Pictures Home Entertainment has gone into the vaults and produced a series
of DVDs under the “I Love the 80s” banner.
These movies are now available on DVD and most (if not all) appear to be the
same film to video transfers on prior DVD releases. The difference is that
select titles include a CD sampler of 1980s music by Echo & the Bunnymen,
Erasure, INXS and a-ha. Oddly, some of the DVDs contain the same exact CD.
It would’ve been a better deal had the DVDs contained different CD samplers,
but it’s not a deal breaker if you already enjoy the movies.
Most of these titles have been popular video releases for
. Though not all could be deemed as classic
movies, some are perennial favorites in my home and perhaps yours.
This is the one that launched the producing team of Simpson/Bruckheimer on
the world. It also caused millions of young women to cut up their
sweatshirts and wear leg warmers over pants. And it’s the film that put
Irene Cara’s song “What A Feelin’” all over the radio. Believe me children,
spring 1983 wasn’t for the faint of heart.
The Jennifer Beals welder-by-day, sexy club dancer-by-night movie, based on
a script by Joel Eszterhas & Thomas Hedley, Jr., was a sensation.
Essentially taking the idea of a dreamer living in the real rough world, and
taking her to the top, is the same plot as Paramount
other hit, “Saturday Night Fever” (1977).
Director Adrian Lyne, who would direct the far more superior “Fatal
Attraction,” is more in tune with directing a visual style than directing a
good movie. He favored zoom lenses on many of the scenes and roving
camerawork, lending the movie a distant feeling. The acting is okay and fits
in with the shallow script. I know a lot of girls in my junior high school
loved this movie, and many probably asked their parents for the VHS copy of
The movie was totally meant for the early MTV generation with flashy
camerawork, minimal storyline, smoky atmospheres, and quick editing (for the
era). There were some complaints from old time dancers like Gene Kelly who
didn’t care for the performer’s dance routine. Looking back on “Flashdance,”
it’s a little hard seeing what Kelly saw. In many of his movies, most dance
routines were done in full shot and done by the actor’s themselves. The
takes were usually longer to allow the audience to see the dancing.
Much of Jennifer Beals’s dances were clearly done by a body double.
Just look at that wig! The editing cuts between her real face, possibly her
feet, and the body double’s dance moves. It’s movie trickery which had been
around since Gene Kelly’s day. Yet I can see what Mr. Kelly was upset about.
It was better and more authentic to see real actors dance, and see how they
The movie is really mostly flash and dance with very little substance. A
couple of the songs still hold up reasonably well. Michael Sembelo’s
“Maniac” and “What A Feeling” by Irene Cara are guilty pleasures. As a
whole, “Flashdance” is only mediocre.
CHONG: STILL SMOKIN’ (1983)
Cheech & Chong certainly appealed to the 13 year-old in me growing up. One
of my favorite albums was “Cheech & Chong’s Greatest Hit.” I got a lot of
laughs out of that. I’m not sure they quite appeal to the adult in me, even
though I now understand the drug and adult references.
“Still Smokin” is steeped in the late-70s, even though it was released in
1983. The plot takes Cheech & Chong to Amsterdam
where they partake in that city’s loose drug and sex laws. The film is
entirely bawdy and sometimes offensive, and that’s not a bad thing.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find the movie all that funny. Many of the jokes
fall flat and occasionally drag.
Both Cheech and Chong were great comedians, but this film doesn’t quite live
up to their best material. There’s not much of a plot and most of the movie
is based on skits, or their stand-up routine filmed in front of a live
TOP SECRET! (1984)
When “Top Secret!” came out in 1984, it was greeted with indifference by
audiences and critics. Coming from the creators of “Airplane!” and the too
quickly cancelled “Police Squad!” it seemed like this spoof on spy movies
would clean up at the box office. Instead, it flopped and crawled onto home
video. Which is a stinkin’ shame! This has been one of my all-time guilty
pleasure movies, and it deserves to be on the shelf next to the other
The film, I think, failed with audiences because its plot is purposely all
over the map. It combines Elvis movies, surf movies, bumbling neo-Nazis,
James Bond, westerns, “The Great Escape,” a Pinto car, butchering of the
French language, East German women, jokes about small horses, and cows who
wear boots into one movie. How can that not be funny? David & Jerry Zucker,
and Jim Abrahams were brilliant comic writers and directors and they knew
how to make jokes work. It’s too bad the film was lost on audiences.
I’m not sure how the film has done on video since the 1980s, but
has consistently re-released it. I imagine it’s got a following. I know I
still laugh pretty hard when the opening sequence starts with the music,
Val Kilmer, who drifted into serious roles since then, is truly a gifted
comic performer in “Top Secret!” He plays the role seriously enough, but
lets his guard down often during the movie to show us he’s having a great
The movie is absurdly funny. Mike Myers cleaned up at the box office with
his spy spoofs in “Austin Powers.” But “Top Secret!” beat it to the punch
and it holds up very well today.
COMING TO AMERICA (1988)
Most of my peers during high school and long after graduation loved Eddie
Murphy. Their dads had bootleg video copies of his raunchy stand-up act, and
they could recite his jokes verbatim. Always the outcast, I didn’t care much
for Murphy and his act. I mean, he was all right funny, but not “ha ha”
funny to me. I thought his vulgarity and over confident personality got in
the way of some of his jokes. I’m sure he meant it that way. That’s not to
say he wasn’t talented. He was and still is talented when he chooses a good
role. His act just wasn’t my cup of tea.
After his stint on “Saturday Night Live” and starring roles in “48 Hours”
and “Beverly Hills Cop,” Murphy was the toast of the movie business. He
could pick any role, including one in “The Golden Child,” and still make
people buy movie tickets.
By 1988, I’d been tired of the whole Eddie Murphy act, especially after
seeing “Beverly Hills Cop II.” Once “Coming to
” came out, I had no desire to see
it. It seemed like everyone else liked Eddie Murphy movies, that didn’t mean
I had to.
I had only seen bits-and-pieces of the movie over the years. The opening of
the movie in Africa
is what I predicted; slow and
filled with vulgar Eddie Murphy humor. Typical Murphy, I said to myself. I
finally sat down and watched it all the way through, and admittedly, saw the
charm in “Coming to America
Art Buchwald not withstanding, the plot about an African prince who desires
to find a bride in America
works. Both Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall play multiple roles and do a
credible job. Some of the jokes are a little offensive, but Murphy was very
sly in the stereotypes he ridiculed.
The movie is also fairly sweet like a modern day fairy tale, only this time,
it’s the prince who finds his true love. I think the movie could have worked
as a PG or PG-13 movie. The vulgarity and occasional sex jokes take away
from the genuine romantic plot.
The film was directed by John Landis.
THE NAKED GUN: FROM THE FILES OF POLICE SQUAD! (1988)
The first real date my wife and I went on when were single was to see “The
Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!” I had fond memories of the much
too short-lived television series from the creators of “Airplane!” The
movie, I thought, would be funny. Very, very funny.
The movie was indeed hilarious, and laughed so hard that tears came out. I
looked over to my date, not thinking she’d eventually become my wife, and
wondered why she wasn’t laughing. The whole audience that night was in
stitches, as was I. She wasn’t batting an eyelash. No snicker. No “ha-ha.”
Nothin.’ I wondered what was wrong with her.
out of the theater and I asked why she didn’t laugh.
“That was stupid,” she said.
Stupid? The whole theater was busting a gut.
“I don’t understand why you didn’t like it. It was just like ‘Airplane!” I
“I hated ‘Airplane!”
Clearly our tastes in movies were different. Her favorite movie at that
time, she told me, was a clunker called “Two Moon Junction.” Not that “The
Naked Gun” was an artistic statement, but come on!
Despite my future wife’s disdain for the movie, and the fact that O.J.
Simpson is in it, I love this movie. As “Top Gun!” was a spoof to all
things, “The Naked Gun” focused on the absurd drama of television cop shows.
Most of them took themselves much too seriously and became perfect for
Leslie Nielson, as Lt. Frank Drebin, is perfectly cast. With jokes hitting
about every five seconds, Nielson handles them with such a straight face,
one can imagine the cast and crew cracking up after each take. The cast goes
against type with George Kennedy, Priscilla Presley and Ricardo Montaban.
They make for some additional gut-wrenching laughs, as well. And who could
forget Reggie Jackson as a killer? Or the fact that the California Angels
play their game at Dodger Stadium?
A truly inspired classic comedy. How could anyone, including my soon-to-be
wife, not laugh at a line like, “Nice beaver?”
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © Paramount Pictures. All