From the pages of our discontinued podcast comes the latest crop of 1985 films. Released on June 7, 1985, one of these films would become a 1980s classic while another would be one of the biggest bombs of the decade. And then we have some sex and violence thrown in too.
So enjoy as we look at THE GOONIES, PERFECT, MARIA’S LOVERS and FUTURE-KILL!
SCOTT’S FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 43
FUTURE-KILL (1985) – In the near future, people are still assholes. At least that seems to be the unintended message here. The film starts out like another frat comedy with some of the most obnoxious, prejudiced, annoying dweebs and dickheads you could imagine. After a few pranks go awry, they are sent to the other side of town to kidnap a “freak.” What this means is that these guys leave their Ivy League school and venture to the urban jungle where the poor and downtrodden live. The “freaks” they describe are groups of anti-nuclear protesters who have taken to dressing up like punks and New Wavers in order to protest the expansion of nuclear proliferation. There are even nuclear power plants and testing facilities right in the middle of the city. They make the mistake of picking the wrong “freak” to abduct. His name is Splatter and unlike the non-violent protesters, Splatter is a murderous, drug-addled, mutated psychopath who kills everyone who gets in his way. After being framed for the murder of the anti-nuke leader, the frat brothers must try to escape the city and get back home in one piece.
One of the first thoughts I had when the podcast was discontinued was, “Jesse and Austin don’t have to watch FUTURE-KILL. Talk about dodging a bullet!” THE WARRIORS, this film ain’t. The film is grimy and ugly-looking. Too bad since this film was shot in and around Austin, TX and is known for reuniting two key cast members from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Edwin Neal, who played the hitchhiker in TCM (“I thought you was in a hurry!”) plays Splatter, obviously designed to be a horror villain along the lines of Freddy or Jason. Marilyn Burns, who was final girl Sally, plays the jaded but honorable former consort of Splatter. Burns is likable enough in a small role. But Neal is strange. Splatter certainly looks cool. But for someone who has a reputation for creating outlandish characters out of nothing at all, Neal seems far too serious and restrained here. He sneers and calls women “bitch” a lot but there’s not a lot that’s interesting about the character beyond his wardrobe.
As for our so-called protagonists in the frat, they are completely unlikable. They label people who are different from them “freaks.” They complain about how poor and dirty the neighborhood is. They shout slurs at people who are doing nothing more threatening than standing around. They treat women like crap, uttering lines like “To hell with the freaks, let’s score some gash.” Worst of all is that several of these people actually start fights with some of the unassuming punks and then start murdering them in cold blood. For this, they suffer no consequences. FUTURE-KILL makes a blatant and half-hearted stab at talking about tolerance and understanding but it almost feels like it’s trying to cover its own ass for making such grotesque people its heroes.
Burns and Neal once starred in a film that asked “Who will survive and what will be left of them?” In this film, I was asking, “When can I see these idiots killed and can it please be slow and painful?” The answer sadly is that very few of these guys get their comeuppance and it isn’t as satisfying as it should be.
Oh yeah, one more thing. This film sports a famous poster by H.R. Giger which is cooler than anything in the film. I even once knew a guy who had the poster as a tattoo. ★ (out of ★★★★)
THE GOONIES (1985) – The houses along the docks of Astoria, nicknamed “the Goondocks,” are set to be demolished to make way for a massive country club expansion. This means splitting up the Goonies, a close-knit group of kids who have come to depend on each other. On the day before the papers are to be signed, they find a treasure map, leading to the treasure of the pirate One-Eyed Willie (Hoping that the audience would be too young to catch this obvious joke name is one of the more subtly perverse things to come from this era of family films). They enter a closed-up restaurant and start searching the massive underground caves for the treasure, running into the murderous Fratelli crime family along the way.
THE GOONIES was a film from Amblin Entertainment. In the 1980s, Steven Speilberg had such a surplus of material he wanted on film and the public had such in insatiable thirst for said material, that he wrote or produced a huge number of films. All of these films, no matter who directed them (in this case, Richard Donner) still felt like they were half from the new director and half from Speilberg himself. 1985 would see a lot of these productions, including BACK TO THE FUTURE, YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES and this film (EXPLORERS was also basically an Amblin film without the Amblin designation).
If you would have asked me about it when I was ten years old, I would have told you that THE GOONIES was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. Many of these films we continue to hold onto and cherish long into our adult years and that’s why a lot of people still regard THE GOONIES as a classic. Watching the film again however, I was really disappointed to see just how badly it has aged over the years.
I know, I feel like a jerk for saying it too. And maybe it isn’t the film itself that has aged, just that my relationship with it has soured over the years. There are films much less beloved by the masses that I continue to love to this day. But the Goonies of the film came of as really aggravating this time around. I remember my friends and I laughing at Chuck whenever he came on the screen in 1985. In 2013, those laughs were replaced by groans. There’s so much screaming and yelling. At one point, Martha Plimpton, the one character who I enjoyed throughout the film says, “I feel like I’m babysitting except I’m not getting paid.” Yes, exactly.
Also, some of the plot points are pretty awful and the Fratellis are less threatening than they were when I was little. Instead, they come off like the bad guys in all those old Disney films from the 1970s.
It’s not all bad though. I don’t dislike this film. Once they get to the pirate ship, it’s pretty exciting. There’s some great callbacks to Hardy Boys-style adventures. And I must give props to come of the cast – particularly Anne Ramsey and Robert Davi. ★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)
MARIA’S LOVERS (1985) – Ivan (John Savage) is coming home after serving in World War II. Right away, it becomes evident that he’s developed some pretty deep emotional scars while away. While he was imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp, he kept his sanity by imagining that he married the love of his life, Maria (Nastassja Kinski). After making it home, he does indeed pursue her,, she confesses her love for him and they do indeed get married. And that’s where the fairy tale ends, because when it comes time to consummate the relationship, Ivan is unable to perform. He has built her up so much in his mind that when he is with her, he finds himself unable to make love to her (Making love to Nastassja Kinski is something that roughly no heterosexual man would ever have difficulty with, but that’s what makes this the movies). As the sexual tension between Ivan and Maria increases, their marriage suffers. Maria becomes more frustrated and concerned about lying to her friends. Ivan shows worse and worse signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, proving that he never really came home in his mind. And then, in comes a guitar-playing Lothario (Keith Carradine) with designs on Maria.
Nastassja Kinski is my absolute favorite actress. She brings the raw art of acting to every role she is given. Unfortunately, people only familiar with her work from the last twenty years don’t know what I’m talking about. No actress is so undervalued today and I’ll be the first to say that she’s made some stinkers. But the point is that she always gives her all, even if the rest can’t reciprocate. Kinski is undoubtedly the best thing here. She is at her best as a Yugoslavian immigrant who grew up in the United States and now finds her own American Dream and storybook romance falling apart. Like many of her other great roles – TESS, PARIS TEXAS, CAT PEOPLE, FARAWAY SO CLOSE, HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE and too many others to mention – she is a shining light here, building her character from the ground up, so that every emotion feels absolutely genuine.
John Savage is another talented actor who doesn’t get his due. I liked him in earlier films like THE DEER HUNTER, THE ONION FIELD and INSIDE MOVES. And he had several other great roles in him at this point. Unfortunately, he seems to have a really hard time with his character. There is a lot of scenery chewing going on and it threatens to wreck the film occasionally
This was the first American film from the great Soviet director, Andrei Konchalovskiy. He made some great films in the USSR, including the epic SIBERIADE. This not only marked his debut in the United States but also his first of four consecutive films for the Cannon Group. And Cannon, in a move unlike them, kept Konchalovskiy honest. His later films would be dramas and thrillers – RUNAWAY TRAIN (to be reviewed later this year), DUET FOR ONE and SHY PEOPLE. After that, some of the films he was placed on felt out of place, but he’s in his element here. I also want to give props to director of photography, Juan Ruiz Anchia, who has lensed a beautiful film here.
Unfortunately, MARIA’S LOVERS is slow going. It starts off good enough, but slips into a malaise that lasts for roughly half the film, finally recovering in the last half hour or so. It’s beautifully shot, but I don’t think I could recommend this film if Kinski weren’t such an emotional knock-out. ★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)
PERFECT (1985) – Adam is a reporter for Rolling Stone who manipulates his interview subjects but keeps an emotional distance from them. He’s trying to score an interview with an elusive businessman on trial for drugs, who insists he’s being set up by the government (shades of the John Delorean scandal, and ending much the same way). The magazine asks him to do another story at the same time, so Adam comes up with an idea for an article that paints health clubs as the singles bars of the 1980s. He meets Jessie, an aerobics instructor with a mysterious past. Although she doesn’t want to be interviewed, the two do start a relationship, one that is tested when it seems as though Adam might not be as honorable as he appears.
PERFECT is a film that starts John Travolta’s bulge and Jamie Lee Curtis’ thighs with a supporting role by Marilu Henner’s nipples. This is the impression you get from the hilarious and sort of embarrassing aerobics scenes. There is a sequence in which Travola and Curtis wordlessly flirt as she teaches a class. We have Curtis bobbing up and down in her skintight leotard while giving a “give it to me” face. This is intercut with shots of Travolta’s schlong clearly bulging out from his boxers as he thrusts his hips forward and gives a “Oh, I’ll give it to you alright” face. This scene goes on for what seems like five minutes. It’s nice to remember this scene whenever Jamie Lee Curtis gets on her high horse and trashes people for daring to suggest that some actresses sometimes use their sexuality in film roles (like Curtis does her or in the truly offensive TRUE LIES). I could also make some crass joke tying her hip movements into her current job as spokesperson for Activia, but I’ll let you make those up yourself.
These are the scenes that made PERFECT one of the biggest bombs of the 1980s. And there are some big problems. In addition to the laughable exercise sequences, there are lines like “You are a sphincter muscle” and “I guess I’ll go try to scare up a gang bang.” What is the most shocking thing about the film however is how everything seems to be an advertisement for Rolling Stone. Not only is it based upon an article from the magazine, it uses the magazine as one of its main focuses. Heck, even the typeface used in the title is modeled after the iconic Rolling Stone logo. And yet, the film makes Rolling Stone look like one of the sleaziest, most cynical, unethical publications since the days of William Randolph Hearst. The editor of the magazine (played by its co-founder, Jann Wenner) is a materialistic, irresponsible backstabber prone to screwing over interview subjects as well as his own staff. And yet, it is as much an advertisement for the magazine as MAC AND ME was for McDonald’s. It’s shocking.
All of this is too bad because for all its terrible reputation and despite what I’ve already covered, PERFECT really isn’t a terrible film. This is credited as the film that finally sunk Travolta’s career and despite a small bump with LOOK WHO’S TALKING, it would not fully recover until PULP FICTION nine years later. But Travola is actually quite good in the role. It’s the type of performance that can be compared favorably to my favorite Travolta film, BLOW OUT, even if the writing is not as good as in that film. He really is giving it his all here and it’s an interesting character. Curtis does a fine turn in her dramatic role. She was still emerging from her image as the scream queen here and she aces it. Also of note are a couple great supporting turns by Marilu Henner and Lorraine Newman.
There actually is a good movie in here, but it gets bogged down by too much pandering and fluff, coming to a head in a very uninspiring third act. It’s a disappointment, sometimes frustratingly so. But it’s far from the worst film of 1985. ★★ (out of ★★★★)
BOX-OFFICE CHAMPS – JUNE 7-9, 1985
1. RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (2,074 screens) – $10.2 million ($70.4 million – 3 weeks)
2. THE GOONIES (1,705 screens) – $9.1 million (1st week)
3. FLETCH (1,303 screens) – $6.3 million ($16.5 million – 2 weeks)
4. A VIEW TO A KILL (1,566 screens) – $4.5 million ($30.2 million – 3 weeks)
5. PERFECT (1,344 screens) – $4.2 million (1st week)
6. BREWSTER’S MILLIONS (1,404 screens) – $3.8 million ($24.3 million – 3 weeks)
7. BEVERLY HILLS COP (827 screens) – $1.1 million ($221.7 million – 27 weeks)
8. WITNESS (581 screens) – $728,002 ($63.8 million – 18 weeks)
9. POLICE ACADEMY 2: THEIR FIRST ASSIGNMENT (722 screens) – $683,574 ($53.8 million – 11 weeks)
10. DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN (530 screens) – $642,005 ($23.5 million – 11 weeks)
source: Box Office Mojo
Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 200
Miss any of the previous Journal entries? Check them out here!
And tune into my new web series, Moviocrity!