Join film writer Vince Leo of qwipster.net as he takes a look back at the classics, cult films, foreign cinema and obscurities of one of the great decades for film lovers, the 1980s.
Still of the Night (1982) | Robert Benton
Roy Scheider plays a newly divorced New York psychiatrist named Sam Rice, who discovers that George Bynum (Josef Sommer), one of his prominent patients, has been murdered. Bynum was the curator of antiquities for Crispin's, a high-scale auction house, who engaged in a sexual affair with Brooke Reynolds (Meryl Streep), a younger woman who worked with him. During his counseling sessions, Bynum told Sam all about Brooke in such vivid detail that Sam thinks he might have fallen for Bynum's mistress himself. Those feelings get reinforced when Brooke visits Sam's office to hand him Bynum's wristwatch he left in her apartment the night of his death. Sam becomes infatuated with Brooke, but as he pursues her romantically, he's also frightened of her because she might be Bynum's murderer. As the police press him for evidence, Sam begins following Brooke to learn more, only to feel she might already be stalking him as her potential next kill. Robert Benton writes and directs.
Body Double (1984) | Brian De Palma
A struggling actor (Craig Wasson) finds a job housesitting for a rich friend of another actor (Gregg Henry). While there he spies on a neighbor (Melanie Griffith) who has a naughty habit of doing a striptease every night. He becomes infatuated with the woman and decides he wants to meet her, taking to following her around wherever she goes. He begins to suspect she is in trouble when a suspicious Native American follows her around as well. He suspects she will be murdered.
Blow Out (1981) | Brian De Palma
John Travolta stars as Jack Terry, a sound effects engineer for cheapie horror exploitation flicks. When a producer deems the victim's screams and wind effects used in their slasher film as substandard, Jack determines to capture new recordings. While outdoors, his tape captures audio from a nearby car careening off of a bridge and into a river after its tire blows out. Jack jumps to action to save a drowning woman (Nancy Allen) from the vehicle, but the driver dies, later revealed to be the presidential frontrunner, Pennsylvania Governor George McRyan. While listening to the tape, Jack hears a gunshot just before the blowout, suggesting it was no accident. It's revealed that a photographer in the area (Dennis Franz) captured film of the incident, which Jack synchronizes with his audio, proving an assassin was the cause. The authorities and media want the proof, but an assassin (John Lithgow) seeks to silence Jack's obsessive quest for truth. Brian De Palma writes and directs this potent political thriller.
Dressed to Kill (1980) | Brian De Palma
Angie Dickinson stars as Kate Miller, a housewife so unsatisfied sexually that she often finds herself having vivid and wild sexual fantasies, with violent overtones. She has been seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Elliott (Michael Caine), about her marital problems, and even makes a pass at him, although nothing comes to pass. Unable to resist the temptation, Kate has an afternoon fling with a complete stranger, only to end up the victim of a brutal and senseless slaying at the hands of a mysterious figure with a straight-edge razor. Only one person witnessed the murder, a spunky prostitute named Liz (Nancy Allen), who describes the perpetrator as a blonde woman in sunglasses. Meanwhile, Dr. Elliott begins receiving phone calls from one of his patients, Bobbi, a pre-op transsexual with homicidal tendencies, and Dr. Elliott's stolen razor.
Bates Motel (1987) | Richard Rothstein
The events of 1987's Bates Motel take place 27 years after schizophrenic serial killer Norman Bates is arrested and found guilty by reason of insanity for his crimes. While in the institution, Norman is introduced to a troubled young boy named Alex West (Bud Cort), who murdered his abusive stepfather in a giant tumble dryer and ends up staying in the same institution. Norman takes the lad under his wing until his death 27 years later, coincidentally the same year that Alex is finally allowed out of the institution. According to Norman's will (how he is deemed of 'sound mind' to do so is subject to debate), Alex inherits the Bates Motel and his family home that overlooks it. Alex soon takes over the motel and aims to renovate it back to its former glory. However, he finds the Bates house already illegally inhabited by a spunky runaway girl named Willie (Lori Petty), who worms her way into staying and helping Alex realize his dream of making a go of the motel business. However, not everyone wants the business to succeed, as Alex begins to see the ghost of Mrs. Bates around the place, and calamities begin to happen that threaten the establishment's livelihood before it can even begin. In what is obviously the first taste of what the "Bates Motel" series would be like, the final third of the film takes a detour as we're introduced to Alex's first guest to stay in the motel, an aerobics instructor named Barbara Peters (Kerrie Keane), who claims to be wanting peace and quiet to get some writing done, but in actuality, she aims to slash her wrists in the tub ). At this point, she is visited by a young woman (Khrystyne Haje) who stops her and takes her to a 1950s-themed party happening at the motel (I think), where she is pursued by Tony (Jason Bateman), a young cruiser there, and the two have strong feelings for one another, despite her protestations about their age difference. But there is much more to the events that transpire that night than meets the eye. Richard Rothstein directs this made-for-TV pilot to a series based on Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho that never followed.
Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990) | Mick Garris
Psycho IV: The Beginning is the fourth and final film in Universal's Psycho franchise, and the last to portray Anthony Perkins in his most famous of roles. It's the first of the series not to be released theatrically, debuting on the premium cable channel Showtime in 1990. This film is a sequel in theory, as it does take a step forward in showing Norman Bates trying to live the semblance of a normal life today, finally in a relationship with a woman, with a baby on the way. Trouble is, Norman does not want a baby, thinking that being a homicidal maniac is a genetic trait that passes on from generation to generation, and he wants his mother's psychopathic tendencies to end with him.
On this night, Norman is listening to a late-night radio program about why sons kill their mothers, and after hearing what the doctors have to say about it, Norman ends up calling the show to tell how it really went down for him. Under the pseudonym of 'Ed', Norman relates the tale of his adolescence, and how his mother Norma's severe mood swings, psychological abuse, and sexual repression drove him to commit murder, including his own mother.
Although much talked about in the previous films, Psycho IV: The Beginning is the first to show a living Norma Bates (Olivia Hussey), and to give is a first-hand viewing of how bizarre an upbringing a young Norman (Henry Thomas) would have, resulting in an overwhelming feeling of guilt in his actions that he didn't have the maturity or mental balance to keep a grip on. In addition to Norma's stamping out of her son's masculinity and sexuality, there is also an element of Norman becoming a bit of a surrogate for male companionship in her life in between finding a suitable partner, though never physically consummated between mother and son. Mick Garris directs from a screenplay from Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano.
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Been listening to Vince for 4 years now. Podcast is a great mix of well-researched background and his personal perspective on the film. Episodes are usually about 30 minutes. I hope more people try out this podcast — he seems to care deeply about film history and his focus on 80s films is a wonderful nostalgia trip. Simple, straightforward, and insightful.
I like the tone and pace of the podcaster. Seems to do the research on topics. I like that they are short but long enough to provide information. Does not need “fluffers” to fill air space.
Brian Scott. Horror movie fanboy on Twitter giving a giant 5 stars to this podcast. I love that he gives tons of behind them scenes facts on the production and development of each movie. Very well thought out podcast. The Thing 1982 episode was fantastic and I’m hooked now.