Sorry, guys, I’m not into zombies or films where the violence is the feature attraction. But I did listen in on Jim Groom and Martin Weller’s discussion of 1980s B-movies (which Martin posted, along with his excellent Zombie Board anti-commercials). Since I didn’t know the movies being discussed, I went surfing at YouTube while they spoke, and even found the scene Jim was talking about from “C.H.U.D.“.
I enjoyed the way the theme formed as they chatted, about the portrayal of the city in these films as a dangerous place where odd alignments occur. I also liked the notion that this perspective could be encouraged to shore up suburban housing projects, and that there is a rhetoric of reclaiming the city in response. Good stuff, all.
But what was I watching in the 1980s? Not many B-movies. I watched bad filmed versions of good plays (Amadeus), silly comedies (Airplane, All of Me), films with strong females (Desperately Seeking Susan, Victor/Victoria), and movies with cool but non-bloody special effects (Young Sherlock Holmes, Blade Runner).
What fits the city theme? The movie most like what Jim and Martin talked about (Escape from New York, The Warriors) was probably Nighthawks (Ruger Hauer was my favorite bad guy):
Another is Running Scared, a comedy with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines, who are cops trying to catch drug kingpin Jimmy Smits.
But there was one B-movie I did like, and it wasn’t about the city. It was called Road Games, with Stacy Keach as a truck driver in Australia, accidentally on the trail of a serial killer with Jamie Lee Curtis along for the ride. That and Cat People was enough for me in terms of darkness, I think.
One last film, however, was the best of all. Steve Martin put together the plots (and film clips) of old film noir movies in what is to me a classic, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. It’s a mashup before the term existed, and before a lot of other movies took up the idea. Here he’s spliced his character with Edward Arnold.
I’m afraid my “formative years” were the 1970s, but I love the idea of getting themes together with films. Here’s my try with a few of the 80s A-movies:
* Outsiders can fit in if they can dance: Dirty Dancing, Pennies from Heaven, A Chorus Line
* The Middle Ages are cool: Name of the Rose, Ladyhawke
* Prostitution is a good thing: Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Night Shift
* Magic happens: Xanadu, Big