The 1987 Draft Slate

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.

The Untouchables

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.

The Hidden

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.

1987 Movie Draft: Lambcast

This is the one you have all been waiting for, the 1987 Movie Draft on the Lambcast Podcast.

Four other Lambs and I compete to create the best slate of five movies from 1987. The show is a blast, as there is trash talk, reminiscences and general enthusiasm for this 30 year old time frame. You can listen to the show on the link below but more importantly, you can vote for a slate of films on the second link below that. Of course as a follower/reader of my site, I expect you to support my team. The only caveat is that I did include an outlier choice in “Ishtar”. Next week I will put up a mini-review page with comments for each of my selections. If you need to wait for that before you vote, I understand. Those of you who trust and love me however, should go vote now. My films are highlighted in the picture above. You cant go wrong with Robocop, Sean Connery and James Bond. “The Hidden” is a not so widely seen Science Fiction/Action film featuring Kyle MacLachlan. “Ishtar” is popularly thought of as a bomb, but it contains a lot of big laughs and an amusing attitude throughout.

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Voting can be done here:

LAMBCAST #385 1987 DRAFT: It’s time for another year draft! To celebrated Jay’s upcoming 30th birthday we’re taking the opportunity to look at films from his birth year, 1987! Jay competed against Dylan, T…

Robocop: Miguel Ferrer Remembered With Dr. Peter Weller

In the last few years, we have lost a number of terrific actors that were the basis of our movie obsessions in the first place. 2016 , whether accurately or not, was seen as being particularly brutal. We might have hoped for a respite from bad news but in January, character actor Miguel Ferrer left us. He was just shy of being sixty two, and coincidentally, almost half his life ago, he made an amazing contribution to one of the greatest films of the 1980s. It is the 30th Anniversary of “Robocop”, a movie that brought Mr, Ferrer to greater audience awareness and set the stage for characters that he would play for the rest of his career.

Last night, the American Cinematheque arranged a screening of the film and provided two wonderful guests to speak about the movie and their colleague. Peter Weller, Robocop himself, was present as was principle screenwriter Ed Neumeier. Weller was quite clear that he was mostly done talking about the film after an extensive promotional tour ten years ago for a box set release of the film and a 25th Anniversary salute he participated in five years ago. It was the cause of acknowledging his friend Miguel Ferrer that brought him out on this evening, and he along with Mr. Neumeier focused on the passion of the film making rather than all the geek related issues that he has talked about and which have been covered in other places for years.

Dr. Weller (he has a PhD in Renaissance Art from UCLA), showed his spirit from the start of the program. The Q and A was scheduled for after the screening, but when the dialogue track of the film was not coming through the sound system, he was the one who jumped up and notified the management. He and Neumeier  then did an impromptu fifteen minutes while the technical issue was being fixed. At one point he jokingly incited the audience to riot because of the snafu. Once the sound issue was resolved he took a seat (just two seats down in front of me) and watched the film with the rest of us. When he returned to the proscenium after the film, he told us that it was not his usual custom to watch the movie over and over, but that his wife had left him there and taken the car, so he thought it would be appropriate to watch so he could once again recognize the elements that Miguel Ferrer brought to the movie. He noted how Bob Morton, Ferrer’s character, was both irritating and admirable. He had repulsive characteristics but also personality quirks and an attitude about Robocop, that made everyone love the movie so much more. His performance is a spark plug in the first half of the film. He is not a heroic character, but rather the satirical version of the yuppie climber in the corporate world of the times. Everyone in the theater practically cheered when Morton, looking at Robocop and seen from his perspective, shakes his finger and tells Robo, “You are going to be a bad mother****er.”

Weller and Neumeier were also effusive in praise of the director of the movie Paul Verhoven. While the script was done and the concept set, Verhoeven infused the story with the biting satire it is remembered for. The energy and tension of Robocop’s first scenes in the police station and laboratory were due to his design of the camera movements and lighting. As a director himself, Weller said he could now relate to the way Verhoeven operated in what they called 7th gear. The whole crew would be amped up and tuned in and working in synchronized speed to get the next shot and keep the process moving. You could hear the passion in Weller’s voice on several of the subjects that came up, but he first reached this level of emotion when praising the director who’s fortunate and wise hands the project fell into.

Dr. Peter Weller Center, Screenwriter Ed Neumeier on the right

Neumeier was quite gracious in giving credit to the director as well but also pointing out how the actors make the words mean something more than the writer might ever have imagined. He gave Kurtwood Smith, the actor who played villain Clarence Boddicker, credit for the improvised “Guns, Guns, Guns” line that made his negotiation scene so much funnier and intense than it might otherwise have been. He also noted that Weller is the one who came up with the Robocop line to his wounded partner Lewis, “They’ll fix you. They fix everything.” A line that allowed closure of that part of the story with a sense of hope for the audience, but also a sense of sorry at the costs.

The subject of the awkwardness of acting came up in response to an audience question that I could not quite make out, but it was one of the more eloquent moments of Weller’s conversation with us. He described the degree of commitment and courage it takes to really look at a fellow actor at a close distance and connect with them on camera. In his view, you need to be fearlessly real to be able to covey the emotions that a character might be feeling. He completely won me over with the example he chose to illustrate that point. He describe how Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHaviland had to have that sort of intensity in front of a camera merely inches from one another’s face in the balcony scene in Robin Hood. Mr. Weller, excuse me, Dr. Weller, you are a man after my own heart. I may have to find a higher place on my mental shelf for every word you said as a result of that illustration. Thank you.


One more point to show how engaged and enthusiastic Weller was last night. An audience member asked him to take a question from a little boy who was at the screening. Weller rightfully pointed out when the boy shared that his age was nine, that he should not have even been allowed in the theater, but he joked it away and took the question. It was the kind of question you might expect a nine year old to ask, “How did it feel to play the coolest robot ever in the movies?” Weller answered by asking his own question of the boy, “After being here tonight and standing up to ask your question, how does it feel to be the coolest kid in your school?”

Both Neumeier and Weller were quick to point to the contributions of everyone on the movie. They had praise for the sound effects team, and for Phil Tippet’s stop motion effects. The make up guy who did Weller’s face for the movie was praised as was the body motion artist he had worked with for six months to get Robocop’s movements down. Even the local video store that provided a copy of Ivan The Terrible for Weller to watch in modifying his movements got some love. An extra treat was provided when Weller pointed back to where he had sat watching the movie and he introduced actress Diane Robin, who played the model who asked Bob Morton just before he was murdered if he was going to call her. She looked great and the audience got the solid feeling that everyone on that set had cared about how the movie came out.


My two daughters are both fans of the film and I managed to wrangle them into the theater last night. In fact they got there well before me and they saved seats for my friend Michael and I. I was so glad to see him there for this wonderful event. I look forward to sharing some time at the TCM festival in April.

I will save an analytical post of the film for another day, but I will add one final note here. When the movie finished, the roar of the crowd was loud, and it reminded me of the first time I saw the film back in 1987. The crowd could have torn the place down with their enthusiasm. Last night, Peter Weller could have done the same thing. A fantastic evening. Thanks one and all.