Ah, 1980. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when Jimmy Carter was in the White House, Hewlett Packard announced the release of its first home computer, and I was about to embark upon my senior year of high school. My hometown was pretty far off the beaten path and our nearest single screen movie theater was 13 miles away with the closest multiplex being 45 miles. In those days I wasn't always able to see every movie I wanted to, but I got caught up in my college years when I discovered premium cable channels and the newly born home video market. There were some classics that summer (The Empire Strikes Back, anyone?), some stuff I'd like to forget (Xanadu or Xana-don't?) and at least one film I can't find any record of (read on for that one).
Here's how the Summer of 1980 went:
It's interesting to note that the first two releases for the Summer of 1980 have both been recently remade more or less. I generally don't like slasher flicks but I make an exception for Friday the 13th because it hit before most of the genre cliches were established and that ending where Jason bursts out of the water literally had me jumping out of my seat. The Nude Bomb was a pretty awful feature version of the Get Smart TV series. When the film eventually played network television it was renamed The Return of Maxwell Smart.
My strongest memory of Breaker Morant was that I incorrectly assumed because of the title that it was one of those CB radio movies. No joke. It's actually a drama about the murder trial of three Australian army officers during the second Boer War. Fame, the story of students at New York High School of the Performing Arts spawned a long running TV series and is on the verge of a remake. Home Movies was a comedy by Brian De Palma of all people. I've never heard of The Hollywood Knights either but it stars Robert Wuhl and Tony Danza and its tagline "At last, a motion picture that moons a man on the land," gets my WTF award of the year. The western was long gone by 1980 but The Long Riders attempted to gimmick up the genre by featuring several sets of real life brothers including the Carradines, the Keaches, the Quaids and the (pre-Spinal Tap) Guests.
In Carny, a young Jodie Foster stars as a woman seduced by the glamorous nomadic lifestyle of the carnival worker. I have no immediate recollection of The Empire Strikes Back. Must have been a baseball movie I'm thinking. Regarding The Gong Show Movie, modern movie buffs are probably asking themselves how a game show can inspire a feature film. I have no good answer for this and can only hope future generations will learn to forgive. Mary Poppins used her umbrella to fly back into theaters 16 years after the film's original release and Stanley Kubrick adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining taught us that isolation, alcohol and axes are a bad combination.
Things got a little kinkier with these two Wednesday releases. The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood was an R-rated sex comedy featuring such unlikely performers as Adam West and Phil Silvers. Urban Cowboy dressed a former sweathog up like a ranch hand and popularized those electric bucking broncos. Seriously, who thought that was a good idea?
With Empire and The Shining making the rounds, studio execs must have figured this was a good time to dump some lesser product on the market. Bon Voyage Charlie Brown has the Peanuts gang shipping off to Europe as exchange students and seeing if they're appeal can last for a feature length movie (sadly, no). How To Become a Detective was... well, to be honest I have no idea what this was about. It made $7.5 million so someone out there must have seen it, but I can't find anything on IMDB about it.
Clint Eastwood plays Bronco Billy, a modern day cowboy running a wild west show and dealing with the fact that interest in the old west is on the wane. The Island was based on a Peter Benchley novel about modern day pirates preying on luxury yachts in the Caribbean. Roadie gets the award for the lamest tagline of the week with "The story of a boy and his equipment." Wholly Moses, a comedic take on the biblical tale of Moses was an obvious attempt to cash in on the success of the previous year's Life of Brian and marks one of the few times I ever saw Larraine Newman outside of Saturday Night Live.
Moviegoers got the blues this week as Brooke Shields bared all in The Blue Lagoon and Jake and Elwood got the band back together for The Blues Brothers. Robert Redford played a warden trying to clean up a corrupt prison in Brubaker and Rough Cut, a heist movie starring Burt Reynolds rounded out the week.
On this weekend, thanks to the release of Airplane!, people first began insisting that their friends stop calling them "surely," Brian de Palma paid homage to Hitchcock with Dressed to Kill, a sentient Volkswagen breaks up a counterfeiting ring (seriously?) in Herbie Goes Bananas, and a fugitive takes refuge on a movie set and takes a job as The Stunt Man.
The new kid in town hires a very young Adam Baldwin to fight off a bully in My Bodyguard. Oh, Heavenly Dog gets my award for the ludicrous film of the Summer of 1980 (yes, it's even more ridiculous than Herbie Goes Bananas) as it stars Chevy Chase who is murdered early in the film and reincarnated as lovable canine film star Benji. The scene in which Benji attempts to cop a feel from a bathing Jane Seymour definitely raises a few questions.
Mark Hamill fights a different kind of war with The Big Red One, a World War II action drama. The comedy duo Cheech & Chong made their second film Cheech & Chong's Next Movie (subtitled "Cheech & Chong Do Number Two"), Willie Nelson starred in Honeysuckle Rose, and Kurt Russell continued trying to show the world he wasn't some washed up child star in Used Cars.
Caddyshack was one of the definitive comedies of the 1980s, starring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and Rodney Dangerfield in a film about golf and class warfare. In The Last Flight of Noah's Ark Elliot Gould and Ricky (yes, it was still "Ricky" back then) Schroeder convert a crashed plane full of exotic animals into a boat. In The Final Countdown an aircraft carrier travels back through time to the battle of Pearl Harbor. Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen starred, but trash film fans will want to know that Troma Film entrepreneur Lloyd Kaufman served as Associate Producer and also appeared in the film. The Hunter starred Steve McQueen as a bounty hunter in his last film before his death that same year.
In a comedic take on Sax Rohmer's character, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu stars Peter Sellers as the insidious Doctor. In Why Would I Lie? Treat Williams plays a compulsive liar who becomes a social worker in this film that I had never heard of until just now. The week rounds out with Xanadu in which Olivia Newton John plays a Greek muse who inspires a man to build a disco roller rink (OK, maybe Oh, Heavenly Dog ISN'T the most whacked film of the summer).
Chuck Norris demonstrates his eight-sided karate kick in The Octagon, Prom Night was one of the three horror flicks Jamie Lee Curtis starred in that year, Burt Reynolds begins beating a franchise to death with Smokey and the Bandit II, and Tom Hulce is a pre-med student with dreams of working in the theater in Those Lips, Those Eyes.
Jackie Chan kicks the tapioca out of some guys in The Big Brawl and a young bride to be is menaced by a serial killer in He Knows You're Alone.
The Empire Strikes Back was obviously the big one for this teenage Star Wars fan that Summer. Airplane! has also withstood the test of time quite well as have The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack, The Shining and Friday the 13th. What films from the Summer of 1980 stick with you?