[For this week's edition of the ScreenAnarchy Video Salute we welcome special guest saluter Vincenzo Natali, director of classic indie scifi flick Cube and the upcoming Splice.]
Growing up in the ‘80s there was a group of films which captured my imagination but surprisingly were rarely mentioned in the same breath. At their core, they were screwball comedies, rife with outrageous characters and quotable dialogue. They distinguished themselves by fearlessly mashing up B-movie tropes with pop imagery and New Wave attitude. They were all released within a two-year period and seemed to herald a rebellion from the high concept filmmaking that dominated that decade. Sadly, they represented less of a revolution than a quirky blip on the pop radar of the times. But the last twenty some years have been kind to them, and today, legions of fans remain devoted to their lunatic genius. I consider them some of the best films of the ‘80s. As Buckaroo Banzai was apt to say, “Remember, no matter where you go… There you are."
5. SUBWAY (1985)
Luc Besson’s second film is a natural extension of the French New Wave and takes cues from Jean-Jacques Beiniex’s Diva, but it has it’s own unique brand of silly humor. It also has an astounding cast. Christopher Lambert, Isabelle Adjani and Jean Reno and a young Jean-Hugues Anglade find refuge in a subterranean society beneath the streets of Paris. This film is combines romance and absurdity in the way only the French can. Existential bliss.
4. REPO MAN (1984)
Surely, one of the greatest directorial debuts of all time. Alex Cox throws multiple genre conventions into a blender and spews out an intoxicating elixir of sci-fi and post-punk insanity. Harry Dean Stanton delivers his best performance on film. Emilio Estevez (when he seemed like a great young actor) is the epitome of cool as Otto, the protégé car repossessor. As smart as it is radical, Repo Man captures the punk spirit better than any other movie ever made. And BTW, there is a shoot-out in this film that was brazenly imitated at the climax of Reservoir Dogs.
3. RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)
Dan O’Bannon, writer of Alien and Total Recall, also wrote and directed the best post-modern horror film of all time. Predating the Scream franchise by ten years, this movie self-consciously references Romero’s Dead series with a nihilistic aplomb. What starts off as a standard teen horror transforms into a satire of Dr. Strangelove-proportions, attacking the establishment and the punk movement with equally fervor. This movie has more brains than it knows what to do with.
2. BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986)
John Carpenter affirms his brilliance by tapping into the rich vein of Hong Kong cinema long before anyone else in Hollywood even knew it existed. But rather than just imitating, he injects a dose of Howard Hawks banter and Kurt Russell as the blow-hard dim-witted hero, Jack Burton, in a screwball action-comedy so subversive that one cannot even begin to imagine how any studio suit dreamt of green-lighting it. The result is a cross-cultural implosion of Asian myth and American mirth… and a film that is probably too smart for its own good.
1. THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION (1984)
Men in Black wishes it were half the film this one is. Directed by the writer of Big Trouble, W. D. Richter’s Banzai is a supreme work of madness. Red Lectroids from the Planet 10, a rock ‘n roll playing brain surgeon superhero, a watermelon in a vice, the list of oddities goes on and on and yet somehow the plot is as tight as drum. Peter Weller, Jeff Goldblum, John Lithgow and Christopher Lloyd make up one of the most eccentric ensembles of all time. That the sequel, Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League, was never made remains one of the great tragedies of my youth.