Legendary actor/director Clint Eastwood returns to the big screen in this neo-western that’s short on the action, yet heavy on the drama. Based on the 1975 novel of the same name by N. Richard Nash, this live screen adaptation moves with an extremely slow pace, but does offer some escapist payoff to those willing to give it a chance.
Set in 1979, Eastwood plays former rodeo star Mike Milo, who is sent to Mexico by his ex-boss Howard Polk (played by Dwight Yoakam) to retrieve his troubled teenaged son (Eduardo Minett), who is surviving in the underworld of cock-fighting with a rooster dubbed “Macho.”
The two (or three, if we’re counting Macho) quickly bond on the road while trying to make their way back to Texas, encountering difficulties from the police, and henchmen hired by Rafael’s vengeful mother (Fernanda Urrejola) to stop them. But along the way, they also find the “good” in people, are taken in by a kind and giving single mother, and discover things about each other, and about life in general.
Much of the acting is sub-par, and asking audiences to still accept 91-year-old Eastwood as a horse-ridding, grizzly brawler type is a bit much (even with the action toned down and tailored for him). But I couldn’t help but feel as I was watching Cry Macho that Eastwood was taking his final bow, and I was saying goodbye to an entire era. Far from his best work, yet I’ll take mediocre Eastwood, over no Eastwood any day.
It cannot be expressed enough how special being a kid in the mid to late 1980’s (and even early ’90s) truly was. With literally out-of-this-world cartoons, toy lines, and video games geared at children in the form of Star Wars, Masters of the Universe, and Transformers (among many others), it felt like nearly anything and everything was possible.
But it wasn’t just the Saturday morning cartoon shows that caught on to marketing to younger audiences as far as television was concerned; prime time shows such as Growing Pains, Charles in Charge, and Head of the Class, were aiming more and more focus towards its younger viewers. And when ALF first premiered on NBC on September 22, 1986, network executives clearly scored a hit that was “out of this world.”
I remember watching it in New Jersey with my entire family that very same night (back when something as simple as a TV show’s premiere still felt like an event – something that sadly seems light years away these days), and being completely invested in it. I instantly feel in love, and, like many of the previously-mentioned franchises, ALF merchandise soon became sought-after items in our household.
The plot was simple enough in it’s own E.T.-type way; Gordan Shumway (a.k.a. “ALF”) crash-lands into the garage of a suburban California family, the Tanners, after his home planet Melmac is destroyed. Rather than report this to any authorities, the Tanners decide to keep him hidden, and ALF becomes a reluctant house guest, much to the jargon of the parents, Willie (Max Wright), and Kate (Anne Schedeen). All this was the creation of Tom Patchett and Paul Fusco (who also voiced ALF, as well as performed head puppeteer duties). An animated series also landed on Saturday mornings the following year, and ran until 1989.
Over the course of his four years on television, ALF managed to drive a Ferrari, make a music video (where he played all of the instruments, of course), blow up a kitchen, and get Willie detained by the FBI, all the while plotting to eat the family cat, Lucky (albeit never succeeding). This would go on until March 24, 1990 (my ninth birthday), when the series was unexpectedly given the axe and aired its last episode.
Dean Cameron, who had a recurring role as Lynn Tanner’s boyfriend Robert Sherwood in the show’s final season, painted a vivid behind the scenes picture of the show. (Cameron had corresponded with me several times via email; though a full interview never did transpire in time, he did send me a link to a piece he penned called “I Was on ALF” on his personal website.) “I received a sort of “rule sheet” with my script. The main one being, ‘Don’t refer to ALF as a puppet. ALF is ALF.’ Yep. When talking about ALF (a puppet), you don’t say, The Puppet, you say “ALF.” He also described a tense moment on set when Wright lost his cool and uttered one of the “greatest lines” he has ever heard, “PUT US ON STICKS!!! WE’RE THE PUPPETS! WE’RE THE PUPPETS!!!”
But things did not end there entirely for ALF. In 1996, a TV movie, Project: ALF, helped wrap up the character’s journey a little better than it’s original anti-climatic finale (though none of the Tanner family appeared). Sadly, Max Wright passed away in 2019 at the age of 75. Michu Meszaros, who also portrayed the costumed ALF in the none-puppet scenes, also passed away in 2016. But thirty-five years later, we’re still here talking about the show they helped make so memorable, and propel us all into another orbit. Not too shabby, guys.
Few fictional ‘rock’ flicks have ever perfectly captured the essence of sex, drugs, and rock and roll as well as 2001’s Rock Star. Tagged with the line “The story of the wanna be, who got to be,” its source inspiration was drawn from the real life fairy tale of Tim “Ripper” Owens, who landed the dream job as frontman for heavy metal legends Judas Priest after being discovered singing the band’s material in a cover band.
Directed by Stephen Herek, the film uses this idea to tell the story of Chris “Izzy” Cole (Mark Wahlberg), who goes from singer for a Steel Dragon cover act, to the real deal almost overnight. He instantly feels all of the highs and lows going from obscurity to the big leagues, with many of his personal relationships ultimately straining as a result, including his romance with girlfriend/manager Emily Poule (Jennifer Aniston).
Having previous experience as lead singer for Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, Wahlberg pulls off playing Cole like a pro. He’s surrounded by more ‘real life’ musicians throughout the film, with guitarist Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne/Black Label Society), bassist Jeff Pilson (Dokken), and drummer Jason Bonham (Led Zeppelin) making up the rest of the lineup of the fictional Steel Dragon.
Outside of Steel Dragon, there’s use of many other notable musicians in the film; Slaughter drummer Blas Elias, Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy, and even one time L.A. Guns/future Steel Panther lead singer Ralph Saenz (a.k.a. Michael Star – see photo below) all pop up at one point or another. There’s even an homage of sorts to the 1984 classic This is Spinal Tap, when the band is seen photographed on the same rooftop featured in said film.
Aside from featuring many original songs by the likes of KISS, Motley Crue, and Def Leppard (among many others) throughout, it also contains a number of covers re-imagined as Steel Dragon originals, such as the Steelheart track “We All Die Young.” And while the other members of the fictional outfit perform on these songs, oddly, Wahlberg does not sing on them. Instead the vocal duties are handled by Steelheart vocalist Miljenko Matijevic, and one-time Journey singer Jeff Scott Soto.
Making under $20 million on a $50-plus million dollar budget, Rock Star fell short of making the impression filmmakers had hoped it would; this could likely be attributed to the fact it was released just days before the September 11 terrorist attacks. Still, the film has since maintained a life of its own among fans, and remains a go-to, rags-to-riches rock journey to this day.
Few comedians in recent memory have been as sharp or quick-witted as Norm Macdonald; he had the ability to perfectly sum up everyday issues in creative ways that most of us may have overlooked, all while making us roll on the floor with laughter. And he possessed the demeanor of “just one of the guys” that made him all the more relatable in an older sibling kind of way. So when the sudden news of his passing after a long battle with cancer swept across airwaves this past Tuesday, September 14, many of us felt as though we had indeed lost that big brother we all loved.
Macdonald was born on October 17, 1959 in Quebec City, Canada, and rose to prominence as a stand up comedian in the mid-1980’s. His first television appearance was on Star Search in 1990, and soon after he found himself writing for the likes of such shows as Roseanne and The Dennis Miller Show, before eventually landing every comic’s dream job on Saturday Night Live in 1993.
His first film was a supporting role in the 1995 Adam Sandler vehicle Billy Madison, in which he played slacker friend Frank. But his first leading role came in the unforgettable form as Mitch Weaver in the Bob Saget-directed Dirty Work, which also starred Artie Lange, and the late Chris Farley (in his final role ever) among many others. Although widely panned at the time, it has since found its way into many hearts with a cult level status.
During his time on SNL, he became arguably one of the best Weekend Update anchors in the show’s storied history, before ultimately being ejected from the show in 1999. He then briefly had his own program on ABC, The Norm Show, which ran from 1999-2001. Other film parts include Screwed (2000), as well as providing the voice of Lucky in all five of the Dr. Dolittle films. He also had recurring roles on such popular shows as My Name is Earl, and The Middle, and would often guest on his friend Conan O’Brien’s show. Macdonald’s last appearances include lending his voice to the 2019 Netflix feature, Klaus, as well as guesting on the talk show Quarantined, in 2020.
As a teenager myself in the mid-90s, I was fully along for the ride of SNL-driven comedy films that flooded movie theaters at the time. I was there when Macdonald appeared in his previously mentioned first film BillyMadison, and being the pack rat that I am, still even have my original ticket stubs from went I went to see Dirty Work and Screwed on the big screen (see photo below). His films undoubtedly played a vital part of my own youth, and judging by the outpouring of love from fans and celebrities across every and any social media platform these past couple of days, he is not about to be forgotten anytime soon. Rest easy, Little Chubby.
I wasn’t exactly a Debbie Gibson “fan” during her ’80s hey day. I was certainly aware of her presence thanks to MTV, but in my young mind, she was just something for my older sisters to listen to, not me. But with age comes wisdom, and my appreciation for all genres of music has grown exponentially over the years. Not to mention the moment I first saw Gibson scantly slinking around in her recent video for “One Step Closer,” I knew she had me hooked.
The Body Remembers contains fifteen cutesy pop tracks that often sound comparable to many of the current hits heard on modern radio today. Along the way, there’s contributions from the likes of Sixx: A.M./former Guns N’ Roses guitarist DJ Ashba and Cinderella drummer Fred Coury. There’s even a duet with Joey Mcintyre of New Kids on the Block, appropriately titled “Lost in Your Eyes, the Duet,” though said track is not as strong a ballad as probably hoped for. But the main overall highlights here are definitely the title track, and “Dance 4U,” the latter a seemingly perfect strip club anthem.
Okay, so I probably won’t go out of my way to listen to The Body Remembers on a regular basis any time soon. But you know what? I’d rather have my kid listening to something like this than the garbage that passes for music these days that was on full display at the V.M.A’s the other night. It’s a shame that someone with actual class such as Gibson’s doesn’t get the type of attention that the masses so blindly hand over to far less talented artists; if for no other reason, give her new disc at least one spin.
It would make sense that after seeing Back to School in theaters thirty-five years ago, I would be re-visiting the movie today. It was one of my the earliest big-screen outings, where I can still hear Danny Elfman’s bombastic, dreamlike score reverberating through the aisles. I recognized similar musical queues from another movie my brother and I had seen the year prior called Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. In both cases, Danny Elfman was just starting what would become a long, illustrious career scoring films.
It was exciting to witness the rise of so many well-known artists back then. Their ascendancy attributed to the zeitgeist of popular culture, with one classic movie after another. In 1986, legendary comedian Rodney Dangerfield scored big with a film that became the pinnacle of his career.
As kids, we forget how enormous movie screens looked. The dimming lights and flashing images from an unseen projector provided a surreal disruption of our adolescent sensibilities. I recall my bewildered shock of seeing “Large Marge’s” jarring, eye-popping reveal in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.The Claymation effects of her split-second transformation were courtesy of director Tim Burton, another rising star at the time.
I was equally enthralled with Rodney Dangerfield’s patented “Triple Lindy” dive, performed in succession from multiple diving boards and accompanied by Elfman’s music. My indiscriminating eyes saw no difference between Rodney and the obvious stunt double performing summersalts between closeups. To me, it was simple movie magic.
Rodney Dangerfield struggled for decades as a stand-up comedian. He worked odd jobs throughout the 1950’s to support his wife and family. His comedy act picked up steam in the 1970’s after what must have seemed a lifetime, and he soon became one of Johnny Carson’s favorite guests on the late-night circuit. Dangerfield’s working-class background was the perfect fit for Thornton Melon, self-made millionaire and owner of “Tall & Fat,” a plus-size clothing store.
In addition to multiple one-liners delivered by Dangerfield, Melon couldn’t have been closer to his own persona. The script’s four writers, Harold Ramis among them, decided somewhere along the line to make their main character rich, and it works to the movie’s advantage. Infinite wealth is an artifice effectively used with Batman and Mr. Burns, among others. We know these characters are capable of anything, but it takes good writing to make it interesting.
Thornton lives in the lap of luxury, heeding advice from his limo driver, bodyguard, and friend Lou (Burt Young). He soon discovers that his wife (Adrienne Barbeau) despises him and is fooling around. He promptly divorces her. With no one else to turn to, Thornton seeks out his college-aged son, Jason (Keith Gordon) and decides to enroll in college himself after learning about his son’s difficulties. Thornton means well but constantly irks and intrudes upon Jason’s goals. To Thornton, college is a means to an end. He didn’t need it to be successful, so why should his son? He buys his way onto campus and pays experts to do his homework, disregarding the point of higher education. This attitude pushes him further away from his son than he can understand.
Meanwhile, Jason develops a love interest in a girl named Valerie Demond (Terry Farrell) who happens to be seeing the lead diver on the diving team, Chas Osborne (William Zabka), the blond antagonist from The Karate Kid. Similarly, Thorton is smitten with his literature professor Dr. Diane Tuner (Sally Kellerman), who is seeing economics professor Dr. Phillip Barbay (Paxton Whithead). These parallels are subtly delivered in a movie that never slows down. Thorton and his son are two sides of the same coin. They’re equal protagonists, but Thorton ultimately steals the show by design.
Both Melons share moments of failing and subsequently redeem themselves by the third act. Thornton learns that money can’t buy everything, as his son learns to believe in himself, and Back to School is a movie that just works. I could compare it to a dozen other classics and equate its magic to no end. It was the movie Rodney Dangerfield had been working for his entire life. And to see him embrace the role of Thornton Melon and perform it so effortlessly is a pleasure to behold.
The movie’s enduring legacy also comes down to its casting. In addition to the actors mentioned, there’s Ned Beatty, Robert Downey Jr., Kurt Vonnegut (in a cameo appearance), and Danny Elfman himself, performing with his band Oingo Boingo at Thornton’s mega party. Sam Kinison, as the deranged Professor Terguson, undoubtedly delivers some of the movie’s most memorable comedic moments. He, like, Dangerfield, is at the top of his game. Kinison was one of the many comics Dangerfield promoted and featured on his early HBO standup specials. It would have been a dream to see them in more movies together.
The carefree academic environment portrayed in Back to School is obviously long dead. It’s not a movie that fits well with the times, but to that extent, nothing does. It remains a classic though in every sense, and that fills me with hope. I’ll never forget seeing it in theaters, fully taken with its wild-eyed protagonist and his incredibly entertaining journey.
It’s been six years since Iron Maiden released their last studio album, 2015’s The Book of Souls. At the time, Rewind It Magazine still didn’t even exist (although I did review the album for another publication at the time), nor did half of the lunacy that has since plagued humanity. But leave it to good old reliable Iron Maiden to stick to their guns and continue to grow their metal catalogue with ease in a way that only they know how.
Senjutsu (their second double album, and seventeenth overall), is just as epic as anything the band has released yet. The eight minute long title track starts the record off promising, but things really pick up by “Stratego,” a rallying battle cry reminiscent of the band’s 1983 classic “The Trooper.” At no point does Maiden disappoint or let up, continuing to get deep and explore multiple themes on tracks like “Lost in a Lost World,” “Days of Future Past,” “Darkest Hour,” and “Hell on Earth.” The only “complaint” one might be able to find here (if looking for one) is the actual length of many of its songs.
Those who “get” Iron Maiden will always understand their genius. They’re not some washed up nostalgic act forced to rely on their material of yesterday, as so many acts from their era so often do. After years of admiration, I was lucky enough to finally see them live in 2011 for The Final Frontier tour; to this day, it remains one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended, and I would go see them tour for Senjutsu in a heartbeat as well. We’re beyond lucky to still have them around, and at the top of their game at that.
Roger Rose is one of those celebrities you’ve just got to love; although he may not be as big of a “name” as such leading stars as say, Steven Segal or even the late John Ritter, he’s got his fair share of stories with the likes of both of them (and many more) from more than four decades of crossing paths and working in the “biz” with them. During a recent phone conversation with Roger, I was able to hear firsthand accounts from many of his encounters over the years, often resulting in uncontrollable, side-splitting laughter (did I mention he’s also extremely quick-witted?), making for one of the most hilarious – yet still enlightening – professional interviews I’ve ever conducted.
Right off the bat, Rose helped give some insight on both how he got started, and what he’s up to now; “I got real lucky! My parents were both broadcasters; my mom was on NPR, and my dad was a radio talk show host in L.A. and San Francisco. So I grew up around voice over, and I’m the voice of a bunch of TV stations around the country (Rose himself has lent his voice to everything from Scooby-Doo to Tiny Toon Adventures). I’m lucky enough to do some work for CBS network and things of that sort. And then I’m also producing a couple of things right now. There’s a couple of movies I’m actually working on too with the guy who made Police Academy and Ski Patrol, Paul Maslansky. He’s 87, and has so many stories about all these movies he’s done over the years. He’s just the best!”
Rose’s first on-screen role came in a 1981 episode of the Sci-Fi show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Regarding the experience he told me; “That was my very first SAG job, and I auditioned for the role and got booked, then had to run and give them my membership money because I lied that I was a even member! (Laughs). But the best part about that whole experience was, we shot during Christmas week. I had to cry in my ‘big scene,’ and there were special effects and all that, and they saved everything for the last day of shooting, which was December 24. And on a set, there’s a crew of maybe 150 to 200 people, and they all want to go home because it’s Christmas Eve, and it all comes down to me. My first professional television experience, and everybody is hating me. I could’ve basically not even said my lines and they probably would’ve said, ‘Great, print it, let’s go!’ (Laughs).”
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Rose appeared on a number of other notable TV shows, including Knight Rider,Mr.Belvedere, Married…with Children, and Seinfeld. I asked if he would briefly shed some light on what it was like to be a part of all these shows as well, and he explained; “You know, it’s funny. CNN recently did that show, History of the Sitcom, and now I know I’m old because I’ve been on half of those shows (laughs). The one that you don’t know that I’m on that’s probably more historical though is Three’s Company. They were shooting the intro for it, and someone came up to me and said, ‘Hey kid, want to make a grand?!’ And then I’m suddenly in the opening credits. I was the guy dressed as a woman when Richard Kline jumps on the bumper car, not realizing I was actually a guy! I was lucky enough to be on a couple of huge shows, but I have to say that John Ritter, far and away, was the nicest, most professional and wonderful guy I’ve ever worked with in the business, period.”
He continued; “When I guested on Mr. Belvedere, he (the late Christopher Hewett) actually gave me a Saint Christopher’s medal, which was really nice and I was very honored, and still have it to this day. And Bob Uecker was of course great. I also did an episode of Too Close for Comfort with Ted Knight, and the thing about Uecker and Knight was, by that time I was already doing stand up, and someone told them I did impressions of them. And they both basically said the same thing along the lines of, ‘I hear you do impressions of me,’ and then they would each try to do their own impressions. I remember Knight doing Clint Eastwood, and you just had to laugh! Both very nice guys though!” Going back to Married…with Children, he stated; “I was really lucky on that. I did two episodes, and then the last two seasons I did most of the voice work on that show, too. But those people on that show knew they had it good, and they could not be nicer and more excited about being there. Ted McGinley (who played Jefferson) and I were hanging out on the set maybe the year before its final season, and said to me, ‘I’m the luckiest guy in show business!,’ and then they cancelled the show (Laughs).”
He digressed again; “And Seinfeld? Everything you’ve heard or read is true. I was lucky enough to have already met Jerry through my VH1 show, and then a couple of other times after that. I played the George character initially, and they cut a lot of my stuff out because I ad-libbed like crazy at the audition. Anyway, when they hired me they basically said, ‘Just do what you did at the audition.’ And then I realized, what makes these people so great is they actually hire you for you. And it was so great to do, just so much fun. Oh, and Knight Rider I don’t really have a great story about doing it, but I have come across Hoff (David Hasseloff) a couple of times since over the years, and he is exactly what you think he is; just a very nice guy! I actually tested for Baywatch after it went from NBC to syndication, which no shows did at the time! I tested for the role of like, Joey the stand up comedian lifeguard, and Hoff was there at my final audition. One of the things I had to do was a scene from the TV movie Norma Jean, which was about Marilyn Monroe. During my last line – and this was to show I could do drama, mind you – Hoff stands up and just starts signing (the lyrics to the Elton John song), “Goodbye Norma Jean!” And the producers are looking around like, ‘Just let him go with it!’ (Laughs). So then they offered me the job, and my manager at the time convinced me to turn it down, which I did. And the rest is history (Laughs).”
He then offered some unexpected insight on another show; “But I’ll tell you one that was terrible, which was Gimme a Break! with Nell Carter. They hired me, and told me they were probably going to fire me by the end of the week, because they fired everyone on that show! But I was trying to talk to other people on the show, and they wouldn’t talk to me because they were all terrified. She (Carter) was nice to me, but we were in the middle of camera blocking rehearsal, and the assistant director suddenly screams, ‘hit the deck!,’ and everybody, cast and crew, just hit the floor, and she starts throwing props and screaming! And then she walks off, and some guy goes, ‘Okay, lunch!’ (Laughs). And I didn’t make it to they end of the week, just like they told me. That one was actually devastating, and really upset me.”
Another role Rose will forever be remembered for was Steven in 1986’s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. As previously discussed in our recent retrospective piece on the film, Roger recalled some of his experiences on the set; “The movie had already been shot, and the phone rings and it’s Paramount calling (Director) Tom McLoughlin, saying there weren’t enough deaths in the film and they needed more, so they were going to go back and kill two more people. Tommy hangs up the phone and says, ‘I always wanted to do this…kid, I want you in my movie!’ And that weekend we shot my scenes. I said to Tommy, “Man I’d love to die brutally on film, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do (Laughs)!”
He then filled me in on how his time as a VH1 VJ came about; “I had a screen test to be a VJ at either MTV or VH1, and I told a much more elaborate story of my audition for Friday the 13th, and that’s what got me the job. About a year after I got the gig, the guy running MTV and VH1 at the time came up to me and said, ‘You know, you were going to be on MTV, but I’m the one who said ‘No.’ And when I asked him why, he said, ‘You wore a sports coat, and no one’s gonna want to eff a guy in a sports coat.’ (Laughs). It was one of the best experiences of my career though.”
Working on VH1 for over two years in the ’80s no doubt awarded Roger with many stories of celebrity encounters, including a three-parter with action superstar Steven Segal. He told me; “He came on my show with his then-wife Kelly LeBrock, and I told her how she was my “free pass” from my wife, and she loved that! So then we took all of these suggestive Polaroids, which Segal loved too – they were both characters! But needless to say, my wife was not pleased (Laughs).”
He continued his story; “So then I’m on some back lot of Warner Bros., having just gotten Ski Patrol – and I hadn’t seen Segal in a couple of years since he was on my show – and I hear him calling my name. He brings me over to some table and he’s with all these women and says to them, ‘You know what I like about this guy?’ And then he looks at me and goes, ‘You popped a chick and had a stain on your pants right before you interviewed me, and I respect that about you.’ My response was of course, ‘Listen dude, I know me, and that was probably just cream cheese from a bagel I was eating at the time!’ (Laughs). And another year or two after that, I did another thing with all these cameos with major movie stars in it, and one of them was Segal. He’s standing there next to the food table, and I say to him, ‘Look man, I don’t know if you remember me,’ and he interrupts me and says, ‘You know, it’s funny, people think I have a really bad memory…but I remember you all the way down to the stain on your pants.’ (Laughs).”
While the previous story might have been enough to end things on, I had to dig a little deeper about his most well-known leading role in the previously mentioned Ski Patrol. He said, “It was three months filming in Alta Park City, and I got to work with the likes of George Lopez (in his first film role) and Leslie Jordan, so how bad could it be? (Laughs). But what’s the weirdest thing that’s happened – and I never thought it really had any hold on anybody (except maybe my mom), because it had been around for awhile – but I was doing the NHL awards a couple of years back, and Anders Holm from Workaholics (another show Rose has guested on) was there, and when he saw me he said, ‘Ski Patrol! You altered my life.'” With praise as high as that, it’s hard to argue with a legacy as vast and influential as Rose’s.
And as far as those ‘projects’ he alluded to co-producing with Paul Maslansky earlier on? He did let me in on one of them; “I can tell you that one of those films will be a remake of Ski Patrol, which I’m very excited about, because I’ll be producing it with Paul!”
The 1980’s no doubt saw an unprecedented surge of werewolf films; the original Howling starring Dee Wallace spawned a franchise full of endless sequels, while Stephen King’s Silver Bullet was adapted in to a feature film starring Corey Haim in 1984. And who can forget when Michael J. Fox became a Teen Wolf in 1985 (and when Jason Bateman followed in his paw prints for its sequel just two years after that?)? But out of all of these films, none of them reached the sheer surrealism (or weirdness) of 1981’s An American Werewolf inLondon, which just reached its fortieth birthday mark this past week.
Originally released on August 21 of that year, the plot found two best friends, David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) attacked by a werewolf while backpacking through England together. Jack is killed mercilessly, while David survives the bloody ordeal, only to carry the curse of the lycanthropy with him until his eventual transformation.
In the meantime, David is taken in by the beautiful young nurse (Jenny Agutter) who befriended him while his stay in the hospital. Unbeknownst to her, David is not only suffering from terrifyingly vivid nightmares, he’s also being paid visits from a decaying Jack, warning David of his grim fate, and urging him to take his own life before it’s too late. When the inevitable finally happens and David turns, it causes for some of the most tense animal rampage moments ever captured on screen up until that time, eventually leading to its near tear-jerking climax.
The film was written and directed by John Landis, who was previously known primarily for such slapstick hits as National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) and The Blues Brothers (1980), which no doubt aided in the levels of dark comedy found within Werewolf. The award-winning makeup effects were handled by the legendary Rick Baker, whose resume not only includes such Hollywood blockbusters as Star Wars, but numerous other werewolf films as well, including not only the previously mentioned The Howling from the same year, but also Michael Jackson’s video for Thriller two years later (for which he and Landis were both handpicked by Jackson for their work on the film). But it was Baker’s revolutionary work on Werewolf that would forever help shape the face of the genre to come.
Even the music in the film stands out with its own sense of irony; not only are two different versions of the hit pop song “Blue Moon” featured, so is Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” (a band Rewind It Magazine was also there to cover live in 2019 – the “Revisited” version anyway). These songs (among others) are brilliantly inserted at prime moments throughout the movie.
Since it’s release, An American Werewolf in London has become somewhat of a cult classic, and was one of those films that seemed to always be on cable TV any given Saturday afternoon in the ’90s (I still even have the VHS copy of it that I picked up at a Kmart at some point in my teens). By the end of the decade, it even spawned it’s own stunningly predictable sequel, 1997’s An American Werewolf in Paris, starring Tom Everett Scott.
But it’s the original film that will no doubt be remembered for years to come. In 2007, I was lucky enough to meet the film’s star, David Naughton (see photo below). Even then, I asked him something along the lines of why he felt the film had such a lasting effect with audiences (my early journalistic instincts obviously kicking in), to which he said (and I’m completely paraphrasing here) something along the lines of; “I think it just struck a nerve because of how different and shocking it was at the time. People were not expecting what unfolded before them at all.” I couldn’t agree with you more, David.
Just one short year after 2020’s Imploding the Mirage album, The Killers return with a way more personal feeling effort than the previous one. And while the return of guitarist Dave Keuning back into the fold helps with the overall sound, there’s still a feeling like something is missing without bassist Mark Stoermer’s presence.
Apparently a loose concept record, Pressure Machine focuses on the Utah childhood of lead singer Brandon Flowers in the most Springsteen-like way possible. The one-two punch of “West Hills” and “Quiet Town” help establish the Americana tone of the eleven track album from then on out, and are arguably a couple of the strongest numbers found here. Other highlights include “Cody,” “In the Car Outside,” and “Runaway Horses,” featuring a duet with the lovely Phoebe Bridgers.
I’ve definitely struggled to find the love I once had for The Killers on their first two albums, and my enthusiasm for their last two releases was no doubt lower than usual. But Pressure Machine contains some undeniable moments of greatness, and at the very least deserves a chance at least.