When a comedy has 6 sequels, each of which got progressively worse until the final in the series hardly even made it onto a theater screen, it’s hard to judge the first one fairly, especially since it never would’ve happened without the classic film “The Right Stuff”.
Every once in a while, you find a film from youth that is full of great scenes with great actors who most people didn’t know at the time, but today has the makings of a classic.
“Heaven Help Us” follows a group of Catholic School boys through pranks, dates and other shenanigans under the supervision of the Brothers order who provide instruction. Absolutely amazing scenes making fun of life in a religious school abound here. Just a few:
In 1982, I was a big fan of movies I couldn’t possibly have seen from the 30s and 40s. We actually had a VHS VCR in the house, but the small video store near my house had very few movies from that era. But I read about them in tons of books at the library.
The first chance I had to see scenes from movies like “Suspicion”, “Notorious”, “Double Indemnity”, “White Heat” or “The Big Sleep” was a comedy called “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.”
I became a fan of rom-coms because of “When Harry Met Sally.” For once, the guy was a smart alec who didn’t look like a Ken doll. One of those “He could be me” situations.
And Meg Ryan was everybody’s high-maintenance but sweet girl next door.
In fact, I think that without this movie, Billy Crystal doesn’t host the Oscars. Nope. Not even a presenter without this film.
This is one of those films that you’d think would have a pretty select audience. I grew up with and around Italians in Philadelphia where every discussion was at a dinner table, everything was debated at a higher decibel level than average, and someone was making some kind of gravy (now known as sauce) or an egg fried in the middle of a slice of Italian bread.
There would be no “Star Wars” without “American Graffiti”. The behind-the-scenes stories about what George Lucas did to get “American Graffiti” made is a plot within itself and a deeper storyline than the movie had.
Ever see a movie that looks, feels, and sounds like a TV show even though you’re sitting in the theater?
That’s Hero at Large. A director who, despite directing “Lords of Flatbush” which launched Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler and Perry King, spent most of his career in television, and a writer who wrote mostly for television and a cast of TV familiar faces led by “Three’s Company” star John Ritter make this film, and it somehow worked.
Ron Howard was best known as a television actor in “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Happy Days” but his resume as a director is second to no one. In 2018, he was called in to helm the Star Wars movie “Solo.” He directed the “Da Vinci Code” trilogy along with some other favorites of mine: “Apollo 13”, “Far and Away”, “Ransom”, “Frost/Nixon” and “A Beautiful Mind”.
My favorite will probably always be “Parenthood.”
I don’t think John Landis can do straight horror, but this is probably the closest he ever came to doing so. “An American Werewolf in London” brought scenes of comedy mixed with the macabre. Heck, some of the scenes are so hyperviolent I’m surprised they passed MPAA scrutiny, and several were cut to make the movie that made the theaters.
But the film is all about Rick Baker, the now-famous makeup artist who secretly played King Kong in the 1976 remake and created the suit he wore.
A staple of American comedy since the 1970s has been the “Saturday Night Live” film where cast members from the famed sketch comedy show hit the big screen with varying success levels. The early cast members had two names involved: Ivan Reitman, who generally stayed with Bill Murray movies, and John Landis. Landis directed “Animal House” and made John Belushi the hottest star at the time. He directed “The Blues Brothers” with Belushi and Dan Aykroyd (who was supposed to be in “Animal House with Chevy Chase” but that’s another story). Animal House was the biggest mone