A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Aah, poor Freddy.
Top of his game in his 1984 debut, but already wearing out his welcome in the hastily assembled, lazily named Freddy’s Revenge. Some people get a kick out of this odd, gay-themed sequel, but I don’t see it as anything other than a below average, forgettable rehash. At least we’re spared the sight of a mustachioed, limp-wristed Freddy in a pink bowtie. It made a shitload of money, though, so part three’s arrival fifteen months later was no surprise.
Often regarded as the best of the sequels, the overly busy Warriors does what it can to disguise the familiarity of its formula. There’s a nice early moment that recaptures the original’s creepiness when a pretty little girl riding a tricycle in Freddy’s boiler-room tells a newly arrived dreamer: “This is where he takes us.” It’s also good to learn about Freddy’s back-story (‘the bastard son of a hundred maniacs’) and kind of imaginative to see a kid turned into a sleepwalking puppet and led around by his torn-out arteries.
Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and her dad (John Saxon) both return, but this just seems to emphasize how the episodic, poorly acted Warriors doesn’t have anywhere to go or anything new to say. In reality, it’s the usual bunch of naysaying adults and uncharismatic teens getting carved up by a quipping killer. There are no scares to be had, its most horrifying moment arriving when a girl swigs down a spoonful of raw coffee with Diet Coke.
And what’s that Zsa Zsa Gabor cameo about?
Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)
Am I too old for this shit? I mean, I’m a mature gentleman, so shouldn’t I have moved on from such high-octane buddy-cop nonsense to The 400 Blows or The Sorrow and the Pity by now?
Don’t think so. The first two Weapons kick serious arse. Just about every scene works, although overall there are three noticeable flaws: Gibson is way too young to play a hardcore Vietnam vet unless the Special Forces recruited twelve-year-olds in the 1960s, his suicidal tendencies are initially overdone, and he sports one of the worst mullets in 80s cinema. Otherwise, he remains a convincing action man fully deserving of his star power.
Lethal Weapon begins with a bang (or should that be a splat!) when a gorgeous, drugged-up girly takes a nude plunge off a skyscraper. From that point on we get admirable chemistry between its leads Riggs and Murtaugh (Gibson and Danny Glover), on the money dialogue, a couple of awesome set pieces, and the scenery-chewing baddie Gary Busey, who’s indifferent to having his arm barbecued. It’s a near effortless watch and only a sniffy sourpuss would turn his or her nose up at such wham-bam cinema.
The sequel seamlessly continues the action, already aware of its pop culture impact when Riggs tells his long-suffering partner: “We’re back, we’re bad, you’re black, I’m mad!” Part two tones down Riggs’ death wish, instead opting for recklessness. It also ups the comedy quotient. Murtaugh’s teenage daughter is now appearing in a TV condom ad, Murtaugh has to endure the longest and most memorable dump of his life and, of course, we get to meet motormouth ‘Okay, okay, okay’ stoolie Leo Getz (Joe Pesci). You might find this guy annoying, but his comic persona is so well drawn it’s hard to believe that five minutes later in Goodfellas he’d be portraying one of the most psychotic villains in cinematic history.
Plot wise, Riggs and Murtaugh are after some Krugerrand-loving, racist South Africans hiding behind their Apartheid-era diplomatic immunity. Standout baddies Joss Ackland (“My dear officer, you could not even give me a parking ticket”) and Derrick O’Connor (“Have your brains ever seen the light of day?”) threaten to steal the show, although Patsy Kensit and her lovely firm breasts also make a warm impression.
Lethal Weapon 2 is smartly written, expertly paced stuff, full of impressive stunts, memorable scenes and winning humor.
Plaudits, too, for featuring a death by surfboard.
The Fly II (1989)
Do you remember I mentioned why people go to see sequels? The allure of familiarity, mistrust of the unknown and all that. Strangely, however, many producers seem to forget this crucial bit of the bait. Hence, it’s not unusual for follow-ups to be almost bereft of everything cinemagoers liked in the first place. Look at The Fly II. Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis are absent. Only John Getz reprises his role and no one knows who he is. Cronenberg doesn’t direct. The writers are different. All the technical crew are new. Stuff like Crocodile Dundee II might be stale, but at least it managed to drag back its stars and rack up a quarter of a billion in the process. Hell, surely the sequels to The Sting and Grease fell flat on their faces because they made the massive mistake of trying to continue with a clean slate?
Well, I don’t know. Maybe a near-identical title is enough for some folk. After all, The Fly II grossed almost $40million against a $6.7million budget. Perhaps such a princely sum more than satisfied its investors. What’s not in doubt, however, is the sequel doesn’t share the same love as its delightfully icky predecessor.
And for good reason.
Still, it starts with a dash of unpredictability. A child is born as a result of Goldblum and Davis’ energetic fucking. He’s quickly whisked away by the baddies at Bartok Science Industries, the hi-tech company that financed the manufacture of those cool telepods. Martin (Eric Stolz) is whip smart and grows at a superfast rate. Before long, though, he starts morphing into a juvenile version of Brundlefly.
Oh, dear. And he’s just met a girl (Daphne Zuniga) and got laid.
Look, I don’t mind this slightly overlong sequel, despite its mostly pedestrian acting and over-reliance on none too convincing special effects. It’s not in The Fly’s class, a largely taut, intelligent movie, but it does what it can with its body-horror leftovers. There’s even a mildly affecting storyline concerning a dog that manages to raise the odd ethical question about science’s relentless demand for progress. Getz, whom I just slighted, also makes a decent cameo. You might remember him from the first flick as the guy Brundle Fly vomited acid over, resulting in the loss of a hand and foot. Or as Getz tells Goldblum’s similarly transforming son: “I had no love for the man. He bugged me.” True, Stolz and Zuniga are substantial downgrades on Goldblum and Davis (just compare their polite fucking), but The Fly II has a degree of OTT imagination throughout.
Nice last scene, too.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Raiders is imbued with magic and remains compulsively watchable. Temple of Doom provokes a slightly different response in that it makes me want to put my foot through the screen. Apart from the duff storyline and some surprisingly poor special effects, Indy’s adventures are blighted by the combination of an infuriating prepubescent sidekick and a paramount Silly Girly in the form of Kate Capshaw. No amount of heart ripping and whacked-out dinner scenes can make up for this pair of irritants. Fair play, though, Spielberg learned from his mistakes when putting together the superior, kid-free Crusade. Not only is it aimed at adults, but provides a Capshaw upgrade in the form of the unfortunately named Alison Doody (who plays a duplicitous, non-screaming Nazi tart).
Most of all, however, this 1938-set installment is rip-roaring fun.
This time round Indy is after the Holy Grail and its promise of eternal life. Oh, so are one or two Nazis. Their presence threatens to turn Crusade into a Raiders clone with the Grail merely standing in for the Ark of the Covenant, but given Himmler’s long-rumored interest in the occult and supernatural, it’s vaguely plausible to depict these goose-stepping, power-mad wankers lusting after the Cup of Christ. Indeed, their comic book blunderings, in which they can never shoot straight or manage to employ a bit of good old-fashioned torture, prove a hoot.
Crusade opens with a slightly self-indulgent River Phoenix prologue, but kicks into splendid gear when Indy delves into a secret, semi-flooded catacomb beneath a Venetian library floor. It’s a breathless escapade that features thousands of rats, a bunch of moldering skeletons, the discovery of some crucial info, a life-threatening inferno, and a cool, Bond-like re-emergence into polite society through a manhole cover.
Crusade also boasts a good supporting cast, tremendous locations, John Williams’ reliable score and, of course, the combative, sexually competitive relationship between Indy and his crusty, somewhat incompetent dad (Sean Connery). The frequent humor, both sly and uproarious, consistently lubricates while its intriguing Leap of Faith finale (that echoes She) does a fine job of tapping into the mystical. Full marks, too, for Grange Hill’s Mr. Bronson turning up in a slightly less strict incarnation as Adolf Hitler.
Crusade features a couple of wild implausibilities and is not as good as Raiders, but so what? It’s still hard to fault its imagination and sheer Hollywood vigor.