Film Review: The Gladiator (1986)

Release Date: February 3rd, 1986
Directed by: Abel Ferrara
Written by: William Bleich
Music by: David Frank
Cast: Ken Wahl, Nancy Allen, Brian Robbins, Robert Culp, Stan Shaw, Rick Dees, Rosemary Forsyth

Walker Brothers Productions, New World Television, ABC, 98 Minutes

Review:

“There’s order to the chaos of the universe – as above, so below. I mean, even here, there’s a natural order posed by me, because here: I am God.” – Joe Barker

I really like Ken Wahl and Nancy Allen, so I thought a movie where Wahl turns vigilante and makes his truck a weaponized killing machine would be pretty badass! Well, I was let down.

Wahl’s truck is actually just reinforced with some heavy add-ons and a harpoon gun that basically immobilizes vehicles. He’s not really doing Mad Max shit but he is still trying to clean up the streets while hunting for the killer driver that murdered his brother and several other people.

I thought that Wahl was pretty good in this but the movie was slow as hell. It has some good, action-packed moments but it just leaves you wanting more and never really delivers in the way that you’d hope.

I felt like Nancy Allen was barely in it, as well.

But this was a movie that was made for television and there is only so much that you could get away with on network TV in the ’80s.

This is just one of those films that sits in limbo: it’s not necessarily a waste of time but it also isn’t worth going out of your way to watch.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review: Witchboard (1986)

Release Date: December 31st, 1986 (limited)
Directed by: Kevin Tenney
Written by: Kevin Tenney
Music by: Dennis Michael Tenney
Cast: Todd Allen, Tawny Kitaen, Stephen Nichols, Kathleen Wilhoite, Burke Byrnes, Rose Marie

Paragon Arts International, Blue Rider Pictures, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Hang loose, stay cool, and don’t forget your psychic humor.” – Zarabeth

I had never seen Witchboard and I never had much interest in it. Ouija Board movies have never been my thing, for whatever reason. I don’t know, even as a lover of horror, I always found the concept of them to be too one-dimensional and uneventful.

Seeing this, my assessment isn’t proven wrong and in fact, this movie is also pretty boring. It has a few neat moments but not enough to salvage it or make it something I’d ever feel like I wanted to watch again. And I only really watched it this time because I know some people that are somewhat nostalgic about this film.

Also, this has Tawny Kitaen in it and I remember how much my older cousins and uncles were fawning over her back in the day after she did that Whitesnake video. Yeah, I saw it. Even as a little kid, I thought she was hot. But I was really a Phoebe Cates kinda guy.

Anyway, this is about a group of college aged kids that fuck around with a Ouija Board. One of them (Kitaen) develops an unhealthy obsession, as she starts to talk to the ghost of a child. However, we later find out that this child ghost was an evil wizard all along and he’s possessed her. Crazy supernatural shit happens and the boyfriend has to fight his demon possessed girlfriend in an effort to save her from the wizard’s spirit.

Witchboard has a few amusing characters in it, such as the bizarre psychic girl, and it shows two best friends, fighting over the same girl, have to come back together in an effort to save her. I always love bro movies where the bros gotta put aside their differences and save the day.

This is mostly slow, poorly acted and it doesn’t have anything special or unique to make it stand out in a sea of great ’80s horror. But still, it is ’80s horror and with that, it’s still a decent film to check out if ’80s horror is your cup of tea.

I didn’t hate this, by any means, but I was far from loving it, as well.

Rating: 5.25/10

Film Review: Three Amigos! (1986)

Also known as: The Three Caballeros (working title), ¡Three Amigos! (UK spelling)
Release Date: December 10th, 1986 (Beverly Hills premiere)
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels, Randy Newman
Music by: Elmer Bernstein, Randy Newman (song lyrics)
Cast: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short, Alfonso Arau, Tony Plana, Patrice Martinez, Joe Mantegna, Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz

L.A. Films, HBO Films, Broadway Video, Orion Pictures, 104 Minutes

Review:

“You dirt-eating piece of slime! You scum-sucking pig! You son of a motherless goat!” – Lucky Day

When I was a kid, I probably saw this movie two dozen times between renting it and seeing it on HBO. It featured three of the funniest guys of the era (and ever, really), it was a bizarre concept but it also had action and heroism. When my mum brought back sombreros from a Mexican cruise, my cousins and I used to play “Three Amigos” in the backyard.

Now after exposing my absolute dorkiness in the ’80s, I still really enjoy this movie and kind of wish that stuff like this could still be made. Hopefully, Hollywood’s pendulum swings back towards sanity and fun in the near future.

Anyway, the story sees three singing cowboy actors from the earliest era of film getting called down to Mexico because they’re mistaken for their characters. The Mexican village is under the threat of a warlord and the people summoned the Three Amigos for protection. However, the actors have just been fired by the studio after a box office failure and are under the assumption that their trip to Mexico is an acting gig. Once there, they slowly figure out what’s happening, want to flee but then rise to the occasion and help the village free themselves from tyranny.

The best part about the film is that the three comedians have incredible chemistry. While all three very easily could’ve succumbed to their own egos and desire to be the movie’s one true star, they gel as an ensemble in a way that is similar to the casts of Ghostbusters and Tropic Thunder. While I’ve heard for years that Chevy Chase was a hard guy to work with, if that was true on this picture, it didn’t effect the final product.

Overall, this is a lighthearted, fun movie. The action is great for a comedic picture and I think the action really made this a much cooler film, especially for those of us who grew up with this.

Looking at it through a modern lens, the film serves as a reminder that we could have entertaining, mindless escapism and not feel guilty about it. Three Amigos! was (and is) a movie that just wanted to entertain its audience and make them not think about the world and its problems for 104 minutes. I wish Hollywood would tell stories like this again and just lay off of their political/social agendas from the point-of-view of a fantasy land that’s the furthest place away from reality.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Thrashin’ (1986)

Release Date: May 11th, 1986 (Cannes)
Directed by: David Winters
Written by: Paul Brown, Alan Sacks
Music by: Barry Goldberg
Cast: Josh Brolin, Robert Rusler, Pamela Gidley, Chuck McCann, Brooke McCarter, Josh Richman, Brett Marx, David Wagner, Tony Alva, Mark Munski, Sherilyn Fenn, Rocky Giordani, Steve Whittaker, Per Welinder

Winters Hollywood Entertainment Holdings, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Thrashin’, it’s just an aggressive style of skating.” – Corey Webster

Whenever I watch this movie, I wonder if Josh Brolin still has his skateboarding skills. While I know that he didn’t do the hardest stuff in the film, the shots that do prove its him doing some of the moves are pretty good. He had to get more than just the basics down and the same goes for the rest of the core cast, who are actors and not competitive skaters.

I used to watch this movie a lot, alongside Rad, when I was elementary school age. My cousin was a competitive skater, BMXer and later, wakeboarder. He never got famous and he’s a doctor now but because of him, I grew up around these things. Sure, I attempted all of the above but I sucked at it and excelled more at martial arts, football and basketball.

Anyway, I probably haven’t seen this in a decade, the last time I had a working VCR. I’ve never owned the DVD or Blu-ray, assuming one exists, and only caught it this time around because it popped up on Prime.

Revisiting this was a lot of fun and I realized that it’s a much better movie than I realized. Sure, it’s chock full of ’80s cheese and clichés but that’s not a bad thing and it just enriches the world that these kids live in.

This also reminded me about how I used to think of this as a movie adaptation of the classic video game Skate or Die! While it isn’t that game brought to life, it kind of feels like it aesthetically and thematically. Hell, there’s even “Skate or Die” spray-painted on surfaces in multiple locations in this movie.

Also, a lot of the competitions in this feel like they were from the game. Specifically the jousting event, which sees the two skater rivals almost try and kill each other in skateboard combat.

For his age, Brolin was really outstanding and showed signs of the great actor he would become.

I also liked newcomer Pamela Gidley in this, a lot. She’d be in a few notable films over her career but ultimately, she didn’t reach the level I had hoped she would when I first saw her in this and felt my heart crushing hard.

Robert Rusler made a pretty convincing villain but even though he’s a very dangerous prick throughout the story, you can never really hate him because there’s still a good guy buried beneath the surface. His character sort of reminds me of the way I always saw Johnny in The Karate Kid. Sure, he’s an absolute asshole but you know there is some shit buried deep within him and when he meets his match, he is able to show respect to the dork that beat him.

I think that the action and the skating sequences in this are better than what one might expect going into this movie. This isn’t some dumb skater movie, there is a lot of heart in the picture and the stunts and tricks are top notch.

Additionally, I love the soundtrack but I was also a child of this era and a sucker for nostalgia.

Thrashin’ is one of those movies that may seem lost to time but for those of us who remember it, it’s still an enjoyable experience all these years later. It’s also one of the best movies of its type.

Rating: 7.5/10

Documentary Review: The British Bulldogs (1986)

Release Date: October 15th, 1986 (video)
Directed by: Vince McMahon
Written by: Steven B. Hecht, Vince McMahon
Cast: “Dynamite Kid” Tommy Billington, Davey Boy Smith, Lou Albano, Bret Hart, The Iron Sheik, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, various

World Wrestling Federation, Coliseum Video, 90 Minutes

Review:

I stumbled upon this on Peacock in the documentary section of their WWE content. I was pretty stoked to watch it, as The British Bulldogs were one of my all-time favorite tag teams and seeing a then-WWF documentary from 1986 seemed pretty cool.

Well, it’s not a documentary. While WWE become known for making great historical wrestling documentaries about past talent, this was produced before that era and thus, it’s a collection of Bulldogs matches with a few other segments mixed in.

This was still really neat to watch, though, as these guys were just solid f’n workers in the ring and they had an intensity that was kind of unmatched in the era until their greatest rivals came along, The Hart Foundation.

The content here is all enjoyable but it doesn’t feature their best stuff. This came out in the middle of their historic run, so WWF only had the first half of that run to pick matches from. There are some memorable matches thrown on this like their feud with The Dream Team (Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Brutus Beefcake before he was “The Barber”).

Half of this is singles matches, though. And that’s fine, as both the Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy can work on their own. However, I was hoping for a lot of their iconic tag team championship matches. I was also hoping for a lot more of their feud with The Hart Foundation but this came out when that feud was really getting started.

Still, if you also love The Bulldogs, this is definitely worth checking out to see them win those titles and to see them both wrestle in their primes.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China (complete title)
Release Date: July 2nd, 1986
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Gary Goldman, David Z. Weinstein, W. D. Richter
Music by: John Carpenter, Alan Howarth
Cast: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong, Kate Burton, Donald Li, Carter Wong, Peter Kwong, James Pax, Suzee Pai, Chao-Li Chi, Jeff Imada, Al Leong, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, James Lew

TAFT Entertainment Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Sooner or later I rub everybody the wrong way.” – Jack Burton

There are very few films I watched more than Big Trouble In Little China once it was out on VHS and I rented it to dub a copy. New release VHS tapes were like $99 back then and I was still way too young to get a real job.

Anyway, I fucking loved this movie when I was a kid and it was really my introduction to John Carpenter. His films before this one were all hard Rs and things like The Thing and Prince of Darkness would’ve given me nightmares for months. Yeah, I loved horror by this point but Carpenter’s hardest films were still way too hard for my 8 year-old brain.

I really loved this because of Kurt Russell. I can’t say that this was my introduction to him but this is probably the first film that made me know who he was.

Beyond Russell, I just loved the giant martial arts battle in the alley and found myself completely in love with this movie as soon as the three elemental dudes showed up along with the evil wizard Lo Pan. That whole sequence and its special effects blew my mind.

By this point, I’ve seen this movie dozens of times. However, it’s been at least five-to-ten years. I’ve felt the itch to revisit it for awhile now and I had to wedge it into my schedule.

I still love this movie. It’s action packed, has a great adventure, cool fantasy and horror shit, a very charismatic lead and it’s a hell of a lot more fun than anything Hollywood puts out today.

I actually enjoy Kurt Russell’s Jack Burton even more now. I think that’s because he’s heroic as hell but he really is this bumbling idiot that fucks up more than he actually does badass things. As a kid it was all just for a laugh but as an adult, I see that he wants to be that heroic guy but he gets in his own way. However, when it really comes to pulling off the big win, the dude succeeds and wins the day… and the girl. Well, until he gets in his own way again.

All the core characters in this movie are great from the heroes-to-the villains and even those with small one-scene roles are pretty memorable.

Back in the day, I loved all the monsters in this movie and seeing them all these years later, they’ve held up well. While Carpenter was working with a fairly decent budget on this movie, there were still limitations. In spite of that, the practical effects still look superb and the not-so-practical ones still pass the test.

Big Trouble In Little China is a movie that has a little bit of all the things I was into when it came out. While my tastes have evolved, these are still things I enjoy.

There are very few movies that are as fun as this one.

Rating: 8.25/10

Film Review: Spookies (1986)

Also known as: Twisted Souls, Goblin (working titles)
Release Date: March, 1986 (Paris Festival of Fantastic Films)
Directed by: Brendan Faulkner, Thomas Doran, Eugenie Joseph
Written by: Thomas Doran, Brendan Faulkner, Frank Farel, Ann Burgund
Music by: James Calabrese, Kenneth Higgins
Cast: Felix Ward, Dan Scott, Alec Nemser, Maria Pechukas, Charlotte Alexandra (as Charlotte Seeley)

Twisted Souls Inc., Miggles Corporation N.V., Safir Films, 85 Minutes

Review:

“Uuuuuuhh, look at me: I’m Duke, the horny ghost.” – Duke

Spookies is a pretty awful movie. However, it’s one of those awful movies that is so crazy and ridiculous that it’s hard not to love if you’re into premium schlock. Especially, of the ’80s, no budget, horror variety.

The film features two different casts and frankly, two different stories. The movies are then edited together as one film and nothing makes much sense. Who’s the real villain? What’s really going on? How many types of creatures and monsters are they going to throw at the audience? This is a clusterfuck of biblical proportions but still, it’s an entertaining, lovable clusterfuck.

The special effects are pretty damn bad but they’re still kind of a visual treat in their awfulness.

The thing is, I still applaud the effort by the filmmakers as they employed a lot of practical, physical effects and there are just a ton of different creatures and deformed people wearing everything from mud-man zombie suits to spider-lady prosthetics and makeup.

Additionally, this is one of those movies where it appears like everyone is having a blast making this thing.

Still, the acting is pretty close to atrocious and not much makes any sort of real sense.

As a film, it’s certainly way below average but its creativity and heart really gives it a few extra points in my book.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s haunted house movies.

Film Review: Battle For the Lost Planet (1986)

Also known as: Galaxy (original title), Galaxy Destroyer (Spain, Germany)
Release Date: January 1st, 1986
Directed by: Brett Piper
Written by: Brett Piper
Music by: Zon Vern Pyles
Cast: Matt Mitler, Denise Coward, Joe Gentissi, Bill MacGlaughlin, Helene MIchele Martin

Horror Enterprises, 91 Minutes, 101 Minutes (Blu-ray cut)

Review:

“You wrecked my goddamn car and you killed my freaking broad!” – Mad Dog Kelly

This is another movie that I needed to clean out of my queue, as it’s languished there for a few years now. I didn’t have a lot of urge to see it but it was recommended by a friend when we were talking about the countless Mad Max ripoffs during the ’80s.

This is kind of a weird mix of space opera and post-apocalyptic action film with both of those things being done really poorly.

However, it’s also a perfect mix of bad with over-the-top performances that helps make this enjoyable if you’re really into hardcore ’80s sci-fi schlock.

Not much in this movie makes sense and it’s poorly edited. For instance, there’s a scene where the main dude is working out on his spaceship and there’s food fragments splashed all over the white walls behind him. Then in the following scene, we see him throw the food against the wall.

The plot starts with the main dude evading capture and stealing a spaceship from an Earth military base. Once in space, the planet is decimated by a massive alien attack. The main dude then floats through space for five years until he can return. Once he does, he has to fight of mutant humans, pig-faced aliens and a gang of Mad Max villain wannabes. Luckily, the leader of the gang, an obvious NYC Italian named Mad Dog, decides to help the hero take down the pig aliens.

The special effects are stupendously bad. Even for the absolute lack of budget this film had, they’re really bad. At the same time, the effects give this movie an otherworldly and bizarre look that works for me. It won’t work for most people but I do enjoy seeing what filmmakers can come up with with little to no resources and no CGI to fall back on.

For the average Joe, this movie is absolute crap. For the schlock aficionado, there’s a lot of stuff here to appreciate.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other extremely low budget, straight-to-VHS ’80s sci-fi films.

Film Review: Body Slam (1986)

Release Date: November 21st, 1986 (limited)
Directed by: Hal Needham
Written by: Shel Lytton, Steve Burkow
Music by: John D’Andrea, Michael Lloyd
Cast: Dirk Benedict, Tanya Roberts, Roddy Piper, Lou Albano, Barry Gordon, Charles Nelson Reilly, Billy Barty, John Astin, Sam Fatu, Sydney Lassick, Afa Anoai, Sika Anoai, Kellie Martin, Sione Vailahi, Tijoe Khan, Freddie Blassie, Ric Flair, Bruno Sammartino

Musifilm Productions, Hemdale Film Corporation, 89 Minutes

Review:

It amazes me that I never saw this movie as a kid and I didn’t even know of its existence until I heard someone talking about the wrestler cameos on a wrestling podcast I regularly listen to.

I guess I have to assume that this wasn’t on the shelves in the dozens of mom and pop video stores I spent time in during my childhood. I mean, there’s no way I would’ve overlooked it back then.

The film stars Dirk Benedict, a guy I loved from one of my favorite shows at the time, The A-Team. It also stars one of my favorite wrestlers, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, as well as a slew of other WWF wrestlers from the time. Plus, it also has a few cameos from a bunch of wrestling legends.

Beyond that, you’ve got Tanya Roberts, who I have been crushing on ever since The Beastmaster, as well as Charles Nelson Reilly, John Astin, Billy Barty, Kellie Martin and an underappreciated character actor I’ve always enjoyed, Sydney Lassick.

So the cast is pretty good or at least, interesting. However, the story has a weaker foundation than a house of sticks in a flood zone. For the most part, everything in this movie just feels kind of random and not much makes sense.

That being said, I still enjoy some sequences in the film but most of those usually just deal with the wrestlers I grew up loving, playing versions of themselves doing wonky ass shit.

After getting to the end of the movie, I wasn’t really sure what the point of it was. It seems like it was a tailor made picture just to include the very charismatic Piper and his wrestling buds and really, there’s nothing else here.

That’s not to say I didn’t like Dirk Benedict. He was fine with what he had to work with but I do feel like he was wasted in this and it could’ve possibly torpedoed any real attempt at a movie career after The A-Team.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other goofy B-movies from the ’80s. Also, anything starring ’80s wrestlers.

Film Review: Rad (1986)

Also known as: Hell Track (Philippines English title, Australia), BMX Hellriders (Finland)
Release Date: March 21st, 1986 (limited)
Directed by: Hal Needham
Written by: Geoffrey Edwards, Sam Bernard
Music by: James Di Pasquale
Cast: Bill Allen, Lori Loughlin, Talia Shire, Ray Walston, Jack Weston, Bart Conner

TaliaFilm II Productions, TriStar Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“God, what I wouldn’t give to go ass-sliding with you right now.” – Cru

This was a VHS box cover that I used to see all the time in mom and pop video shops when I was a kid. I always thought it was probably a cool flick but I always passed it up for ninja movies, horror and action flicks from Cannon. I had priorities back then.

So I just watched this for the first time and I had no idea that it actually had some people of note in it like Talia Shire, Ray Walston and Lori Loughlin.

Beyond that, it mostly stars young actors and kids, as the story revolves around a teen that is trying to win a major BMX race, it’s hefty prize and the respect of his town, mother and BMX rivals.

It’s also a movie with a pretty solid ’80s pop tunes soundtrack. While that was pretty common back then, the music really fit the scenes well in this. I listened through the soundtrack after watching the movie and it’s probably one of the best assembled for its time.

Another surprise about the film is that I had no idea that Hal Needham directed it. For those that don’t know, he’s one of Burt Reynolds’ best buds and directed him in Smokey and the Bandit and its first sequel, as well as Hooper, The Cannonball Run I and II, Stroker Ace and Hard Time: Hostage Hotel.

All that being said, this is still pretty mediocre, as a total package. The film is enjoyable but you’ve probably really got to have deep nostalgia for ’80s teen movies, as well as “extreme” sports like BMX racing.

The action stuff is pretty well done but Needham spent a big part of his career filming great car stunts, chases and races. Here, he takes that same formula and just translates it to BMX bikes.

I definitely can’t call this a classic but it fits well with similar films of the time that involved BMX kids and skaters.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other BMX, Skating and surfing movies of the ’80s.