Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Of Videodromes and Sure Things

Starting from Saturday, Alison & I have held a bit of a filmfest which, as the days have gone on, has turned into an 80s blowout. This is the first film we watched:

My choice - Alison can’t remember ever watching it before - and one of my favourite films of all time. I first saw it in the early 80s (it came out 82/83, so I’d guess 1984 or so), on VHS, at my friend Steven Corton’s house. He’d never heard of it, I loved Debbie Harry, thought Rick Baker was brilliant and had watched “Scanners” and thought David Cronenberg was second only to George Lucas. I have no idea if the copy we watched was cut (I imagine it was), but I do remember being absolutely blown away by the whole thing - the look, the feel, the imagery - it was fantastic. I’ve re-visited it more than a few times since, but this was the first occasion in a while. So, going back to view a 28 year old film, probably 26 years since I first saw it - what did I think? I thought it held up remarkably well, to be honest. James Woods was brilliant, thoroughly believable and very natural. Debbie Harry - I’m sorry to say - was a bit wooden at times but she certainly brought something extra to the part. The effects were excellent, for the most part, though to be fair they didn’t resist the temptation to dwell - Woods standing up with his arm in his chest suffered from a very fake-looking arm and the ‘spikes coming out of the handgun’ shot ran a bit too long. The direction and writing were spot on, as was the location work and it was a thoroughly engrossing piece of cinema.
It was also nice to see how things have changed - the clunky TV, the Betamax tapes (used, apparently, because of make-up requirements to do with size), the cable stuff being a lot tamer than we now take for granted on the Net - and not always for the better.
(as an aside, apparently this is up for a remake. I have the awful idea that it’ll be hunky/sexy early 20-somethings in the leads, a director who cuts to make up for content and more CGI than you can shake a stick at. A remake I’ll be avoiding, methinks).

On Sunday, we watched “Angel Heart” - cracking film, dreadful transfer but as I’m currently reading “Falling Angel”, I’ll discuss this in another blogpost.

On Monday it was “Condorman”, from 1981. I got the paperback of this from the school bookworm club (I’d have been about 12) and loved it. I bugged Dad to take me to see it at the cinema and I remember really enjoying it (and waiting, avidly, for the sequel the end of the film appeared to promise). Watching it now, I can only assume my Dad was very politely quiet as we left the cinema. The transfer was dreadful, the acting was appalling, you could see the wires when Condorman flew and the blue-screen/rear projection work was terrible. If this had been a Cannon Films production from 1981 you might forgive it, but not Disney. On the upside, Remy Julienne’s stuntwork was very good.

Last night, Alison fancied a comedy and so we watched “The Sure Thing”, another film I love dearly but don’t seem to watch too often. Expecting to have my fond memories shattered, we settled down and I discovered, to my great relief, that the film has lost none of its charm or sparkle. It’s funny, poignant, well acted, gripping and thoroughly enjoyable. Cusack - did he really ever look that young - was brilliant and Daphne Zuniga (who appears to have settled into a TV acting career) held her own well. Loved it.

So the best of the bunch was “Videodrome”, a low-budget tax shelter movie from Canada that nobody understood when it was released but which still, 28 years later, has the power to unsettle. And, brilliantly, it inspired a blog that takes in David Cronenberg and Rob Reiner, by way of Alan Parker. Now that’s an eclectic bunch of film-makers.


  1. I always think of myself as an 80s film fan but don't think I've ever seen any of those... perhaps I was just a John Hughes/Brat Pack fan...

  2. Hi Selena

    I like the Hughes/Brat Pack stuff too - our last 80s fest took in most of his, plus a tangent for Michael J Fox's films. This time I wanted us to go a little bit darker though.

    So what's your favourite Brat Pack film?

  3. Videodrome was years ahead of its time. utterly unique like Croenbergs earlier films leading up to it. I'll be avioding the remake too! Angel Heart is another fav. love the stunning noirish photography of the film.

  4. Cheers, Andrew, you're absolutely right on both films - the only problem I had with "Angel Heart" is that the transfer on my DVD is terrible. But it's a gorgeous film.

    As for the "Videodrome" remake, I read Universal's plans for it and it sounds dreadful (even worse than I originally thought).

  5. Mark,

    Oooh, favourite Hughes film is slightly later than Brat Pack as it's Some Kind of Wonderful, otherwise it's The Breakfast Club.

    Actually you reminded me, asking about personal zines, to put my second issue up and that has a Hughes tribute in it:

  6. Hi

    I've never seen "Some Kind Of Wonderful", but I got the book/novelisation and loved it. Really enjoyed "The Breakfast Club" too.

    I saw your link to brain scrapings 2 and read it earlier today. I liked it a lot, the Hughes tribute and the blog about the tablets. Good stuff, I like the idea of personal zines. Are you on target for number 3?


  7. Think I'm so fond of Some Kind of Wonderful because I had the novelisation too.

    Made notes on stuff to do for Brain scrapings 3, now just have to write 'em!

  8. You had the novelisation too - you and me are the only people I'm aware of that have that book! How cool is that?

    Looking forward to BS3!

  9. Yeah, I'm pretty amazed to find someone else who owned the novelisation!

  10. Do you still have yours? I haven't read it in years (decades, perhaps), but it's managed to survive every cull I've ever had on my book shelves.

  11. A quick scout of the library hasn't revealed it,(though there are several thousand books in there, in not much order). I may have got shot in a fit of teenage embarrassment, along with my Sweet Heart and Sweet Valley High books!

    Thought I'd kept it though. Shouldn't have been embarrassed by my 11yr old reading habits, as without those books I wouldn't have gone on to read wider and wider.

  12. Ah, teenaged embarrassment! Hopefully you've still got it, perhaps it'd be interesting to re-read.