Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Orion Files: 1985

1985 was a financially awful year for Orion (hell, even I'm not sitting through all the films they put out for this edition), though the films got decent to great reviews for the most part (good reviews don't pay the bills, though). The company was prepping their home video label and their December release ended up being postponed till 1986, leaving them with the last two months of the year unspoken for. This won;t be one of my longer (or better if we're being honest) pieces but the show must go on.

Based on a true story, this is a pretty well regarded spy thriller about two young men who sell state secrets to the Soviets in the 70's. Good performances abound (as much of a whack job as Sean Penn can be, he does deliver the goods every time) and the film retains its solid reputation.

Kurt Russell stars as a burnt out journalist who ends up going after a killer who sends him taunting messages about his next victims. This was one of the first films released on Orion Home Video and for the most part, it's a well made, if somewhat predictable thriller with a typically good Kurt Russell performance.

The obligatory Woody Allen film for the year is this well received dramedy starring Mia Farrow as a Depression-era housewife whose one joy is going to the movies. She finds romance when one of the characters in the film (played by Jeff Daniels who also appears as the actor playing the character) steps off the screen and into reality.

Orion's lone financial success for the year is this agreeable comedy starring Rosanna Arquette as a housewife who ends up getting mistaken for a kooky local character named Susan, played by Madonna.

I reviewed this decent Chuck Norris film on the blog five years ago and while I still don't really like the more serious cop drama part of it (while it doesn't cripple the movie, it still gets in the way), it's perfectly good when it just decides to be a solid action movie. That being said, I still like Chuck's Cannon output from 1985 better.

Utterly predictable comedy about  young lovers, this one gained a bit of news earlier this year when it turned out that a Puerto Rican film basically ripped the film off completely.

A young man dies in the 50's but must work as a guardian angel before he can be let into heaven. He does so by helping out a kid whose mother turns out to be the guy's former girlfriend. Not much to say on this one, really. Have I mentioned how bad 1985 was for the studio yet?

Now this is more like it! Return of the Living Dead is the best thing Orion put out in 1985 and still holds up today as a fantastic horror comedy. Great script and direction from Dan O'Bannon, some fun f/x and of course, I have to mention Linnea Quigley because... Well, because it's Linnea Quigley! That aside, this is just plain fun.


Set in Italy, circa 1501, this Paul Verhoeven film stars Rutger Hauer in a story about warring groups of mercenaries. In spite of good reviews, Orion gave this one a limited release and it promptly tanked. The film is a pretty grim and realistic depiction of how crappy the Middle Ages were and Hauer gives a typically solid performance. This was Verhoeven's stateside debut and he approaches things with his usual sense of subtlety and tact. Not really surprised this failed but i'm also not surprised the studio didn't have much faith in it.

This satire of the advertising industry was buried at the end of the summer (lot of dump month releases for this company) but it's actually a relatively funny film. Loretta Swit plays an ad executive for a beer company (Kenneth Mars plays the owner and he's the funniest thing about the film) who stumbles upon three average guys who foil a robbery and become local heroes to the point where she decides to use them for her next ad campaign which of course ends up being a series of progressively more outrageous commercials that play up the toughness of said average guys. A good cast with likable characters and some funny bits here and there help make this obscure comedy something worth looking at at least once.

This one is about a woman possessed by a ghost from the 20's who still wants to make it in showbiz. I- I just don't have the energy to sit through something like that. Let's just say that Roger Ebert loathed it and going by the description I've read, the man was probably spot on.

I have a certain fondness for this one as I distinctly remember the poster that was in the theater where I saw Return of the Jedi (the re-release from 1985, natch). Fred Ward plays a New York cop who is enlisted (quite against his will) by a government agency headed by Wilford Brimley to become a super spy. He gets trained by Joel Grey (in really politically incorrect Asian makeup) as a Korean martial arts master and gets caught up in a plot involving a weapons program and the US Army. Grey is fun (though the character really is quite offensive) and the climax on the Statue of Liberty is terrific. The film was supposed to be the start of a series (the character is from a series of pulp novels) but the film didn't do very well (the open ending might have had something to do with it) and nothing ever came of it.

Like I said, 1985 was a rather dismal year for Orion,. A few well reviewed movies, some actually decent ones but for the most part, the year was not a good one. 1986, however, would be a different story.

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About Me

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