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Summer Of 87 (#110 of 21)

Lichman and Rizov “Live” at Grassroots The High Dive, Season 7, Episode 3

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Lichman and Rizov “Live” at Grassroots The High Dive, Season 7, Episode 3
Lichman and Rizov “Live” at Grassroots The High Dive, Season 7, Episode 3

Nostalgia!

John Lichman, Vadim Rizov, and Keith Uhlich discuss Masters of the Universe, Vadim wanting to watch Toys as a six-year-old, the incompetence of Mark L. Lester, and more. This podcast will sound to you like a David Letterman sketch that takes forever to get to the Top 10.

Summer of ’87: Nadine: Love, Bullets and the Blondes of the Blue Bonnet

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Summer of ‘87: <em>Nadine</em>: Love, Bullets and the Blondes of the Blue Bonnet
Summer of ‘87: <em>Nadine</em>: Love, Bullets and the Blondes of the Blue Bonnet

Robert Benton’s romance Nadine grabs your attention early. Beautiful nail salon employee Nadine (Kim Basinger) visits a somewhat shady photographer (Jerry Stiller) for whom she has posed. It’s 1955 in the only sane spot in Texas (Austin, that is), and Mrs. Hightower would like those pictures returned. They’re of the rather naughty variety, taken in the hopes that Hugh Hefner might notice and rocket her to stardom as a model. Now, Mrs. Hightower is having second thoughts—finding out you’re pregnant will do that to a gal—so she pleads to buy back the pictures. Ben Stiller’s dad agrees after some coaxing, but as he is retrieving the Hightower portfolio, he meets the unfriendly end of a butcher knife. Nadine takes the Hightower envelope and Hightails it outta there.

Sorta-Summer of ‘87: Angel Heart: The Misplaced Summer Masterpiece of Pulp

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Sorta-Summer of ‘87: <em>Angel Heart</em>: The Misplaced Summer Masterpiece of Pulp
Sorta-Summer of ‘87: <em>Angel Heart</em>: The Misplaced Summer Masterpiece of Pulp

The summer of 1987 gave us some great films—Predator, The Untouchables, The Lost Boys, and Innerspace—yet within this wealth of exciting, eccentric cinema, it’s easy to miss one of the greatest of them all. This may be partly due to the fact that it didn’t come out in the summer, which I suspect to be some sort of production misjudgment-cum-cosmic mistake. This film is Alan Parker’s pulp horror shocker Angel Heart, and in its stylish badness, its trash sensibility elevated to aesthetic perfection, it represents one of cinema’s great overlooked singularities.

The true core triumph of Angel Heart is its artful nastiness, its commitment to its depraved pulp pedigree. Ultimately, that’s what you should see when you step back and take in the whole of the film. But we can get to that later. We have to start with the details, the connective tissue: Three actors, all at different places in their careers, all setting the stage for their future histories, coming together to make Angel Heart’s sick magic. You could probably step outside of Angel Heart and write a whole study on how the actors involved related to the film and to one another. I don’t have that kind of space, but I’ll certainly still mention it on the way to more fundamental things.

Summer of ’87: The Living Daylights

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Summer of ’87: <em>The Living Daylights</em>
Summer of ’87: <em>The Living Daylights</em>

The ’80s were tough on James Bond. Sean Connery’s awkward return in the unlicensed Never Say Never Again notwithstanding, the sight of an aging Roger Moore was a blunt reminder of how stale Albert R. Broccoli’s long-running film series had become. Hoping to inject fresh life into the weathering franchise, producers selected a new actor for The Living Daylights and took a more serious approach than previous entries. Alas, the same lack of attitude that mired its immediate predecessors keeps The Living Daylights from going very far with its new star.

As might be expected by this point, the film opens with the all too familiar scenario of a car chase. After skydiving onto the Rock of Gibraltar, 007 (Timothy Dalton) leaps onto a moving truck, is fired at by the driver through the roof, and then climbs into the vehicle to fist fight. Naturally, the car is also speeding down winding roads and mountainous terrain. The chase ends with the requisite destruction of the car and Bond parachuting onto a boat, where it happens that a lovely woman waits for the perfect man to fall out of the sky. “Pick me up in an hour,” he radios in to British Intelligence before noticing the woman’s beauty. He looks her up and down and then says, “Better make it two,” cuing the a-ha title song.

Summer of ‘87: Adventures in Babysitting: Don’t Fuck with the Babysitter

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Summer of ‘87: <em>Adventures in Babysitting</em>: Don’t Fuck with the Babysitter
Summer of ‘87: <em>Adventures in Babysitting</em>: Don’t Fuck with the Babysitter

My first screen crushes were Linda Hamilton’s studly Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Elizabeth Shue’s feisty Chris Parker in Adventures in Babysitting, polar opposite composites of strong yet emotionally complex women who both actively protect children in distress. At the tender age of ten, I remember being in awe of their impressive durability, their resolve to keep moving forward through unpredictable landscapes despite escalating conflict and hopelessness. Each relied on brains and improvisation more than charm or beauty, embracing the chaos around them in order to survive it. A little personal history: I experienced Adventures in Babysitting on VHS around the time T-2 was shredding my synapses on the big screen in 1991, hence the palpable character dichotomy.

Summer of ’87: The Lost Boys

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Summer of ’87: <em>The Lost Boys</em>
Summer of ’87: <em>The Lost Boys</em>

The Lost Boys is overflowing with memorable images, from the splashes of smoky red light filling up the frames to its vivid depiction of an emerging punk youth. But one particular sight has stayed with me ever since I watched Joel Schumacher’s film at an entirely too-young age. It occurs during the bonfire feeding roughly halfway through the film. Until this point, violence has only been implied, which lends more potency to visible dismemberment. Amid the orgy of death and futile struggle, a single ephemeral vision: One of the vampires sinks its teeth into a man’s bald head, causing blood to splash out like champagne.

Summer of ’87: Dirty Dancing, Take Two: Oooh, Baby, Baby!

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Summer of ’87: <em>Dirty Dancing</em>, Take Two: Oooh, Baby, Baby!
Summer of ’87: <em>Dirty Dancing</em>, Take Two: Oooh, Baby, Baby!

That was the summer of 1987, when Dirty Dancing blended a 1963 setting with distinctively ’80s fashion, dancing and music, and it didn’t occur to us to mind. That was before Robert and Kristen, and Kate and Leo, before Jennifer Grey got a nose job, when we couldn’t wait to anoint Patrick Swayze as the next John Travolta, and we thought we’d never find a better director of PG-13 movies than Steven Spielberg.

That was the summer we went to Kellerman’s. All of us. Johnny. Baby. Girls who wanted to feel like young women. Boys who wanted to be grinded on like young men. Nervous mothers who wanted to grab their children by the arm and drag them out of the theater before the end of the opening credits.

Summer of ‘87: Dirty Dancing, Take One

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Summer of ‘87: <em>Dirty Dancing</em>, Take One
Summer of ‘87: <em>Dirty Dancing</em>, Take One

Shot in shaky black-and-white and presented in hypnotic stop-motion, the opening sequence of Emile Ardolino’s Dirty Dancing floods the screen with a whirring array of moving bodies. They’re clutching at one another in a slowed-down frenzy that is best described by the movie’s title (itself emblazoned across the screen in a daringly pink, lipstick-on-mirror font that later turned into a bankable logo). The pervading sense of uncorked voluptuousness—barely kept in check so as not to push the movie beyond its PG-13 realm—makes the scene play like a watered-down version of Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures, itself shot in the summer of 1963 (which is when Ardolino’s film takes place). As different as it can be from Smith’s Utopia of successful gender blur, Dirty Dancing nevertheless shares a crucial quality with Creatures…: namely, it’s a sexual reverie.

Summer of ‘87: The Gate

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Summer of ’87: The Gate
Summer of ’87: The Gate

Long before Stephen Dorff went Somewhere with Sofia Coppola, he made his screen debut in 1987’s horror oddity The Gate. Directed by Tibor Takács (I, Madman), The Gate pits Dorff against agents of Satan hellbent on destroying all that is wholesome and good in the ’burbs. Depending on your read of the material, this is either a kitchen sink approach to monster movies or a hotbed of “family values” messages, with the Bible literally thrown in for good measure. At one point, a character hoping to exorcise the impending demon onslaught stops reading his Bible and tosses it down the hellhole in his backyard. This is exactly what I would have done, because demons respond better to the Word when it’s going upside their heads. The eruption of sparks in response to the bibilical bitchslap made my inner lapsed Baptist smile.