Film Review: Fletch (1985)

Release Date: May 31st, 1985
Directed by: Michael Ritchie
Written by: Andrew Bergman
Based on: Fletch by Gregory Mcdonald
Music by: Harold Faltermeyer
Cast: Chevy Chase, Joe Don Baker, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Richard Libertini, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Matheson, M. Emmet Walsh, George Wendt, Kenneth Mars, Geena Davis, George Wyner, Chick Heam

Vincent Pictures, Universal Pictures, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Why don’t we go lay on the bed and I’ll fill you in?” – Fletch

Because I’m not a big Chevy Chase fan, I hadn’t seen Fletch since the ’80s and even then, I don’t think I ever watched it from start-to-finish until now.

Seeing this as an adult, though, I think my mind has shifted. I actually dug this movie quite a bit and it’s made me rethink Chase and his contributions to cinematic comedy.

If I’m being honest, he was perfect in this, it truly utilized his charm and his comedic style. In fact, I’d even say that his style was enhanced by this script and the situations throughout the movie.

He wasn’t a complete self-absorbed prick like he was in most of the Vacation movies. Sure, he was definitely self-impressed with his own antics but he was actually a heroic character, trying to uncover a mysterious plot and rid the beaches of drug pushers with ties to the local cops. He also had this coolness about him that was similar to the coolness he had in Caddyshack but this even eclipsed that, as he was this film’s focal point and he wasn’t competing for laughs with Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray.

The cast is also stacked with lots of great character actors like Joe Don Baker, M. Emmet Walsh, George Wendt, George Wyner and Kenneth Mars. It also featured Tim Matheson and a very young Geena Davis. However, I really liked Dana Wheeler-Nicholson in this, as the female lead. She had good chemistry with Chase and their budding relationship was believable and nice to watch.

I also thought that the Harold Faltermeyer score was solid. I think it’s my favorite score he’s done after his work on the first two Beverly Hills Cop movies.

Fletch might be the perfect Chevy Chase film. I’m going to have to review the sequel in the next few weeks. While I think it’s safe to assume that it’s not as good as this flick, I hope it utilizes Chase’s talent as well as this did.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

Also known as: Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear (original script title)
Release Date: December 4th, 1985
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Written by: Chris Columbus
Based on: characters by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Music by: Bruce Broughton
Cast: Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Anthony Higgins, Sophie Ward, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Freddie Jones, Nigel Stock, Brian Oulton, Susan Fleetwood

Industrial Light & Magic, Amblin Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“A great detective relies on perception, intelligence, and imagination.” – Sherlock Holmes

It may sound strange since I’m a kid of the ’80s and a massive Spielberg fan from that era but I’ve never seen Young Sherlock Holmes.

Now I have seen clips of it over the years, due to its very early use of emerging CGI technology, which made this a very groundbreaking film in digital effects, even if it wasn’t a massive hit like Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus and Berry Levinson had hoped.

Honestly, it’s those effects that have cemented this motion picture as a relevant one for its time. Nothing else within it is all that memorable or significant. But that’s not to say it’s not good. It’s just be pretty forgettable without its great effects for the time in which it was produced.

I mostly liked this and I liked the kids in it and how they helped generate a sense of wonder, which is something Hollywood is completely unable to do in modern times. Still, this movie does drag in several spots and while I can buy the kids in these specific roles, they’re not that memorable except for Sophie Ward, who would go on to have an interesting career.

I liked the whole Egyptian cult that Sherlock and company were trying to expose and take down but if I’m being honest, a lot of that stuff felt like it was recycled from the Thugee cult stuff in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and that film came out only a year earlier and also involved Spielberg, as he directed it.

This also has a magical element to it and because it stars some proper British kids, there’s a particular vibe that I can best describe as proto-Harry Potter.

Young Sherlock Holmes isn’t a movie that I felt like I missed out on. As a kid, I would’ve certainly liked the effects heavy scenes like the stain glass knight but I probably would’ve been bored for 75 percent of the movie.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Brewster’s Millions (1985)

Release Date: May 22nd, 1985
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: Timothy Harris, Herschel Weingrod
Based on: Brewster’s Millions by George Barr McCutcheon
Music by: Ry Cooder
Cast: Richard Pryor, John Candy, Lonette McKee, Stephen Collins, Hume Cronyn, David White, Jerry Orbach, Pat Hingle, David Wohl, Tovah Feldshuh, Peter Jason, Rick Moranis

Lawrence Gordon Productions, Davis Entertainment, Silver Pictures, Universal Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Gentlemen, do you think I’m a lowlife?” – Monty Brewster, “Oh no, Mr. Brewster. Not with these clothes.” – Tailor

When I was a kid, this was my favorite Richard Pryor movie. I probably watched this dozens of times, as it was on television a lot. I also liked that it starred John Candy and that Rick Moranis pops up in it, albeit in a pretty minor role.

This was also a remake of a 1920s Fatty Arbuckle film that I’ve never seen but honestly, that’s long overdue and I should probably give that one a watch.

For being a light comedy in the opulent and fun ’80s, I thought that the story and all its details were really well-crafted.

Basically, Pryor’s Monte Brewster has inherited $300 million but in order to collect it, he has to pass a test where he has to spend $30 million. But there are all these fine details into what he can and can’t do and that’s what makes the story really good.

There are twists and turns throughout and there are also some people that try to trick him into failing at every turn because they have a very big financial interest in seeing Brewster lose his right to his inheritance.

Surprisingly, this is directed by Walter Hill. He’s directed stuff like the 48 Hrs. films, The WarriorsRed Heat and other pretty awesome classic action flicks. So a straight up comedy like this makes him an odd choice for director but he taps into the same energy he had when working with Eddie Murphy on the first 48 Hrs. and just kind of applies that to Pryor and Candy.

I think Hill’s involvement actually shows his versatility as a director while also giving this a bit more oomph while making the story work really well in spite of it being more layered than it needed to be for a simple, light-hearted ’80s comedy.

Additionally, I love Pryor in this. I think it may be his best character, as he’s just a really good guy that wants to succeed but also wants to spread that success to those around him. Frankly, it’s impossible not to root for him in this.

Brewster’s Millions is just one of those movies that will always hold a place in my heart. It’s positive, it’s meaningful and it’s a much better movie than it should have been.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Barbarian Queen (1985)

Also known as: Queen of the Naked Steel (alternative title)
Release Date: April 26th, 1985
Directed by: Hector Olivera
Written by: Howard R. Cohen
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Lana Clarkson, Katt Shea, Frank Zagarino, Dawn Dunlap, Victor Bo, Andrea Barbieri

Rodeo Productions, Aries Cinematografica Argentina, 74 Minutes

Review:

“You are much too beautiful a girl to let yourself be broken into food for the royal dogs.” – Arrakur

This is one of those super low budget, low quality Argentinian sword and sorcery flicks from the ’80s that was trying to capitalize off of the craze. However, this isn’t one of the Roger Corman ones, so its quality is even worse.

Probably knowing that this was going to be a shit movie, the filmmakers leaned heavily into making this as sexy as possible with bringing in a whole crew of beauties that spent portions of the film wearing as little clothes as possible.

I wouldn’t quite call this full-on sexploitation, as it’s all pretty softcore stuff but being a kid in the ’80s, this was certainly a film I didn’t mind watching in an effort to appreciate the anatomy of the female form. I was an aspiring comic book artist, so stuff like this was just educational… really.

Anyway, this featured Lana Clarkson and Dawn Dunlap in it and those women had my heart when I was just a wee li’l lad.

Sadly, beyond the beautiful women, there just isn’t much here that’s worthwhile. It’s a pretty generic and paint-by-number sword and sorcery plot. Bad guy, magic shit, warriors clashing steel but strangely this was really lacking in the monster and beast department. And frankly, a lack of monsters and beasts should always be a no-no in a flick like this.

In the end, I’d call this a pointless and wretched film. However, I can’t label something as wretched when it is full of so much unrestrained beauty.

Rating: 2/10

Film Review: European Vacation (1985)

Also known as: National Lampoon’s European Vacation (complete title)
Release Date: July 26th, 1985
Directed by: Amy Heckerling
Written by: John Hughes, Robert Klane
Music by: Charles Fox
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Dana Hill, Jason Lively, Victor Lanoux, Eric Idle, William Zabka, John Astin, Paul Bartel, Robbie Coltrane, Moon Unit Zappa

National Lampoon, Warner Bros., 95 Minutes

Review:

“[repeated line] God, I miss Jack!” – Audrey Griswold

I was a bit underwhelmed by the first Vacation movie after revisiting it a few weeks ago. While I wasn’t a massive fan of this film series, as I’m not really a fan of Chevy Chase, they’re still amusing enough to hold my attention and make me laugh in spots.

Now having revisited the second movie, I like this one more. I think that the European setting made it better, overall, and I this set of Griswold kids is my favorite in the series, as a tandem.

While the original seems to be the most beloved of the series, with Christmas Vacation being a very close second, this is just more interesting, as I find the culture clash stuff funnier than the family just driving through the desert, meeting their redneck kin and then riding some rollercoasters.

This also has more action and a pretty good, high energy finale for an ’80s comedy movie.

Additionally, it fleshes out the kids more and gives them their own subplots apart from just making them accessories to their parents on a road trip. In fact, the subplots with the kids I found to be more enjoyable.

All in all, I’m still not in love with this series but it’s not a bad way to kill some time on a rainy day. There are much better ’80s comedies and much better ’80s comedic leads than Chevy Chase.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the other Vacation movies, as well as other National Lampoon films.

Film Review: Cocaine Wars (1985)

Also known as: Top Mission (France), American Scorpion, Vice Wars (alternate English titles – Germany) 
Release Date: August 1st, 1985 (Argentina)
Directed by: Hector Olivera
Written by: Steven M. Krauzer, Hector Olivera, David Vinas
Music by: George Brock, Jorge Lopez Ruiz
Cast: John Schneider, Royal Dano, Federico Luppi, Rodolfo Ranni, Patti Davis

Aries Cinematografica Argentina, New Horizons, Concorde Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“[while applying the cattle prod to Cliff’s teeth] “Tell me, Cliff… where are the papers?… You have no choice because I’m going to kill you…” – General Lujan

Sadly, this movie isn’t anywhere near as badass and cool as its poster. In fact, it’s kind of a letdown, if I’m being honest.

This does star John Schneider of The Dukes of Hazzard, though. So had I seen this as a kid, I probably would’ve loved it.

It also features Royal Dano, a character actor I like in all of his roles.

This was one of the ten films that Roger Corman made down in Argentina. He had some sort of deal with a studio down there and they pumped out a lot of shit like this, as well as pretty bad sword and sorcery flicks at the height of their popularity.

This film sees Schneider take on generic Latin American drug traffickers backed by military might. There’s a lot of action and gun play but overall, most of this stuff is poorly shot and executed.

For action flicks like this, all you need to do is “bring it” with the action shit and the plot and flaws almost don’t matter. However, if you fail at the most important part, everything else comes off looking like shit too.

Still, I did like Schneider and Dano in this but their presence doesn’t save the film in anyway. Well, other than making this not abysmally bad.

It’s still really bad, though and it’s damn forgettable. Schneider probably could’ve evolved into a legit action star if he were given the right vehicle. Cocaine Wars certainly wasn’t that.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other C-level action films of the ’80s.

Film Review: Slaughter High (1985)

Also known as: April Fool’s Day (working title), The Last Laugh (alternative title)
Release Date: May 10th, 1985 (Cannes)
Directed by: Mark Ezra, Peter Litten, George Dugdale
Written by: Mark Ezra, Peter Litten, George Dugdale
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Simon Scudamore, Caroline Munro, Carmine Iannaconne, Gary Martin, Billy Hartman, Michael Saffran, Donna Yeager, Josephine Scandi, John Segal, Kelly Baker, Sally Cross

Spectacular Trading International, Vestron PIctures, 90 Minutes, 91 Minutes (uncut)

Review:

“We’ll take my car. It starts every time.” – Carol

The film’s tagline on its original poster boasts “From the makers of Friday the 13th” but honestly, I don’t know what the fuck the marketing department was talking about because the three writers/directors and the two producers don’t have that film listed under their credits.

One of the producers was known for working in exploitation films and porn, so maybe he was just using one of those old school tricks like flat out lying to get his film in theaters and then hoping he could sweep it under the rug if the big wigs at Paramount Pictures ever found out.

Whatever. This film came and went like the passing of the wind and nearly no one noticed it. I guess it developed a bit of a cult following over the years but having now seen it, I have no idea why. It’s absolute shit. And I don’t say that lightly, as the love of my life, Caroline Munro, is in this thing.

Granted, I’m not sure why Caroline Munro is playing a high school student when she was thirty-five at the time of filming. Still, she’s always been damn beautiful and I’m not going to nitpick about her being in a movie… ever.

Other than Munro, the film is a complete dud. It’s your standard slasher plot about a kid getting bullied, a prank gone wrong and then he puts on a mask and starts chopping up thirty year-old teens.

While I generally like slasher movies, even bad ones, this is just on another level of sucktitude. The story takes too long to get going, once it does, it’s just dull and pretty uneventful until the home stretch.

It’s also wrecked by one of the worst film scores that I’ve ever heard. Strangely, the score is done by Harry Manfredini, who made the iconic Jason Voorhees theme for the Friday the 13th films. Hey! Maybe he’s the “maker” of Friday the 13th that the poster touts.

Slaughter High is a waste of time. Sure, you could stare in awe at the natural beauty of Caroline Munro but you could also appreciate her in far better films than this one.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other really shitty slasher movies.

Film Review: Porky’s Revenge! (1985)

Also known as: Porky’s 3: Revenge (working title)
Release Date: March 22nd, 1985
Directed by: James Komack
Written by: Ziggy Steinberg
Based on: characters by Bob Clark
Music by: Dave Edmunds
Cast: Dan Monahan, Wyatt Knight, Tony Ganios, Mark Herrier, Kaki Hunter, Scott Colomby, Nancy Parsons, Chuck Mitchell

Melvin Simon Productions, Astral Bellevue Pathé, SLM Production Group, 20th Century Fox, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Miss Balbricker, with all due respect. That’s your opinion.” – Billy, “They all had boners!” – Beulah Balbricker, “Mr. Carter, I will not stand here and be accused of having a boner!” – Wendy Williams

For most people, this is probably the worst Porky’s movie out of the original trilogy. For me, I like it a bit more than the second one, which just chugged along on the fumes of the first movie while forcing in some drama class plot that wasn’t all that interesting. Although, I did love seeing the KKK get made asses out of in that movie.

This one just seems a bit fresher. Sure, it’s also chugging along on fumes but it just works better for me, as it finds its center again and that center is the series’ greatest villain: Porky himself.

Also, the ensemble cast just seems better in this movie. Their chemistry has evolved naturally, they seem like legit chums in real life and it transcends the film. I don’t know if they all legitimately liked each other in real life but it feels as if they did by this film and not like they’re just playing generic characters and tropes in a run of the mill teen sex comedy.

The movie is also a nice, organic ending to the film series, as it sees the characters graduate high school, leaving behind this part of their lives to venture off into the unknown future where everyone’s paths will most likely diverge.

This is still the same type of film that we got with the previous two but it weirdly feels like a proper sendoff and tribute to these characters who I didn’t feel any sort of emotional attachment to until this movie.

Granted, it also doesn’t leave me wanting more, it’s just interesting and kind of neat that it wrapped up the series in a way that made me see it as something more than just a pointless sex joke that ran on for too long.

Porky’s Revenge isn’t a great film and none of them are, really. However, it’s a fitting end to a series that was just about coming of age raunchiness. And honestly, it’s actually better than I expected it to be.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Porky’s movies, as well as other screwball ’80s teen sex comedies.

Film Review: Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

Release Date: November 27th, 1985
Directed by: Jeannot Szwarc
Written by: David Newman, Leslie Newman
Music by: Henry Mancini, Leslie Bricusse
Cast: Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, David Huddleston, Judy Cornwell, Burgess Meredith, Carrie Kei Heim, Christian Fitzpatrick, Jeffrey Kramer, Christopher Ryan

Calash Corporation, GGG, Major Studio Partners, TriStar Pictures, 107 Minutes

Review:

“Now, all those within the sound of my voice, and all those on this Earth everywhere know that henceforth you will be called Santa Claus.” – Ancient Elf

I actually wrote about this movie in an old article titled How Dudley Moore Ruined My Childhood – A Christmas Story. In that article I outlined the plot of this movie from memory but I was kind of off, as I hadn’t seen the film since 1985.

Anyway, seeing this now, it’s a much better movie than I remembered and I kind of enjoyed it in spite of my complaints in the previous article and how it destroyed Santa Claus for my seven year-old brain.

This is a movie with really odd pacing and plot structure where the first act seems like it takes up the first full hour of this 107 minute movie. But I do really like the first act, which shows the fantastical origin of Santa Claus. It’s so well shot and orchestrated that the picture feels otherworldly but incredibly magical and soothing.

David Huddleston was perfectly cast as Santa and his wife and the elves were also great, especially Dudley Moore and Burgess Meredith. We also get to see Christopher Ryan in a small role as an elf, which I thought was really cool. He’s best known, at least to me, as Mike from The Young Ones and as different Sontaran commanders from Doctor Who.

After the first hour or so, we are introduced to the film’s villain B.Z., played by the great John Lithgow. As a kid, I always loved this character and sort of saw him as the Lex Luthor of Christmas. I guess I remembered his role and his presence in the film being bigger than it actually was but that’s probably because Lithgow was so solid that it left a big impression on me.

There are also two little kids in the movie but they’re kind of annoying and overly happy all the time. But I guess you need kids in a Santa movie and they’re supposed to be the narrative stand-ins for the kids in the audience, imagining themselves hanging out with Santa and the elves.

The film looks really dated though and I remember thinking that it looked older than a 1985 movie in 1985. Also, the special effects aren’t great but the matte painting work and sets kind of make up for that.

The story isn’t great either but trying to see it through the eyes of a kid, it’s fine.

In the end, this is a weird but comforting movie. I feel like it’s been lost to time and mostly forgotten but I still think that people would like it if they gave it a chance.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other family Christmas classics.

Film Review: Into the Night (1985)

Release Date: February 22nd, 1985
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Ron Koslow
Music by: Ira Newborn
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfeiffer, Richard Farnsworth, Irene Papas, Kathryn Harrold, Dan Aykroyd, Bruce McGill, David Bowie, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, Art Evans, John Hostetter, Jack Arnold, Rick Baker, Paul Bartel, David Cronenberg, Jonathan Demme, Amy Heckerling, Jim Henson, Lawrence Kasdan, Paul Mazursky, Carl Perkins, Dedee Pfeiffer, Don Siegel, Jake Steinfeld, Roger Vadim

Universal Pictures, 115 Minutes

Review:

“[to Diana] I need you to appease Shaheen. She will demand blood; yours will do.” – Monsieur Melville

After recently watching Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, I couldn’t help but want to revisit a similar film from the same year by John Landis.

However, after revisiting this, it’s not all that similar other than it’s a “yuppie in peril” story. Also, the girl makes it to the end of this film and it’s more of an actual love story while also being more lighthearted and action heavy. The two films certainly have some parallels but this one is more accessible and probably more fun for most filmgoers.

Personally, I don’t like this as much as After Hours but it’s still a movie that I enjoy quite a bit.

It’s hard not to enjoy a film with Jeff Goldblum and Michele Pfeiffer as its stars, though. Both of them are great in this and I liked their chemistry and kind of wished they were paired up in more movies.

Beyond the two leads, we have a film full of lots of great talent, as well as more than a dozen cameos with other filmmakers and behind the camera legends in small, bit parts. Hell, even this film’s director, John Landis, plays a roll throughout the film as one of the four thugs in pursuit of the main characters.

I really liked David Bowie in this, though. He steals the scenes he’s in and it made me wish that his role was bigger.

The story sees a man, after catching his wife cheating, stumble upon a woman running away from some dudes with guns in an airport parking garage. They speed off together and we’re sent on an action adventure romp through Los Angeles, as they try to figure out how to get her out of trouble and survive all the trouble that’s coming for them.

There are so many great characters in this and every sequence in the film is pretty damn memorable because of that.

It’s strange to me that this isn’t considered one of Landis’ top films but it was also the first film of his to come out after the tragedy that happened on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. I think that because of that, this wasn’t promoted as well as it should have been and the public already had a bad taste in their mouths and probably, rightfully so.

However, looking at this as its own thing, separate from the grim reality of an unrelated picture, this is a solid comedy that did just about everything right.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: After Hours and other “yuppie in peril” movies.