Thursday, September 10, 2015



Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon
in Atlantic City
Atlantic City-During the time they were handing out Academy Awards for the films made in 1981, Henry Fonda was on his death bed and everyone knew that he was going to win a long overdue Best Actor Oscar. But another performance from that year by a veteran was probably just as good if not better. That was Burt Lancaster's funny and moving role as a small-time gangster whose stories about his past are more exciting than the rather sad reality. Burt in his twilight and Susan Sarandon just beginning to hit her movie star sride make a great team in this little but excellent film.

Scanners "Blowed him up, real good!"

Scanners-The first thing I think of when I think of this movie is the sketch on SCTV with John Candy and Joe Flaherty called Farm Film Celebrity Blow Up. That skit featured these two as yokels reviewing movies and especially loving movie where people blow up! Thier favorite movie was Scanners because people "blowed up real good!"

But despite being aware of the movie Scanners, I never got around to seeing it until now. Scanners are people with the psychic ability to force other people bodily harm and yes, occasionally blow up! The movie has pluses and minuses. The story about one of the scanners as a fish out of water chasing after something that is bigger than he is that he doesn't understand and must stop is good and is a plot that has been re-used in many a Hollywood thriller since. The special effects range from pretty good to a bit on the cheesy side, but I appreciated the pre-CGI special effects. There are some continuity errors such as a man's head exploding and the subsequent cut back to the table showing no blood! The leading actor, Stephen Lack is, well, have you ever heard of Stephen Lack in anything since? We have more success here with the supporting players. Patrick McGoohan (formerly of one of my favorite shows, The Prisoner) is the head of the organization that hires Lack. Best of all is Michael Ironside (I know him best from Total Recall) who began his seemingly endless number of portrayals of movie and TV heavies in Scanners.

Scanners is not in the 1001 movie book, but does have a cult following, as many of director David Cronenberg's movies do. It also got a video release by the usually higher brow Criterion Collection, which says something for it.

I mentioned Scanners didn't make have made the 1001 list,  and here are a few more films from 1981 that I’ve seen that didn’t quite make the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die cut.

1. Tarzan, the Ape Man
The infamous John and Bo Derek collaboration which was a lot more about Jane than Tarzan. The movie was panned mercilessly at the time, but was successful mostly because of Bo's nude swimming scenes and other topless scenes where she wrestled with an orangutan. At least I think it was an orangutan. I might be thinking of Every Which Way But Loose on that point.

Bo Derek and her leading man
in  Tarzan, the Ape Man

2. History of the World, Part II
Mel Brooks series of vignettes had its funny moments, but was the first one of his movies that I was largely indifferent about.

3. The Four Seasons
I saw this Alan Alda film being made when I was in high school during the spring in Atlanta. It was interesting to see that particular scene the following year on the screen set in the North during the fall. Overall, I do like The Four Seasons, but this may come with a bias towards movies that I saw as they were being filmed.

4. Under the Rainbow
Set during the making of the Wizard of Oz...the dwarfs are running wild in the streets...Chevy Chase and Carrie Fischer are trying to solve a crime or something...Well, that's about all I remember about that one.

5. American Pop
Ralph Bakshi's animated film depicting three generations of immigrants intertwined with popular music was pretty good. At least that's my memory of it, haven't seen in in thirty-two years. But that's my story and I'm sticking to it

6. All the Marbles
I kind of liked this movie with Peter Falk as a wrestling manager of a sexy female tag team. I saw one of the women, Vicki Frederick, on stage that same year in an Atlanta production of Damn Yankees. Maybe she's the reason I like this one. Actually, looking at her stills from the film-I'm definitely sure she's the reason I like this one.

All the Marbles Vicki Frederick is the brunette
7. Sharky's Machine
The more serious the film Burt Reynolds tried to make during his heyday, the less successful it seemed to be. I thought Sharky's Machine with Burt as an Atlanta cop was pretty good, but it seems audiences preferred the next one on the list...

8. Cannonball Run
Burt Reynolds and a bunch of celebrities go on a cross country race of some kind. Seems they ad-libbed a lot from what I remember. I also remember that I hated it. Have no desire to revisit it.

9. Looker
This Michael Crichton/Albert Finney movie about models dying under strange circumstances might warrant a second look. This is the problem when you comment on a movie that you haven't seen in over thirty years!

10. Caveman
Well, I thought this one was kind of funny. Probably the best starring role for Ringo Starr. And Barbara Bach looks pretty good as a cavewoman. Obviously, Ringo thought so in real life, too.

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Starkey
in Caveman
11. Tattoo
Any movie with Bruce Dern as a mentally-ill tattoo artist and Maud Adams in various states of undress has by definition got to have something going for it!

12. Private Lessons
During HBO's early days, a lot of cheesy R-rated fare showed up during the late night hours to titillate audiences. Some featured Sybil Danning or Marilyn Chambers. Private Lessons featured Emmanuelle star Sylvia Krystal as the teen boy's housekeeper/fantasy woman. 

13. My Bloody Valentine, Halloween II, Friday the 13th Part II, The Funhouse, Hell Night, Graduation Day, Blood Beach and Oliver Stone's The Hand!
1981 was the peak of the Hollywood slasher movie that started for the most part with John Carpenter's Halloween in 1978. I saw most of them, but to tell you the truth, they all seem to be running together at this point. 

14.  Student Bodies
I seem to be in the minority that thinks this parody of the slasher film is pretty funny. And who could forget Malvert the janitor?

15. Mommie Dearest
Despite all the horror movies that came out in 1981, Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford may have been the scariest image to emerge from that year.

Mommie Dearest

Goodbye, 1981. It's been fun!

No comments:

Post a Comment