The “1729” Chronicles

scan0004So just like I broke out a separate page for my entries about the Teen Titans, I wanted to break out a separate page for the movies I’ve covered on this site since my odd taste in, or at least memory for movies is what gave me a reason to start the site on the first site.  The title I’ve given it is “The 1729 Chronicles,” and all the entries are tagged “1729.”

Now, you may be asking yourself … what the heck is “1729”?  Well, 1729 was my customer number at Sayville’s Video Empire, the video store that was opened in 1984 on Main Street in my hometown of Sayville, New York and closed around the time I graduated college in 1999.  It was one of the best mom-and-pop video store operations that you could ever have asked for and while I definitely love my Netflix subscription, I have to say I miss going to Video Empire on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon and seeing what they had.  I have a few good stories about the place, which I’ll save for individual movies.

Anyway, I’ve provided a link with an excerpt (the title of the post is in parentheses) for each of the movies, starting with the first one and will add another with each movie I cover in the future.

Megaforce (“Coming on Like a MEGAFORCE!”). We sat dumbfounded.  The credits rolled.  Then, the guy who was obviously the villain came on the screen and that hero uttered one of the best lines in movie history: “I just wanted to say goobye and remind you that the good guys always win.  Even in the Eighties.”

Commando (“Let off some steam, Bennett!”)In fact, there’s a scene in Commando where Schwarzenegger, after rowing onto Dan Hedaya’s private island armed to the teeth, has hidden in a maintenance shed and kills two guys, first by ramming a pitchfork through one guy’s chest and then by throwing a circular saw blade like a frisbee and scalping the other.  Tom and I were so influenced by this scene that one day, when we decided to tape record ourselves playing out whatever secret mission we were on, we did the “Let’s arm ourselves” scene and added “pitchfork” and “axe” to the list of guns and ammo that we’d learned about by checking out books on guns and ammo from the public library.

American Ninja (“Silent, But Deadly”). Meanwhile, Black Star Ninja is shown to be working for some shady businessman named Ortega, a poor man’s Mr. Rourke, who is negotiating an arms deal, and clearly Joe is a thorn in their side.  Black Star has already said that Joe “possess great skills.”  Yeah, not “possesses” great skills, but “possess great skills” in a heavy Asian accent (although considering the actor playing Black Star Ninja is Asian, English may not have been his first language; and considering how poofy Black Star Ninja’s hair is, he might not have had a sense of style either … then again, this was the 1980s).  All the while, Ortega is showing off his estate/compound/lair to the people he’s selling these arms to, and on the grounds is a ninja training facility. 

Actually, it’s more like Ninja Camp.  Yes, Ninja Camp.

Voltron: Fleet of DOOM (“Fleet of DOOM!”). But no, Zarkon and company decide to allow Voltron the chance to fight, and the Castle of Lions, which is some sort of secret space shuttle, takes off for the planet.  Zarkon knows Voltron is coming and asks some Druel scientist to make a roebeast (which is the name of all of the monsters that are created to fight the giant robots) .  This pisses off Haggar, the Rasputin-esque evil witch adviser to Zarkon who also makes men’s clothing, and she decides to get back at him by casting a spell on Princess Allura, the pilot of the blue lion.

Teen Witch (“Top That!”). So we spend the first twenty minutes or so of the movie seeing how embarrassing Louise’s daily life is.  She’s tortured by the popular crowd and her teachers, even though she’s an honors student who obviously has a bright future ahead of her, and has the misfortune of attending a high school that looks like it was the prototype for Bayside High.  I’m sure that whenever my wife is watching this movie and gets a little bored from time to time, she starts counting the number of saxaphone solos on the soundtrack or the amount of Z. Cavaricci distributed by the wardrobe department.  Seriously, it’s like New Jersey threw up all over that high school.

Night of the Comet (“Death from Spaaaaaace!”). But once the whole part of the plot involving the research scientists who couldn’t be bothered to check the vents gets going, the lack of a budget really begins to show and the movie’s last act is a bit lacking.  Or maybe that’s just because I’m not used to seeing just a couple of zombies in a movie but hordes of zombies.  Seriously, if you think about it, most zombie movies you’ve seen involve massive numbers of the undead roaming about, so when you really see just a handful here at there, it’s disconcerting.

Horror Movie Video Boxes: The Howling, Blood Feast, I Spit on Your Grave, Faces of Death (“Horror in a Box” [Portions NSFW]). Okay, 99% of the population would still find this shocking today, but it seems that the 1% of people who get off on this has grown in number since I was a kid.  I mean, I can’t even watch CSI or NBC’s Dateline because “Dead White Woman Theater” is not something I find entertaining.  This all didn’t matter when my sister and I were kids because: a) we were never going to be allowed to watch I Spit on Your Grave; and b) I Spit on Your Grave was the most hilarious title for a movie ever.  The box itself made it even funnier because of the way the words were written in huge red letters.  I mean, I suppose I should have had some sort of “awakening” at seeing the backside of a scantily-clad woman but I was way more focused on saying “I SPIT ON YOUR GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAVE!!!” in a funny voice.

Fright Night (“Scary Evening”). I can’t tell if spending my early years being relatively sheltered from the sights and sounds of scary movies had a positive or negative effect on my life.  I mean, the negative is that I was a complete pussy when it came to watching even Alien for the first time, and one scary scene could give me a really bad nightmare to the point where I insisted that my closet door be closed each night before I went to bed.  Then again, the fact that I remembered that one scary scene so well has made me really appreciate what goes into a quality horror movie.  In other words, I’m not one to sit back and simply let The Exorcist or The Blair Witch Project simply happen.  If I’m watching one of those films, I’m involved.

Dance ’til Dawn (“Dance ’til Dawn”). So what we have here, after all of that ensemble cast introduction, is a movie right out of a “teen movie plot factory.”  You have the girl who wants to go to art school but whose parents won’t let her.  You have the guy taking the nerdy girl to prom on a dare.  You have the stuck-up girl who assumes she’ll win the night but is obviously going to have a horrible night.  You have parents as comic relief, parents who are rediscovering why they fell in love, and parents who will be proven to not be as cool as they seem.  You’ve got the dork actually getting shot at the class beauty.  You’ve got wacky, cool friends.  You’ve got mall hair, mullets and plenty of saxaphone-solo-laden pop.  And it’s freaking awesome.

An Amazin’ Era (“An Amazin’ Era”)Anyway, the section is filled with clips of early Mets’ futility including stories about people like “Marvelous” Marv Throneberry and the 40-120 debut season.  That’s a record, by the way, that still stands and I am not sure that anyone will ever break.  I know that the Tigers came close at one point, and as much as it would be interesting to see happen, I think there’s some point of weird pride that one of your teams holds the distinction of having the worst season on record.  Then again, I did live through 1993 and I know how bad that hurt so I don’t know if I want to be known for sucking.

Airborne (“There are no rules, bra”). But Airborne not only doesn’t mention Chekov’s Course until it’s time to race Chekov’s Course, it completely switches sports!  Okay, I realize that earlier in the movie we twice saw that Mitchell could rollerblade.  First it was at the very beginning when he and his friend blade to the beach; next, it was when he got his blades sent to him in the mail and could finally skate around Cincy (with every kid that had something with wheels following him in amazement), but the obsession of the Greasers and Socs throughout the film is HOCKEY.  Not in-line racing.  As someone who played an enormous amount of roller hockey in my formative years, I can tell you that hockey is usually played on a flat surface and involves sticks and shooting and maybe even fighting (I even messaged my friends on Facebook and they confirmed what hockey is); not racing down steep hills known as “The Devil’s Backbone”: the scariest, most challenging course in Cincinnati that we just heard of a few minutes ago.  Besides, if the two gangs of kids were so focused on hockey, why would they be racing instead of just playing a winner-take-all-the-bragging-rights-and-respect-from-everyone-else-because-apparently-everyone-in-the-high-school-loves-hockey game?

SpaceCamp (“5, 4, 3, 2 … OOPS!”). This, by the way, is completely implausible and I am sure that the FOUR people who were credited as writers could have come up with a better way to get five teenagers and Kate Capshaw into space, because a) I can’t imagine that NASA would let a group of teenagers sit inside the shuttle while they were firing the engines, even if it was a test; and b) every time Jinx is screwing with the computers it’s in some dusty, empty room that is always unlocked.

The Sure Thing (“The Sure Thing”).  At this point, the film actually becomes a road movie and very much in the classic sense, which is what I think gives The Sure Thing its timelessness.  It’s one of those movies that I’m sure hasn’t been attempted in the remake/reboot sense, and I have a feeling that if a remake was attempted it would fall completely flat because it would be more like Road Trip, which has its moments but also has diminishing returns on subsequent viewings.  I’ve been watching The Sure Thing for twenty years—first on a pirated VHS copy and then on DVD—and to this day I laugh my ass off the entire way through.

Three O’Clock High (“Three O’Clock High”). My father looked at both of us and let out a groan, as if we had just committed the most disappointing act a couple of ten-year-old boys ever could have done.  I mean, I might as well have told him that we were going to the salon to learn how to braid the hair of my sister’s My Little Pony collection.

American Graffiti (“Where Were You in ’62?”)It’s kind of a shame, really.  Pop history is so important to our culture, especially the culture of teenagers beginning in the late 20th Century because it’s the type of history that does have a direct impact on their lives, especially because it bleeds over into I guess what you’d call “anthropology” in that you can’t study the popular culture of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries without also looking at the societal shift to the suburbs that started after World War II.  Alas, I teach a course whose curriculum is supposed to be centered around “World Literature” and I don’t get a lot of opportunity to cover a topic such as this.  But every once in a while, I do, especially this late in the school year … and that’s how we’ve come to George Lucas’s 1973 film,American Graffiti.

More American Graffiti (“Sometimes more isn’t that groovy”). Plus, it’s not a particularly well-written movie. Milner’s story is that of the very last day of his life (we knew this from the end of the first movie, as we knew that Terry would go MIA in ‘Nam), and while it’s a high point for the guy, it’s pretty ham-fisted. Terry’s story of trying to get himself out of Vietnam is supposed to be darkly humorous but we already had a movie and television version of M*A*S*H* at the time. Debbie’s story, where she’s a hippie who’s being taken advantage of by her deadbeat boyfriend, is ultimately boring. Steve and Laurie’s plotline tries to follow a couple breaking up and getting back together over her wanting a job, but it’s very heavy-handed.

16 Days of Glory (“16 Days of Glory”). Despite the ’80s synth music score, it’s shot really well and doesn’t have that cheesy “we slapped this together in hopes that people would buy it because the Olympics were popular” feel that it could have had, especially considering this was an era when VHS tapes weren’t always readily available to the public, even if it seemed like companies would put out just about anything to see what worked.  Anyway, this documentary works very well at building to the climax with that perfect 10 vault; I even sat through all of Béla Károlyi’s mustachioed instructions because I wanted to see what happened.   And damn if they don’t get a perfect “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” moment out of that.

White Water Summer (“White Water Summer”). It’s not a movie that a lot of people have seen–it never made it past its original limited release and I’m sure it wasn’t flying off video store shelves–and it wasn’t well-received, getting a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  But I have to say that the reason I wanted to blog about this movie isn’t because it is a great piece to play in a game of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” (if anyone actually plays that game anymore), but because this was one of those movies that I rented over and over as a kid and with which I have always felt this oddly deep connection.

One comment

  1. Flashback !
    I’ll have to revisit some of those…
    Half of them I’ve never seen…
    I remember renting from the video
    store in Oakdale in the mid 80s
    Stuff like Eraserhead, Brother From
    Another Planet, Blood Sucking Freaks,
    Lair of The White Worm ?
    Microwave Massacre was one of the worst…

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