Lionsgate releases eight films from the 80s that “you totally forgot about.”
Most film fans have at least one sentimental, half-remembered personal cult classic they wish would just come out on DVD already. We complain about it, we sign petitions, we blog about it, and maybe eventually we get a no-frills DVD that, if we’re lucky, also includes the trailer as reward for our years of anticipation.
No doubt some devotees of lesser-known 80s cinema, especially fans of just-this-close-to-A-List leading man Jon Cryer (Pretty In Pink, Two and A Half Men), will take delight in Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s release of eight little-known and, honestly, little-celebrated films from the Me Decade. Each film comes with a pop-up trivia feature as well as English and Spanish subtitles, though most lack widescreen presentation or in some cases even a new digital transfer. Six of the films are making their DVD debut, however, so if you’ve got to have them here’s your best chance yet. They’re budget-priced at $14.98 SRP.
Hiding Out (1987): One of the four movies featuring Cryer that saw release in the year following Pretty In Pink‘s breakout success, this uneven thriller/comedy cast him as a Wall Street stockbroker forced to testify against a mob boss accused of insider trading. Fearing for his life, he seeks refuge by enrolling in an inner-city high school, lying low until the bad guys come to get him. We saw this movie on cable back in 1987 and thought how ridiculous Cryer looked trying to seem more grownup by wearing a beard (which was, by the way, completely passe throughout the decade.) Widescreen.
Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home (1987): We’re tempted to write this one off as a low-grade knockoff of the vastly more successful Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but given how atrociously that latter film has aged (Matthew Broderick’s Ferris comes off today as an insufferable hipster prick) we’ll give this one the benefit of a doubt. This time Cryer plays the titular Stewart, a semi-New Romantic rebel and son of a U.S. Senator (Nicholas Pryor) who’s returned home after seven years in various boarding schools. His father and mother (Lynn Redgrave) are getting set up for scandal by their duplicitous campaign manager (Paul Gleason, the evil Mr. Vernon in The Breakfast Club), so it’s up to Stewart and his oddball new girlfriend (Viveka Davis) to bail them out. The film includes one of those notorious Alan Smithee directing credits you always hear about, after two real directors walked. Fullscreen.
Repossessed (1990): Remember how, after the riotous success of the first The Naked Gun, Leslie Nielsen thoroughly wore out his popularity by starring in an endless parade of similarly-toned “spoofs” that were nowhere near as funny? That all kind of started with this film, in which he plays an exorcist named Father Mayii (Say it out loud. You’ll get it) trying to cast the devil out of a suburban housewife (Linda Blair, presumably getting some kind of closure for her Exorcist notoriety) he’d saved years before. Except for one brilliant sight gag at Senator Ted Kennedy’s expense, the jokes are completely hit or miss; honestly, most of them miss. Director Bob Logan went on to make Meatballs 4 two years later. Fullscreen.
My Best Friend Is A Vampire (1988): High school student Jerry Capello (Robert Sean Leonard, House) makes love to a beautiful woman (Cecilia Peck) who bites him on the neck; shortly thereafter men armed with stakes burst into the bedroom, killing her and setting fire to the house. Later, Jerry realizes he’s become a vampire and with the help of a 300-year old companion (Boston Legal’s Rene Auberjonois) tries to abstain from human blood by drinking pig’s blood while avoiding the hunters. Reviews call the film kind of cheesy, kind of fun, but in any event we can’t help but imagine Joss Whedon seeing it and thinking, “Yes…. but what if…” Fullscreen.
Slaughter High (1986): Lowbrow dreck like this was a cornerstone of video store shelves throughout the decade, especially the mom and pop kind of places that perpetually struggled for inventory. Combining Friday The 13th with a generic high school revenge fantasy, Slaughter High details the bloody retribution given ten returning alumni by the outcast they disfigured in a prank gone wrong a decade before. We imagine the film fueled more than one sleepless sleepover when it aired on Cinemax back in the day, and anyway you have to love that pun-filled cover image, looking as it does like a cross between a yearbook promotional photo and an Iron Maiden album cover. Fullscreen.
The Night Before (1988): A tuxedo-clad young man (Keanu Reeves) awakens in an alleyway with no memory of how he got there. As the story unfolds he realizes through a series of flashbacks that he’s lost his father’s car and accidentally sold his date (Lori Loughlin) to a pimp while lost in East Los Angeles, the 80s cinema badlands of choice. With an emphasis on situational comedy over detail and a guest appearance by George Clinton’s P-Funk All-Stars (part of an all-funk soundtrack), the After Hours-meets-Dude, Where’s My Car? setup at least has potential for a light diversion. Fullscreen.
Homer and Eddie (1989): James Belushi and Whoopi Goldberg weren’t in every single American film made between 1985 and 1990 – it just seems like it. Here they team for a road movie about a terminally ill sociopathth (Goldberg) taking a mentally-deficient baseball fanatic (Belushi) to see the father who abandoned him. A weird mix of violence and comedy ensues, and while the two don’t fall in love they nevertheless apparently learn the kind of life lessons that are probably useful only to people in movies. Goldberg reportedly plays crazy really, really well, and the film represents a rare example of Belushi broadening his range. Director Andrei Konchalovsky also helmed the Sylvester Stallone-Kurt Russell anti-classic Tango & Cash that same year. Widescreen.
Irreconcilable Differences (1984): Arguably both the best and most well-remembered of the collection’s films, this endearing tearjerker details the demise of a young couple’s (Ryan O’Neal and Shelley Long) marriage after his film directing career takes off. Drew Barrymore plays their 10-year old daughter suing for divorce, while Sharon Stone has a great (and revealing) early turn as a bedhopping starlet. The film is almost worth viewing simply for the epic turkey O’Neal’s hubris-struck cineaste attempts to direct: Atlanta, an all-musical sequel to Gone With The Wind. Real-life writing-directing couple Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyer (Private Benjamin, Father of the Bride) later called their marriage quits, too. Fullscreen.
Finally, here’s eight more films from the decade we think deserve a release or re-release to the DVD format. They’re all at least as good as the material presented in this first batch: Tuff Turf, starring James Spader as a rich kid sent to the wrong side of the tracks; the grim Peter Coyote-led neo-noir Slayground; the Judd Nelson-Ally Sheedy crime saga Blue City, based on a novel by Ross McDonald; the punk rock Blackboard Jungle riff Class of 1984, starring Michael J. Fox; Penelope Spheeris’ The Boys Next Door, starring Charlie Sheen and Maxwell Caulfield as teens on a crime spree in L.A.; The Terminator-meets-Greenhouse Effect sci-fi actioner Hardware, starring Dylan McDermott and Stacey Travis; Made In Heaven, a romance starring Timothy Hutton and Kelly McGillis and set amid probably the most inviting afterlife ever put on film; and finally and maybe most importantly Sweet Dreams, the Patsy Cline biopic starring Jessica Lange and Ed Harris.