"THE LOST COLLECTION"
by Kevin Carr
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Any studio with a sizeable video library will periodically release a batch of its film that have a level of nostalgia, are forgotten about or otherwise are in need of a new release on home video. Like Paramount’s “I Love the 80s” collection, Lionsgate’s “The Lost Collection” gathers a slew of movies from the late 80s and early 90s for a new release on DVD.
The collection has been dubbed “The Best Movies You Totally Forgot About,” and they may not exactly be the “best,” but you should remember at least some of them with a fair degree of nostalgia. They range in date from 1984’s “Irreconcilable Differences” to 1990’s “Repossessed. Unlike Paramount’s “I Love the 80s” videos, “The Lost Collection” pulls its lesser-known titles from smaller studios (like King’s Road) that have been assumed by acquisition.
Each new DVD includes a trivia track that will play during the film, offering tidbits of knowledge about the film’s production, location and even minutia trivia about costume designers and production design. The films have not been remastered but rather pulled from older video stock. In general, this isn’t too bad, although some titles (namely “Irreconcilable Differences” and “Slaughter High”) are not the best transfers, and viewers can even see video glitches at times in the image.
Still, “The Lost Collection” offers a new, affordable look at some films that you may fondly remember.
“Hiding Out” is one of those films from the late 80s that tried to capitalize on Jon Cryer’s sudden geek popularity and Matthew Broderick look-a-like-ness. Apparently there were several of these movies made, although they really didn’t catch on with the public like Cryer and his agent hoped they would.
The story follows a daytrader Andrew Morenski (Cryer) who becomes a witness that’s planning to testify against a mobster. When the other witnesses are killed, Andrew goes on the run and hides out with his cousin in high school. Using the fake name Max Hauser, Andrew tries to lay low in the school but becomes a prime candidate for class president, against his will.
This is the kind of movie that I didn’t see in its initial release, but I could have, considering I was sixteen which is pretty much the perfect age for the films’ fans. (Case in point, my wife saw this movie when she was in high school and loved it.)
The action drama element of the film was actually pretty good, although the hit man going after Andrew is a bit cheesy. And as a wacky teen comedy, it definitely had its moments. The movie tries to emulate the “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off” feel (another Matthew Broderick reference, of course), but to a lesser degree, and Andrew’s romance with the teenage Annabeth Gish is a bit creepy.
Overall, this movie is fun to watch, but mostly as a way to remember the fashions and styles of 1980s high school.
Although Whoopi Goldberg is known as an Oscar-winning actress, “Homer & Eddie” was made before she got that distinction for his role in the movie “Ghost.” Sure, she had “The Color Purple” under her belt before going into “Homer & Eddie.” However, she hadn’t garnered enough street cred from Hollywood to warrant a better film.
“Homer & Eddie” tells the story of a mentally retarded man named Homer (James Belushi) who is trying to get home to his family. After being robbed, Homer hooks up with Eddie (Whoopi Goldberg), a schizophrenic mental institution escapee. Together, they try to get Homer home while Eddie is hoping for a cash payoff in the end.
It might be wrong of me to say this, but while I was watching this movie, I kept wondering where Jim Belushi’s Oscar was. But then I realized that it hadn’t yet become cliche for an actor to chase Oscar gold by playing a mentally challenged individual.
All horseplay aside, there were some serious problems with “Homer & Eddie.” While the movie attempted in vain to characterize Homer, it was the treatment of Eddie that was unforgivable. The film tried to make Eddie sympathetic while excusing her crimes – which includes cold-blooded murder. At the same time, it tries to be a buddy road comedy, which works against any dramatic sympathy.
The message behind the film is rather mean-spirited: that we have to be sensitive to our schizophrenic population because they have families too, even if they’ve killed people who also have families. Plus, a misplaced brothel scene in the middle with one of the scariest prostitutes ever committed to film makes the movie a chore to watch.
For the most part, I have enjoyed the work of Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer, most notably “Father of the Bride” and Meyers’ solo efforts in “Something’s Gotta Give” and “The Holiday.” “Irreconcilable Differences” was the writing team’s sophomore effort after “Private Benjamin,” and their early work shows this greenness.
I remember seeing the advertisements for “Irreconcilable Differences” when I was a young teenager, although I never saw the movie. (I was more interested in seeing “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” that year, being only thirteen years old.) The catch to the ads was a young Drew Barrymore wanting to divorce her parents. However, once the movie gets past the introduction, the film’s plot focuses on her parents, played by Shelley Long and Ryan O’Neil.
The film was a moderate success and was meant to be a fictionalized account of director Peter Bogdonovich’s tumultuous relationship. However, there is a certain irony to watch the movie today seeing how much it mirrors Meyer and Shyer’s own marriage (resulting in Nancy Meyers having a bit more success than her ex-husband today).
Still, the characters aren’t very likeable, which is probably pretty realistic to the egomaniacs that run in the top-tier Hollywood circles. I had much more sympathy for the child in the film and, sadly, she takes a back seat. Finally, when we get to the end, we are handed a cheesy, corny and utterly unrealistic tag that really doesn’t pay off well.
Here we are with another Jon Cryer movie, and if you don’t remember it, there’s probably a good reason. The original director of the film was replaced and eventually won a bid to have the film released under Alan Smithee. Today, Smithee’s name is infamous and well known for helming terrible movies. However, back in 1987 when the film was released, it wasn’t yet in the pop culture lexicon.
Still, even with the Alan Smithee label, “Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home” isn’t bad at all. The film tells the story of a prep school delinquent named Morgan Stewart (Cryer) who is constantly trying to get the attention of his Senator father and high society mother. One day, they send for Morgan to come home, but he’s disheartened to learn that they just want him as a showpiece for his dad’s Senate campaign. Soon, Morgan rebels again, meeting a free-spirited girl to his mother’s chagrin. However, it soon plays out that Morgan and his new girlfriend can help save his father’s reputation and Senate race.
Like “Hiding Out,” “Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home” works on a certain level as a teen comedy. While the character is more privileged than the rest of us, we can all relate to feeling alone and used as a teenager. Paul Gleason (whom many will remember as the antagonist in “The Breakfast Club”) plays a stock bad guy, who comes across rather trite but fit into the context of 80s villains.
Viveka Davis comes off as adorable as the spunky girlfriend, and she looks pretty swell in her underwear during one scene in the film. All this doesn’t necessarily save “Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home” from its current life in obscurity, but it does make it fun to watch as a bit of 80s nostalgia.
Back in the 1980s, there was a glut of comedies (or black comedies) about vampires and high school kids. Movies like “Once Bitten” and “Fright Night” were very popular then, and even “Teen Wolf” took the teen monster movie to a similar level. “My Best Friend Is a Vampire” fell into that cauldron.
The film stars Robert Sean Leonard as Jeremy, a nerdy high school kid with a crush on a dorky band geek named Darla Blake (Cheryl Pollak). While making a delivery for work, Jeremy meets up with a vampire, who bites him and gives him the curse. Jeremy struggles as a new member of the undead, but soon he uses his vampire powers to become more popular and go for the girl.
Of all the films in “The Lost Collection,” it was “My Best Friend Is a Vampire” that took me back to the era the most. I loved films like “Fright Night” when I was a teenager, and this film had that same flavor – with a dash of “Beetlejuice” thrown in for good measure. It also took me back to my better days in high school with the fashion and style of the decade. Plus, it was pretty cool to see Robert Sean Leonard as a scrawny teenager after watching him for so many years on “House.”
While it was meant to be campy teen fun, “My Best Friend Is a Vampire” was able to give a decent spin on the vampire legends without falling to the depth of the Troma films of the decade. Overall, it was a good cast, with David Warner as the Van Helsing character and Rene Auberjonois as Jeremy’s vampire mentor.
Sure, there were some glaring continuity errors (like Jeremy’s best friend driving him to school then later taking a student driving class), but the film was pig-blood-flavored bubble-gum fun nonetheless.
Of all the releases in “The Lost Collection,” “The Night Before” surprised me the most. I had grown up in the 80s, but most of these movies missed me (with the exception of “Repossessed,” which I saw in its initial video release). I found “The Night Before” to be clever and quite well constructed.
The film starts with Winston Connelly (Keanu Reeves) finding himself in the middle of downtown Los Angeles wearing a tuxedo and looking for his father’s car. He can’t remember what happened that night, but soon reconstructs the events with clues and scattered memories. It turns out that Winston lucked into a prom date with the most popular girl in school (Lori Loughlin). However, after taking a wrong turn and ending up on the wrong side of town, Winston accidentally sells her to a pimp named Tito.
There were many aspects of “The Night Before” that reminded me of the 80s classic “Risky Business,” namely the prostitution angle and the stand-off with an angry pimp. In some ways, I liked “The Night Before” better because it didn’t try so hard to be cool (a pitfall of many a Tom Cruise film).
The non-linear storyline, which predated Quentin Tarantino’s overuse of it in the 90s, was quite innovative for its day, and it helped keep my interest. The cast was decent, with Lori Loughlin looking as hot as ever and Keanu giving a decent acting performance outside of his drug binge in the middle of the film. I did, however, get a bit annoyed with Loughlin’s character because she was just too clueless as to how much trouble she was in during the movie.
Still, the film kept me interested through the end, and I enjoyed the diversion from the typical 80s teen comedy.
“Repossessed” barely fits into “The Lost Collection” because it was released in 1990. While this set of DVDs doesn’t claim to be an 80s retrospective, the other seven titles did fit in there. In some ways, “Repossessed” fits in better with the slate of low-rent spoof movies from the past few years, having more in common with “Date Movie” and “Epic Movie” than the original ZAZ classics like “Airplane!” and “Top Secret!”
“Repossessed” brings Linda Blair back to the “Exorcist” days as an adult woman who is possessed again. In order to save her soul, a young priest named Father Brophy (Anthony Starke) must enlist the help of the original exorcist Father Mayii (Leslie Nielsen). At the same time, a popular television preacher named Ernest Weller (Ned Beatty) thinks he can boost his ratings – and his take-home pay – by showing the exorcism on his television program.
The presence of Leslie Nielsen in this film might lead the audience to think this is part of the ZAZ canon, but it’s not. This was, of course, before Nielsen rented himself out to any spoof movie that helped pay his mortgage.
There are some funny moments in the picture, but ultimately, it’s a poorly written spoof that disappeared off the radar for very good reason.
Still, I give the filmmakers credit for bringing Linda Blair back to spoof her own film that made her famous.
The 1980s were the heyday of the slasher film, and with that you got the good with the bad. There were the classics like “Friday the 13th” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” But there were also many pale imitations trying to cash in on that era’s R-rated glory.
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“Slaughter High” was one of those movies providing some low-rent scares and a nice dose of blood and guts. The film tells the story of a bunch of high school pranksters who accidentally disfigure the school nerd. Years later, for their high school reunion, the group of graduates are lured back to their old school where a mysterious killer starts picking them off.
Sadly, the title “Slaughter High” was better than the movie itself. I was actually hoping for a bit more slaughtering than old high school buddies hanging out. This film ripped off quite a few horror movie contemporaries, including the original “Prom Night,” but it did deliver with some decent (albeit cheesy at times) violence and gore.
There were no real surprises with this film, which is sad to see in something that wasn’t a sequel. At least the original “Friday the 13th” and “Prom Night” had a decent twist at the end. The film itself looks rather low-budget, even more so than famous micro-budget splatterfests like “Evil Dead.” Clearly the film was done on the cheap, filming mostly in a deserted school at night.
“Slaughter High” is at the low-end of the teenager slasher continuum, but I’m sure it’s a hoot to watch while drinking late at night with a bunch of old high school buddies.