The Lambcast Draft of 1987 is underway and you may have already voted for the fine slate of films I managed to nab during the podcast. If you were uncertain in any way as to the quality of my selections, I thought I’d provide a brief rundown and justification for each of the five films. You can then go the The Lamb and vote your conscience. The video above will also give you a 42 second justification for my choices.
In truth this needs no justification, everyone knows how amazing this Paul Verhofen film is. It is simultaneously an action film, science fiction story and political satire. There are moments of extreme violence and there are sections where you may find yourself laughing at things you would never have imagined being funny. The special effects are a combination of stop motion, make-up and animation that are solid for 1987 and were not improved on by the remake a couple of years ago. The film is held together by two outstanding performances. Peter Weller is Alex Murphy, the police officer who becomes Robocop. His story line is surprisingly poignant and it is accomplished while wearing a heavy costume and uncomfortable make-up. Kurtwood Smith is the over the top villain of the piece, Clarence Boddicker, a drug dealing murderous thug with a flare for self importance that we wait a long time to see taken down. Other performers are great as well, and I recently attended a Tribute Screening in honor of Miguel Ferrer who has a key role in the film.
For a ten to fifteen year stretch, Brian DePalma was my favorite director. His films were hypnotic to watch but they often dealt with psych sexual concepts that kept them from being mainstream hits. The Untouchables broke that barrier for him with a straight forward gangster story that had a group of law enforcement officers as the heroes rather than a Cuban gangster (i.e. Scarface). The good guys were played by newly anointed star of the moment Kevin Costner, longtime character actor Charles Martin Smith, newcomer Andy Garcia and the winner of this years best supporting actor award, Sean Connery. The part of Al Capone was originally going to be played by Bob Hoskins, but when Robert DeNiro became available, Hoskins was paid off and another bigger than life star was added to the film. Hard as it is to believe, DeNiro was upstaged as the bad guy by the skeletal Billy Drago, who is memorably escorted to the car by Elliot Ness. The facts may not have been straight but the story was pretty terrific with several amazing set pieces that stand up to scrutiny today.
The Living Daylights
While my competitors on the podcast seem to mock my choice of a Timothy Dalton Bond film, all the real 007 fans out there know that Dalton was the real deal. He did not get much of a shot at playing the world’s greatest gentleman spy. This was his first shot and the film was never tailored to his strengths. You can detect a little of the flavor left over from the Moore era Bonds, but the story did make the circumstances more real. Dalton looked the literary part more than any other cinema persona, even the true Bond Connery. This entry in the franchise features an excellent fight sequence and Bond is not even in it. The double crosses in this movie are more believable than those in a dozen other spy films, and the stunts continued to be the high spot in the 007 outings of the 1980s. Two years ago, as we were anticipating the most recent Bond picture, I did a series on my 007 favorite things about each film, “The Living Daylights” entry is here for your perusal. This was also the final Bond film for the long tenured composer John Barry.
This may be an obscure one for some of you. It was a low budget action film with stars who were not big names but were reasonably well known. The concept is the thing that sells this movie. In reality it is a science fiction chase film. Aliens have arrived on Earth, one is chasing the other. Now before you start having visions of Dolph Lungren in your head, the Aliens can take over a human body and use it to move around. The evil alien does this several times in the film, killing a series of otherwise law abiding people but turning their remains into blood-thirsty killers and thieves. There are some nice practical effects that show the parasite moving from one body to another. The L.A. Cop and the FBI Agent who are trying to track the perpetrator down are played by Michael Nouri from “Flashdance” and future otherworldly FBI Agent Kyle MacLachlan. This film features Agent Cooper before Twin Peaks, and we get an explanation as to why he is so odd. It is full of chases set in the streets of Los Angeles in the 1980s. By the way, all the construction you see on the streets then, is still going on. There is one scene set outside a strip club that is located next to Miceli”s Restaurant in Hollywood. It is across from a newsstand that I frequented before the internet, it is long gone now. The parking lot where the alien screws a guy to death is still there however, and the car they occupy is in a spot that I still park in when I go to the Egyptian Theater. This is 96 minutes of shooting, car chases, improbable plot developments and well known character actors getting a chance to strut a little bit. This film has the most bang for your buck in 1987.
Most people who ridicule this movie have not seen it. “Ishtar” was an attempt to recreate the film style of the Hope/Crosby “Road” pictures of the forties. Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty are cast against type, with Beatty as the flummoxed, tongue tied romantic and Hoffman as a self assured ladies man. Neither of the characters has it right but the two stars do all they can to sell it. Jack Weston is a New York talent agent who manages to get them a booking, and he is tired from the first to the last of his scenes. It is however Charles Grodin who steals the picture as a CIA man, trying to use the two musicians in a plot to control the government of a non-existent Middle Eastern Country. The two lead encounter spies, terrorists, a mysterious woman and a blind camel. Writer/Director Elaine May had her directing career stymied by the results of this film, but she continued to be an important comedy presence of the big screen and is responsible for some great film scripts in the 90s. Legendary songwriter Paul Williams worked out a number of “bad” songs for the duo to performs, most of which have just a couple of lines used. However, if you can appreciate the theme “Dangerous Business” you will know what kinds of laughs we missed when the planned album of Rogers and Clarke was cancelled.
|I own this two poster set, it is a great image that highlights a funny part of the movie.|
I know it is a bit of a risk, but if any of you watches “Ishtar” as a result of my choosing it for the draft, even if I don’t win, I will feel some vindication.