Review- First Blood (1982)

Review- First Blood (1982)

First Blood is another film I remember from the golden age of home video, an era that holds so many great memories for me. I didn’t actually see First Blood from start to finish in the early 80’s even though my brothers had rented the film on many occasions. I think I possibly thought of the film as merely a testosterone-fuelled grunt fest. I remember the trailers on the video though, one of which was for Halloween 2 as this was also released through Thorn EMI Video.

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Watching First Blood now and I’m left dazed by the experience. First Blood is one of the most savage film experiences I think I’ve ever experienced.

Vietnam vet John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is now a drifter and goes to the town of Hope to meet up with an old army buddy who he then finds has actually died of cancer the year before. He then crosses paths with the town’s sheriff (Brian Dennehy) who is far from friendly. He takes Rambo into his police station whereby he and his staff humiliate and brutalise him. Rambo snaps wastes most of the police there (one of whom is David Caruso who would go on to star in NYPD Blue) and escapes into the wilderness where the police pursue him.

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First Blood was photographed by the ever fantastic Andrew Laszlo who was the Director of Photography on masterpiece The Warriors and his work here is just as good. He fully takes advantage of the gorgeous mountain landscapes that act as a backdrop to the horrific events unfurling before our eyes on the screen. Ted Kotchoff’s direction is surprisingly beautiful with perfect framing and an ever-kinetic and moving style that lifts it far above what could have easily been a dirt-level exploitation flick.

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Something else that lifts First Blood from being typical exploitation fare is Stallone’s performance which is devoid of any Hollywood one-liners and is mostly action. In fact, there are huge periods that are just action and no dialogue. I can now see why people for whom English wasn’t their first language would frequent the 42nd Street cinemas to see the films being shown there. There was little plot to many of these films and they were more visceral instead.

Is First Blood an allegory for how America treated those returning from war? Is it a cinematic case study in PTSD? One things for sure- it’s a gruelling experience but a worthy one.

3.5 stars out of 5

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Review- Cobra (1986)

Review- Cobra (1986)

The first thing I noticed on rewatching Cobra for the first time since the late 80’s was that it’s a Cannon film. That instantly made me smile, obviously.

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I loved Cobra. It’s a cartoonish action flick in which Sylvester Stallone grunts, mumbles and fires guns (no real stretch for him, I agree). Cobra is part Death Wish, Dirty Harry (Andrew Robinson and Reni Santoni from the original film co-star here), Visiting Hours (yes, really. There’s a terrific sequence that takes place involving a serial killer in a hospital) and the opening credits of The Equalizer (there are loads of women in peril in locales such as dark multi-storey car parks in Cobra).

With the film being cartoonish and like a comic strip come to life, the camp quotient is very high indeed. The sequence in which Brigitte Nielsen is being photographed as part of a photo session is camper than a row of pink tents. Sly is camp personified too. His character is supposed to be ultra-masculine but with this there is always the danger of tipping over into Village People territory. And he falls into this headfirst. With his shades, stubble and tight jeans he looks like he’s going to a dress code night at The Spike in West Hollywood rather than fighting crime. But this only makes Cobra even more entertaining and fun.

Cobra had a budget of $25m and took in $160m at the box office.

Of course, with a film that has the tagline of ‘Crime is a disease. Meet the cure’ there was bound to be someone who could use Photoshop to make a meme. And they did. And it’s a brilliant meme.

3.5 stars out of 5

Review- Xtro (1982)

Review- Xtro (1982)
Another film I remember seeing on the shelves of video shops in the 80’s that I somehow didn’t watch was Xtro from 1982. I finally got to see it for the first time earlier.
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Wow. Just wow. Xtro is out there! A man is abducted by aliens. Three years later an alien impregnates a woman after he is hit by a car. The woman then gives birth to the man who went missing years before. And that’s just for starters.
You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a woman giving birth to a grown man. This must be one of the goriest scenes I’ve ever seen.
The rest of the film is like the darkest acid trip ever. In other words, it’s great fun.
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I love the fact that the film is based in London. If you want to see what life was like in Britain in the 1980’s then look no further (apart from the gore and horror, obviously).
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Look out for supporting roles from Anna Wing (who would go on to star in EastEnders) and robotic pop group Tik and Tok.
Crazy film but never dull.
3.5 stars out of 5.

Review- The Color of Money (1986)

Review- The Color of Money (1986)

I have a confession to make. Even though I’m a huge Scorsese fan, I had never seen The Color Of Money. That was resolved last night.

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Superb direction, uniformly amazing performances (only an auteur like Scorsese could obtain such a restrained turn from Tom Cruise) and a fantastic screenplay. Great to see Iggy Pop too.

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A great film from Marty’s run of movies in the 80’s that De Niro didn’t star in which was resolved three years later with the masterpiece GoodFellas.

4 stars out of 5.

Review- Fatal Attraction (1987)

Review- Fatal Attraction (1987)

I watched Fatal Attraction yesterday for the first time since I first saw it in the late 80’s on home video.

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The film ranges from being a brilliantly directed New York flick to being a thinly drawn slasher movie.
I loved the shots of Alex (Glenn Close) when she’s in full psycho mode wearing her floor length black coat with her wild frizzy blonde hair. The long shots of her make her look like the supernatural villain from a Japanese ghost movie.

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The ending lets the film down as the material feels thin and is pure Hollywood.
The mark of a film that has made it’s mark on the public consciousness is that an expression adapted from the movie becomes part of our language. The term ‘bunny boiler’ comes from Fatal Attraction. The film obviously struck a nerve.

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A good film but not as great as Play Misty For Me.

3 stars out of 5

Has Anyone Else Dreamt About Halloween 3: Season of the Witch Or Is Just Me?!

Has Anyone Else Dreamt About Halloween 3: Season of the Witch Or Is Just Me?!

I hate the cunts who say, ‘I had the strangest dream last night!’ and then proceed to bore everyone to death with their remembrances.

Well, I really did have the strangest (and most brilliant) dream last night. I dreamt that I saw a trailer for a prequel to Halloween 3: Season of the Witch.

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‘This prequel is all about ME, bitches!’

This got me thinking- why hasn’t a Halloween 3 prequel been made? It could cover the life of Conal Cochran up until the point he became the demented toymaker that we all know and love-

  • his strict and twisted religious childhood in Ireland which was steeped in paganism and ‘hills running red’.
  • Cochran’s arrival in his adopted home of the USA
  • Cochran’s choosing the joke toy industry as the perfect avenue to kill all of the children of his new adopted country
  • a comedic interlude in which the Stonehenge stone is transported to Santa Mira (not shown in detail and just glossed over just like in the original film because I hate it when horror prequels try to over-explain characters’ origins and motivations)

And if you’re wondering who could play Cochran in the prequel, what about Colin Farrell? There could even be a Tom Atkins cameo thrown in for good measure.

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Colin Farrell is Conal Cochran!

C’mon Hollywood, stop snoozing on the job. Get this film made.

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Where the prequel ends…

Jaws 3D- Nice Promo, Shame About The Film

Jaws 3D- Nice Promo, Shame About The Film

With all of this talk of the original Jaws in 3D I got to thinking about the other Jaws in 3D. This was, of course, the third film in the franchise starring the then unknown Dennis Quaid and a shitload of dolphins.

I actually got to see the film in 3D at the National Film Theatre in London as part of their annual 3D season wherein they show films shot in 3D in their full glory. The night before I had seen Friday the 13th Part 3-D and had been blown away by the experience.

I then saw Jaws 3D. Oh dear, I thought. A mediocre movie with mediocre 3D effects.

But I remembered in the 80’s that the film was promoted on boxes of Shredded Wheat. I then hunted high and low on the internet for these promotions and can confirm that they are MUCH better than the actual movie.

Scenes from the film were printed in 3D for youngsters to go goggle eyed over whilst using the special Jaws 3D glasses that were in every box.

And here they are for your delectation.

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Review- The Running Man (1987)

Review- The Running Man (1987)
So I reinvestigated The Running Man last night. The last time I had watched it was in the 80’s on VHS. I remember it as not being one of Arnie’s best efforts.
On watching it now I found some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen from Arnie (which is REALLY saying something), hamfisted attempts at social commentary and more cheesiness than an Edam factory.
But maybe these aren’t criticisms because IT WORKED!
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It’s a fun movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s also aged very well indeed with great special effects that look great as they pumped megabucks into the production. You get what you pay for (Yes, I’m thinking of you Escape From LA).
In fact, there was more than a passing nod to Escape From New York and They Live (but not as good as either).
I also love that it takes place in 2017. Their predictions as to life in the future are unerringly accurate (Alexa, booking a holiday through a screen, differing views being punishable by law…)
Also, we get a great supporting cast, fantastic source material and solid direction by Paul Michael Glaser. And I had forgotten about the iconic Harold Faltermeyer score.
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I’m so glad I rewatched this noisy wild ride of a film.
4 stars out of 5

31 Days of Halloween- Day 23- The Case of the Hillside Stranglers (1989)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 23- The Case of the Hillside Stranglers (1989)

A pretty faithful account of The Hillside Stranglers starring Dennis Farina as Angelo Buono and Billy Zane as Kenneth Bianchi. Richard Crenna is cop Bob Grogan who is hunting them. This made for TV movie is based on the book Two of a Kind: The Hillside Stranglers By Darcy O’Brien.

I love TV movies based on true crime cases especially those made in the 80’s ever after I saw The Deliberate Stranger starring Mark Harmon as Ted Bundy.

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This movie has chilling reverberations to the recent Sarah Everard case as it depicts the killers using a police badge to get their potential female victims’ attention so that they would go with them.

The film also has its fair share of tense moments such as Grogan’s girlfriend going to see Buono just to see what he’s like after she had discussed him with her cop boyfriend for so long. Obviously, this was a really foolhardy thing to do!

A solid TV movie.

Grade- C+

31 Days of Halloween- Day 16- Lonely Water aka The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water (1973)

31 Days of Halloween- Day 16- Lonely Water aka The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water (1973)

One of the fantastic things about growing up as a child of the ’70s and 80’s and being a horror fan were the Public Information Films that were shown at random times both day and night on British TV. These could convey any burning issue from the dangers of abandoned old refrigerators on rubbish tips through to the importance of not using different kinds of tyres on your car.

Some could be quite humorous in tone. But some were the stuff of nightmares. They set out to scare the living bejesus out of you. And by Christ, they worked. Everything from the dangers of Rabies, how you could be maimed if you misuse fireworks and, as you will see, what can happen to the show-off children who play near water.

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Lonely Water aka The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water was made in 1973 and directed by Jeff Grant. The jewel in its crown was that Donald Pleasance was used to voice the ghostly monk who appears when a child is about to come a cropper near a river or stream.

The eagle-eyed will also see Terry Sue Patt aka Benny Green from Grange Hill as one of the kids.

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This Public Information Film scared a whole generation from even thinking of going near their local river. This would also have been the generation who would later see Jaws either at the cinema (if they were old enough) or when it was first shown on TV. I wonder how many of my generation actually have hydrophobia as a result of this double whammy.

Lonely Water is a masterpiece of horror that was permitted to be shown at any time pre and post-watershed on British television. Generation X has never gotten over it.

Grade- A+