Exactly 28 years ago, Helen Slater cut her hair and struck a righteous blow for justice. This was in one of two big movies released the weekend of July 19-21, 1985. In today’s Journal we take a look at Slater’s anthem picture as well as a comedy featuring a flustered Tom Hanks in bikini briefs.
Oh yeah, they also re-released E.T., THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL this weekend, as if people weren’t already Speilberged out that summer. But we won’t go into that.
George A. Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD also got a limited release this weekend. Why aren’t I covering it? Because I’m covering it in the next few weeks. Remember that these 1985 Journals started as the podcast, which used Minnesota as a starting point and then spread out to include the release dates in other cities from there. Though I am not based in Minnesota like my cohorts, I am still using this as the system. Hence, I will get to DAY OF THE DEAD on the corresponding weekend of its Minnesota release.
SCOTT’S FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 56
THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN (1985) – Billie Jean (Helen Slater – SUPERGIRL, THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS) is a poor Texas girl who is tormented by the rich kids. An entitled snot named Hubie Pyatt beats up her little brother Binx (Helen’s brother, Christian Slater, in his screen debut) and trash his motor scooter. Believing that “fair is fair,” Billie Jean goes to the bully’s father, only to find that he’s an even sleazier bully than his son. When he forces himself on Billie Jean, she shoots him in self-defense, wounding him. She goes on the run with her brother and friends. Billie Jean inexplicably becomes a celebrity, and society seems divided over who believes she’s a hero and who believes she’s a criminal. Mr. Pyatt actually starts making a fortune selling Billie Jean merchandise while demonizing her in the press. Billie Jean decides to set the record straight, cutting her hair and becoming a folk hero, eventually returning home to make sure everyone knows the truth.
I had the biggest crush on Helen Slater when this film came out. She was my first celebrity crush, which explains why I was able to watch SUPERGIRL far more than any human being should be able to withstand it. She was gorgeous, a good actress and she had a fighting spirit. I’ve always admired that. This is one of the many reasons I can admire THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN, despite it being a pretty trite anthem film. It desperately wants to be a rallying cry for the put-upon youth of America. Unfortunately, the crime being committed isn’t really that serious. Billie Jean wounds Mr. Pyatt in the arm and makes a run for it. While more serious than the graffiti displayed in TURK 182, this is hardly the top story on the six o’clock news. Also, while the film wants to make a statement about being used for marketing ploys (which is either ironic or hypocritical, depending on your point of view), it’s hard to believe the youth of America cheering on Billie Jean while buying her accuser’s merchandise.
Still, the film is great as 1980s fluff. It has a good cast that includes Keith Gordon, Peter Coyote, Martha Gehman and a pre-SIMPSONS Yeardley Smith. It has a great energy to it and moves at a fun, brisk pace. It also sports one of the most awesome theme songs ever with Pat Benatar’s “Invincible.” ★★★ out of ★★★★
THE MAN WITH ONE RED SHOE (1985) – Richard (Tom Hanks) is a concert violinist, picked at random to be the patsy in a CIA power play. He soon finds his life turned upside down as spies from various agencies start pursuing this “dangerous” figure. Not that Rich’s life was easy to begin with. He was for instance having an affair with Paula (Carrie Fisher), the wife of his best friend (Jim Belushi). As if all the people trying to kill him weren’t enough, Rich’s life becomes even more complicated when a spy (Lori Singer) is sent to seduce Richard and he winds up falling in love with her.
A remake of LE GRANDE BLOND AVEC UNA CHAUSSURE NOIRE (a.k.a. THE TALL BLONDE MAN WITH ONE BLACK SHOE), this film suffers under its own weight. The story is amusing enough, but the execution is sorely lacking. The struggle between the CIA director and the people vying for the position is dull and confusing. Tom Hanks is of course likeable in the lead, but he doesn’t get to flex enough of his comedic muscle here. Instead, stuff happens to him and he reacts. This would be fine if the filmmakers set it up right. But director Stan Dragoti (MR. MOM) drops the ball here and he directs Hanks as if he were directing Michael Keaton in his previous comedic hit. Some of the best stuff comes from the supporting cast, particularly Fisher and Singer. ★★ out of ★★★★
BOX OFFICE CHAMPS – JULY 19-21, 1985
1. BACK TO THE FUTURE (1,438 screens) $10.3 million ($50.2 million – 3 weeks)
2. E.T., THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (re-issue) (1,684 screens) $8.8 million (1st week)
3. MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME (1,475 screens) $5.4 million ($19.5 million – 2 weeks)
4. COCOON (1,015 screens) $4.1 million ($46.6 million – 5 weeks)
5. SILVERADO (1,190 screens) $3.6 million ($9.9 million – 2 weeks)
6. RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1,385 screens) $3.4 million ($130.4 million – 9 weeks)
7. THE MAN WITH ONE RED SHOE (1,044 screens) $3.1 million (1st week)
8. PALE RIDER (1,401 screens) $2.8 million ($33.2 million – 4 weeks)
9. ST. ELMO’S FIRE (920 screens) $2.3 million ($23.3 million – 4 weeks)
10. EXPLORERS (1,750 screens) $1.9 million ($7.4 million – 2 weeks)
12. DAY OF THE DEAD (160 screens) $1.7 million (1st week)
14. THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN (903 screens) $1.5 million (1st week – ouch!)
source: Box Office Mojo
Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 252
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