My fellow Offender Alfredo recently wrote about how Jaws is one of his favorite “comfort food” flicks—those movies you can watch over and over and never get tired of. Many of my comfort food flicks come from the 1980s—the decade when I was an impressionable, young kid discovering movies for the first time. I think many of my choices—the Indiana Jones trilogy, John Hughes high school films and Ghostbusters—still hold up. So instead I’m going to write about some of my true comfort food flicks—these are the films that if I saw for the first time today, I’d probably think were god-awful (with one exception below) but because I discovered them at just the right time in my life, I’ll always love them. In no particular order:
HOWARD THE DUCK (1986)
Along with Ishtar and Heaven’s Gate, this George Lucas-produced big-screen adaptation of the classic Marvel Comics character became synonymous with the word “bomb” in the ‘80s. I’ll admit the film has its share of problems including a main character who looks exactly like what he was—a short dude in a duck costume—but there’s one reason I saw this movie at least half a dozen times when it came out…Lea Thompson:
Thompson, best known for playing Michael J. Fox’s MILF in Back To The Future, played Howard’s…uh…aspiring rock star love interest and she was smokin’! Thompson was my first real celebrity crush and the scene where she tries to seduce Howard in her little panties is actually unintentionally disturbing when I look at it now, but let’s just say for me back then it was hard to sit through for other reasons. I met Thompson a few years ago (still smokin’ hot) and told her of my crush and what that scene did to me and she couldn’t have been sweeter. Even gave me a kiss on the cheek—didn’t wash it for months weeks days. You can see the seduction scene here:
Howard The Duck also featured one of the great ‘80s pop ballads that no one has heard of because the movie was a flop and took everything else associated with it down too. But here it is and ripe for rediscovery…Thomas Dolby’s “Don’t Turn Away” featuring funkmeisters Stevie Wonder on harmonica and George Clinton on bass:
THE POLICE ACADEMY SERIES (1984-1994)
When the first installment of this popular comedy franchise appeared, many critics derided it as a new low and proclaimed it as a sign the apocalypse was near. But for my buddies and I, it was everything we could ask for in a film: potty humor, boobies, a dude who could make any noise with his mouth and the infamous and utterly homophobic Blue Oyster Bar.
Starring ‘80s mainstay Steve Guttenberg, the series’ premise was simple: the mayor orders the police academy to allow anyone into its ranks so the new rag tag group of motley recruits are pitted against the more conservative establishment. It’s basically the plot of almost every ‘80s sex comedy, but there was real talent here including future stars Kim Cattrall and Bobcat Goldwaith and an “up-with-the-outcasts/stick it to the man” spirit that even gave it a little bit of heart.
As a kid, most of my “R” rated movies were watched when the parents were away on the VCR or Select TV (the ‘80s version of cable). Cavegirl marked the first “R” rated film I snuck into in a real-life theater. It was at the Mann 4 in Upland, California, and my buddies and I actually watched this on a double bill with Police Academy 2.
Cavegirl’s premise was brilliant and I’m surprised no one’s remade it yet—a high school geek who is picked on by everyone somehow travels 25,000 years into the past during a field trip and ends up back in prehistoric times where he meets hottie cavegirl Cynthia Thompson who is, of course, perfectly made-up with an ‘80s perm to boot:
Even back then, we knew this movie existed for one reason and one reason only: to show off Thompson’s awesome boobs. Ninety-five percent of the movie is a tease as the geek tries and fails repeatedly to have sex with Thompson until near the very end when she finally takes off her top and gives us the money shot we all paid $4.50 to see (yup, films were cheaper back then). At the end of the film, the geek returns to the present day with his hottie cavegirl which impresses all the assholes who had treated him like shit before. But you know in the scene we don’t see immediately after the credits roll, she’s just going to leave the geek for one of the jocks.
ST. ELMO’S FIRE (1985)
This was a historic moment in the history of ‘80s cinema—the one film that brought together so many of the key players of the Brat Pack: Judd Nelson, Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez and Andrew McCarthy. It was like the Justice League of ‘80s flicks.
St. Elmo’s Fire was the story of a group of college pals who must cope with the real world after graduation. At the time, I thought it was so deep and smart, but once I got older, I realized the film is just typical Hollywood bullshit, but who the fuck cares? Have you seen the movie recently? It’s cheese-tacular. The film is best watched now as a drinking game. Take a shot every time Lowe gives a speech about how he’ll never grow up or Estevez looks at Andie MacDowell longingly as the camera slowly tracks into his face. You won’t make it past the second reel without falling down shit drunk.
And I will always be in debt to this film for giving us this classic from John Parr:
FIVE CORNERS (1987)
I wanted to include one choice that wasn’t cheesy. In fact, this is one of the best films from the ‘80s, which has been sadly forgotten but well worth checking out. Written by playwright John Patrick Shanley shortly before he won an Academy Award for Moonstruck and directed by Tony Bill (My Bodyguard) and set during the ‘60s civil rights era, Five Corners stars Jodie Foster as a young woman who fears for her life when she learns the stalker who attacked her (brilliantly played by John Turturro) is being released from prison. The only person who can help her is Tim Robbins, but he has turned pacifist and refuses to engage in violence.
This film is part coming-of-age, part period drama (produced by George Harrison, the movie’s use of the Beatles and other period music is excellent), part thriller, part monster movie, part western and part character study—and all these parts work effortlessly well together. Five Corners also has one of the most frightening and tense scenes I’ve ever seen—Turturro thinks he can impress Foster with a bunch of penguins he has stolen from the Bronx Zoo, but when she rejects his gift…well, what he does to the penguins is not very nice. Here’s the original trailer: