Adams, Philip G. Slate Cast: Ted Prior, Tim Aguilar, Linda McGill, Sandy Brooke, John Eastman, Janine Scheer, Stephen Wright
I & I Productions, World Video Pictures, 87 Minutes
Sledgehammer came to me via Joe Bob Briggs’ show The Last Drive-In. It was paired with arguably the worst film ever made, Things.
Since this movie was shown first, it did leave a bad taste in my mouth but seeing Things directly after Sledgehammer, made me appreciate Sledgehammer for not being a steaming pile of crap covered in ghost pepper sauce and forced down my gullet.
This was actually David A. Prior’s directorial debut and it’s also the first slasher film shot on video, as opposed to traditional film.
I’ve reviewed some of Prior’s other films but this one doesn’t really live up to his other work that I’ve seen, which are also bad pictures. But he had to start somewhere and learn the ropes before making cult classics like Deadly Prey and The Final Sanction.
The real problem with this movie was the cast. Prior told them to always be over-the-top and always having a blast in every scene and man, they really pushed it to an ungodly level of cringe. Nearly everyone has a can of Budweiser in their hand in just about every scene.
Don’t even get me started on the endless food fight sequence.
The plot is bonkers, as it’s about a slasher that kills with a sledgehammer, as opposed to a slashing weapon. He also appears out of thin air and is a large man with a creepy mask. However, we discover by the end that the big killer is actually the ghost of a little boy.
In the end, this is a harmless, stupid film that helped pave the way for one of the greatest schlock directors of his generation. Although, I can’t really recommend this as anything more than a cinematic curiosity.
Rating: 2.75/10 Pairs well with: other really, really bad ’80s movies filmed on video. Also, other films by David A. Prior.
Also known as: Planet Krull, Dragons of Krull, Dungeons and Dragons, Krull: Invaders of the Black Fortress, The Dungeons of Krull (alternative titles) Release Date: July 29th, 1983 Directed by: Peter Yates Written by: Stanford Sherman Music by: James Horner Cast: Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, Francesca Annis, Trevor Martin (voice), David Battley, Bernard Bresslaw, Alun Armstrong, Liam Neeson, Robbie Coltrane
Barclays Mercantile Industrial Finance, Columbia Pictures, 116 Minutes
“We all risk our lives on this journey. My risk is no greater than yours.” – Ynyr
While I saw Krull a few times as a kid, as it was on either HBO, Showtime or Cinemax, I haven’t seen it since then and most of it was wiped from my memory, other than its visual aesthetic and the sequence with flaming horses that run at super speeds across the wilderness.
It’s a pretty cool film, though. I actually dug it quite a bit and while some special effects look pretty dated, it’s really top notch shit for the time. I was actually impressed by a lot of it and the general aesthetic and vibe of the movie was truly magical in that unique ’80s fantasy flick sort of way.
I also enjoyed the lead, Ken Marshall, quite a lot and wished he had gone on to be a bigger star than he was. He had charisma and conveyed a real sense of adventure that really should’ve seen him get more roles like this. Hell, even a sequel or two to this would’ve been cool.
The film also has several other talented actors, such as Freddie Jones. But what’s really neat is that it features two guys I wouldn’t have known when seeing this as a kid, as they were still pretty unknown and that’s Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane.
The movie also feels like a sort of hybrid between Star Wars and Conan the Barbarian, as it features science fiction elements mixed with sword and sorcery. It’s a nice mix that works well and I’ve always like movies that sort of cross genres this way.
There’s a lot of fun stuff in this from the villain, the villain’s teleporting fortress, the spider-lady, the cyclops ally and a lot of the creatures and big action sequences. There’s so much awesomeness in this movie that it’s easy to see why I loved it so much as a kid. Plus, the hero has a really f’n cool weapon.
The acting is on the level one should expect, as it’s not great but it’s good enough and the actors hammed it up in the right way while also being convincing as badasses fighting all sorts of threats in a sword and sorcery realm.
Krull is a cool picture if you’re into these sort of things. It seems to have been somewhat forgotten over the years but it is one of the better sci-fi and fantasy movies of its time.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other sword and sorcery or fantasy adventure films of the ’80s.
Also known as: National Lampoon’s Vacation (complete title) Release Date: July 29th, 1983 Directed by: Harold Ramis Written by: John Hughes Based on:Vacation ’58 by John Hughes Music by: Ralph Burns Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron, Imogene Coca, Randy Quaid, John Candy, Christie Brinkley, Brian Doyle-Murray, James Keach, Eugene Levy, Frank McRae, Jane Krakowski, John Diehl
National Lampoon, Warner Bros., 98 Minutes
“I don’t give a frog’s fat ass who went through what. We need money! Hey, Russ, wanna look through Aunt Edna’s purse?” – Clark Griswald
Full disclosure, I’ve never been a huge Chevy Chase fan. However, the Vacation movies still hold a special place in my nostalgic heart.
I think my reason for liking these films has more to do with John Hughes’ writing and just the bonkers scenarios that the family constantly fall into.
Additionally, I think that these are Chase’s best comedies but Beverly D’Angelo seems to be a perfect balance to his over-the-top shenanigans and every movie did a good job casting the kids. Why do they change every movie? I’m not sure but they’re always pretty good, regardless.
I also enjoy Chase’s scenes with Randy Quaid and they’re the highlight of most of these films for me. In this one, however, I also liked seeing Chase’s scenes with John Candy and Eugene Levy.
I think that this film works pretty well because of Harold Ramis’ direction, though. He got the best out of his cast and he has always had a great sense of comedic timing and how to build a comedic scene. Case in point, look at his great work as one of the creative minds behind the great SCTV sketch comedy television series.
From memory, all of these films are pretty equal and consistent. This is the one I’ve seen the most, though, and it may have the slight edge for being the first. However, I’ll probably review the others in the near future, as it’s been way too long since I’ve seen them and want to see how well they’ve held up.
Rating: 6.75/10 Pairs well with: the other Vacation pictures, as well as other movies by National Lampoon.
Also known as: House of the Dark Stairway (alternative English title) Release Date: 1983 (Italy – Mystfest) Directed by: Lamberto Bava Written by: Elisa Briganti, Dardano Sacchetti Music by: Guido & Maurizio De Angelis Cast: Andrea Occhipinti, Anny Papa, Fabiola Toledo, Michele Soavi, Valeria Cavalli, Giovanni Frezza, Lamberto Bava (cameo)
National Cinematografica, Nuova Dania Cinematografica, 110 Minutes
“Tennis balls?” – Bruno
This was an early film for director, Lamberto Bava. While it’s a giallo picture, it has a real grittiness to it and isn’t as stylized as other pictures of that distinctly Italian horror subgenre. In fact, it looks more like an American slasher flick than something with a strong Italian flavor.
Having his father, Mario Bava, and giallo maestro, Dario Argento, as mentors, the younger Bava was savvy enough to put together a better than decent picture, even early in his career. Sure, he had some missteps like the Jaws wannabe, Monster Shark, but he usually proved he was a capable horror director.
A Blade In the Dark is a fairly strange film that deals with a transvestite serial killer, slashing beautiful women to ribbons. By 1983, this wasn’t anything new and I think that Bava may have been directly influenced by Brian De Palma’s neo-noir serial killer thriller, Dressed to Kill. However, Bava went the hardcore horror route and turned up the gore quite a bit.
The earliest encounters with the killer had him using an old fashioned box cutter, which I thought was visually cool, as those things just have a gnarly look to them. Those old school blades break really easily though, so it was probably a poor choice for a murder instrument but the killer does graduate to more practical and bigger tools, as the film progresses.
The kills are generally pretty good and Bava did a stellar job in building suspense in these scenes. The bathroom murder around the midpoint of the movie was exceptionally well-crafted and executed.
For the most part, the characters in this are all pretty likable. Even the ones that pop in just to get killed fairly quickly.
Now I can’t say that the twist ending was unpredictable or shocking, as I figured it out almost immediately with the movie’s opening scene. Maybe it was a surprise for viewers in 1983 but frankly, it’s nothing new, even by 1983. Still, it doesn’t in anyway wreck the story or the film, overall.
This is a pretty decent film for its type and while it’s not Lamberto Bava’s best, it really displayed his talent and prowess pretty early into his directorial career.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: other Italian giallo and slasher pictures, as well as other films by Lamberto Bava.
Release Date: August 19th, 1983 Directed by: James Signorelli Written by: Dennis Blair, Rodney Dangerfield, Michael Endler, P. J. O’Rourke Music by: Laurence Rosenthal Cast: Rodney Dangerfield, Joe Pesci, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Candy Azzara, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan, Taylor Negron, Jeffrey Jones, Val Avery
Easy Money Associates, Orion Pictures, 95 Minutes
“You pollute the air with your smoking. You reek of liquor and god knows what else. You’re an ecological menace!” – Mrs. Monahan, “Yeah, well you were the inspiration for twin beds!” – Monty
This is the only Rodney Dangerfield movie I had never seen. I’ve seen a few clips over the years but the film’s plot was unknown to me until I finally gave this a watch.
Funny thing about that, is that the actual plot doesn’t even come into play until the midpoint of the movie. And then it’s such a rickety story that it doesn’t really matter that it attempted to go for some sort of narrative structure halfway through.
Easy Money plays more like a series of unrelated scenes and gags. Granted, it works, as I enjoy the humor and Dangerfield is truly one of the greats of his era, even if his films aren’t as fondly remembered as the ’80s work of Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, John Candy or Dan Aykroyd.
The main plot of the movie sees Dangerfield having to quit smoking, eating like shit, drinking and gambling. If he accomplishes this impossible task within a year, he’ll inherit a lot of money for himself and his family.
There’s also a secondary plot, which I enjoyed as much as the primary one. This sees Dangerfield’s daughter, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, getting married to her Latino boyfriend, played by the grossly underappreciated Taylor Negron. Man, Negron is f’n fabulous in this and this may be my favorite comedic role he’s played. Since I’ve always enjoyed his work, I feel like I really missed out not seeing him in this picture until now.
This movie also has a solid cast amongst Dangerfield’s best buds, who are played by Joe Pesci and Tom Noonan before either of them reached their peak of fame a few years later. Both are enjoyable as hell in this and I especially thought that Pesci and Dangerfield should’ve worked together again after this movie but that never happened.
In the end, Easy Money is a goofy but loveable movie starring one of the most goofy and loveable comedians of all-time.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: other Rodney Dangerfield comedies, as well as other loveable loser movies from the ’80s.
Release Date: December 1st, 1983 (New York City premiere) Directed by: Brian De Palma Written by: Oliver Stone Music by: Giorgio Moroder Cast: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia, Miriam Colon, F. Murray Abraham, Paul Shenar, Harris Yulin, Angel Salazar, Arnaldo Santana, Pepe Serna, Michael P. Moran, Al Israel, Dennis Holahan, Mark Margolis, Michael Alldredge, Ted Beniades, Geno Silva, Richard Belzer, Charles Durning (voice, uncredited) Dennis Franz (voice, uncredited)
“[to Sosa] I never fucked anybody over in my life didn’t have it coming to them. You got that? All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don’t break them for no one. Do you understand? That piece of shit up there, I never liked him, I never trusted him. For all I know he had me set up and had my friend Angel Fernandez killed. But that’s history. I’m here, he’s not. Do you wanna go on with me, you say it. You don’t, then you make a move.” – Tony Montana
After binging a bunch of my favorite Brian De Palma films over the course of a few days, I wanted to revisit Scarface, as I hadn’t seen it in ages and because it was one of my favorite movies in my teen years.
Once I hit the play button, I was immediately reminded of just how great this motion picture is. From the opening shots of Cuban refugees leaving their home country for America with the great musical score blasting through my speakers, it brought me back to where I was the first time I experienced this movie in a special theatrical showing for its tenth anniversary in 1993.
From there, the movie gets rolling and every scene is just as incredible as I remembered it. This movie didn’t disappoint and it’s greatness has held up. Actually, it made me yearn for a time when movies this superb were actually fairly common.
It should go without saying that the acting in this is stellar. Al Pacino kills it but then again, when doesn’t he? Especially back in his prime.
I also really liked Michelle Pfeiffer, who shows that she has incredible chops even as young as she was in this picture.
The real scene stealer for me though is Steven Bauer, a guy I’ve always loved because of this role and have always wondered why his career didn’t go to the moon after this. The man is super talented and to be so good that you can not just hang with Pacino in this era, but actually come across as his equal, is pretty damn impressive!
Beyond that, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is prefect and sweet and then turns it up in the end and delivers an extremely heartbreaking end to her character.
We also get solid performances from legends like Robert Loggia and F. Murray Abraham, as well as the smaller bit players like Mark Margolis, Pepe Serna, Miriam Colon, Paul Shenar and others.
Shenar is especially great as Bolivian drug kingpin Alejandro Sosa. So much so, I wish his part would’ve been expanded somewhat.
The story is just as great as the acting that brings it to life. I liked this take on the story of a crime lord’s rise to power from nothing. For the time, it was incredibly topical and looking at the time frame, it’s rather impressive that this got into theaters by 1983 when the events that kicked off the backstory happened just three years earlier.
The film’s music is also pretty incredible from the pop tunes to the grandiose and remarkable score by Giorgio Moroder. I had forgotten just how important the music in the film was in regards to setting the tonal shifts. It’s certainly a soundtrack I need to track down on vinyl.
The most important element to this picture’s greatness, however, is Brian De Palma. As one of the greatest directors of his generation (and all-time, frankly) De Palma already had a half dozen classics under his belt by this point but this was, at the time and maybe still, his magnum opus.
Beyond directing the actors, De Palma proved just how good his eye was at creating a unique, artistic composition. There are touches of Stanley Kubrick’s visual style in this but the film is still very much De Palma’s from start-to-finish. But man, the cinematography, lighting and general tone is stupendous regardless of where the scene takes place from Miami, New York City and Bolivia.
Scarface is one of the all-time great crime films. It will continue to be till the end of time. And while there have been many great films within this genre, this one will always stand out due to its unique style, story and character. It’s a film that has been emulated and homaged countless times but no one has truly come close to replicating its magic.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: other crime films starring Al Pacino, as well as other Brian De Palma movies.
Release Date: June 24th, 1983 Directed by: Bob Clark Written by: Roger Swaybill, Alan Ormsby, Bob Clark Music by: Carl Zittrer Cast: Dan Monahan, Mark Herrier, Wyatt Knight, Roger Wilson, Cyril O’Reilly, Tony Ganios, Kaki Hunter, Scott Colomby, Nancy Parsons, Art Hindle
Astral Bellevue Pathé, Melvin Simon Productions, 20th Century Fox, 98 Minutes
“My tit! You broke my tit! I’m gonna sue you!” – Wendy
While I’m not a massive fan of the first Porky’s, Porky’s II: The Next Day is a big step down from the overall quality of the previous picture.
Still, I do like the characters and this is an amusing and fairly funny screwball teen sex comedy. It’s certainly better than most of the Porky’s imitators but the plot seems pretty weak, making me feel like this was rushed out really damn quickly to capitalize off of the surprising and immense success of its predecessor.
That’s fine, honestly, as in motion pictures, you’ve got to strike while the iron is hot and the Porky’s iron was just that.
I just wasn’t a fan of the drama class subplot, even though it laid the groundwork for pitting these raunchy, horny, high school kids against a racist reverend and the Ku Klux Klan. Yes, you read that right. They’ve moved on from a fat brothel owning asshole to taking on the fucking KKK. Since everyone hates the KKK, we’re definitely going to cheer these kids on.
This is a strange sequel and it tries to recapture the magic of the first but this proves that you can’t catch lightning in a bottle twice. Sure, it may have caught some static electricity from the air but this is tame and redundant when compared to the first flick.
Rating: 5.25/10 Pairs well with: the other Porky’s movies, as well as other screwball ’80s teen sex comedies.
Also known as: Black or White (working title) Release Date: June 7th, 1983 (limited) Directed by: John Landis Written by: Timothy Harris, Herschel Weingrod Music by: Elmer Bernstein Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Jamie Lee Curtis, Denholm Elliot, Paul Gleason, Kristin Holby, Bo Diddley, Jim Belushi, Al Franken, Tom Davis, Frank Oz, Giancarlo Esposito
Cinema Group Ventures, Paramount Pictures, 116 Minutes
“I had the most absurd nightmare. I was poor and no one liked me. I lost my job, I lost my house, Penelope hated me, and it was all because of this terrible, awful negro!” – Louis Winthorpe III
Since I watched The Blues Brothers a week ago, I wanted to revisit this movie, as well. I’ve been on a John Landis comedy kick, as of late.
Like The Blues Brothers, this was one of my favorite comedies, as a kid, because it featured two comedic actors I loved and still do.
While these aren’t my favorite roles for either Dan Aykroyd or Eddie Murphy, they’re still iconic and the guys had tremendous chemistry. So much so, I had always whished for a sequel to this. I kind of hoped it would happen after this film’s villains had cameos in Coming to America, which saw them potentially get their lives back.
Speaking of the villains, played by Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche, they were superb and charismatic for being total pieces of shit. They contributed just as much to the greatness of this picture as the two leads.
However, I also have to give a lot of credit to Denholm Elliot and Jamie Lee Curtis. The two of them rounded out the group of protagonists and formed a solid team alongside Aykroyd and Murphy, as they fought to take down the two rich bastards that were going to completely destroy them.
The story sees a commodities broker have his life ruined by his two bosses over a one dollar bet. That bet sees someone from the furthest end of the social hierarchy take his place to see if he can overcome his environment and succeed at the level that a man born into privilege could.
Essentially, Aykroyd and Murphy play switcheroo but neither are aware of why. Once they find out, they decide to work together to teach the villains a hard lesson. In the end, they outwit them at their own game and walk away with their fortune, leaving them broke.
The film does a pretty amusing job of analyzing “nature versus nurture”. While it’s not a wholly original idea and has similarities to the classic The Prince and the Pauper story, it at least makes the switching of lives involuntary and with that, creates some solid comedic moments.
Even though this isn’t specifically a Christmas movie, it takes place over the holiday, as well as New Year’s, and it’s a film I like to watch around that time of year.
Trading Places has held up really well and it feels kind of timeless even though it is very ’80s. It’s story transcends that, though, and the leads really took this thing to an iconic level, making it one of the best comedies of its time.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: other John Landis comedies, as well as other films with Dan Aykroyd or Eddie Murphy.
Release Date: February 4th, 1983 Directed by: David Cronenberg Written by: David Cronenberg Music by: Howard Shore Cast: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Deborah Harry, Peter Dvorsky, Les Carlson, Jack Creley, Lynne Gorman
Filmplan International, Guardian Trust Company, Canadian Film Development Corporation, Universal Pictures, 87 Minutes, 89 Minutes (uncut)
“The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena: the Videodrome. The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television.” – Brian O’Blivion
Some movies can be batshit crazy but then there are a select few that go beyond that. Videodrome is one of these films, as it is a complete and absolute mindfuck.
This is also a David Cronenberg film from his early days, so intense, disturbing body horror should be expected and in that regard, this movie does not disappoint and it boasts some incredible special effects even though the film had a fairly scant budget.
Overall, this and The Fly are just about tied for being my favorite Cronenberg film. However, this one takes a slight edge, simply because its contents have stuck with me more over the years. At an early age, it penetrated my psyche and it’s roamed around in my head ever since. Maybe I have one of those Videodrome caused brain tumors and it’s just been growing very slowly for decades?
Anyway, the plot of the film follows a television producer who is always on the hunt for fucked up content to air on his cable channel. This was made during the early days of cable and like the early days of the Internet, shit was like the Wild West. This also takes place in Canada, so I’m not sure what restrictions they had, as they weren’t under the rule of the FCC like cable channels in the United States.
On his quest to find fucked up content, the exec is introduced to a show called Videodrome. The show is devoid of plot and doesn’t seem to have much purpose other than being torture porn for some sickos that want to watch captive people go through horrific physical pain.
We do find out that there is a big conspiracy afoot and that the creators behind the show have a sinister agenda. It is up to this exec to try and stop them but his exposure to the show creates strange changes in his mind and body. It’s hard to decipher what is real and what is a hallucination and ultimately, it is never really clear and it makes the movie one hell of a crazy ride.
The linchpin that holds all of this together is James Woods, who plays the exec. His performance is convincing, authentic and so believable that you don’t find yourself questioning the insane developments within the film. You just go along with him on his personal, unique trip through sensory hell.
Cronenberg did a stupendous job in creating a world that feels both foreign and familiar. But beyond that, the mastery of the special effects he employed and dreamed up is uncanny and impressive. The melting, morphing television scene is still one of the greatest effects sequences I’ve ever seen on film. Even knowing as much as I do about practical effects, it’s a moment that still baffles me and I almost don’t want to know the magic trick.
Videodrome is a classic and a real gem of its era. It achieved cult status and deservedly so. However, I feel like it’s now being lost to the sands of time, as younger generations don’t seem to care about anything predating the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The world is currently in a sad state in regards to mainstream art and this film just reminds me of a time when filmmakers overcame challenges, didn’t give a fuck about the censors or the Hollywood system and just made whatever the fuck they wanted to make.
Videodrome makes me yearn for a long overdue filmmaking renaissance.
Rating: 9.25/10 Pairs well with: other David Cronenberg films of the ’70s and ’80s.
Also known as: Mausoleum of Death (re-issue title) Release Date: May 13th, 1983 Directed by: Michael Dugan Written by: Robert Barich, Robert Madero, Katherine Rosenwink Music by: Jaime Mendoza-Nava Cast: Marjoe Gortner, Bobbie Bresee, Norman Burton, LaWanda Page
Western International Pictures Inc., Motion Picture Marketing, 96 Minutes, 95 Minutes (DVD cut)
“No more grievin’, I’m leavin’!” – Elsie, the maid
While I had never seen this, based off of trailers and clips I’ve seen over the years, I had always assumed that this was an Italian film. It’s not. It’s actually American but man, it definitely feels like the most giallo-esque demon movie ever made in the States.
It stars Marjoe Gortner and Bobbie Bresee and it’s kind of like the perfect movie for both of them, as they spent most of their careers on that blurry line between B-movies and C-movies.
It also stars Norman Burton, another actor who has done a lot of solid B-movie schlock and LaWanda Page, who is always funny, entertaining and will always have a special place in my heart for playing Aunt Esther in Sanford & Son and all its spin-offs.
The story is pretty simple. A demon kills a little girl’s mother. The girl then wanders into a creepy mausoleum and becomes possessed by the demon. Years later, after having a normal life up until adulthood, the demon decides to make the woman start killing people in horrific ways. The kills are pretty much the woman in demon form (or just with glowing eyes) using telekinesis to explode her victims heads or parts of their bodies. The best kill is probably the one where she levitates a lady and rips her rib cage out through her lower torso.
Mausoleum is graphic as hell with some pretty impressive practical effects in spite of its budget. In fact, the effects work also looks a lot like ’80s giallo gore. There’s something very Lucio Fulci or Lamberto Bava about these moments in the film and it’s kind of neat considering that neither of them worked on the picture.
Still, this isn’t memorable outside of the things that make it kind of cool. The story sucks and is boring, cookie cutter shit. There’s nothing all that surprising or shocking about the plot. It also suffers by having LaWanda Page leave about a half hour into the movie when she bolts from the house, never to return.
I’d say this is worth checking out if you have an appreciation for Italian style horror and cool practical effects. Other than that, there just isn’t much here.
Rating: 5.25/10 Pairs well with: other demonic horror films of the ’70s and ’80s.