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.
There’s hardly any part of “Witness” I don’t love. In fact, I wonder how a film like this even got green-lit. Much of the supporting cast and the two writers were perennial television workers, the director had never directed an American film, and films about the Amish weren’t known to be blockbusters.
I’ll admit it. Many of the films I enjoyed as a child were supremely influenced by a PBS show called “Sneak Previews” with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, who left the show in 1982 and went to network syndication with “At the Movies”. “Sneak Previews” continued without them and never really clicked with me. Siskel and Ebert were it.
If they liked a movie, I was seeing it. That made for some odd requests from an 11-year old asking to go see “Halloween” or “My Dinner with Andre”.
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.
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.
I never understood why this film never really found an audience. It’s classic Stephen King directed by classic John Carpenter. King’s narrative of the teen nerd no one likes supernaturally striking back against his bullies is straight out of “Carrie.” John Carpenter’s style of pure evil without rhyme or reason is straight out of “Halloween.”
Somehow, it didn’t mix. Slasher films made Carrie and Halloween tame by 1983, and for an R-rated horror movie, this isn’t very extreme.
This is one of those stories where a studio head says “What the heck. Let’s make a movie.”
Scriptwriter Tom Holland was a successful writer and wanted to direct his next script, a horror film. Horror was in during the 80s, but vampire films were in short supply (this was two years before “The Lost Boys”, and vampires were the topic of this script.