Monday, August 10, 2009

Quarter Back: August 1984

Quarter Back is a monthly feature looking back at the movies of 25 years ago. One movie will be watched for the first time, one will be revisited.


And now, after just one word, this post has rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America. Or it would have been, if this blog were a movie. And if I wasn't actually telling you to fornicate, but using the word in a general exclamatory sense. Because that would garner an R. Seriously.

"I'm going to break your fucking neck!" That's PG-13.

"I'm going to break your neck and then fuck you!" That's R. And gross.

From the M.P.A.A. guidelines: "Any drug use will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. More than brief nudity will require at least a PG-13 rating, but such nudity in a PG-13 rated motion picture generally will not be sexually oriented. There may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence. A motion picture's single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating, as must even one of those words used in a sexual context."

These silly rules have been in place for 25 years today, as the PG-13 rating debuted on August 10, 1984 with John Milius' Red Dawn. (Really, The Flamingo Kid was the first movie to merit the designation, but it wouldn't see theaters until August.)

It was a direct response to increased adult situations in PG-rated films, and most of the parental complaints seemed directed at Steven Spielberg. Some of his films, particularly Jaws and Poltergeist, clearly weren't suitable for their youngest viewers. And the temperature really boiled in summer '84 with the openings of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins. The former showed a heart being ripped out of a body, the latter had creatures melting in microwaves while the heroine lamented the non-existence of Santa Claus.

The parents had a point.

In the past quarter century, PG-13 has become the go-to rating for big summer blockbusters, and adult franchises looking to widen their audience base (in the '80s, it was Vacation and Police Academy, more recently Die Hard and The Terminator). And its non-existence seems inconceivable now, realizing there was once only a single ratings step between Annie and Taxi Driver.

Featured Movies

Seen it before?: Nope.
Release date: August 17, 1984
Actors: Clint Eastwood
Director: Richard Tuggle (Out of Bounds)
Box office: $48.1 million (#13 in 1984)

Tightrope is nothing but a standard serial killer drama, but it adds a bit of flavor with a New Orleans setting and one Mr. Clint Eastwood. In his most interesting performance of the decade, Eastwood plays yet another cop, but one who pushes a hooker's face into his crotch in one scene, and pals around with his daughters in the next (one of them played by real-life offspring Alison, which must have led to some interesting family conversations).

That Eastwood could turn this dark, dour thriller into a hit speaks to his unrivaled popularity (seriously, look at his box office chart - the guy has been headlining successes for over 40 years, and his just pulled off his biggest hit at age 79). It's not even a good movie, but his presence alone convinces you otherwise. Grade: B-

Red Dawn
Seen it before?: Hell yes. And fuck you if you say otherwise.
Release date: August 10, 1984
Actors: Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey
Director: John Milius (Conan the Barbarian, Flight of the Intruder)
Box office: $38.4 million (#20 in 1984)

There were three movie moments that scared the boo-boo out of me as a kid. Number one was Jabba the Hutt. Couldn't handle the opening 20 minutes of Return of the Jedi at seven years old. Two, the clown in Poltergeist. The face ripping and pool corpses weren't a bother - just that damn clown. And third, and perhaps the topper of them all, the opening scene of Red Dawn.

It's your typical school day, scene: history class. Mid-lecture, men in parachutes begin to rain down outside of the window. Teacher walks out to see what's happening - and promptly gets gunned down, along with a number of students. It's the Russians! And Cubans!

This is one surrious movie. I'd really forgotten how unrelenting it is. The bullets start flying in Minute 2, and the bleakness doesn't end until the final, quasi-uplifting voiceover. Even Schindler's List had lighter moments to break the tension, but director Milius ain't playin' any of that faggot "humor" crap here. This is as straight-faced as any movie comes, a mean feat when you have C. Thomas Howell playing a guerilla warrior.

And oh man, the politics. Red Dawn finds time to espouse about gun rights, paint Europe as a bunch of pussies, and lament the openness of the U.S./Mexican border. It's truly a product of the Reagan years, and I can't imagine how the recently announced remake is going to adapt for the Obama era. Spoiler alert: it won't be nearly as good.

I realize that half of you are reading this as a slam, and the other half are putting it at the top of your Netflix queue right now. So please understand, when I say "Red Dawn is the kind of movie Tom Clancy masturbates to," know that it's A COMPLIMENT. Grade: B+

Other films 25 years old this month:

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension - Still heralded in geek circles, this bizarre sci-fi adventure starred Peter Weller as a rock star/brain surgeon/samurai who protects Earth against invaders from another dimension. It joins Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins and Supergirl as intended franchises that never got past Part One.

Bolero - "An Adventure in Ecstacy," or so says the poster. This cleaned up at the 1984 Razzies, winning Worst Actress (Bo Derek), Worst Director (John Derek), Worst New Star (Olivia d'Abo), Worst Screenplay, Worst Musical Score and, of course, Worst Picture.

Choose Me - Reading multiple plot synopses online, I can only figure out that this is an ensemble story about love. Not much to go on, I know. Genevieve Bujold, Keith Carradine and John Larroquette appear.

C.H.U.D. - A cheap creature feature about ghoulies living in the sewers. The title stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller, just in case not knowing that would keep you up tonight.

Cloak and Dagger - Oh, how many times I saw this one. Henry Thomas (E.T.) is a video game-obsessed kid whose imaginary friend looks like Dabney Coleman (mine, incidentally, was a dead ringer for Wilford Brimley). Well, when evil plans fall into his hands, it's a race against - you get the idea. I'm assuming this one wouldn't hold up.

Dreamscape - I remember some giant snake man freaking me out, but not much else about this Dennis Quaid thriller. Don't even remember if "thriller" is the right word, actually.

Flashpoint - According to IMDB: "Two Texas border guards find a jeep buried for 20 years in the desert, with a skeleton, a scoped rifle, and a box with $800,000 in cash." Sounds like somebody should sue Cormac McCarthy's panties off.

Grandview U.S.A. - C. Thomas Howell and Patrick Swayze romance older woman Jamie Lee Curtis, which was probably more fun than killing Cubans in Red Dawn. Or fighting socs in The Outsiders. Geez, I hope those two got along.

Joy of Sex - Director Martha Coolidge was fired from this film for wanting to edit out all of the nude scenes. So you're filming a movie in the '80s, calling it Joy of Sex, and wanting to show zero boob? That deserves a firin', lady.

Oxford Blues - A year before St. Elmo's Fire, Rob Lowe and Ally Sheedy teamed up for this Oxford University-set rowing romance. Yes, you could actually call its a sports movie. The most wussy sports movie of all time, but a sports movie.

The Philadelphia Experiment - A military experiment sends two World War II sailors into 1984. With thrilling consequences, I'm sure. (I did see this one 20+ years ago, but can't remember anything but bodies stuck into a boat deck. I think. Am I right here?)

Sheena - Mom took my brother and sister to see this, but I couldn't go because I hadn't practiced piano that day. Seriously, I remember this very vividly. If only the rest of my childhood punishments had been of the "You can't see Sheena" variety.

The Woman In Red - Watching this, you realize how much the ratings board wanted to take PG-13 for a spin. This one had multiple f-words and full-frontal female nudity, yet somehow got the teen-friendly tag. Oh, for more innocent days.

Quarter Back: July 1984
Quarter Back: June 1984
Quarter Back: May 1984
Quarter Back: April 1984


Stanicek said...

Remind me to never let you see the Leonard Maltin review of "Red Dawn".

Joe Leydon said...

I saw -- and reviewed -- Flashpoint during its original theatrical release. Trust me: You didn't miss anything important.

Carrie said...

Scott loves CHUD.