Film Review: Spaceballs (1987)

Also known as: Planet Moron (working title), Spaceballs: The Video (video box title), Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs (Germany)
Release Date: June 24th, 1987
Directed by: Mel Brooks
Written by: Mel Brooks, Ronny Graham, Thomas Meehan
Music by: John Morris
Cast: Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, George Wyner, Joan Rivers (voice), Michael Winslow, John Hurt (cameo), Jim J. Bullock, Ronny Graham, Leslie Bevis, Rudy De Luca, Dom DeLuise (voice), Stephen Tobolowsky, Robert Prescott, Rick Ducommun, Tim Russ, Tony Cox

Brooksfilms, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 96 Minutes

Review:

“What’s the matter, Colonel Sandurz? Chicken?” – Dark Helmet

I’ve been on a Mel Brooks kick, as of late. I’ve also been irritated with modern Star Wars shit. So I figured I’d go back and revisit Spaceballs, as it is a much better Star Wars movie than anything we’ve gotten in the last few years.

Well, it isn’t really a Star Wars film, it is a parody of the Original Trilogy, as well as some other sci-fi franchises like Star TrekAliens and Planet of the Apes, but it feels more consistent with the things I love about Star Wars than anything Disney has done, except for Rogue One.

Mel Brooks was the master of parody and he arguably lost his touch after this film but he was still on his A-game when he crafted this.

The thing that this film really has going for it is the cast. Brooks was perfect as always but it was cool seeing him ham it up with Rick Moranis and the inclusion of John Candy was great. Bill Pullman really stood front and center and carried the picture on his back. And that’s not to take anything away from the comedic actors, again, they were superb. Pullman had a certain panache and command of the screen when he was center stage and he’s really the star of the picture.

I also liked Daphne Zuniga as the princess and Joan Rivers as the voice of her robot sidekick, essentially a female C-3PO. You also have a lot of cameos and small parts for other well-known comedians and Brooks regulars, all of whom leave their mark.

This movie is hysterical if you love Brooks, Candy and Moranis. It’s certainly ’80s mainstream humor and it does feel a bit dated but it is a comedy classic in the same vein and style of Brooks’ Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.

Plus, if you are a fan of the massive sci-fi franchises of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, then you’ll enjoy this even more.

This is a solid example of how to do a parody film, which in this day and age, seems like a lost art.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The original Star Wars trilogy, as well as the Mel Brooks classics: Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.

Film Review: The Initiation (1984)

Release Date: December 7th, 1984
Directed by: Larry Stewart, Peter Crane (uncredited/fired)
Written by: Charles Pratt Jr.
Music by: Gabriel Black, Lance Ong
Cast: Daphne Zuniga, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, James Read, Marilyn Kagan, Hunter Tylo

Georgian Bay Productions, Initiation Associates, New World Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“Well, the nightmare ends with this stranger coming in and fighting with my father. And the strange man ends up catching on fire and burning to death. It’s always the same; the last image is of his whole body engulfed in flames.” – Kelly Fairchild, “That’s beautiful. You’ve got all the classic symbols there; mom, dad, fire, strange men…” – Peter

The Initiation was better film in my memory than it was revisiting it for the first time in a couple of decades. It’s one of those great midnight movies I loved watching as a kid in the ’80s and I sort of had a thing for Daphne Zuniga when I first saw her in Spaceballs, a few years after this came out.

The coolest thing about this movie is the setting in the second half. While this is really a typical slasher with some mystery and a twist, the plot is pretty pedestrian and the twist isn’t shocking in the least. Still, the finale is kind of neat and pretty fun.

The setting is supposed to be inside of a large department store but the script was written and the filmmakers couldn’t find a suitable department store in the Dallas area to shoot. So they actually shot this in the massive and tomb-like Dallas Market Center. It doesn’t look anything like a department store but it houses hundreds of showrooms for anything and everything you could possibly throw money away on. It’s also fifteen stories tall and looks like the interior of a modern pyramid hollowed out and adorned with all the flags in the world. The corridors look more like a corporate office building with windows full of consumer goods. It really is a strange and unique setting and I’ve always wanted to see this place in person. Sadly, it’s not open to the public.

The film’s plot surrounds a sorority. The pledges are forced to sneak into a department store after hours to steal a security guard’s uniform. Kelly’s (Zuniga) father has keys to the store so she takes them and plans on just stealing a uniform from the inventory of spare ones. The queen bitch of the sorority has her own plans and sneaks in with some frat bros to scare the pledges on their mission. Of course, there is a slasher on the loose and people get murdered.

I liked that Zuniga’s parents were played by veterans Vera Miles and Clu Gulager, as it added a sense of legitimacy to this canned slasher picture. Vera Miles did some strange movies in the ’80s and Gulager would do just about anything thrown his way, which is why I’ve always loved and respected the guy.

As an ’80s slasher picture, I’d say this is a hair bit above average but it isn’t anything special once you take away the unique location. It has a lot in common with The Dorm That Dripped Blood, which also had Zuniga in it. But college based slasher pictures were a dime a dozen circa 1984. In fact, it feels like there was probably a new slasher movie every week in the mid ’80s, as I never seem like I’ve run out of ones to watch and still discover new ones all the time. But it was the peak of the genre and this film was just capitalizing off of the trend.

I still really like The Initiation but it isn’t a film that I want to revisit too often, unless I’m having a marathon or trying to pair up a few movies for a get-together.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Chopping MallThe Dorm That Dripped BloodFinal ExamThe MutilatorGraduation DayThe Prowler and Night School.

Film Review: ‘The Fly’ Remake Film Series (1986-1989)

This weekend I had some free time, I decided to spend it re-watching the 80s remakes of The Fly film series. While I love the originals, the remakes are much darker, a lot less cheesy (well, mostly) and pretty terrifying. Let me get into each film on its own.

The Fly (1986):

Release Date: August 15th, 1986
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by: Charles Edward Pogue, David Cronenberg
Based on: The Fly by George Langelaan
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz

Brooksfilms, SLM Production Group, 20th Century Fox, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Yeah, I build bodies. I take them apart, and put them back together again.” – Seth Brundle

Let me start by saying that 1986’s The Fly is my favorite Jeff Goldblum film after his small part in Life Aquatic.. and his big roles in the Jurassic Park and Independence Day films. It is also my second favorite film directed by David Cronenberg: Videodrome being the first.

The film succeeds in every way, in that it creates a sense of dread unlike almost anything else seen at the time, other than other Cronenberg films.

Cronenberg was the master of “body horror” – frightening films that toy with the viewers mind by showing disturbing and grotesque changes happening to the human body. He succeeded with this formula in Videodrome, Scanners and The Brood but this film really ups the ante and brings his series of bodily horror films full circle.

The special effects are amazing for being done on a pretty modest budget but then again, this was the magic of practical effects in the 1980s: before studios relied too heavily on CGI, regardless if its quality.

The acting is great and the dynamic between Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum transcends the screen, which may be due to the fact that they were on the verge of getting married in real life, which they did, after this film. It is this dynamic that really makes this film and Jeff Goldblum owns the role of tragic scientist Seth Brundle.

The story, the action and the whole visual feel of this film makes it nearly perfect. It is a real treat for a special effects junkie and is one of the greatest horror films of its era, if not all-time. There is little to nothing in the modern era’s horror genre that can come close to matching this film.

The Fly II (1989):

Release Date: February 10th, 1989
Directed by: Chris Walas
Written by: Mick Garris, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat, Frank Darabont
Based on: The Fly by George Langelaan
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Eric Stoltz, Daphne Zuniga, Lee Richardson, Harley Cross, John Getz

Brooksfilms, 20th Century Fox, 105 Minutes

Review:

“You can finish your Father’s work. You’re just as brilliant as he was, perhaps even more so.” – Anton Bartok

This film gets a pretty bad rap.

No, it isn’t as good as the film it followed but for the time and as its own thing, it is still pretty good.

Eric Stoltz and Daphne Zuniga might not have had the chemistry of Goldblum and Davis but they had a nice relationship that was believable and they were still characters you cared about it.

Additionally, this film wasn’t just a rehash of the original. There were some new interesting elements that made this stand on its own.

To start, Stoltz was the son of Brundle, who at five-years-old, had grown to the size of someone in their early twenties. He was infected with the fly DNA of his father and was thus, raised in seclusion by the evil corporation that funded his father’s projects in the first film.

One thing leads to another, Stoltz becomes the new fly creature and chaos ensues.

The Fly gets a lot more screen time in this film and the special effects are still pretty outstanding and practical. The scene of the security guard’s face melting off as he screams is still stellar by today’s standards. The creature effects are well done and the horrific look of the final monster in the film is still stomach-churning, 25-plus years later.

The Fly II is not the great film that The Fly is and it fails when compared to it. As its own film, it is still a mark above the standard horror fare of the day, despite the 4.9 on IMdB and the 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.