There are some parts of the 80s that should be left where they are… yes, I’m looking at you shoulder pads, big hair and red braces.
For all I love movies from that era, I do have reservations about modern day tinkering and revival. Bill and Ted having another excellent adventure are they? What, in zimmers?
So, I was a bit hesitant when Netflix suggested I’d want to watch a new series called Cobra Kai. (Remember the days when you decided on your own tastes, rather than a computer algorithm choosing for you?).
Does the world need a follow-up to The Karate Kid? Still, at a loose end of an evening, I decided to give it a rattle. And I was hooked.
It picks up the story of Danny LaRusso and his karate nemesis, bullying bad boy Johnny, 36 years after the climactic tournament of the first film and that crane kick.
Bonus is, both are played by the same actors. And I have to say Ralph Macchio has worn extremely well. We’re the same age. He looks like he did with a few years on the clock. I look like my dad.
Still, settling in on the couch with Cobra-Kai kicked off a wave of nostalgia for 1980s films, but not so much for the ones everyone loves and remembers, but I despised. Dirty Dancing? No thanks. The Goonies? Seriously, you like that tosh? The Breakfast Club? Why?
But John Carpenter. Yes please. Anything directed by him.
I first became a fan with his Assault On Precinct 13 (yes, I know 70s, not 80s). But anyone who can use Howard Hawks Westerns as the template for a gritty, ultra-violent thriller gets my vote.
And Halloween (yes, still 70s). C’mon, the man created the modern horror genre.
One of my favourite films of all time is Escape From New York, a rollicking sci-fi adventure that I watched time and time again. I think I eventually wore out the VHS tape (If you were born in this century, ask you parents what that means).
And as for The Thing… Who can forget how badly wrong chest compressions can go when it turns out your patient is a shape-shifting alien that gets a bit bitey?
Funnily enough, it got pelters in the press at the time for the degree of gore on screen. These days you’d settle in with the kids for a night of family viewing.
It went a bit pear-shaped for Carpenter after that (Big Trouble in Little China? Oops) but his legacy is still influencing film-makers to this day.
Much of my viewing back then was influenced by who was sitting in the director’s chair. Spielberg of course. I spent the early 80s going to fancy dress parties with a leather jacket, a fedora, a ripped shirt and a whip (no, not those sort of parties).
Not of course that India Jones ever tried to crack said whip and managed to lash his own specs off his face and smash them on the pavement. Moving swiftly on.
My “I was there” moments include being one of the first people in the UK to see ET at a special premiere in the Edinburgh Film Festival months ahead of its release in cinemas. I went cynically expecting to see “Lassie Come Home” in space.
I left assuring my partner that no, I hadn’t been sobbing, it was just a bit of a cold, thanks for asking.
I was also a fan boy of James Cameron. I mean, who wouldn’t be? The Terminator?
What would our lives be without being able to say “I’ll be back” in a heavy Germanic accent?
At the time, people laughed at the idea of Arnie being an actor, with jokes about him being the ideal choice to pay a monosyllabic robot. Who’s had the last laugh, then?
Cameron also gave us Aliens. Who knew that a sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic would be the equal (say it quietly, even a big better) than the original?
And isn’t it about time they invented one of those bay-load lifters Sigourney Weaver fought the alien with? Economove would thank you.
Not, of course, that Ridley Scott was any slouch in the whole brilliant films of the 80s department.
Blade Runner? Sure, why not just change the way science fiction is shot for the big screen forever?
Mind you, you can keep Legend. What’s that one you say? Point made.
No mention of 80s directors would be complete without putting Oliver Stone in the mix.
The first film I saw of his was Salvador. I will never watch it again. Not that it wasn’t good.
It was, but the story played out against the Salvadoran Civil War was so harrowing, I was literally speechless at the end. Not an experience I’d care to repeat.
But then, many people felt the same way about his Vietnam epic, Platoon, and let’s not forget Wall Street defined a decade.
By the way, it would be nice if some people realised “greed is good” is a line from a movie, not a philosophy to live by.
Of course, not every film of the 80s is welded into popular culture the way some are.
But those who have seen it, will never forget The Hitcher. What sounds like a routine slasher (young bloke terrorised by a hitchhiker he picks up) is transcended by Rutger Hauer’s performance as the villain.
He is properly terrifying. I never picked up anyone thumbing a lift after that. But then, I never had before. We had public information films back then, too.
One of my favourite movies from the 80s is Excalibur, John Boorman’s retelling of the myth of King Arthur.
It’s filmed beautifully, with some shots like a classic painting brought to life. It also brought to life the acting careers of some notable names.
Check out Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Ciaran Hinds and Patrick Stewart, back when they were jobbing luvvies.
This being the 80s, you had to have a wee dabble in art-house films. At the start of the decade, everyone was talking about Diva over their new-fangled café lattes.
A film in French about a loon who makes bootleg recordings of opera, getting caught up in crime and espionage after a singer’s dress is stolen?
Ah, but you see, the subtext is all about… blah, blah. It’s actually a cracking film and well worth a watch.
It also got me into French cinema… Betty Blue, One Deadly Summer, Jean de Florette, Manon of the Spring, The Return of Martin Guerre. Pretentious? Moi? Mibbe.
That said, I was no stranger to the schlocky side of the 80s.
This was the decade that gave us The Evil Dead, remember. Top tip, if you are ever in an isolated cabin and find a Book Of The Dead, bound in human skin, don’t open it.
Also, if you are ever in a remote pub in Yorkshire and someone tells you to “stay off the moors”, then do as yer telt. Unless, that is, you fancy being in a sequel to An American Werewolf In London.
Now, the problem with reminiscing about 80s films is that it’s a bit like opening a tube of Pringles. Once you pop, you can’t stop.
So many good films, so many bad films, so many films that are so bad they are good.
For the time being, though, I’ll settle in for a Cobra-Kai binge… and hope no one ever makes a Netflix sequel to Howard The Duck.