Stories based on Faust are everywhere. When I was in High School, I did an interp piece from “The Devil and Daniel Webster” by Stephen Vincent Benét, it was my first exposure to the story of a man who sells his soul for wealth and fame. Not too much later I saw “The Phantom of the Paradise” a contemporary rock scored film using the same concept. In 1977 there was a short lived TV show called “A Year At the Top” , about two musicians from the hinterlands who sell out to make it big in pop music, and as I remember it, it was a sit-com with music sequences. After the success of the original “Oh God!” with George Burns in the title role from 1977, it was followed by “Oh God!, Book II” in 1980 and then this movie, which finally gets to the Faustian bargain that I was hinting at before.
The original premise of George Burns as God, is twisted around this time so that he has a dual role, and plays God’s opposite for the majority of the picture. Where God had been portrayed as a doddering old guy in a golf cap and jacket in the first films, the Devil, in the form of Harry O. Tophet [HOT], is a slick early hipster in dashing sports coats and tuxedos. He also has a few other distinctive characteristics that will give the movie a little pizazz.
Early in the year, Steve Martin took a swing with the comedy “The Lonely Guy“, and he whiffed it. Lucky for us you are not out after a single strike or we might have been denied the pleasures of this out of body comedy directed by Carl Reiner and again starring Steve Martin. This ninety minute film is not deep, it is not shot in an innovative way, and at times it is a little too silly. It does however contain one of the great performances of the year. A bigger contrast in styles to F. Murray Abraham’s Salierei you are not going to find.
Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin go all in to give us a slapstick comedy with a little bit of heart, but mostly a whole bunch of laughs. It’s Martin’s physical deftness that elevates this movie to the status of one of the winners of 1984.
What is your tolerance level for stupid? Is it higher if you are higher? If your answer to the second question is yes, than this might be a film for you. If stupidity and slap stick are not for you, there is not enough pot in the world to make you want to endure “Cheech and Chongs The Corsican Brothers”.
Having cornered the market on stoner humor films in the late seventies and early eighties, Cheech and Chong stretch out a bit with an historical parody that will never be confused with a Mel Brooks film like “The History of the World Part 1”. There are some funny lines and clever pieces in the movie, but it does not sustain itself and too often drops in crude toilet humor to get to the next scene.
Having recently dismissed another sex comedy that came in the same package as this, I was pleased to find that my memory was correct. “Revenge of the Nerds” is a far superior movie to “Bachelor Party“, and it has a cast of young stars that while they never set the world on fire, continued to work in films and television, making a greater impact than any of Tom Hanks buddies from that monstrosity.
While college fraternity comedies had certainly existed before this film, it is still the template for many fraternity underdog stories. “Monster’s University” should have paid a licensing fee to the creators of “Revenge of the Nerds”. This is a nice story of friendship and acceptance. It has some titillation and a few awkward stereotypes, but in the long haul it means well and it mostly succeeds. Continue reading →
The last couple of weeks in June of 1984 contain three of the worst movies of the year and thus this project. While there are still stinkers ahead, you will not be getting a run down a set of deadly rapids like Rhinestone, Conan the Destroyer, and Bachelor Party again. We will be able to navigate around some of the pitiful films of the year one at a time from here on out. There is however this last obstacle to take care of before we move into more favorable waters. Tom Hanks is lucky he had “Splash” earlier in the year, or his career could have been over with this steaming pile.
Sex comedies were a dime a dozen in the first half of the eighties. Most of them were not any good at all, and those that were usually had the least amount of sex in them. “Bachelor Party” has a great idea for a subject, and then they tossed in the first idea anyone had on the set that day to make the movie. It is hard to believe there was an actual script. Continue reading →
There is a little discrepancy between the Internet Movie Data Base and Box Office Mojo, as to when this film opened. IMDB lists it as June 8, but Box Office Mojo has the first weekend results coming in on June 22. I believe the Mojo has the right date but since I posted my original list based IMDB, I’ll stick to it and put this post up the same weekend that Gremlins and Ghostbusters opened. It was clearly a busy June whatever the actual date was.
If you grew up watching movies in the 1980s, you know the product of the ZAZ cooperative. David and Jerry Zucker and their friend Jim Abrams, wrote, produced, and directed together and separately a bucketload of comedies aimed at the juvenile in all of us. Their first film, “The Kentucky Fried Movie “ was based on their theater college group and was directed by John Landis (It is also the first movie I blogged on for my original movie project). Their follow up was”Airplane!”, pound for pound, the funniest movie ever made. It had more jokes per minute and more of those jokes hit than even a Mel Brooks film. Their films have a lot to laugh about but they suffer from feeling like a parody pastiche rather than being complete stories. “Airplane II: The Sequel” was not their movie. “Top Secret!” was their next film and it had their trademark humor but also an unfocused story that makes it feel like what it really is, a series of sketches Continue reading →
Probably better if this post was written by a woman who was a girl in 1984, instead of an old guy who was already married for four years when this came out. Since it is my blog however, and since I am not a teenage girl, all you are going to get are my perspectives on this sweet teen nightmare/fantasy that started John Hughes off as the guru of teen angst and comedy of the eighties.
First loves and crushed dreams are the subject of this film from the mastermind of John Hughes. Mr. Hughes had written two or three movies before this but this was his directorial debut. Between 1984 and 1986 he wrote five films that dealt with the trauma of being a teenager. He directed four of those himself and all of them have had a lasting impact on a generation of film watchers and film makers. After his sudden and much too early death in 2009, people came out of the woodwork to praise his films and to honor his legacy. Although the movies might be seen as fluff by some, they managed to touch a whole population of kids from this time period in some pretty important ways. This film was the start of that signature sensibility that a decade latched on to.
Four of the top ten box office hits of 1984 opened in the winter or very early spring of that year. That should give you a pretty good idea of how the marketing and release of films has changed. Last year only one film in the top ten opened in March and it just made it in as the number ten film on the list. If you were interested, in 1984, there were good movies opening almost every week. “Romancing the Stone” represents one of those early in the year releases that managed to make an impression and it ran most of the way through the first half of summer.
Basically a remake of “Stripes” with the police in the place of the Army and Steve Guttenberg in the role of Bill Murray. It was a huge success and returned a giant profit on the amount of money they spent to make it. It was the number six film of the year, coming in ahead of both “Splash” and “Footloose”. It was followed up by six sequels and a television series, so clearly there was a market for the sort of humor the movie is based on.
The movie takes advantage of the cast and their talents to get a good amount of laughter out of silly situations and convoluted set ups. The fact that it works most of the time speaks more to the audiences desire to laugh than it does the creativity of the script. There is not a lot to be said about the story but some of the bits are worth mentioning as they are entertaining.
Sometimes memory is cruel to us. We hold onto faults and disappointments rather than the minor little victories and joys that we experience all the time and let slip by. “The Hotel New Hampshire” is one of those brutal memories for me. The film was based on one of my favorite books and it starred a good cast headed by Jodie Foster. My reaction to it at the time was weak and over the years has gotten more antagonistic. The return to the movie for this project was not expected to be a happy one. Imagine my surprise that instead of a malignant tumor of a film, I found a flawed but mostly sincere interpretation of the book that I love.
If you have read any of John Irving’s novels, you know that they are full of prostitutes, wrestling, bears and frequently Vienna. The characters are oddballs and have major sexual hangups of some sort or other. In spite of how off putting some of the characteristics are, Irving usually manages to get us to care for them before he tortures us with their fates. A John Irving story is not going to end on a happy note, although there will be happy moments along the way.