Also known as: Border, Ripper (alternative German titles) Release Date: May 16th, 1984 (Cannes) Directed by: Abel Ferrara Written by: Nicholas St. John Music by: Dick Halligan, Joe Delia Cast: Tom Berenger, Billy Dee Williams, Jack Scalia, Melanie Griffith, Michael V. Gazzo, Rossano Brazzi, Rae Dawn Chong, Janet Julian, John Foster, Maria Conchita Alonso, Joe Santos, Ola Ray, Tracy Griffith, Jan Murray
Rebecca Productions, Zupnik-Curtis Enterprises, Twentieth Century Fox, 95 Minutes
“[as Rossi drives off] There’s nothing I hate more than guineas in Cadillacs.” – Al Wheeler
I never saw this film but man, it was pretty damn cool. But when it stars Tom Berenger and Billy Dee Williams as two badasses at odds but hunting the same scumbag, why wouldn’t it be pretty damn cool?
It also stars Melanie Griffith during the best era of her career, just before things took off for her. The reason I like this era for her is that she did a lot of really cool flicks between this, Brian De Palma’s Body Double and the dystopian cyberpunk delight, Cherry 2000.
Griffith plays a stripper being hunted by a slasher type serial killer but she’s also joined by other good up-and-coming actresses also playing her stripper pals. Alongside her we get to see Rae Dawn Chong and Maria Conchita Alonso, two women that would go on to have a pretty good run throughout the ’80s and into the early ’90s.
At it’s core, this is a slasher flick. However, it’s not really a horror movie, as much as it is a crime thriller. It’s directed by Abel Ferrara, who previously directed the cult classic Driller Killer but would later go on to do The King of New York and Bad Lieutenant. This movie actually feels like a natural bridge between his gore littered slasher flick and his more serious crime dramas. Honestly, it mixes the best of both worlds and in my opinion, is probably Ferrara’s best movie even though most people have slept on it – myself included, until now.
If I’m being completely honest, I’ve actually never been a big fan of Ferrara’s work but this film is pretty solid. Granted, I need to revisit The King of New York, as it’s been a few decades since I’ve seen it.
Fear City is just energetic, provocative and ballsy. That’s what I love about it. It’s similar to the tone of a lot of the action movies that Cannon Films was putting out in the ’80s. It has that unapologetic grittiness to it with just a thick layer of cool.
I wish Abel Ferrara had made more movies like this.
Release Date: August 3rd, 1984 Directed by: Stewart Raffill Written by: Wallace C. Bennett, William Gray, Don Jakoby, Michael Janover Based on:The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility by Charles Berlitz, William L. Moore Music by: Kenneth Wannberg Cast: Michael Paré, Nancy Allen, Eric Christmas, Bobby Di Cicco, Stephen Tobolowsky, Michael Currie
New Pictures, Cinema Group Ventures, New World Pictures, 102 Minutes
“You know, I got it all figured out… Navy owes me 40 years back pay.” – David Herdeg
In my mind, I thought that I had seen this movie once or twice, as a kid. I was wrong. I have never seen this until now and my memory played tricks on me by conflating images of other movies that may not even be remotely accurate. Hey, I’ve done some drugs at different points in my life.
Anyway, I thought that this was a really weird movie, even for ’80s standards and the story was pretty wonky. Still, I did enjoy it and I really liked the bond that developed between the leads: Michael Paré and Nancy Allen.
The story is about these two Navy seamen that were aboard a ship during a strange experiment where the Navy were trying to make the vessel invisible to give them a tactical advantage during World War II. This experiment made the ship vanish but with that, the two seamen were transported through time to 1984. The time travel also gave them some weird sci-fi side effects and one of the men keeps having seizures and electrical phenomenon happening to his body until he eventually explodes into pure energy and disappears. The rest of the film is a race against time, as Michael Paré’s character is trying to solve his dilemma before the same fate happens to him.
This is also an “on the run”/road trip movie similar to Starman and other films where a protagonist is trying to outrun and outwit authorities in an effort to reach their goal.
I liked Paré a lot in this and I always thought that he was an underutilized actor that should’ve reached bigger heights in the ’80s. I also liked Nancy Allen too but she’s been a favorite of mine ever since I saw the original RoboCop, as a wee li’l lad.
The film is entertaining and it was a cool picture in spite of its hokiness and strange premise. It is slow in a few parts and the climax is a bit weird but it’s still a worthwhile experience. Granted, I don’t know if it’s something I’ll ever go out of my way to watch again.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: other early ’80s sci-fi and “on the run” movies.
Also known as: Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (complete title) Release Date: March 9th, 1984 Directed by: Fritz Kiersch Written by: George Goldsmith Based on:Children of the Corn by Stephen King Music by: Jonathan Elias Cast: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R. G. Armstrong, John Franklin, Courtney Gains
Angeles Entertainment Group, Hal Roach Studios, New World Pictures, 92 Minutes
“Any religion without love and compassion is false! It’s a lie!” – Burt
Linda Hamilton had a big career making year in 1984 between this film and The Terminator, which was released months later.
I was never a big fan of this movie, even as a kid, but I guess I appreciate it more now. I mean, it’s certainly eerie and effective. However, everything in it seems kind of pointless, other than it’s cool seeing fucked up, murdering children that pray to some evil god birthed from the mind of Stephen King.
This is an example of why some things work much better as a short story, as this was originally written. There just isn’t enough here to justify a longer story and seeing it adapted into a movie turned it into a slow, drawn out affair where almost nothing really happens, except in the prologue and at the end.
Other than that, half the movie is driving around cornfields and then the other half is hiding from killer kids carrying farm tools.
The story is about kids in a small town following a child preacher who convinces them to kill all the adults. Whenever other adults wander into town, they get sacrificed to the bizarre cornfield god that travels through dirt like the monsters from Tremors.
I do like Isaac, the primary villain in this, though. I always thought he was scary but he also had something a bit off about him. I didn’t know until years later that the actor was actually in his 20s when he played this role. He dies in this but he would return years later in the sixth film. However, I’ve never seen any of the sequels but I may dive into them to review because why not?
Overall, this is slow as hell but I wouldn’t call it boring. As for Stephen King film adaptations, this is one of the poorer ones of the ’80s. A lot of people liked it, though, and I could be in the minority. I just feel like it doesn’t come close to holding a candle to the best of King’s adaptations or the horror classics of its decade.
Rating: 5.25/10 Pairs well with: its sequels, as well as other Stephen King film adaptations.
Release Date: December 14th, 1984 Directed by: Michael Crichton Written by: Michael Crichton Music by: Jerry Goldsmith Cast: Tom Selleck, Cynthia Rhodes, Gene Simmons, Kirstie Alley, Stan Shaw, G. W. Bailey, Joey Cramer, Chris Mulkey
Delphi III Productions, TriStar Pictures, 99 Minutes
“You screwed up good, Ramsay. We got two dead officers, do you understand me mister? Two. Dead. Cops! We got two wounded – one of them your own partner – and we got two dead guinea punks! And no one knows why or what the hell its all about!” – Chief of Police
This was one of those movies that used to be on HBO or Showtime all the time when I was a kid. I probably saw it a dozen times back then but it’s eluded me ever since and sort of fell down pop culture’s memory hole.
Watching it now was kind of cool, as it wasn’t as cheesy as I thought it would be and even if there is a bit of hokiness in the movie, it’s still pretty serious and a much better than decent sci-fi thriller.
While there aren’t cyborgs or dystopian metropolises glowing from infinite neon lights, Runaway still has a really strong cyberpunk vibe to it. I think this is due to the amount of robots in the film, the wacky inventions like AI-controlled bullets and the general visual aesthetic of the picture.
Tom Selleck is damn solid in this and it makes me wish he was in more action and crime films. He plays a complex cop character that specializes in community service calls dealing with malfunctioning robots. Sometimes the jobs are easy and straightforward but other times, they’re deadly dangerous. What makes him complex is that he’s a tough guy but he also has a severe fear of heights. Plus, he’s a single dad, raising a son and still emotionally recovering from the death of his wife while also wooing the two ladies in the movie: his partner and a woman that’s in way over her head with the story’s villain.
Speaking of which, the baddie in this is Gene Simmons from KISS. While I can’t say that his acting is good, he still has a presence and really hams it up in a great way. When he finally gets what’s coming to him, it’s a damn satisfying momenty.
The cast is rounded out by Selleck’s female partner played by Cynthia Rhodes, the corporate damsel in distress played by Kirtstie Alley, Joey Cramer of Flight of the Navigator fame playing Selleck’s son and the always entertaining G. W. Bailey as the cantankerous Chief of Police.
It’s also worth mentioning that this was written and directed by Michael Crichton before he became a much more prolific writer when Steven Spielberg made a little film franchise out of his novel Jurassic Park.
Overall, this is still a really entertaining picture that has a pretty basic but interesting tech crime story. It certainly feels like it’s straight out of the ’80s and while the special effects may appear dated by today’s standard, I appreciate the work that went into this. The robots all look pretty cool and function well.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: other sci-fi or cyberpunk films of the ’80s and early ’90s.
Also known as: Boys Will Be Boys (working title) Release Date: August 15th, 1984 Directed by: Gene Wilder Written by: Gene Wilder, Yves Robert, Jean-Loup Dabadie Based on:Pardon Mon Affaire (or An Elephant Can Be Extremely Deceptive) by Yves Robert Music by: John Morris, Stevie Wonder Cast: Gene Wilder, Charles Grodin, Joseph Bologna, Judith Ivey, Michael Huddleston, Kelly LeBrock, Gilda Radner, Michael Zorek, Thom Mathews (uncredited)
Orion Pictures, 87 Minutes
“Now listen here, Teddy Bear. Four weeks ago, I met a cute, available, old-fashioned guy who liked horse riding. In one month you got married, you had two daughters and you can’t ride a horse to save your life!” – Charlotte
This is a remake of a French film from the ’70s that I have never seen. Although, I’ve seen this a few times but it’s been years.
I liked it as a kid because it featured Kelly LeBrock, who I was crushing on hard because of Weird Science. As an adult, I love Gene Wilder in everything and revisiting this came with extra things to enjoy that were no longer overshadowed by LeBrock’s incredible beauty.
The Woman In Red was also written and directed by Wilder and also featured his real life wife, the legendary Gilda Radner. Additionally, we get Charles Grodin, whose blind guy prank in the restaurant is still one of the funniest comedy scenes in history.
While this film deals with some clunky storytelling and some clunky editing, it’s still a fun, lighthearted movie that suspiciously paints Gene Wilder, as some sort of heartthrob. But then, many of his films did and I think that’s part of their charm. Plus, if humor is indeed the way to a woman’s heart, I guess there aren’t many better at that than Wilder.
It’s still funny seeing him successfully woo a woman of Kelly LeBrock’s stature but that’s also part of the humor. The scene between the two on horses, as well as their bedroom scene, is hilarious to watch not just from the humorous banter but also because of the physical differences between LeBrock’s supermodel hotness and Wilder’s small size, as well as his awkward, bumbling antics.
Gilda Radner really stands out in this too, in a supporting role. Initially, she thinks that Wilder is trying to woo her and with that, we get a whole subplot about her getting revenge on him each time they cross paths.
All in all, The Woman In Red is just goofy and charming in that patented Gene Wilder way. It’s not a comedy classic or anything but it’s goofy and entertaining and really, that’s all it needs to be.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: other comedies with Gene Wilder.
Also known as: Dominator (Italy) Release Date: September 4th, 1984 (UK) Directed by: Mark Buntzman Written by: Mark Buntzman, William Sachs Based on: characters by James Glickenhaus Music by: David Spear Cast: Robert Ginty, Deborah Geffner, Frankie Faison, Mario Van Peebles, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Kenny Marino, Irwin Keyes, Arye Gross
Cannon Films, 89 Minutes
“You want to clean out the streets? I am the streets!” – X
It could be possible that I’m the only person that likes this movie more than its predecessor but I thought it took the concept of the original, upped the ante quite a bit, gave us a much better villain and it truly felt like a Cannon Group movie because it was.
I love that Cannon secured the rights to make this sequel and while I don’t know whether that deal was just to make one film, I really think this could’ve been a franchise that ran on for several installments like Cannon’s Ninja trilogy, Missing In Action films or American Ninja series.
Robert Ginty is so enjoyable in this role and I really enjoyed how this one was more of a buddy movie with Frankie Faison by his side. They had good chemistry, felt like real buds and I’ve been a fan of Faison since first seeing him as the landlord in Coming to America when I was a kid.
The evil scumbag gang in this movie is led by a very young Mario Van Peebles. In some regard, it draws parallels to his villain role in the third Highlander movie but I like him in this much better. He looks great, intimidating and he took the role seriously enough to come across as a real bastard. His final showdown with the hero, while mired down by clunky editing, was a great cat and mouse game between a cold-blooded killer with an Uzi and a vigilante hero with a fucking flamethrower! This final showdown always stuck out in my mind as one of the best when I was a kid.
I also like the villain’s look and the whole gang’s vibe. I liked how they painted red “X”s on their victims and that whole psychotic aesthetic. They sort of felt like a mix between a gang from The Warriors and the sadistic serial killer cult from Cobra.
This is just a balls out, badass action flick that further reinforces why Cannon Films was so damn good and why they excelled in the best decade for action movies.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as other ’70s and ’80s vigilante flicks.
Also known as: Fall Break (alternative title) Release Date: August, 1984 (Wilmington, North Carolina premiere) Directed by: Buddy Cooper, John S. Douglass Written by: Buddy Cooper Music by: Michael Minard Cast: Matt Mitler, Bill Hitchcock, Ruth Martinez, Connie Rogers, Morey Lampley, Frances Raines
OK Productions, Ocean King Releasing, 86 Minutes
“So my philosophy is, let’s have some beer.” – Ralph
Growing up in the ’80s and early ’90s, nothing quite made Halloween feel like Halloween more than a low budget, formulaic slasher flick. Luckily, there are so many that I still come across that I haven’t seen, this being one of them.
The Mutilator, also known as Fall Break, is actually better than I thought it could be and it also reminds me of another great, lesser-known slasher, Blood Rage.
The story is simple, a young kid accidentally killed his mother and it drove his father insane. Years later, the kid is now a teen and he takes his friends to his family’s old beach house to clear it out. Unbeknownst to the kid and his friends, its a trap by the crazy father, who is fell bent on killing everyone in and around the house. Unfortunately for the teens, this North Carolina beach house is on an island in a small seasonal community where all the other residents are away.
This has the two main ingredients that every slasher film needs: violence and titties. There could’ve been more titties but the overall experience is pretty damn good and you can relish in the pretty decent kills and well executed special effects.
The real highlight for me was the scene at the end where the father is split in half by a car slamming him into a cinder block wall. Immediately after that, the father, who is literally in two separate pieces, snaps back to life for a split second and uses his big ass battleaxe to chop off half of a cop’s leg with ease. It’s crazy but it’s great and it left me with a smile, ending the film with a good gory exclamation point.
I liked the setting a lot and it just made the film more interesting. This could also be because I was born and raised in a small coastal community.
Overall, this is kind of cookie cutter and predictable but that’s the slasher genre’s modus operandi. It’s the little things in this that are different that set it apart from more mundane slasher flicks.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: other slasher films of the ’80s, especially the very similar Blood Rage.
Also known as: 2010 (original title), 2010: Odyssey Two (original script title) Release Date: December 7th, 1984 Directed by: Peter Hyams Written by: Peter Hyams Based on:2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke Music by: David Shire Cast: Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban, Keir Dullea, Douglas Rain (voice), Madolyn Smith, Dana Elcar, Elya Baskin
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 116 Minutes
“[message relayed from monolith] All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. Use them together. Use them in peace.” – HAL-9000
Since I did 2001: A Space Odyssey as my 2001st film review, I figured that I’d also revisit 2010: The Year We Make Contact for my 2010th. Both are great films: the first being an absolute masterpiece and this one being one of the best science fiction films of its decade, as well as one of my favorite of all-time.
Unfortunately, 2010 gets compared to 2001, which really isn’t fair, as there was no way that this movie was going to live up to the hype that a 2001 sequel would’ve gotten, even back in the early ’80s. As its own film, though, it’s exceptional even if it wasn’t necessary.
Now there were four Odyssey books written by Arthur C. Clarke, two at the time of this film’s release, so I don’t see why further movies couldn’t have been made, as the story already existed and for fans of the novels, this was probably something they wanted to see. Hell, I’m still hoping that someone eventually adapts 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey. Tom Hanks was going to do them about twenty years ago and there were rumors that Syfy was going to take a crack at it as well but neither of those really materialized.
From what I remember from the novel, this is a pretty good adaptation that takes some liberties but tells the gist of the story. It also changes the location of the monolith from being near Saturn to being near Jupiter for some reason. But I also kind of see this as existing in its own continuity, as it’s really hard to envision what could’ve even come after the 2001 movie despite this story trying to follow it up. As far as it being a movie sequel to the first book, as it is written, it works. The Kubrick 2001 film was much more mystical and fantastical than the book and it left a lot open for interpretation where the novel was more clear cut and explained things better.
Like the books, this film tries to define the strange things that are happening within the plot, unlike it’s cinematic predecessor. In fact, this film starts with an opening recap of the first movie with actual explanations of plot details to try and ground the story and set certain events in stone. I actually really like that, as it immediately shows that this movie is indeed different in its style and how it is going to present its fantastical journey.
Additionally, I really liked the casting of Roy Scheider as Heywood Floyd, as he felt like a better version of the character than what we got in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. Granted, he was more of a minor character in the first film and we needed someone with more presence and gravitas, as he becomes the main character in this story.
Scheider was a great choice, though, as he had just come off of the first two Jaws movies and was one of the top actors of his era. He had a certain panache and a good level of manliness but also came across as a smart guy that would think before reacting and usually had a clear head and felt like a natural leader.
The rest of the cast is also good with Helen Mirren, John Lithgow, Bob Balaban, the return of Keir Dullea as Bowman and the rest of the Russian crew. I especially liked Elya Baskin as Brailovsky, as his chemistry with Lithgow’s Curnow was superb. Some of you may know Baskin from his role as Peter Parker’s landlord in Spider-Man 2 and 3.
I also love that the story is anti-Cold War, as it forces the Americans and Russian astronauts and scientists to work together, despite their countries being on the cusp of war. In fact, the countries do go to war while the crew is on their mission and what they may return home to is a somber, dark cloud over the rest of the story. Late into the story, the crews are forced to separate by the orders of their feuding governments but in spite of this, the two crews still end up working together to complete the mission and attempt to solve the universe’s greatest mystery.
Some people have said that the ending was underwhelming but I don’t think that’s true at all. It kind of felt like the ending to a really good classic Star Trek episode where the crew must solve a cosmic mystery. The reward for doing so is actually quite profound, as it forever changes the solar system and man’s place in it.
The movie also has incredible special effects and I especially liked how well they did in recreating the Discovery. It really pulls you back into the iconic ship and it just adds an extra level of legitimacy to this film, marrying it to the original one, aesthetically. Having the same voice for HAL-9000 was also a nice touch, as the character wouldn’t have been the same with someone else doing the performance.
Ultimately, this isn’t on the level of 2001: A Space Odyssey but what is in the science fiction genre? As it’s own motion picture, it’s cool, imaginative and it expands upon the greater work before it while also entertaining and boasting some solid acting performances across the board.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as the Odyssey series of books by Arthur C. Clarke.
Also known as: The Warrior (Germany) Release Date: September 7th, 1984 Directed by: John C. Broderick Written by: John C. Broderick Based on: a story by John C. Broderick, William Stout Music by: Louis Saunders Cast: David Carradine, Luke Askew, Maria Socas, Anthony De Longis, Harry Townes
Aries Cinematográfica Argentina, New Horizons Picture, 81 Minutes
Just when the world thought that there were enough re-imaginings (or ripoffs) of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, Roger Corman’s New Horizons made a sword and sorcery version of the tale.
Sadly, this is terribly boring and like many of David Carradine’s lower tier schlock flicks, he doesn’t even really seem to care too much about performance in this one.
While that is a knock against Carradine, the guy was truly great when he wanted to be. But maybe he’s one of those guys that needs good motivation from the director.
I don’t think that Carradine got that direction here and all of the other actors just sort of seem to be dialing it in. This feels more like a community theater rehearsal than a legit motion picture. That could be due to the inexperience of the director or simply because the script and story are uninspiring and overly derivative.
Additionally, the special effects are subpar, even for a foreign made Conan ripoff. Although, I did enjoy some of the sets. But to be fair about that, it really isn’t hard creating a sword and sorcery world. I have an ex-girlfriend whose house looks like half the sets in this film because she’s a witch and never cleans up after herself or her pets.
The biggest problem with this movie is that it is simply boring. Yes, I already pointed that out but it can’t be stated enough. I can look past some of the faults I already listed if I can be engaged or energized by something. This film, to its extreme detriment, just drained my battery dry.
If you are a big fan of cheap-o sword and sorcery flicks, you’ll probably still want to pass on this one. That is, unless you’re a David Carradine completist. If that’s the case, I don’t envy you, as he’s starred in some really dreadful shit.
Rating: 2/10 Pairs well with: other cheap sword and sorcery movies of the early ’80s.
Also known as: Dr. Acula, Revenge of the Dead (script titles) Release Date: 1959 (limited), 1984 (video premiere) Directed by: Ed Wood Written by: Ed Wood Music by: Gordon Zahler (stock music supervisor) Cast: Kenne Duncan, Duke Moore, Tor Johnson, Paul Marco, Valda Hansen, Johnny Carpenter, Bud Osborne, Criswell
“Monsters! Space people! Mad doctors! They didn’t teach me about such things in the police academy! And yet that’s all I’ve been assigned to since I became on active duty! Why do I always get picked for these screwy details all the time? I resign.” – Patrolman Paul Kelton
Released theatrically but very limited, Night of the Ghouls sat on a shelf in a lab for decades before finally being dusted off and released on videotape. The story behind that says that Ed Wood didn’t have the money to pay for the film to be released and so he never got enough copies produced to actually distribute it.
The film is a follow up to Wood’s Bride of the Monster while also feeling like a spiritual sequel to Plan 9 From Outer Space. Tor Johnson returns to the role of Lobo while frequent Wood contributor Paul Marco returns to the cop role that he played in Bride.
I have wanted to watch this for quite some time but this was my first chance to see it and I was glad to see that it was streaming for free, at least for now, on YouTube.
I really enjoyed it overall, for what it is, but it’s seemingly less imaginative and bonkers than Plan 9. I’d say that it’s on par with Bride but it falls behind it a bit due to not having Bela Lugosi. I know that Wood wanted to add Bela via stock footage but ultimately, he wasn’t able to.
Criswell appears as Criswell to do the narration, as well as introing and outroing the film. He first appears, rising up from a coffin similar to the scene from Tim Burton’s Ed Wood where Jeffrey Jones plays Criswell.
The plot is about a bullshit artist a.k.a. fake psychic named Dr. Acula (get it? “Dr-Acula”… “Dracula”). Weirdly, he’s not a vampire and it’s a strange play on words for some reason. Anyway, Dr. Acula takes people’s money, convincing them that he’s contacting their dead relatives and loved ones. However, by the end, he actually conjures the dead and they rise to put him in a coffin and bury him alive.
It’s not a great story or even all that original, as 1933’s Sucker Money has a very similar premise. However, it does work well within the Woodiverse and it feels like an extension of Wood’s other horror/sci-fi outings.
One thing I found surprising is that Wood recycles some scenes from a failed TV pilot he directed called Final Curtain. I actually reviewed that here. The scenes don’t necessarily fit that well but at least Wood’s footage wasn’t wasted, even if this film also languished on shelves for decades.
Night of the Ghouls would probably be despised by most people. However, those of us that like and appreciate the man’s hard work and passion can find something endearing and kind of cool with this picture.
Rating: 3.75/10 Pairs well with: Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 From Outer Space.