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Obscure(ish) films from an undervalued decade (part one 1980-85)

A maligned era, often viewed through the prism of nostalgic kitsch or denounced as the beginning of the end of cinema by snootier critics, the 80s were truly my formative film years.

I watched an insane amount of films during that decade, benefitting from video (first Beta, then VHS), my friend Lisa’s mum owning a classic 'mum and dad' store and the now-unimaginable British TV programming of late night, cult, world cinema and classics.

This is a real pick n’ mix and I’ve tried hard to stay away from anything truly well-known, although there are films with big stars from big-name directors. Mostly, these are just oddities that have stayed with me, many of which I own, quite a few I don’t. These are not classics per se, although I think some of them are amazing. But they are all really interesting, and worth seeking out if you haven't seen them.

There are lots I haven’t seen in years, many only once, so it’s as much a reminder of things I would like to view again. Only a handful weren’t actually viewed in that decade. I was a rather precocious child in terms of wanting to see more advanced material (like most fledgling film geeks) so no doubt some of the subtleties of these flew over my head (maybe not Code of Silence).

I’ll tackle the latter half of the decade soon.

And I will keep adding to this as I remember. Suggestions welcome!

*UPDATED after a quick scan of the VHS collection. Interesting that, in the late 80s when I was buying tapes, my concept of foreign cinema was mostly French, with a few Japanese titles. I really hadn't been exposed to wider stuff from China, Russia etc.

14 Comments

  • Amazing list that I shall be working through over the next few weeks.

  • Who, what?! I remember the titles and covers of a lot of these but really? I suspect most of these were shite. Saw Starstruck though and got it on Big Box video. Watched it before seeing Mark Little perform in The basement of the Sanctuary Cafe in Brighton and caught him out by reminding him he played one of the members of the band which he seemed genuinely surprised someone knew.

  • Cool factoid. Doubtless time may have been kinder to some of these than others (I'm definitely going to check a few out again), but I would say the quality ratio is pretty high. There are some real gems too: Philly Experiment, Night of the Comet and Strange Invaders are clever, fun genre flicks with real warmth, the two Rudolph films are excellent (Trouble in Mind and Choose Me) and there are some really undervalued films from legendary directors in there. Pixote? Cutters Way? Masterful.

  • CUTTER'S WAY is, like this list, amazing.

  • I own a dozen of these bad boys but there are at least a dozen that I've even heard of!! Etgoit's the very best kind of list. It's like the far wall of some mad eccentric's long-defunct (debunked) VHS haven.

  • An interesting list. I've only seen half of them but liked most of them (particularly Out of the Blue, Dreamchild and The Last Metro). Need to check out the others now.

  • Cheers gents. The mad eccentric will post the 85-89 list shortly! Out of the Blue was a fine return to directing from Hopper and the girl (Linda Manz?) is terrific in it, very uncompromising. Dreamchild is a film that grows with age, I think.

    On the pulpy side, I really think Code of Silence is Norris' finest. It's so tightly directed, and the supporting cast is brilliant. If that had Eastwood in the lead it would be much better known/regarded.

  • Wolfen is bloody great. As is The Hit, for that matter.

  • Agreed - great list. There are tonnes on here I've never heard of, but will search them out asap.
    Android's a great film. The FX are a bit dated, but the story is fantastic. Max - bless...

  • Nice to see someone else remembers Alan Rudolph, a filmmaker who seems to have fallen off the map.

  • Thanks Stu. A stylish and unique figure, I don't think he has made anything in well over a decade. Look out or more Rudolph in part 2!

    Thanks Steve and The Rev for the comments

  • AFTERGLOW was the last thing I remember seeing of his. Which I rather liked (as I did MRS PARKER... a couple years before).

  • Though, sadly, whenever I see Alan Rudolph, I have to admit that the first thing I think is: "Hey, I loved GOODFELLAS!". Thanks for that, Robert Altman.

  • A great idea for a list.

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