I don't think I'm making any kind of an Earth-shattering revelation when I say that I was a comedy junkie for most of the '80s. I didn't distinguish between good comedy or bad comedy, high or low humor; if it meant to be funny, I would watch it. This is why, in addition to the collective works of Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker, I've also seen movies like Morgan Stewart's Coming Home multiple times and Johnny Dangerously was considered must-see viewing in the Clark household whenever it came on television, which was often. ("You shouldn't hang me on a hook, Johnny. My father hung me on a hook once. Once!") The holy grail for me, though (until I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail, that is), was just about any film that starred an alumnus of Saturday Night Live -- despite the fact that I was too young to stay up and actually watch Saturday Night Live at the time. The ones that I gravitated to the most were Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray, the breakout stars of the original cast who had gone on to great success (individually or in various pairings) in films like Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack, Stripes, National Lampoon's Vacation, Trading Places and Ghostbusters. Sure, not all the movies they made were gems (Modern Problems, anyone? If not, would you prefer a house call from Doctor Detroit?), but I watched them regardless. As long as they made me laugh once or twice, I wasn't too particular.
If I respected any one of them more than the other four, it was definitely Dan Aykroyd, largely because he had a hand in writing many of the films he was in, which I felt gave him a leg up over the likes of Chevy Chase, who seemed to be content to do whatever happened to come his way. (This is how a misfire like Under the Rainbow happens.) When the two of them teamed up for 1985's Spies Like Us (which Aykroyd conceived with the original intention of co-starring with Belushi), I was delighted to finally see how they would play off each other. (I didn't get to see any of their work together on Saturday Night Live until years later, so as far as my 12-year-old mind was concerned, Spies Like Us was the first meeting of their comedic minds.) And while I had yet to become a full-blown auteurist, I was aware that the director, John Landis, had also been the guiding force behind Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places and the first segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (the prologue for which had featured Aykroyd). In short, I was ready-made to love Spies Like Us and love it I did. I even bought the 45 of Paul McCartney's theme song, which in all fairness shouldn't be considered an indication of its quality. After all, for a time I was also the proud owner of the single "City of Crime" from the movie Dragnet. (I'm sure that's something Tom Hanks would like to wish out of existence.)
Reviews: February 2010 Archives
(NOTE: I am going to kill the suspense immediately by telling you in the first sentence that I loved this film and watched it twice just in the process of preparing for this review.)
In case you haven't figured it out, Craig and I have been alternating movie picks for this project. (Yes, I am the one who selected Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Insisted on it, really. I don't remember why.) For my second pick, I wanted to choose something more prestigious because, after all, this is Oscar season. When I thought about respectable, award-caliber movies from the 1980s, my mind immediately went to David Lynch's The Elephant Man, a serious, fact-based 1980 drama whose DVD cover proudly announces the fact that it was "Nominated for 8 Academy Awards." It won none of those, but still... honor just to be nominated, right?
I was first introduced to this film -- no lie -- by Joe Bob Briggs, who showed The Elephant Man as part of his long-gone, much-missed TV series, MonsterVision, in the 1990s. Doesn't showing The Elephant Man on something called MonsterVision kind of miss the whole point? Not exactly. To me, The Elephant Man has the look and feel of one of the old Universal horror films. The ghosts of such Universal directors as James Whale and Tod Browning hover over The Elephant Man.