by Joel G. Robertson
1984. Also known as the year that made this series of posts TOO DAMN HARD to put together. Why? Well, I suppose that this year marks the moment I became a true film fan. It’s the year I have the most collective memories about; especially when it comes to going to the movies. Be sure to let us all know in the comments section what your must see movies are from 1984!
Ghostbusters, Gremlins, The Last Starfighter, The Karate Kid, Cloak and Dagger, and so many other great flicks I remember seeing on the big screen. I wanted to add almost every stinkin’ movie released in ’84 to my list of “must see movies”. Alas, that isn’t option… So, with Big Brother watching, let’s take a trek back to 1984…
C.H.U.D. – Dir. Douglas Cheek; Starring John Heard, Daniel Stern, and Kim Griest. When people start to disappear in New York city, a cop, a reporter, and his girlfriend join forces with a homeless man to determine the cause… a race of mutated, cannibalistic vagrants living in the sewers.
Is it cheesy? Yes, at times, but C.H.U.D. is a creature feature worth remembering. Now, ’84 is the same year that gave us A Nightmare on Elm Street (which I almost went with as it’s by far the BEST horror film from that year), Children of the Corn, Gremlins (yes, Virginia, that is a horror movie and my personal favorite), Supergirl, and Firestarter. However, I’d say C.H.U.D. is the least remembered flick out of that class and really deserves another look. With a stellar cast and tight, low-budget storytelling, C.H.U.D. is actually a decent little horror flick with a great premise and some suspenseful moments.
Movie Trivia: Early appearance of John Goodman, who plays a cop eating in a Diner; The 1988 sequel C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. starred Brian Robbins, who played cool kid Eric in Head of the Class and went onto direct movies Varsity Blues and Meet Dave (oh, the horror… the horror…).
This Is Spinal Tap – Dir. Rob Reiner; Starring Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Rob Reiner. A documentarian films the world’s “loudest” rock band while they are on tour and falling apart.
This Is Spinal Tap Trailer
This Is Spinal Tap is the granddaddy of the modern mockumentary (of course, Triumph of the Will being the original). This movie gets funnier every time I see it; although, when it comes to these types of films, I’m not sure whether I prefer this one or Best in Show more. Best in Show does have the Parker Posey factor going for it…
Movie Trivia: This film was the feature-directorial debut of Rob Reiner; Actor Harry Shearer performs several voices on The Simpsons, including Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, Kent Brockman, and many others (he holds the record, having done 21 character voices on the show); Actor Christopher Guest (who’s gone on to be a mockumentary master, directing films like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show) is married to Jaimie Lee Curtis.
Night of the Comet – Dir. Thom Eberhardt; Starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran, Mary Woronov, and Geoffrey Lewis. Two valley girl sisters must survive an apocalypse brought about by a comet, all while fighting zombies and all manner of assorted creepos.
Night of the Comet Trailer
Damn, this movie is cool.
Definitely one of my favorite films from this year (along with Gremlins and Ghostbusters) and one of my top movies of all time. It oozes the 1980s out of every pore. Both leads, Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney, are beautiful, tough-as-Aquanet-mall-bangs, and the supporting cast is top notch.
Director Thom Eberhardt (who also made another great forgotten flick, The Night Before, starring Keanu Reeves and Lori Loughlin) strikes a perfect balance, giving us characters we truly care about, and never losing us despite the absurdity of the premise.
Oh, and I defy you to tell me exactly what it “type” of movie Night of the Comet is…
Is it horror? Yes, it has zombies. Comedy? You betcha! With lines like “Daddy would have gotten us Uzis” and “I’m not crazy… I just don’t give a f#@&!” you just know it’s funny. And action? It’s got that in spades. What about sci-fi? Hello! It’s called Night of the Comet, for DMK’s sake!
Or is it a brilliant satire about the commercially-driven excesses of the 80s and the isolation many felt as a result?
Who cares? All you need to know is that it’s friggin’ awesome!
Movie Trivia: The original title was Teenage Mutant Horror Comet Zombies; actresses Kelli Maroney and Mary Woronov also appeared in Chopping Mall (1986); Catherine Mary Stewart played Alex Rogan’s (Lance Guest) love interest, Maggie, in The Last Starfighter (see Family section below). [all trivia for this film gathered from the awesome fan site NightOfTheComet.Info, The Ultimate Night of the Comet Fan Site!]
Blood Simple – Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen; Starring M. Emmett Walsh, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, and John Getz. A bar owner suspects his wife is having an affair with one of his bartenders, so he hires a private detective to kill them.
Blood Simple Trailer
A tight, suspenseful southern-noir thriller filled with the visual flourishes (see the “light through bullet holes” scene) and great details that would become a staple of so many of the Coen brothers’ future films. It’s also interesting to note the visual influence of Sam Raimi on the Coens in this picture, specifically. Movie Trivia: Directorial debut of the Coen brothers and future director Barry Sonnenfeld’s (Addams Family, Men in Black) first major film as a cinematographer. It’s also the feature debut of Frances McDormand, who married director Joel Coen soon after making this film.
Cloak and Dagger – Dir. Richard Franklin; Starring Henry Thomas and Dabney Coleman. A boy (Thomas) with an over-active imagination finds himself battling spies and secret agents who are after a government secret hidden inside a video game.
Cloak and Dagger Trailer
Henry Thomas was only a couple years removed from E.T. when he made this Cold War-era thriller. I made it my action pick because out of all the movies released in 1984, I think it holds up the best. Even the video game scenes and mid-80s technology have a retro-cool vibe. (Okay. Okay. So, the video game based on the movie is uber-lame. But it was lame even in 1984.) But it’s the story itself that really works and Thomas’s character, Davey, really has a strong character arc where he goes from an immature boy with an overactive imagination to a young man forced to deal with issues of life and death. There’s also a fascinating psychological component involving David’s father and Jack Flack (David’s imaginary friend/hero), and the way David views them, and thus, himself.
Movie Trivia: Director Richard Franklin directed Psycho 2 and actors John McIntire and Jeanette Nolan appeared in the original Psycho (although Nolan never actually appeared on screen since she was the voice of Mother).
The Last Starfighter – Dir. Nick Castle; Starring Lance Guest, Catherine Mary Stuart, and Robert Preston. A trailer park living teen finds himself transported to another world where he must defend the galaxy from a rogue, alien uprising.
The Last Starfighter Trailer
The Last Starfighter still holds up as a fun, rollicking adventure. I think many an 80s kid secretly wished they could locate one of those Starfighter arcade games and get really, really good, nay, great at it! Why? Because then Centauri would show up in his Delorean wannbe (or was it Centauri’s car that the DeLorean wanted to be?) and whisk you off to the outer reaches of the galaxy so you could battle Xur and the Ro-Dan Armada. I’m looking forward to sharing it with my own kids in the not-too-distant future…
Movie Trivia: Director Nick Castle, who went to film school with John Carpenter, played Michael Myers in the original Halloween (1978); Actor Lance Guest starred in Halloween 2; The Last Starfighter was one of the first films (along with TRON) to use extensive CGI.
Well, we’re now in the middle of that late, great decade, the 1980s, and next up is the pivotal year… 1985. The year that gave us Back to the Future, Cocoon, Goonies, Rocky 4, The Color Purple, Witness, The Breakfast Club, et al., none of which will be on the next list of movies you must see. Why? Because it’s obvious these are must sees. So, next week, we’ll focus on the 6 forgotten movies you must see. And if they aren’t completely forgotten by the main stream, they are, at the very least, in danger of it.
Movie Trivia Challenge Winner
@Peter_Nielsen was the first to send in ALL five answers correctly! Congratulations Peter! Of course, along with Peter, everyone who turned in a correct answer gets entered into the next prize drawing that takes place in March, 2011. Be sure to send in your guesses every week! So, until next time, remember, a flick is only forgotten if you’re not talking about it!
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