It was with some trepidation I re-viewed ‘Bagdad Cafe’ again since first seeing it shortly after it was released in Australia. Produced in 1987, directed by resolutely independent filmmaker, Percy Adlon, it was a hit with audiences – and with me – back then, and I was concerned the freshness may have faded in the intervening years. I need not have worried.
Adlon was a German filmmaker (I guess he’s still a German filmmaker – but since ‘Bagdad Cafe’ he has been based in California), with European sensibilities, making a movie set at a truckstop cafe/motel in the Mojave desert on route 66.
A tourist couple from Bavaria are driving through the desert. (Spoiler alert for the rest of this paragraph – not much of a spoiler as it happens only a few minutes in.) Their marriage is unravelling. When the Mrs – Jasmin Munchgstettner, played by Marianne Sagebrecht – decides enough is enough, leaving the car and her husband, we see her pulling a wheelie suitcase along the desert road, wearing a woollen suit, Bavarian feathered hat, and heels. She is strikingly out of place here.
We find our way to the Bagdad Cafe, peopled by a motley cast of characters, including the owner of the place, Brenda (played by CCH Pounder), whose hostility appears impenetrable.
Neither Jasmin nor Brenda have ever met anyone like the other before, so each is alien and unknown to the other – the ample, white Bavarian with the coiffed hair and the wild-haired, angry, black roadhouse owner.
Jack Palance plays Rudi Cox, formerly from Hollywood and ‘the pictures’ – adorned in a variety of headbands and a rainbow assortment of wide-sleeved satin shirts, living in a caravan onsite. Palance brings compassion and tenderness to this role.
Adlon reveals the humanity of characters that, in other hands, may have appeared only as superficial stereotypes. These are people not of the mainstream; on the borders of the current of life. We feel them battling anger and loneliness, quietly yearning for human warmth and understanding in the desolation of the desert. There is also delight in the humour Adlon weaves through the film; humour not at the expense of his characters but which provides insight into them.
And for me one of the great joys in this film is the delicious Marianne Sagebrecht, who plays the central role with depth, compassion and sparkle. It is marvellous to see a large woman express herself as sexy and playful. Still, after all these years, very rare on screen.
This is a film of gentle surprises and surprising gentleness (despite a few cheesy moments).
Percy Adlon’s method is beautifully described on his website, where he quotes from a letter he wrote to a German film student:
“I never forced my filmmaking but made the necessary decisions step by step when they were needed – a beautiful and exciting and not always successful procedure.
“Style was always very important to me. A lead color for an entire film. A sparse environment. A limited space. One song. No real score. Just the separate instrumental tracks of the song. A lot of original sounds. Not too much dialogue. No violence. Praise of woman. A mood between tears and laughter. Others later called it my ‘poetic realism’. Light and color, motion and calm, emotion, surprise, hope, joy, being touched, fulfillment, images that doesn’t have to be explained. This is what’s important for my films. Some conflict, some suspense. But just very carefully used like some spice that should never overpower the more subtle flavors.”
Adlon trivia: Percy Adlon’s grandfather, Lorenz Adlon, developed the Adlon Hotel in Berlin – where Greta Garbo uttered the famous line: ‘I want to be alone’ in the film ‘Grand Hotel’. It also has the room from which Michael Jackson showed his son, Blanket, to fans by dangling him over a balcony.
“Hey you! Square eyes! You got any idea what’s goin’ on inside TV?”
Watch ‘Inside TV’, an Australian media mashup from 1984, that John Jacobs crash edited on a pair of back-to-back domestic VHS decks.John Jacobs spent much of the 1980s entangled in a deep love-hate abusive relationship with television. It involved many late nights of taping and cutting up TV on a then newfangled gadget: the VCR. Not having any other outlet for the resulting videos, they were distributed by dubbing them back onto the ends of hire video tapes (an amusement at the time and now a snapshot of bad hairdos and silly game shows).
“Awwww… Isn’t Gizmo cuuuuuuuute! Oh, he’s so gorgeous, I want one, I want one!”… or words to that effect. Gizmo was the poster boy (or girl maybe, that was never entirely clear, but given that they reproduce asexually, it’s hardly relevant) for adorable little furry things that you just wanted to take home and snuggle. But watch out! If you don’t read the instructions (and/or abide by them) it’s going to get VERY messy! We’re talking about 15 hours of dismantling the household food processor to clean out the green goo, MESSY.
Gremlins is a morality tale of sorts. Basically it told us that the West is definitely not ready for the mystical spiritualism and discipline of the East. Our lovable protagonist, Billy, provides for his family whilst his scatterbrained, inventor father pushes useless products that might one day be marketed on television between the hours of 2-5am, but back in the 1980s, were merely mocked for being a waste of baby boomers’ disposable income. After hearing the irresistible Mogwai hum a few bars, like a sailor to a siren song, Billy’s dad will not take ‘no’ for an answer when he offers to buy Gizmo as a Christmas present for his son. A basement-bound sage finally relents, however this exchange occurs bound by a strict caveat:
- Never get the Mogwai wet. (It causes them to reproduce asexually.)
- Do not expose the Mogwai to bright light, especially sunlight (it will kill them).
- And absolutely never, EVER, feed them after dark. (If you do this, they will spin a cocoon and undergo a metamorphosis which causes them to become an entirely hostile, antisocial and not at all cute and cuddly monster).
I have to say, that Gremlins was a pretty scary film to see as a 10-year old. Thank goodness my parents never paid attention to ratings and took me to see films like Poltergeist when I was ill-equipped to process them (to this day, I cannot sleep if there is anything resembling a clown in our house), and hence the tense horror scenes in the film were able to be digested. However, it’s nice to see that the racists, classists and random extras (“it’s funny because I don’t know ‘em”) meet an end by the hands of the metamorphosed creatures. Like I was saying, MORALITY TALE!
RIP Corey Haim 23 December 1971 – 10 March 2010
Why is it that we don’t ever hear about the successful child stars? Or is it that we just forget where they came from as they feed the wallets of Hollywood big wigs? After all, Leonardo Di Caprio is a child star graduate – remember him as the last gasp of breath ‘Growing Pains’ took when it became clear that it was just too creepy to pimp a 22-year old Kirk Cameron out to teenage girls? It’s easy to forget that Kirsten Dunst and Jodie Foster are former child stars too, since their records are unblemished.
But gossip columns love a good cliché and relentlessly cover the life of some poor schmuck that feeds the stereotype of child actors meeting with tragic ends, very often by their own hand. It’s not that difficult to understand how the stresses of worldwide stardom can have a detrimental effect on anyone, let alone a child. Somehow the normal rules of childhood no longer apply once you have a best selling film under your belt at age 6, as Drew Barrymore colourfully demonstrated throughout the 1980s.
Losing Corey Haim is sad, and call me cynical if you will, I have a terrible feeling that there are people employed by world wide media conglomerates whose sole job it is to write obituaries for ‘at risk’ personalities whilst they’re still alive so that they can be uploaded whilst the body is still warm and the news has filtered out of the Emergency room. Stars, however far they may have fallen, are front page news once they’re not around to stand up for themselves, not that they even need to, because once rigamortis sets in, suddenly everyone has a sycophantic Tweet and a personal anecdote to propel their own stardom further. Since The Haimster’s demise, I’ve noticed Todd Bridges getting a few more column inches. I’m just saying, is all…
Corey Haim’s death is heartbreaking, as heartbreaking as the loss of any 38-year old is. The difference is that his death and the painful lead up to it, was public. Even more demoralising is the timing. Had it happened only 2 or 3 days earlier, he would have made it to the most prominent position on the ‘Oscars Montage of Death’, usurping Patrick Swayze from the top spot. As they say in Hollywood, you’re only as good as your last film and there was no chance Haim’s family would be collecting a posthumous Oscar for his role in 2009’s American Sunset.
What is saddest of all is that Corey just didn’t leave on a high note. Plagued by drug addiction since allegedly being introduced to marijuana on filmsets around the time his career was taking off, Haim’s momentum of stardom gradually petered out as the 80s wrapped up. How ironic that as the decade the VCR emerged and came to an end, Haim went all post-modern on us and started to make films that went straight-to-video.The Lost Boys was the film that brought together Coreys Feldman and Haim. The concept of the ‘Two Coreys’ was a symbiotic, synergistic and, some would say, co-enabling relationship. This was ‘bromance’ decades before we’d even coined the term. This formula told us that 2 x Corey ≠ Corey2, equalled some incredible megaforce that made us all think that they made scores of films together. To be honest though, they really only made three of note and merit (The Lost Boys, Licence to Drive and Dream a Little Dream) with a handful of others that never made it to mainstream consciousness, plus some cameos in the likes of ‘Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star’ where they obviously take a dig at themselves. There was, of course, the (ahem) reality show, ‘The Two Coreys’ which only lasted two seasons because fellow recovering addict Feldman allegedly couldn’t handle Haim’s drug use and brought it to an end in 2008.
Whilst watching a tribute to Haim on The Daily 10, Catt Sandler described him as “THE Rob Pattinson of HIS day”. Clearly an attempt by a girl too young to know what she was talking about to give today’s teens and tweens some sort of context of the magnitude of Haim’s stardom. After all, had Haim died in the 80s, he would have been revered the same way River Phoenix is. Who is to say that Phoenix, who died of a recreational drug overdose publicly on the front steps of The Viper Room in the early 90s, wouldn’t have gone down the same road as Haim?
But let us focus on the good times. I don’t want to keep harping on about it, but ‘The Lost Boys’ was a defining film for Gen X. Sure, kids today have ‘Twilight’, but ‘The Lost Boys’ was marketed to teenage boys and girls differently. For the blokes, with the exception of the uber-hot Jamie Gertz, it was pretty much the appeal of a teen-focused action/horror flick on motorbikes. But for the young girls…where does one start? Not since the 1983 spunkfest that was ‘The Outsiders’ had heterosexual teenage girls had such a smorgasbord of hot young Hollywood hunks to feast upon.
A much maligned silent star of the film was Haim’s wardrobe. Whilst we all idolised him onscreen as Sam Emerson, the upbeat, wise-cracking younger brother of Jason Patric’s moody Michael, I just know that if a guy had rocked up to a party wearing anything like Corey’s knee-length, festively-printed shirts in the late 80s he would have been the subject of ridicule that would no doubt have scarred him for life. Somehow though, the Haimster had the charisma to get away with it, the male equivalent of being able to wear a Hessian sack and still look amazing.
Vampire films have traditionally been allegories for repressed sexuality and adolescents struggling with the trials of puberty. Whilst ‘The Lost Boys’ doesn’t dismiss this entirely, it addresses other relevant and timeless issues such as peer pressure, assimilation and non-conformist ideas of the concept of ‘family’.
The Lost Boys was very much a film of its time and by that I mean, you had to be there, you had to see it when it was relevant. If you were to watch it for the first time today, it might look as dated as a 60s Hammer Horror vampire film did back in 1987. It captured bad hair (when is the flat-top going to make a revival?), bad fashion, bad sax solos and just a hint of watered down Goth-pop culture and somehow turned it into a late 80s zeitgeist, forever remembered by children and teens of the 80s. We can only hope that as time passes, the image of the bloated, incoherent former child star Corey Haim fades away and the magnetic, self assured on-screen embodiment of Sam Emerson endures.
Thanks for the memories, Corey!
Directed by Herbert Ross
Starring Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Chris Penn and Sarah Jessica Parker
“Kick off your Sunday shoes!”
So there are these teenagers in an isolated rural town in middle America. They go to school and they go to church. They drink on the sly, smoke dope, have part time jobs at the local flour mill, drive their cars too fast, and play “chicken” with tractors. But they’re not allowed to listen to rock ’n’ roll, and they’re not allowed to dance. Seems the town elders believe that rock ’n’ roll music leads to the moral corruption of the youth. Enter our hero, Ren MacCormack (played by a very young Kevin Bacon), newly arrived from the big city of Chicago, who makes it his mission to bring music and dancing, in the form of a senior prom, to the town. He’s going to make some enemies, win over some friends, challenge some authority and get the girl along the way. Luckily this movie isn’t relying solely on this cute but predictable storyline. This movie is all about the dancing.
Remember the scene with Kevin Bacon dancing out his frustration at being labeled the trouble-making-new-kid-in-town in the empty warehouse? The way he dances around the hood of his beaten up VW beetle, drinks that bottle of beer and smokes that cigarette, perfectly capturing teenage angst.
Remember where he teaches his hick farm boy friend Willard (Chris Penn) to dance? It’s a classic 80s scene, especially the shots of the feet tapping and grooving through the sports field seating.
How about the final party scene at the prom, everybody “cutting loose” on the dance floor, busting out their best moves in the dance floor circle?
While the dancing is the star of this movie, music and fashion give sparkling supporting performances. The soundtrack is one cheesy 80s mainstream feast with a lot of recognisable tracks, most notably “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins and “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” by Deniece Williams, which both reached No1 in the US and received Oscar nominations for Best Music (Original Song). The soundtrack mixes 80s rock songs like “Holding Out for a Hero” (Bonnie Tyler) with some more R’n’B sounding stuff like “Dancing in the Sheets” (Shalimar) and when it went No 1. on the Billboard charts, it knocked off Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Kevin Bacon struts his stuff in a skinny tie, gelled hair and pushed back sleeves. The girls have big hair and little denim shorts, the boys are in cowboy boots, jeans and hats. The 80s style coloured tuxedos and prom dresses in the final scene are priceless.
One of the favourites at slumber parties when I was growing up, “Footloose” is still fun and sexy in a teen kinda way. If you remember it fondly, it won’t disappoint, and if you’re just looking to “cut footloose” then let these dancing teens convince you that dancing is the answer to everything.
When George Lucas and Steven Spielberg decided to resurrect the Indiana Jones series in 2008 after a 19-year hiatus they must have been quietly nervous about how it would be received. There’s no doubt that the original 80s films raised the bar in blockbuster action film-making but could the latest incarnation, ‘Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull’, meet the expectations of current audiences? And how would the older fans relate to an aging superhero who is just a little less sprightly on his feet these days? Sure, Harrison Ford is back in the classic role of Indiana with the trademark fedora hat and bullwhip in hand but the question remains, do we like the old stuff better than the new stuff?
Voting begins now!
Here are some trailers to jog your memory…
Indiana Jones and The Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (1984)
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989)
Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull (2008)
Director John Bradham
Starring Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, John Wood, Ally Sheady, Barry Corbin
“Strange game: the only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?” (WOPR, NASA Super Computer).
You’re a whizz kid that finds school a little dull so after-hours is all about getting kicks out of the opportunities that the latest technology affords. This includes using a fan-dangled contraption, ‘the telephone modem’ to dial-up into secure systems, like the school network for example, and change your grade ‘f’ to a more winning grade ‘c’. How very clever you are. You’ve even managed to avoid being a social leper in the interim as, at least one sexy young female (a wannabe dance aerobics star on TV) finds her way regularly into your den to hang out and marvel at your amazing geek prowess.
What a life you have! Yes, this must be every nerd boy’s dream in the 80s, to be you, David Lightman (Matthew Broderick), star of War Games, a tall tale about a wunderkind who manages to break into NASA’s supercomputer, the WOPR, and lives to tell the tale. But it’s not hard to see why this hit flick held so much appeal. Set in the early 80s as the Cold War was thawing and home computing was engaging more amateur programmers, the context seems ripe for a whimsical story with a moral about nuclear war (i.e it’s a bad thing) and a warning about the dangers of placing too much trust in the security of a network and the flawless operations of a machine, even a really super almost sentient-like one.
Computing power is certainly celebrated in War Games, especially as Lightman gets so much cred from being able to hack in to wherever he likes and the super computing power of the WOPR is exalted, initially at least, as a replacement for human operators. It is explained that in the event of a nuclear attack, the computer is faster and probably just as accurate as the President in making an emergency decision. But what if something goes wrong, as it inevitably always does? In this case, America comes close to the brink of nuclear devastation or World War III, because Lightman is smart enough to figure out the backdoor password but not smart enough to realise that he’s broken into a top-secret war game computer at NASA and is scaring the pants off staff in the process (who aren’t able to confirm whether the incoming missiles from the USSR are real or not). In a desperate stab to prevent nuclear war, Lightman engages the computer in a game of Tic Tac Toe, the point being, that the computer must learn the lesson of futility. But will it learn in time to save the two sides from total devastation? As WOPR cycles through all the possible war scenarios one by one it learns that there can be no real winner, due to mutual assured destruction, and the mission is aborted.
If this film was set in current times, it’s certain that Lightman’s story would appear as the epic feature of the week on FAIL blog and he’d probably be thrown in jail but hey, it’s the 80s and the kid’s got smarts, so he simply gets a fatherly pat on the head from a NASA engineer, a squeeze from his girl, and a good time is had by all.
Treasure hunter/archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford – Star Wars, Blade Runner) sets out with his ex-girlfriend Marion (Karen Allen – Starman, Scrooged), with the help of Sallah (John Rhys-Davies – Lord of the Rings, Ivanhoe) and Indy’s colleague, Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott – A Bridge Too Far, Bangkok Hilton) to find the legendary Lost Ark before the Nazis do. The hunt for the Ark takes Indy through snake pits, traps, the jungles of South America, through the streets of Cairo and a top secret Nazi submarine base.
‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ is the first in the series. The movie was released in 1981 and won five Oscars. The huge success led to three additional Indiana Jones movies; ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ (1984), ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ (1989), and ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ (2008) and a TV show, ‘The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles’ (1992-1996). The movie has inspired many books, comics, video games, building sets by LEGO and action figures. In 1999, Raiders of the Lost Ark was deemed to be of significant cultural and historical value by the US Library of Congress by its selection for preservation in the National Film Registry. Indiana Jones has since become an icon.
The movie heavily influenced the action/adventure genre, which can be seen in several lower quality copies with ‘Romancing the Stone’ (1984), ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ (1985) and ‘The Goonies’ (1985). Although these and several other rip-offs are quite entertaining there can be no comparison to the original ‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark’.
Fantasy was a major film genre from the 80s, with fairy tales out to grab an adult market sick of stars, wars, treks and black holes. Ranging from the Tom Cruise ‘shirt-off’ trash in ‘Legend’, to the dark haunting dystopia of Michelle Pfeiffer and Rutger Hauer in ‘Ladyhawke’ or the hallucinogenic ‘Labyrinth’ with David Bowie chewing the cardboard sets as the prince of the goblins. ‘Hawke the Slayer’ and ‘Kull the Conquerer’ seemed to give any fantasy film with the word ‘the’ in the title a bad reputation. But that was until the high camp antics of ‘The Princess Bride’ took these stereotypes and crushed them together with pirates, sword fights, giants, screaming eels and ‘rodents of unusual size’, otherwise known as ‘ROUS’s’.
With a cast as diverse as Andre the Giant, Billy Crystal, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright Penn and Peter Falk, plus numerous famous character actors hamming gleefully around the fantasy landscape of Guilder and Florin, climbing the ‘cliffs of insanity’ and setting sail with the dread pirate Cummerbund past the fire swamp in search of the six-fingered man, this movie takes nothing seriously.
The sumptuous scenery and complete believability by the actors in what they are doing makes up for the script of silly lines, which includes gems like “do not keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means?” Cary Elwes is dreadfully earnest when he utters lines like, “there are so few perfect breasts in the world … it would be a shame to spoil those”.
The movie has leapt into popular culture in episodes of ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Family Guy’ respectively, and is possibly the most quoted film (after Monty Python) at conventions of gamers and in circles of a certain age reliving their youth…when a problem was only a sword fight or a perfect kiss away.
Ignoring the warning about Camp Crystal Lake’s bloody history, Chris (Dana Kimmel – Lone Wolf McQuade, Days of our Lives) spends a long weekend at Higgins Haven with her boyfriend Rick (Paul Kratka – The Day They Came Back, Illuminated) and some friends. Their idyllic weekend getaway turns into a nightmare, as Jason (Richard Brooker – Deathstalker, Deep Sea Conspiracy) once again lurks in the woods and one by one, teens fall victim to an unstoppable maniac.
Friday the 13th Part III is the third film in the series. The movie was released in 1982 in 3D, intending to reboot 3D movies, which were highly popular during the 1950’s ‘golden era’ of 3D (1952-1955), with movies like ‘House of Wax’ (1953) and ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ (1954).
Part III was the first movie in the series to feature Jason with a hockey mask, which has become his trademark and one of the most recognisable images in popular culture. Although the movies didn’t enjoy critical success, the Friday the 13th franchise is considered one of the most successful in US. Not only for the success of eleven movies to date, but also through novels, comic books and several collectables that followed.
The film left a lasting legacy on the horror genre by opting to not provide any back-stories for the characters who die. Instead it focuses on Jason’s motives, going back to explain his past as a boy who had drowned in the lake due to the carelessness of others. Jason comes back to avenge his death and slaughters innocent teens who visit his lake. Similar motives/themes are seen in movies like ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (1984), ‘Scream’ (1996) and ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ (1997).
Friday the 13th Part III – 3D is definitely the best of the first four movies as it reinvents the franchise and totally solidifies Jason Voorhees as a horror movie icon. It is best watched in its original 3D release, as it has Jason literally jumping out of the screen, scaring the pants off you on a dark, cold and rainy Friday the 13th!