Saturday, March 22, 2014

1980: Honorable Mentions

1980 was a really great year for film.  While there was still some of the grit left over from the 70's (mainly in the low budget arena), the higher budgeted films were becoming more spectacular.  The laughs were bigger, the screams were bigger and the thrills were bigger.  Let's start with the stuff that was almost good enough for the top ten but not quite.

Clint's first film for the decade is this good natured, rather sweet comedy about a former New Jersey shoe salesman turned leader of a traveling wild west sideshow.  Clint turns in a nice performance as does the rest of the cast and the overall effect is one of laid back whimsy.  Definitely one of his unheralded gems.
Walter Hill's entertaining western seems at first a little too gimmicky for its own good with real life brothers playing the members of the Cole-Younger gang but it ends up being a nicely effective western with good work from the entire cast, especially James and Stacey Keach as Frank and Jesse James.

An enjoyable comedy with a great trio of comedic performances from the leads and a nice turn from Dabney Coleman as the boss of the three women who decide to get even with him.  Funny stuff.

Pretty damn great thriller starring Steve Railsback as a troubled Vietnam vet (Aren't they all in the movies?) roped into becoming a movie stuntman by director Peter O'Toole in an awesomely demonic performance.  This never got the due it deserved during its initial release but eventually it has become something of a cult favorite.  Given how amazing O'Toole is here, it's not hard to see why.

Interesting but ultimately too slow Canadian thriller about a young woman who goes to live with her grandmother who harbors a dark secret.  Good work from Kate Hawtry as the elderly maniac and Lesleh Donaldson as the young woman plus a nicely over the top ending make this one worth watching at least once though.

Very good, typically wild Ken Russell film about a scientist played by William Hurt who is doing experiments that end up sending him up and down the evolutionary ladder.  Hallucinatory f/x, some great Dick Smith f/x and a solid cast make this one of the better horror films of the year though the ending doesn't quite work.

Battle Beyond the Stars is a fantastically enjoyable sci-fi take on The Magnificent Seven.  Blessed with a great cast, f/x and a nice James Horner score, this Roger Corman production is one of the best films made in the wake of Star Wars' massive success.

Immensely amusing, over the top comedy musical that is still probably the best film based on an SNL sketch.  Great musical numbers, fun work from Belushi and Aykroyd and two of the best car chases ever captured on film.
Great dark horror comedy with a great performance from Rory Calhoun and a rousing chainsaw duel finale.

Solid little horror flick about an alligator in the sewers of New York that eats a bunch of people.  Fun cast with Henry Silva and Robert Forster; a clever John Sayles script, good direction from Lewis Teague and some nice gore make this one a pleasant diversion.

Fun Italian horror film about a bunch of alien spores that make people explode when they get into contact with them.  Some flashy gore and a rather neat monster at the end, plus a fun Ian McCulloch performance make this early Cannon Films pickup a fun ride.

This might the the most amazingly tasteless thing Roger Corman has ever produced.  A sordid, gory tale of a small fishing village besieged  by mutant fish men who kill men and rape women.  Tons of gore and nudity, a fun cast and really, the balls it took to even make the damn thing the way they did earns it a spot on the list.

It's not as good as it could have been but this Chuck Norris/Lee Van Cleef ninja movie is still worth watching if only for the last twenty minutes or so.  Chuck vs. ninjas is essentially all the plot we get and while the film is too slow, it does pick up at the end with a nicely chaotic finale.

Tom Savini's f/x and Joe Spinell's grimy performance are the only reasons to watch this nasty, thoroughly sleazy slasher flick but those two reasons alone make the film work to a certain degree.  Spinell provides one of the most uncomfortable portrayals of a psycho killer ever and Savini delivers some creative no holds barred gore.  A grindhouse classic, though watching it is difficult as hell.

Lucio Fulci delivers another gory ride to hell with this enjoyably gross, sort of cheesy film about the gates of hell being opened up and all the bad stuff that occurs as a result.  Some eye-catching gore scenes make this one stand out, though the director would do better the next year with The Beyond.

Jamie Lee Curtis is solid in this reasonably inventive slasher film set on a train.  Not really all that scary but Curtis is always a welcome sight and the killer changing disguises (it's a costume party) is a nice touch.

We end with the sequel to Clint Eastwood's 1978 shockingly good Every Which Way But LooseAny Which Way You Can is just as much of a fun romp as the first one, though it lacks the introspective stuff Clint tends to throw into his stuff.  Still, any film that ends with a twenty minute fight between Clint and biker movie vet William Smith is worth my time.

That's it for the best of the rest, coming soon is a dip into the mucky end of the pool.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.