When it comes to cinematic decades no ten year bracket is more spurned than the nineteen-eighties. The fashions, the music, the shoulders pads, the everyone-for-themselves attitude; Hollywood dove headlong in to it all. The lasting impression gives high brow movie auteurs the vapours, lofty offerings such as Raging Bull (1980) Das Boot (1981), Amadeus (1984), Ran (1985), Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (1988)
, and Glory (1989)
lost amongst the decade that taste forgot. The problem retrospectively is that the eighties films that pulled in the real box office dollars were so of their time. Take popular movies from the nineties, seventies or sixties and they still stand up well today. Jurassic Park (1993), Forrest Gump (1994), Rocky (1976), Jaws (1973), Funny Girl (1968) Cool Hand Luke (1967), The Sound of Music (1965)
all films that, apart from the obvious technological advances, can be removed from the period in which they were made and enjoyed in the present without a whiff of over ripeness. The films that ruled the eighties though, for the most part, are entirely of their time. But whilst that occasionally makes for some rough viewing, a willingness to accept the idioms of the decade allows for some fantastic film fun. Those brash eighties films that gave two fingers to the judgment of Hollywood history and wallowed in their eighties-isms like a bath full of Soda-Stream are entertainment in their purest form. They may have aged like a tin of tuna in the midday sun but if eighties cinema was all about having fun, utilising the zeitgeists of the time to appeal to the lowest and therefore most profitable common denominators, than the following movies would have been invited to the hippest, coolest, all night party of the decade.
- FOOTLOOSE (1984)
There was a steadfast, two-fold recipe for concocting a successful film in the nineteen eighties. First and foremost you had to have a young star that could rock a tight pair of Levis and sport a haircut the size of a small caravan without keeling over. The more crutch hugging the jeans and the more ozone-layer depleting the lacquered do were, the better. Second, you had to have a theme song for your film that you better hope and pray would be as successful, if not more so, than your actual movie. Top ten singles equalled box office moolah in the decade of eight. This magical mixture really came to the fore in 1983 when Flashdance (1983) rocked theatres thanks to a mixture of feel good story telling and the captivating sounds of Irene Carr and Michael Sembello. After this hit formula rang dollar signs in Hollywood exec’s eyes, your film was nowhere near ready to be set free unless it had at least one song crammed in to its running time that showcased the mountainous talent of Roxette, Harold Faltermeyer, Kenny Loggins, or Giorgio Moroder. Footloose plonked Herbert Ross behind the camera, stuffed Kevin Bacon in the aforementioned strides and roped in Beardy Loggins for one of the catchiest movie theme songs ever unleashed upon man. The story was hoary; new kid moves to deeply religious town where rock music is banned and seeks to set the town’s deeply deprived residents free with the use of his "loose feet”. Hammy it may be but you’ll be helpless to resist cutting your own moves on the living room Axminster by the time the final dance numbers arrive. Of course, you might just think Bacon was being a disobedient little shit and should have respected his elders and kept his dancing to himself. Or just taken a leaf out of Kenny’s book. If Loggins himself had moved there he would have simply completed his Chuck Norris transformation and blown seven shades of shit out of John Lithgow’s stuffy town Reverend with a Stratocaster shaped machine gun. He would have also taken said machine gun to the god awful 2011 remake.
Tasty Morsel – The film is loosely based on a story from 1978 where a little town in Oklahoma had banned dancing for ninety odd years until a group of high school kids contested and over-turned the rule.
- THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985)
When movie fans born after 1990 scour the annals of Hollywood history for some past glory they usually stumble past the mid-eighties era with one burning question on their mind; who the hell were the "Brat Pack”? For the uninitiated the "Pack” were a group of highly talented young actors and actresses who were set to light up the film world like a Chinese new year, burning a path through the movie making establishment leaving in their wake a trail of discarded Oscar and Bafta statuettes. Or so a 1985 New York Magazine article prophesized. From such a glowing report you would have thought this gathering of raw talent would have included a young Brad Pitt, a baby faced Di Caprio, or maybe even the party-clown king Hugh Jackman. But the article didn’t even manage to highlight Johnny Depp’s turn in A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984). Instead this Hollywood conquering crew included such heavyweights as Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, and Molly Ringwald, and the film that threw the biggest number of Packers in front of the camera in one go was The Breakfast Club (1985). We meet five high school students from every end of the social hierarchy who have to spend their Saturday at school in detention. Much piss taking, trick pulling and unlikely bonding takes place before class is dismissed. The characters are two dimensional archetypes with backgrounds and personalities everyone will recognise from their own time in education. Indeed, we’re probably all meant to identify with one of the breakfasters, though god help me if I wandered through secondary education being this much of a cardboard cut-out. Still, its undeniably entertaining to watch the group needle the decades most onerous assistant principal Mr Vernon (the superb Paul Gleason). Couple all of this with the obligatory theme song, the rather tasty Don’t You Forget About Me from Simple Minds, and you have the Harrods stilton of eighties cheese. But what happened to the Brat Packers? There were two notable escapees, serial Kutcher botherer Demi Moore and Emilio "I’m not a Sheen” Estevez. The rest of them ended up living in Electric Dreams, which is located on the outskirts of Cleveland somewhere.
Tasty Morsel – Nicholas Cage was original lined up to play the role of John Bender, until it became apparent that the studio wouldn’t be able to afford his salary.
- THE GOONIES (1985)
If you don't like The Goonies (1985) you're dead inside. Stone cold, departed, no more, brown bread, worm food, under the hill. The Goonies is so likeable you could have been recently diagnosed with the world’s most ferocious penis depleting disease and all would be right with the world again after you viewed it. The story, though written by Chris Columbus, has all the hallmarks of a Spielberg kids classic having stemmed from a story idea the director had in the early eighties. We follow a group of kids as they search for long-lost pirate treasure in a bid to save their home community from being turned into a golf course. Goonies virgins probably read up to the point "group of kids…” and stopped there; we all know that films which utilise a group of wee ones as its central characters are, ninety percent of the time, complete shite. Children, especially those with parents that push them in front of film cameras, are among the world’s most annoying entities. But The Goonies is the exception to the rule featuring as it does a group of child actors who combine to create a charismatic whole the likes of which we rarely see on the big screen. Central to the group is a very young Sean Astin, a good few years off from his Peter Jackson directed ring fiddling. He is aided by a not so young Josh Brolin, child supremo and eighties mainstay Corey Feldman, and the effortlessly cool Short Round himself, Jonathon Ke Quan. The group’s antics invoke fond memories of one’s own childhood adventures, although admittedly most of us lived these escapades in our own imagination or at the bottom of the garden with that space behind the tool-shed doubling as a treasure filled, pirate infested cave. The Goonies also know how to handle a BMX bike, take the piss out of the fat kid and his truffle shuffling abilities, disobey older folk, all the while living out a quest the likes of which we could only dream of as eight year olds. And all with a troupe of chums you would have loved to have called pals. A crap Cyndi Lauper theme tune and some wonderful villainous turns from Anne Ramsey, Joe Pantoliano, and Robert Davi complete one of the cinematic highlights of the decade.
Tasty Morsel – Eager Star Wars fans need to keep their eyes peeled at the end of the movie to spot a miniature R2-D2 on the deck of the pirate ship as it sails off into the horizon.
- WEIRD SCIENCE (1985)
So what would have happened to the Goonies if they’d have reached adolescence? Weird Science (1985) would have happened, that’s what. This 1985 classic is The Goonies with more tits, more ass and a lot more Bill Paxton and Robert Downey Jnr. Perennial Brat Packer Anthony Michael Hall joins forces with fellow nerd and best friend Ilan Mitchell Smith to put his state of the art computer to good use and utilise its epic power to conjure up the perfect woman. The fact that said computer looks like a poorer, more molested cousin of the early ZX Spectrum makes for one glaring plot hole when the crusty old machine does in fact summon up a real lady-thing for the geeky pair to play with. Those of you that get your kicks from fine-tooth-combing a movie for minor continuity errors are warned that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to story logic issues. Weird Science has the sort of plot chasms that could quite easily swallow your sofa, your living room and your entire house if you think about them too much. But the free wheeling plot is pulled along wonderfully by the boy’s computer output in the shapely form of Kelly LeBrock. Its a crime against humanity that Ms. LeBrock disappeared from cinema screens after her turn as the computer created Lisa, being as she was the hottest thing to emerge from eighties cinema since Daryl Hannah washed up on a beach. LeBrock was Angeline Jolie back when Jolie was a teenage, angst ridden thorn in Jon Voight’s ass, and as the shapely Lisa she makes all of Hall and Smith’s adolescent dreams come true (all within the boundaries of a family-friendly film obviously), taking them to the hippest bars in town and throwing them the party of all parties, complete with extras from the cast of Mad Max II (1981) and a couple of actual girlfriends. Its the sort of Saturday night you wished you had as a fifteen year old. A television show based on the film ran for eighty eight episodes in 1994, with Vanessa Angel, star of Kingpin (1996), in the role of Lisa.
Tasty Morsel – When it came time for Anthony Michael Hall’s character to pucker up with Kelly LeBrock, Hall didn’t realise that the code for on-screen kissing meant no tongues allowed, much to LeBrock’s surprise.
- BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)
What a year 1985 was in the history of cinema. Robert Zemeckis added his pet-project Back to the Future (1985) to the already bulging bag of cinematic delights in July of ’85, though it was a venture that took more than a few twists and turns on its way to the big screen. The spark of inspiration for Back to the Future’s time altering storyline came to Zemeckis in the late seventies when he stumbled across his father’s high school yearbook and wondered what it would been like to have been mates with his old man back in the day. Numerous story rewrites later and the script had been rejected by every major studio in Hollywood. Aligning himself with Steven Spielberg helped the cause and with the success of such teen friendly fare as Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982) the script was eventually picked up by Universal Pictures. Casting was the next hurdle to overcome. Michael J. Fox was the first choice for the lead character Marty McFly. But with Fox tied up, so to speak, with the sitcom Family Ties, filming began with Eric Stolz in the role instead. Four weeks into the production however Zemeckis decided that Stolz was playing McFly far too seriously and decided to begin filming all over again once Fox became available. This added $3million to the $14million budget and more than a few grey hairs to the heads of various Universal Picture executives. The big-wigs breathed a sigh of relief when the movie was one of the biggest hits of the year thanks to its clever storyline, iconic moments, and the strong rapport between Fox and Christopher Lloyd as the zany Doc Brown. Fox became an icon for the decade starring in other typically eighties themed fare such as Teen Wolf (1985) and The Secret of My Succe$s (1987). Parts two and three of the Back to the Future franchise followed in 1989 and 1990 respectively, and kept the laughs and story twists coming.
Tasty Morsel – Watch out for a brief cameo from Huey Lewis (the man behind the film’s rocking theme song The Power of Love) as one of the high school band judges who dismisses McFly’s raucous guitar playing.
- BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986)
Chances are if John Carpenter was making a film in the eighties Kurt Russell would be in it. After the success of Escape From New York (1981) and The Thing (1982) the duo decided to hook up once again for Big Trouble In Little China (1986), the story of the mysterious, Eastern tinged underworld of San Francisco and one evil sorcerers quest for a green-eyed bride. Unfortunately for Carpenter it was not a case of third time’s a charm and the movie tanked at the box office. The director’s career hit the skids whilst Russell’s continued its steady climb to Hollywood icon status. The movie’s failure is a bit of a mystery considering its easy mix of humour and action. It has tongue placed firmly in cheek, more than aware of its B-movie standing and revelling in the absurdity of the story it weaves. Russell is at the peak of his roguish anti-hero powers as the incongruous Jack Burton, the sort of man whose usefulness in a crisis is around the chocolate ashtray mark. But what he lacks in dexterity he makes up for in cracking one liners, "If we’re not back by dawn, call the President”. Coupled with Kim Cattrall as the feisty Gracie Law, showing signs of Samantha Jones eleven years before she started dropping thongs all over Manhattan, and Dennis Dun on fine form as the straight-man Wang Chi and there’s heaps of fun to be had from this guilty pleasure. A lot more fun than would have been had if Carpenter had actually gotten one of the two actors he originally pursued for the role of Burton, Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson.
Tasty Morsel – The film was originally conceived as a Western, but Carpenter decided to re-set the film in a modern location.
- FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (1986)
Wafer thin plot alert. The title of this 1986 movie tells you everything you need to know about this rich slice of eighties cheddar; its all about one kids fun filled day bunking off of school. Any day I spent bunking off of school was spent pretending to be ill whilst convincing my mother that sitting in front of Predator (1987) for the two hundredth time would cure me of all my ills. Ferris on the other hand manages to stumble into a string of scrapes and misdemeanours that even a Ketamine infused scriptwriter drowning in caffeine would have struggled to concoct. A film centred around the best day of school bunking in history does throw up one bump in the road. Matthew Broderick as the titular Ferris comes across as a smug git, getting away with it all. Thankfully Ferris is surrounded by even more obnoxious adults throughout the picture, all seeking to put pay to his day of frolicking and hijinks. That having been said when you consider the long list of names that were considered for the role (Jim Carrey, Johnny Depp, John Cusack, Robert Downey Jr, Tom Cruise, Michael J. Fox) one wonders just how splendid the movie would have been had the casting director chosen another Ferris. Mustn’t grumble though as the Ferris we got dances a merry jig through all sorts of unlikely mayhem alongside his wonderfully pessimistic best friend Cameron. It all culminates in the trashing of Cameron’s father’s prized Ferrari 250 GT California when Ferris inadvertently kicks it out of the garage window. It is a moment of cringe worthy comeuppance that is well worth the wait. All this teenage themed debauchery was directed by the decades most profitable helmer, filmmaker John Hughes, a man who utilised the cinematic obsessions of the decade to really clean house. In his jack of all trades role as director, producer, writer, you can also thank him for such offerings as Sixteen Candles (1984), Weird Science (1985), The Breakfast Club (1985), Pretty In Pink (1986), Planes Trains & Automobiles (1987) and Uncle Buck (1989).
Tasty Morsel – Actor Alan Ruck was actually twenty-nine years old when he played the role of Cameron, Ferris’ high school buddy.
- TOP GUN (1986)
Eighties cinema carried the unmistakable whiff of testosterone, the ripped muscle movies of Schwarzenegger and Stallone running away with millions in box office takings. Smaller guys had just as much success to. Tom Cruise had already set out his stall as the go-to-guy for male fuelled movie antics with All The Right Moves (1983) and Risky Business (1983). Then in 1986 he bludgeoned audiences with a film so manly, so overtly eighties, it took the Cruiser another decade plus to shake off its influence. The spark that eventually became Tony Scott’s Top Gun (1986) was an article in the May 1983 issue of California magazine called "Top Guns” which detailed America’s top fighter pilots and their lifestyle in "Fightertown USA”, Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego. The combination of aerial shots of fighter jets and sunglass sporting pilots was too much for action maestros Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson too resist, and they immediately put screenwriters to work on a script. The movie struck a chord with American audiences who, with the Cold War still bubbling away, weren’t beyond militaristic sabre rattling just yet (Oliver Stone would put pay to that six months later with Platoon (1986)). The Soviets were MIG piloting bastards with faceless black helmets, while the US boys were shiny toothed Lotharios who were unmatched when it came to aerial fisticuffs. Macho it certainly was, perhaps a little too much; the film quickly gained a cult following amongst the gay community. Offers to be wingmen, oily shirtless beach volleyball games, too much lingering in steamy changing rooms, its impossible to think Scott, Cruise and the rest of the production didn’t realise what they were putting together. You half expect Cruise’s love interest Kelly McGillis to whip out a cruise missile of her own before the final scene. What also stands out twenty seven years on is just how obnoxious Cruise’s Peter "Maverick” Mitchell and his fellow pilots are. His pursuit of McGillis is chauvinistic and toe-curling, horrid one liners and arrogance almost trampling his status as the hero of the piece. Its testament to Cruise’s acting ability that he still has you cheering for him despite a cliché ridden script that does him no favours. The real stars of the show though remain the fabulous aerial photography that captured all the energy and style of F-14 fighter jets doing their thing, and a soundtrack that featured fist pumping anthems Dangerzone from that man Loggins, Mighty Wings from Cheap Trick, and that all conquering power ballad from Berlin.
Tasty Morsel – Despite Tony Scott’s untimely death, talk of a sequel still abounds. Both Cruise and fellow joystick jockey Val Kilmer have confirmed their interest in reprising their roles, with Bruckheimer also keen to return to aerial action.
- ROAD HOUSE (1989)
When it came to filling the aforementioned Levis of eighties cinema no man filled them quite so comfortably and with as much panache as Patrick Wayne Swayze. Having already secured top level status as the ladies cinematic pin-up of the decade thanks to the roaring success of his Johnny Castle portrayal in Dirty Dancing (1987), Swayze attempted to gain the male vote to. His apparatus was the hard-as-nails, cool-as-ice role of nightclub "Cooler” Dalton in Rowdy Herrington’s Road House (1989). Despite the name the part didn’t involve the impossible feat of Swayze containing bottles of beer and alcopops within his person behind the bar, rather it saw him become the head-bouncer of all head bouncers, a man you called when all other avenues of taming an unruly bar had been exhausted. Yup, if your club or bar was a shithole, Dalton would be your man. Hell, if he was still in business he could make a killing working the British Isles today. And if you think Swayze’s pretty boy looks and wild, unkempt hair made him an unlikely bouncer, think again. Swayze kicked so much ass during the movie the entire production crew were unable to sit down for a month. And Herrington gave Swayze some real nasty villains to sort out at the films titular Road House. They are the sort of guys that rightly deserve a round house kick to the chops, and a round house kick to the chops they get. But just when you think this movie couldn't get anymore adept at dishing out the throw-downs, in limps Sam Elliott to up the anti with his badass moustache, gravel-gargling voice and quietly powerful ability to whoop ass. It's a manly double team that is simply irresistible. That is until the evil Wesley, the overlord of Jasper, Missouri in which the Double Deuce Bar is located, upsets the apple cart and forces Swayze to undertake a final swathe of ultimate fist swinging. There’s the obligatory eighties soft focus sex scene in the middle of all the fisticuffs, featuring the delectable Kelly Lynch. But no matter what your level of heterosexuality, its Swayze’s sweaty beat-downs that will live on in the memory.
Tasty Morsel – Swayze’s loving song of choice is clearly Otis Redding’s These Arms of Mine, as not only is it playing when he woos Kelly Lynch during Road House but it is also playing when he bumps uglies with Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing (1987).
- BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989)
Barmy story ideas seemed to be all the rage throughout the eighties. Filmmakers didn’t need to worry about logic or common sense, provided the plot participants were having a good time. You might shake your head at the looseness of it all, but it did lead to a strange sense of freedom in movie making for a while where all sorts of unlikely films were bankrolled. One of the more bizarre offerings arrived late in the decade after a drawn-out gestation period. Stephen Herek’s Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) completed filming in 1987 but when the movie’s distributor De Laurentiis Entertainment Group went bust a trail of legal wrangling had to be negotiated before it saw the light of day. But in February 1989 Ted Theodore Logan and Bill S. Preston Esquire finally had their day in the sun. In 2688 the world is at peace, a utopian existence reigning across the planet thanks to the teachings and inspiration of the Two Great Ones. This pair happen to be a couple California slackers called Bill and Ted, whose lifestyle of choice involves a lot of chilling and the occasional musical interlude in their budding two man rock group The Wyld Stallyns. To ensure the lads stay on the right path Rufus is chosen to travel back in time to help them pass their school history class. To do this the duo decide to travel back in time themselves to round up as many bodacious historical figures as they can, Beethoven, Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc and the like. What stood Herek’s central pair out was a thoroughly likeable sensibility steaming from Bill and Ted’s complete naivety no matter what situation they find themselves in, "Send them to the iron maiden....cool!". They can’t spell pessimism and have no idea what it means or how to be it. Their other standout quality was their penchant for "Valley Speak”, a new slang brewed up by mall inhabiting teens in the San Fernando Valley during the eighties; the world was about to get its first taste of "no way, yes way”, "to the max”, "most excellent” and other soon to be annoying phrases that would infiltrate playgrounds, workplaces and everything in between. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter deserve credit for making two airheaded dunces solid enough to base a whole movie around. They made such a good job of it that an equally madcap sequel Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) followed two years later. An animated television show was produced by CBS in 1990, while Fox produced seven episodes on a live action show with Evan Richards and Christopher Kennedy filling in for Winter and Reeves.
Tasty Morsel – A third film remains in the pipeline, with a working script decided upon, and Reeves and Winter keen to reprise their roles. Only the studio MGM have yet to sign off on the project.