Tag Archives: 1984

Rocks In The Attic #865: Harry Manfredini – ‘Friday The 13th Part IV – The Final Chapter (O.S.T.)’ (1984)

RITA#864When I was just six years old, my brother tried to scare me by showing me the box-cover of this film at the video shop. The poster of the film depicts Jason’s mask, lying in a pool of blood, with a knife sticking out one of the eye-holes. To my six-year old mind, I thought it was a picture of a potato. That’s not scary at all. What’s scary about potatoes? I’ve since heard similar stories by people who saw the poster when they were a similar age, and they thought it was a potato too. You say hockey-mask, I say potato, let’s call the whole thing off.
Is there any better indicator that you’re watching an ‘80s film than Corey Feldman being in the cast? Not only do we get Feldman in the same year he appeared in Gremlins, before he broke through with The Goonies in 1985 and Stand By Me in 1986, but Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter also gives us a pre-Back To The Future Crispin Glover. Outside of Kevin Bacon’s appearance in the first film, Feldman and Glover’s presence make The Final Chapter the most star-packed episode in the series.

RITA#864aSpoiler alert: it wasn’t the final chapter at all. In fact, Part IV, as we’ll refer to it, was far from being the final chapter. It’s very much mid-period Jason. Producer Frank Mancuso Jr. – the son of Paramount CEO Frank Mancuso Sr. – titled it as such as he was embarrassed at being linked to the franchise. Regardless of how much money the series was raking in, he felt like killing off Jason would end the films and would allow him to concentrate on more respectable projects. We don’t even get roman numerals in the film’s title this time, although the strap-line would have served as a clever marketing move – “Gee, we had better go and see this one! It’s the last one they’re going to make!”

As is now par for the course by this point in the series, we open on a recap of parts I, II and III – “Previously…on Friday The 13th”. Framed around the fireside chat from Part II, we hear Paul from that film narrate the legend of Jason Voorhees, while we see a montage of kills from the three films so far.

Instead of the film’s block title advancing towards the camera, we now see the mask do the same trick. All of a sudden, the mask is now the icon of the series, and would remain so forever. Jason would wear the mask permanently from this moment on.

The opening scenes, set in a middle-of-the-night hospital where they have taken the corpses from the end of Part III, is very reminiscent of Halloween II, a film that had only been released two years earlier. The subtle, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of Jason’s breath as the doctor loads him into the freezer is a wonderful piece of filmmaking. From this detail, you already know you’re in far safer hands than Steve Miner’s tired direction of Part III. Joesph Zito directs Part IV, and he makes it one of the stronger films in the franchise alongside Part II.

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We’re introduced to the 12-year old Corey Feldman, who lives with his older sister and their mother, and we have a bunch of young kids moving into the house next door (I wonder what’s going to happen here!). Crispin Glover does some crazy dancing, ahead of his crazy dancing at the ‘Enchantment Under The Sea’ Dance in Back To The Future.

It’s in this film where we glimpse the Pamela Voorhees ‘1979’ gravestone that knocked the franchise off into its wonky timeframe. This film was released in 1984, but by now we’ve caught up after Part II thrust us five years into the future. Part III took place the day after Part II, and we stay in the same timeframe, with Part IV taking place the day after Part III. Phew, keep up people…

The music, again by Harry Manfredini, is, of course, as excellent as always. Part IV is a strong, well-made film; perhaps as strong, if not stronger, than Part II. Now if only we could sidestep Part V

Hit: What Boy, Ma’am? / Main Titles

Hidden Gem: Helicopter

Body Count: 14

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Rocks In The Attic #845 Bruce Springsteen – ‘Born In The U.S.A.’ (1984)

RITA#845It’s taken me about 36 years to figure out that Born In The U.S.A. is a deeply boring song. It’s one of two Springsteen tracks that gets played heavily at our morning bootcamp sessions – the other one being the evergreen banger Born To Run – but I’ve only just started to break Born In The U.S.A. down. It’s funny what starts going through your mind when you’re doing what feels like endless burpees.

Led by a great keyboard riff – DURR durr durr durr durr DURR – the song blows its load in the first few bars. The rest of the band join in, with some big ‘80s drums, and Bruce harps on about joining the army and then coming home to work in a factory. And that’s about it. There’s no change to that DURR durr durr durr durr DURR motif; it does break down at one point, before the rest of the band jump back in, but there’s no variation. The chorus repeats the same musical figure as the verses, and there’s no middle-eight or bridge to speak of. Which is ironic as Bruce could have sung about how he worked on that bridge when he came back from ‘Nam.

RITA#845aA whopping seven singles were lifted from the album over an 18-month timeframe. After the title track, the two better-known ones are Dancing In The Dark and Glory Days, but you have to wonder what they saw in songs like I’m Going Down and My Hometown, aside from a simple drive to keep people buying the record.

The finest song on the album for me is I’m On Fire, a weirdly ominous track about lusting after a ‘little girl’ whose Daddy left her all alone. Aside from the questionable lyrics, it’s the one song that doesn’t sound as ‘stadium rock’ as the rest of the album.

And of course, it sounds better sped up to 45rpm where it sounds like the best song Dolly Parton ever recorded.

Hit: Born In The U.S.A.

Hidden Gem: Downbound Train

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Rocks In The Attic #801: Stevie Wonder – ‘The Woman In Red (O.S.T.)’ (1984)

RITA#801Crikey, I’m not sure this film would get made these days. It wouldn’t fare well in the #metoo era.

A remake of the French film, Pardon Mon Affaire Gene Wilder writes and directs himself in a male super-fantasy where he attempts to start an extra-marital affair with a model at the advertising agency he works at. It’s a super-fantasy because he’s Gene Wilder and she’s Kelly LeBrock. It’s supposed to be a comedy, but it just comes off tasting bad.

Gene Wilder is one of my favourite comedic actors. He’s easily the best thing about Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, fantastic in the early Mel Brooks films, and his partnership with Richard Pryor is wonderful from Silver Streak (featuring a pre-The Spy Who Loved Me Richard Kiel playing a besuited henchman with steel teeth) to Stir Crazy (“I can’t feel my legs!”) and See No Evil Hear No Evil (“Fuzzy Wuzzy was a woman?”). This film feels like a bit of a mis-step though. I’m sure it was very amusing back in 1984, and I certainly enjoyed it in my youth when I didn’t know any better, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

It has its moments – mainly from the supporting cast of Gilda Radner and Charles Grodin – but the whole thing just feels awful. Somehow, I always remember that collection of inner-city vignettes (including a man copping a feel of a woman whose shoe gets stuck in a grate) to be from the opening section of this film, but that’s from Stir Crazy. I must mix up Gene Wilder films in my mind.

RITA#801aThe music is brilliant though; the film’s saving grace. Essentially a Stevie Wonder album (it comes four years after the brilliant Hotter Than July), all but one song was written by him. He shares vocal duties with Dionne Warwick on two songs, and Warwick sings lead on one track. Officially, I’m not sure if it would be credited to ‘Various Artists’, or to Stevie Wonder & Dionne Warwick, but I like to see it as a Stevie Wonder album, with a guest singer.

Like Hotter Than July, the album has its moments of pure synth gold – from the funky title song, to Love Light In Flight to Don’t Drive Drunk. The last song ended up being used in an educational video for the Department of Transportation’s drunk-driving prevention PSA. I’m not sure if Stevie Wonder is the kind of person to take driving advice from, but I appreciate any promotion for such a great cause.

But like Hotter Than July, The Woman In Red also has its one startling moment of pure cheese. Mega-hit I Just Called To Say I Love You echoes the horrible feel of the previous album’s Happy Birthday, not to mention 1982’s clanger with Paul McCartney, Ebony And Ivory. These songs feel like the technology starting to detract from the songwriting, and the trouble is that the synths Stevie was using in the early ‘80s were starting to become widely available. As a result, these songs sound like everything bad about ‘80s music that followed after.

Hit: I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder

Hidden Gem: The Woman In Red – Stevie Wonder

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Rocks In The Attic #780: Elmer Bernstein – ‘Ghostbusters (O.S.T.)’ (1984)

RITA#780Are you troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night? Do you experience feelings of dread in your basement or attic? Have you or your family ever seen a spook, spectre or ghost? If the answer is ‘yes’ then don’t wait another minute. Pick up the phone and call the professionals…

After a pre-order three months ago, and eight subsequent status-update emails from Amazon, it’s great to finally hold this in my hands. Thirty-five years after its original release in cinemas, the soundtrack score to Ghostbusters by Elmer Bernstein is finally available on vinyl.

From that first electronic flutter (played on a Yamaha DX7 synth) heard over the grainy Columbia Pictures logo, this score is part of my musical DNA. It’s as seminal to my upbringing as John Williams’ big-five (Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and E.T.), Alan Silvestri’s Back To The Future, Dave Grusin’s Goonies and John Barry’s landmark Bond scores.

Just like those soundtracks, it’s easy to visualise the film when listening to Bernstein’s Ghostbusters score. Not only are the image and music melded together perfectly, it also helps when you’ve seen the film hundreds of times. There are a couple of unused cues on the soundtrack that are a little jarring (and perhaps should have been collected towards the end of the release), and I would have liked the first track to have been Library, as per the film (rather than the main Ghostbusters Theme, which again could have been collected at the end), but these are just superficial gripes about a superb release.

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My favourite of many musical moments is the end of the track News, which segues into the beginning of Judgement Day. In the film, this is used to soundtrack the conversation between Ray and Winston as they drive through the night after a busy day ghostbusting. It’s a rare moment of quiet, of serious reflection, in an otherwise comical film, and I’ve always liked that Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis wrote the scene for Ernie Hudson’s character – the ‘everyman’ archetype of the piece.

In terms of the package itself, the score is presented by Sony Classical as a double LP, on clear discs with slime green centres. The sleeve is a really nice, squidgy card-stock, similar to the type used by Brookvale Records on their From Dusk Till Dawn release from 2016.

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There’s been a fair bit of criticism online around the imagery used for the sleeve – the cover is the classic Ghostbusters logo (with the white ghost inverted from the version used on the original 1984 pop soundtrack), and the images on the gatefold and rear cover are straightforward stills from the film. Boutique soundtrack labels like Waxwork and Mondo have raised the game in terms of design, so this release feels a tad undercooked in this department.

The 4-panel photo booklet contained within the set features more images from the film, and includes liner notes from Elmer Bernstein’s son Peter, alongside full orchestra credits – something I always like to see on soundtrack releases.

Ray, has it ever occurred to you that maybe the reason we’ve been so busy lately is ’cause the dead HAVE been rising from the grave? ……….How ’bout a little music?

Hit: Ghostbusters Theme

Hidden Gem: News

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Rocks In The Attic #777: Charles Bernstein – ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street (O.S.T.)’ (1984)

RITA#777Facebook recently reminded me of something great that happened a couple of years ago. One day, my wife – who is about as far from a horror fan as somebody could be – came home with a new purchase from one of our local second-hand stores.

She walked into the house in a red and green sweater, without any awareness of who’s famous for wearing such an item of clothing, and said ‘What do you think?’.

“Looks great, Freddy,’ I told her, prompting a ‘Huh?’ in response.

To be fair, she took it in good humour. She even staged her own photo, using stainless steel knives as a makeshift claw, so I could send it into the humour column of New Zealand’s daily newspaper. She never wore the sweater again, and took it back the next day (which I really regret as I should have kept it for fancy dress, particularly if I ever had a really bad acne attack).

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The Nightmare On Elm Street series feels like such a wasted opportunity to me. The original film from 1984 is very creepy and genuinely scary in parts – from the girl sliding around the ceiling of her room, falling onto a bed of blood, to Johnny Depp and his TV set being sucked into his bed, and his bed spewing a fountain of blood. But then the sequels started, and the films got less and less scary, focusing more on the humour of Freddy Krueger’s character. It went from scary to ridiculous in just a couple of films.

This soundtrack to the first film, reissued here by Mondo in a lovely red and green ‘Freddy’s sweater’ vinyl, is a nice piece of work too. Turning away from the traditionally orchestral scores of slasher films of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Charles Bernstein opts for a suite of electronic music on the soundtrack. The main theme plays with lullabies and nursery rhymes, echoing the danger of the child-killer antagonist who kills teenagers in their sleep.

I was hoping that the 2010 remake would have put the films back on course, but it was thrillingly mediocre and Jackie Earl Hayley, that nice young boy from The Love Boat, missed an opportunity to really inhabit such a famous horror character. Apparently, another remake / reboot is on the cards. Let’s hope it gets back to the thrill of the 1984 original.

Hit: Main Title

Hidden Gem: Laying The Traps

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Rocks In The Attic #751: Eurythmics – ‘1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother) (O.S.T.)’ (1984)

RITA#751Nineteen Eighty-Four is my favourite George Orwell novel, and probably one of my top five books of the twentieth century. It means so much to me, that I consciously avoided the film for a very long time. Adaptations can be a strange thing, and I wasn’t willing to let my memory of the book be tainted by cinema like so many of my other favourite books have been – Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita to name but two.

In fact, for most of my life, I’ve known a John Hurt quote from the film more than anything else associated with the adaptation. Used as a sample in the intro to the Manic Street Preacher’s Faster, from 1995’s The Holy Bible, Hurt says ‘I hate purity. Hate goodness. I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt.’ Wonderful.

I finally watched the film a year or so ago. It’s okay. Not fantastic, but not terrible either. More than anything, I found it unmemorable. This, I guess, is a blessing. It neither adds nor subtracts anything from my love for the novel.

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The soundtrack however, by Eurythmics, is strangely alluring. On paper, pairing the duo with a fantastically dystopian novel doesn’t sound like a great combination, almost like Pet Shop Boys composing the score to Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982), but it works. Part synth-pop, part ominous moody score, it really flows well and stands up well with the synth-wave revival of the last decade.

Hit: Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)

Hidden Gem: I Did It Just The Same

Rocks In The Attic #740: The Radio Orchestra – ’50 Academy Award Winners’ (1984)

RITA#740As we’re well into award season, I thought I’d pull this one out of the racks.

Coming after the dreadful Themes record I posted about earlier this week, this is another LP that doesn’t contain the original versions. It’s an easy-listening orchestra doing the business this time though, not some over-eager chap with a Yamaha keyboard.

I do like this record though, for its completeness. Every song that won the Best Song Oscar since the awards category was established is covered here, from 1934’s The Continental (from the film Gay Divorcee), all the way up to 1983’s Flashdance.

Just hearing fifty years’ worth of film music is interesting, as the orchestral themes of the first half of the century start to drift into more popular musical styles in the latter half. I would have liked to have been in the studio when the Radio Orchestra recorded their funk-lite version of Isaac Hayes’ Shaft, the winning song from 1971.

There are plenty of hits here, from Over The Rainbow to Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera Sera), and Moon River to Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, but for a hidden gem I just had to select Three Coins In The Fountain. Not because I like the song – I’ve never seen the film, and I doubt I ever will – but it’s the song that Steve Martin starts singing to a bewildered audience on a coach in Planes, Trains & Automobiles before John Candy saves him by launching into the theme from The Flinstones.

Hit: White Christmas

Hidden Gem: Three Coins In The Fountain

Rocks In The Attic #739: Various Artists – ‘Themes’ (1984)

RITA#739I love a good television theme; but only the original versions. None of this cheaply, re-recorded shit (like this joke of an LP) that captures the melody of the theme but little of anything else.

I used to have a cassette of TV themes when I was growing up; recorded off an LP from the library, no doubt. The A-Team and Magnum P.I. were on there, as well as some other themes that I hadn’t seen by that point, like Hill St. Blues and The Rockford Files. It even had Dallas on there, a show I hated but would always watch the beginning of, for that glimpse of the Cowboy’s stadium in the split-screen opening credits. I can’t remember if my cassette included the original versions or not; it’s too long ago now, but I like to think they did.

Maybe it speaks to my poor knowledge of licensing rights, but surely it would be cheaper to hunt down the rights to the original versions rather than go to the trouble of re-recording them. Or maybe not, who knows? Re-recorded TV themes seem to be ten a penny; it feels like finding a needle in a haystack when you stumble across an original version.

I was scouring Spotify the other day for original TV themes. I found a decent number, but the vast majority were those horrible re-recorded versions that all sound like they were recorded on one keyboard with a dozen different settings. The trouble is that most great TV themes are intertwined with one’s memories of the show, so when you hear Terry Keyboard’s version, it just sounds insulting.

RITA#739aA particular favourite I’ve recently rediscovered is Stewart Copeland’s instrumental theme for The Equalizer, the late ‘80s vigilante show starring Edward Woodward (cue joke about why he has so many ‘d’s in his name). The Equalizer was always one of those shows that I wasn’t allowed to watch when it was originally aired. It was on too late and deemed by my parents to be too adult for me, too violent, and the action wasn’t cartoonish enough like Airwolf or the Roger Moore Bond films. The Professionals was another one I never got to watch.  I always got to watch the opening credits to The Equalizer though, and those were scary enough.

Hit: Magnum P.I.

Hidden Gem: Chi Mai

Rocks In The Attic #679: John Lennon & Yoko Ono – ‘Milk And Honey’ (1984)

RITA#679One of the saddest things about losing John Lennon is that his return to recording was starting to produce some really interesting music, first with 1980’s Double Fantasy, and then this, the posthumously released follow-up, Milk And Honey, from 1984.

Lennon’s post-Beatles albums from the ‘70s sometimes make for a hard listen. Awash with the reverb of Phil Spector, they’re often angry, yet balanced with some overly sentimental singles. Finding a musical companion in Yoko Ono seems to have rejuvenated his output, waking him up from an arguably misdirected post-Beatles decade. Ono might not be a writing partner like McCartney was, but the relationship seems to have energised his writing and awakened his competitive spirit.

It’s difficult to imagine what his next studio record would have sounded like. This release was cobbled together from sessions following Double Fantasy, so it makes for a great companion piece to that record. Who knows – a year or two later, Lennon might have tired from the post-punk leanings of that record, and gone in a different direction. His decision to record a version of I’m Losing You backed by Cheap Trick (available on the John Lennon Anthology box-set) perhaps indicates that the 1980s would have been a rockier, band-oriented decade.

Hit: Nobody Told Me

Hidden Gem: I Don’t Wanna Face It

Rocks In The Attic #646: John Williams – ‘Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom’ (1984)

RITA#646The other night, after a hard week at work, I sat down to watch Kingsman: The Golden Circle with my wife. I wasn’t expecting much – I hadn’t heard good things – but I wasn’t prepared for how stunningly average it was. Would I say it is a bad film? No, not really. It was technically well made, by a more than competent director (Matthew Vaughn), but it was instantly forgettable.

When I grew up through the 1980s, there seemed to be fantastic genre films coming out all the time, dotted with the occasional howler (Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, Jaws IV: The Revenge – possibly anything with “IV” in the title, although Rocky IV was a banger). These days, the howlers are relatively easy to avoid. Production of big marquee films tends to be spread across multiple studios sharing the risk of a multi-million dollar budget, and as a result they don’t seem to let a franchise die at the hands of a bad script or a deluded director.

Hollywood’s destructive habit in the last decade is movie-making by numbers; a manifesto of mediocrity. The sheer amount of unremarkable genre films it has produced is testament to the absence of risk that directors and producers are willing to take in order to make something that stands out.

I remember reading an interview with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige back in 2009, where he outlined his plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). His strategy of an overloaded release schedule – 4 or 5 films a year – seemed too good to be true. That’ll never happen, I thought. But it now feels like there’s a new Marvel film out every other month.

The other unbelievable aspect of his strategy was talk of bringing Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk together for an Avengers movie. That will definitely never happen, I thought. The Hulk and Iron Man had been revitalised in film by Marvel already, and I just couldn’t see Robert Downey Jr. and Ed Norton sharing a film together with whatever big names they had lined up to play Captain America and Thor. In a way I was right, as they eventually replaced Norton with a different (cheaper?) actor in Mark Ruffalo, but Feige’s vision ultimately proved true. Ensemble genre films are a dime a dozen these days, and it’s rare for a superhero film to be limited to only one or two key roles. This week saw the release of the trailer for the third (?) Avengers film, introducing the Guardians Of The Galaxy into the earth-bound world of the Avengers. Around and around it goes. Pop will eat itself.

But when Feige sits down in his old age – in his superhero-sized mansion – and tells his privileged grandchildren about his life’s work, how will he feel? For the – by my count – seventeen (!) MCU films that have seen the light of day since 2008, I can really only put my finger on one or two that I would hold up as being great films. Iron Man (2008) and The Avengers (2012) stand head and shoulders above the rest, and while there have been great moments among the others, in general they’re all junk; popcorn escapism for the masses.

The rot set in early on, with 2010’s Iron Man 2. How could they get the sequel so wrong, when they got the first Iron Man so right? I spoke to a fan of the series upon its release, and he couldn’t see any difference between the two. That’s the problem with casual film viewers. They just want what they expect, and they’ll happily visit the cinema every time for that hit of familiarity – Coca-cola in their veins, popcorn in their arteries, and the anticipation of safe storytelling that’s not going to push any boundaries and make them feel uncomfortable. Narrative left-turns in cinema these days are met with whispered conversations in the dark as couples explain to each other what is happening on screen.

Marvel’s now-misguided strategy to steady the ship was to deliver a third iteration in the Iron Man series (2013) which was so incredibly poor, that they should have developed a new category at the Academy Awards to recognise it. ‘And the ‘Best Mediocre Picture’ Oscar goes to…’

If Marvel’s attempts at serious filmmaking are to be laughed at, I’m not sure what we’re supposed to think of their rivals’ efforts at DC. Christopher Nolan reinvigorated the modern superhero film with Batman Begins in 2005, and so you’d think his successors might have learnt a thing or two from him. But as soon as he stepped away from the director’s chair, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) kicked off with one of the dullest superhero films ever committed to celluloid (Man Of Steel, 2013).

Where Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie (1978) was a glorious piece of wondrous entertainment, setting a high bar that wasn’t really challenged until Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel is a turgid mess. I seem to remember a fight sequence at the end that lasted around three hours. I didn’t care about any of the characters, and I secretly hoped that mankind would have been wiped off the screen just so that it would have put me out of my misery.

I might have watched Donner’s Superman and Richard Lester’s Superman II close to a hundred times each. I wouldn’t watch Man Of Steel again if my life depended on it.

Which brings me to Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. Now, Steven Spielberg knew how to make a good genre film back in the ‘80s. Easily the weakest of the original trilogy – although not according to my old buddy Quentin Tarantino, who sees it as the strongest of the three – it’s still an infinitely more enjoyable film than the unremarkable dross dealt out to us by Hollywood in the twenty-first century.

Hit: Anything Goes

Hidden Gem: Finale And End Credits