Review- The Omen 3: The Final Conflict (1981)

Review- The Omen 3: The Final Conflict (1981)

WARNING. Spoilers!

Damien Thorn is progressing up the political ladder by hook or by crook. The methods used are exemplified by the first kill in the film in which The U.S.Ambassador to the UK crosses paths with Thorn’s Rottweiler and then goes back to his office and kills himself by blowing his brains out, completely redecorating his office and ensuring that Thorn can now occupy his now vacant position. Oh and yes, that’s Ruby Wax playing his secretary in an uncredited role.


Thorn’s ascent to the top seems like plain sailing except that Jesus has his second coming shortly after this (I love the sequence in which this happens. Damo’s dog suddenly becomes extremely unsettled and Thorn literally wakes up in a cold sweat. And so he should). If that wasn’t enough, a group of priests who know who Thorn really is, have hold of the daggers that can kill him and are trying to bump him off. The road to the top was never smooth, Damien.

This was another film that I saw on TV in the 80s as a child. I remembered that I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought of it as a very entertaining and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy (this was before Part 4 had been made). I’m pleased to report that I haven’t changed my mind on rewatching the film.

One thing that I didn’t pick up on when I first watched the film was that there’s a devilish (pun not intended) sense of humour at play here. One example is when Damien is being made up for his big TV interview. The make-up artist starts to comb his hair causing Thorn to suddenly grab the comb from her hand (he didn’t want her to see his 666 birthmark) and say ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take care of that!’ I also loved that on walking through Speaker’s Corner (with his Rottweiler!), he comes face to face with someone ranting about the second coming of the anti-Christ. He’s closer than you think!


I also loved the frankly amateurish attempts by the priests to exterminate Thorn. They make the gang in The Ladykillers look like seasoned assassins. These scenes ensure magnificent kills like the man in the TV studio who suddenly finds himself suspended upside down, swinging through the air whilst being on fire. I also loved the guy who tries to kill Thorn when he’s surrounded by the dogs used in the fox hunt he’s participating in. Doesn’t he know that Thorn is like a really evil Dr Doolittle and can get animals to kill on his behalf?

And then there’s the storyline that involves Damien getting his assistant Harvey to kill all the children born on the day Jesus recently reappeared. This is one of the darkest episodes I think I’ve ever seen in a horror film and of course, resembles what Herod ordered in the Bible. This is some dark shit and I’m surprised the censors didn’t have more to say regarding this storyline.

The casting is as fantastic as it is in the other Omen films with the adult Damien being played impeccably by Sam Neill. He’s menacing, sinister but also knows how to highlight the sly humour in the script. I couldn’t think of another actor playing the adult Damien anywhere near as well.


I loved the religious euphoria of the ending with bible passages appearing on the screen and a vision of Christ making an appearance as good triumphs over evil. It really is something to behold.

4 stars out of 5


Review- Weird Science (1985)

Review- Weird Science (1985)

The last time I watched Weird Science was when it was on TV in the 80s. A rewatch was on the cards.

Gary and Wyatt are two geeky teens who are regularly humiliated by their peers. They decide to create their ideal woman using computers after watching the classic movie Frankenstein. Their plan works.

I love the fact that creating a woman is seen as being possible by using home computers, such was the power of these new advancements in technology. I also love that they feed into the computer clippings from magazines to show the qualities they would like their ideal woman to have (one clipping is a huge pair of lips. Worryingly another is a picture of David Lee Roth of Van Halen). I also love the 80’s graphics of the computer which have, like the movie as a whole, aged very well.


This tale of horny teens who are rejected and marginalised by their peers could have been distinctly average in the hands of lesser talents. But this is a John Hughes movie produced by Joel Silver and has a sizeable budget provided by Universal Pictures.

One of the things that struck me the most about the movie was the cast. Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith are great in the leads. But the fact that the dream woman is played by the brilliant Kelly LeBrock is a major plus. She brings so much to the role that I actually find myself agreeing with Roger Ebert (a first) in his film review. He wrote that she shines in her portrayal and that a lot of the film’s charm is down to her.


But the whole cast bring so much to the movie. And the cast is like a cult cinema fans wet dream- Bill Paxton (who steals the show in any scene that he’s in), Michael Berryman and Vernon Wells (Matrix from Commando) as Mad Max 2 refugees who gatecrash a party thrown by the teens.

We even get Judie Aronson from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (this isn’t the only link to the F13th movie. When deciding what their ideal woman must be like one of the boys says that she must be able to Aerobicise which is a reference to the movie that Axel the morgue attendant is watching in The Final Chapter just before he has his head forcibly spun around by Jason. Aerobicise was also produced by Universal and so they were publicising one of their own products). We also get Robert Russler and Robert Downey Jr as the two ‘cool’ teens as opposed to the two geek leads. Ironically, they appear to be even more embarrassing in a lot of ways, especially their wardrobe choices.

Weird Science is a horny teens movie and certainly not Brecht. But, if you want a fun 80s movie that holds your attention and is a great 80s trip down memory lane you could do much worse.

And you even get to see Bill Paxton’s ass. It’s just as great as you think it’s going to be.

3.5 stars out of 5

Review- Rocky IV (1985)

Review- Rocky IV (1985)

I still remember my friend Ollie coming into the school I attended and telling me at breakneck speed that he had seen Rocky IV the day before at the local cinema, everything that happened in it and how great it was. Word of mouth is the best kind of ‘hype’ for a movie. ‘I need to see this film!’ I thought and so Rocky IV was the first Rocky film I saw at the cinema (the other three had been viewed on home video).


It had been years since I had last seen this film, so a rewatch was well overdue.

Ivan Drago is a Russian boxer who arrives in the US with his team in tow, one of which is his wife Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen), a swimmer in her native Russia. In the demonstrations of his strength, it is suggested that this is down to Drago being Russian and superior because of this. Apollo Creed sees this and decides to take on Drago. What could go wrong?


Theres so much to love about Rocky IV- Creed’s entrance involving James Brown and showgirls a-plenty before his exhibition match with Drago (this was recreated years later by real-life boxer Tyson Fury), the soundtrack that spawned even more iconic songs (Living In America, Burning Heart), the sequences showing Drago’s strength (loving the 80’s graphics that show his punching power), the training scenes which have Drago embracing the latest technology whilst Rocky uses more primitive methods, the pop video montage whilst shows Rocky driving along whilst remembering events from the first three films many of them involving his friend Creed…

The robot is irritating as is Rocky’s son but these are minor points. In Stallone’s Director’s Cut, the robot would disappear (hooray) amongst other alterations.

This is Cold War Rocky with a huge showdown being not just Rocky vs Drago but America vs Russia. And it’s fantastic because of this angle. A fourth film in any other franchise may show signs of fatigue and repetition but Rocky IV shows the exact opposite. It feels fresh, vital and for a lot of fans of the series, it is the best entry.

RockyIVBannerCold War

4 stars out of 5

Review- Absence of Malice (1981)

Review- Absence of Malice (1981)

Hooray for IMDB! Here’s Absence of Malice’s storyline-

Mike Gallagher is a Miami liquor wholesaler whose deceased father was a local mobster. The FBI organized crime task force have no evidence that he’s involved with the mob but decide to pressure him into perhaps revealing something – anything – about a murder they’re sure was a mob hit. They let Megan Carter, a naive but well-meaning journalist, know he is being investigated and Gallagher’s name is soon all over the newspaper. Gallagher has an iron-clad alibi for when the murder occurred but won’t reveal it to protect his fragile friend Teresa. When Carter publishes her story, tragedy ensues. Needing to make amends, Carter tells Gallagher the source of the first story about him and he sets out to teach the FBI and the Federal Attorney a lesson.

I remember Absence of Malice being on the video shelves in the 80s and probably didn’t rent it because

  1. It wasn’t a horror film
  2. It seemed to be mainly just people talking
  3. It seemed very ‘adult’ (i.e. boring)
  4. It wasn’t The Beast Within


Now that I’m much older I’m somewhat prone to films that involve people talking (although horror is still my ‘go to’ genre and The Beast Within is high art) I thought I’d check out Absence of Malice to see if it was any good. And it was. Great performances all round but particularly from Paul Newman, Sally Field and Melinda Dillon. Also, I loved the musical score by Dave Grusin.


The direction by Sidney Pollack and cinematography by Owen Roizman are just as fantastic as I thought they would be. Absence of Malice is a brilliant addition to the ‘newsroom drama’ sub-genre and the sets are gorgeously early 80s. The huge open-plan newsroom in a thousand shades of beige, Field’s apartment that is also open-plan, beige and appears to be in the middle of the city (there are the lights of skyscrapers outside her window). ‘How can she afford that amazing apartment on a journalist’s salary?!’ I thought. Only millionaires would be able to afford such a pad these days.

Absence Of Malice - 1981

I also liked how Absence of Malice feels different to other similar dramas. I was trying to think how to describe the feel of the film but Janet Maslin did it brilliantly well already in her New York Times review from when the film was released. She said she liked the ‘quiet gravity’ that the film possessed. And so do I. Absence of Malice feels less urgent than other similar films but it slowly builds up to a very dramatic finale. It also has the power to shock (I’m going to say no more regarding this as I don’t want to ruin any surprises).

An understated joy.

4 stars out of 5

Review- Rocky III (1982)

Review- Rocky III (1982)

The plot outline for this latest instalment in the Rocky franchise comes from the film’s novelization-

‘Three years have passed since Rocky fought Apollo Creed, years of enjoying easy fights and a happy home life with Adrian.

But now a vicious, young fighter named Clubber Lang, jealous of Rocky’s success has challenged him to a bout.

Can our out-of-shape hero beat this young upstart? Rocky’s got the guts, the heart, and the courage. And if that’s not enough, he’s getting help – from none other than Apollo Creed himself!

Rocky III, the legend continues…’


I love the third instalments of franchises. I remember the trend in cinemas when I was growing up of the triple-bill. It was like the ultimate reward for fans of franchises that had made it to a third film. Star Wars, The Omen and Rocky all had triple bills. All of those glorious hours in the cinema.


Third instalments of franchises in the 80s also seemed to involve the filmmaker incorporating other pop culture into their films to show they have their fingers on the pulse. Superman III had Atari, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors weaved in some Dungeons and Dragons into its storyline, Friday the 13th Part 3 utilised 3D as its gimmick. And what does Rocky III use? Wrestling! Too cool. The sequence in which Rocky takes on wrestler Thunderlips (whoever came up with that name is a genius. I instantly thought of L7’s cameo in John Waters’ Serial Mom in which they were called Camel Lips) played by wrestling legend Hulk Hogan is one of the most mental sequences I’ve ever seen. I loved it. I also love the idea of snooty film critics such as Pauline Kael, Janet Maslin and Siskel and Ebert having to watch something as ‘low-brow’ (i.e. popular) as a wrestling bout.

The casting of a then unknown Mr T as Clubber Lang was also a stroke of genius. I love that the film’s casting agents even visited some of the worst prisons in America in their search for an intimidating enough opponent for Balboa in this instalment before coming across the future A-Team star. Mr T gives a great performance and has some amazing one-liners. When asks what his prediction is for his fight with Balboa, he replies ‘PAIN!’

Of course, tragedy has to strike within a Rocky sequel. This time it’s the turn of Mickey, Rocky’s trainer who goes to the great gym in the sky. Burgess Meredith’s performance in all of the first three Rocky films was amazing, especially when you see him in other movies and TV series. I watched Magic recently and his turn as the wealthy movie agent Ben Greene was amazing and completely different to his turn as Mickey here. Before Mickey shuffles off this mortal coil, he offers Rocky some advice. He states that the biggest threat to a fighter’s hunger to win is when he becomes ‘civilised’. We see this during some earlier sequences with Rocky advertising products such as American Express cards (I take it these ads went better than the ones we saw him attempting in Rocky II) and appearing on The Muppet Show (surely any celebrities high point). Rocky, Adrian and their son now live in a mansion, have staff and Rocky now dresses more like someone who works on Wall Street than the regular Joe he was in the earlier films.

I love that none other than Apollo Creed replaces Mickey as Rocky’s trainer with the aim of trying to make him hungry again. The training sequences (another staple of the Rocky franchise which works so well) show Rocky to be lacklustre at first but then locate the passion and desire to win again. These sequences are something else as we see Apollo wearing a crop top for one of these scenes and later get to see Rocky wearing not just a crop top but a headband (!) to boot. When Rocky has relocated his killer instinct there are also scenes of both characters frolicking in the sea together. Such joyous scenes of male bonding and gay abandon. I wonder if the pair planned a weekend in Fire Island after Rock won his second fight and took back the title.

Rocky III is a fantastic film and shows that the franchise was still full of vitality, brilliant ideas and far from becoming tired or listless. I was going to say that Rocky III might be my favourite film in the franchise but I know the entry that is coming next. Rocky IV was the first Rocky film I got to see in a cinema rather than on video and is one hell of a movie. Review coming soon.

4 stars out of 5

Review- Poltergeist (1982)

Review- Poltergeist (1982)

Another film that was ripe for a rewatching since I last watched it on VHS in the 80s was Poltergeist, the horror film directed by Steven Spielberg Tobe Hooper.


The first thing I noticed was how gorgeous the film looks in widescreen. How I, or indeed, any of us watched the film in pan and scan on video is beyond me.

It’s funny how my opinion hasn’t changed since the 80s though. The film doesn’t seem to know what genre it is. It’s part family film (and very Spielberg with it) but it also feels like a fantasy film and lastly, ironically, horror. It does all three really well but I’m here to watch a horror movie, goddammit!

Hooper scene

The horror sequences are brilliantly executed such as the face peel scene, the clown scare and the apocalyptic scene involving the tree coming to life. Also, the subtle scares such as Carol-Ann talking to the TV that is showing only static is very unsettling indeed. I always think of these as Hooper moments within the film.

Definitely a Hooper scene!

I don’t know where we’re at with the differing accounts of whether Spielberg or Hooper actually directed the majority of the film but it seems to me to be obvious that he did. If this had been primarily a Hooper project, Poltergeist would have been much darker, much scarier and would possess fewer scenes that are of a ‘horror film made for all the family’ vibe. Poltergeist, as it is, is almost unbearably Hollywood, with too much gloss and resplendent with a big bombastic film score.

But, compared to the remake that came out decades later, this original Poltergeist is Citizen Kane. I remember watching the remake in the cinema and actually thinking to myself, ‘I don’t care about a single character in this film!’ Quite a feat. In the original, I thought all of the characters were likeable. And Craig T Nelson is always easy on the eye.

Hottie Craig T Nelson

2.5 stars out of 5

Review- Footloose (1984)

Review- Footloose (1984)

I’m so glad I got to grow up in the 1980s. I remember the soundtrack to Footloose and especially the brilliantly infectious theme song by Kenny Loggins but I had never seen the film it belonged to. Until now. Would the film be the huge piece of 80’s goodness that I hoped it would be?

The answer is YES! This film is so 80’s it instantly took me back.


John Lithgow plays a preacher who has outlawed rock n roll music and dancing from the small town of Bomont that he presides over. Thankfully his daughter, Ariel, is a free-spirited teen played by Lori Singer. These bans also jar with Ren (played by Kevin Bacon) who has just moved from Chicago. Can the teens of this small town turn things around?


Footloose may be 80’s cheese but it’s aged incredibly well. Gorgeously photographed (those mountain landscapes are beautiful), a soundtrack to die for (there’s a game of chicken whilst Holding Out For A Hero by Bonnie Tyler blares out from a boombox) and a storyline which seems to be mirroring and criticising real-life organisations who were also trying to ban certain pop music (the PMRC was formed the year before Footloose was made and released). There’s also scenes that have a massive emotional pull. The ever-brilliant John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest are fantastic.


Ironically, the events depicted in Footloose met the ire of the British Board of Film Classification. CIC who distributed the film wanted a PG rating but were told by the BBFC that it would, if not cut, be released as a 15 certificate. CIC relented and more than 2 minutes were cut from the film. These cuts were reinstated years later and Footloose can now be seen fully uncut here in the UK. A film depicting a puritanical preacher who seems to hate people having fun comes under fire by a puritanical censorship board in the UK. Life imitates art imitates life.

4 stars out of 5

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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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.
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.
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).
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.