Film Review: Private School (1983)

Release Date: June 29th, 1983
Directed by: Noel Black
Written by: Dan Greenburg, Suzanne O’Malley
Music by: Rick Springfield
Cast: Phoebe Cates, Betsy Russell, Matthew Modine, Michael Zorek, Ray Walston, Sylvia Kristel

Universal Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“That’s the finest example of bareback riding I’ve ever seen.” – Miss Dutchbok

Teen sex comedies have never been the same since the 80s ended. Sure, we’ve had a few classics, here and there. However, even though these films were a dime a dozen in the early 80s, they typically had some charm. While that could be nostalgia talking, I feel like this style of film just fit well with 80s pop culture and humor.

Private School is not a classic in the same vain as Fast Times At Ridgemont High, which is the true masterpiece of the genre because it is much more than just a teen sex comedy. However, Private School features both Phoebe Cates and Ray Walston from Fast Times and also tried to piggyback on that film’s success.

On a side note, Phoebe Cates was my first crush as a young kid and she made me come to the realization that girls were something I should desire and that no woman would ever compare to Phoebe Cates. And truth be told, I didn’t even see her breasts in Ridgemont High until I was a teenager and realized that the VHS version of the film had some things in it that weren’t shown on television. Mainly just boobies, drugs and a more colorful approach to the English language – all fun stuff.

Private School is still enjoyable for its absurdity. Also, it has that scene where Betsy Russell rides topless on a horse in glorious slow motion. And she is pretty much naked or close to naked throughout the whole film, which is something you just don’t get to see anymore because communists have taken over Hollywood in an effort to destroy the young red-blooded American male sex drive. Without their libido, the Red Chinese win. But more importantly, we can only see boobs in porn and everyone wants to slap our wrists now if we watch that good all-American smut.

What’s the big deal? Europeans don’t have a problem with sex and frankly, we’re supposed to be the trendsetters in the entertainment industry. I apologize to Europe on behalf of America if we somehow influence you guys to lose boobies in your movies. Please don’t, I’ll pay big bucks for Euro boobies, especially when they’re thirty feet tall over my head in a dark room.

Anyway, there isn’t much plot to this movie. Mainly, Betsy Russell wants to steal Phoebe Cates’ boyfriend a.k.a. Matthew Modine – the evil guy from Stranger Things. She tries to achieve this by taking her shirt off a lot. The rest of the film is really just a series of funny skits and gags, which is typical of this sort of movie.

Private School is a pretty okay movie. It is fun and it has some good bits, like everything featuring Ray Walston. But it is mostly a film about the greatness of Betsy Russell’s immaculate body. Even though I love Phoebe Cates, she doesn’t do much here other than make pouty faces and keep her clothes on.

Film Review: The ‘Gremlins’ Series (1984-1990)

The Gremlins film series is proof that America wasn’t ruled by overprotective helicopter parents in the 80s. I’m glad I grew up in that era, as opposed to nowadays when a good old family film like Gremlins would be severely toned down and edited or have to be rated R and thus, not a family film.

I saw it in the theater with my parents. I was five. Yes, I saw people killed by little monsters and a bunch of horror violence but guess what? I loved it because I wasn’t coddled into being a complete wuss.

So let me discuss these films that, by today’s standards, should have destroyed me and turned me into a budding serial killer.

Gremlins (1984):

Release Date: June 8th, 1984
Directed by: Joe Dante
Written by: Chris Columbus
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Polly Holiday, Frances Lee McCain, Dick Miller, Corey Feldman, Keye Luke, Jackie Joseph, Judge Reinhold, Glynn Turman, Jonathan Banks

Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 106 Minutes

gremlinsReview:

The first one is the best one. It is a classic and a “must view” film come Christmas time, even though it oddly came out in the summer months of 1984.

Gremlins is a prefect balance of comedy, horror and holiday cheer. It also is a perfect balance of cuteness and insanity and I’m not talking about the very young Corey Feldman in this picture.

The creature effects are top notch for their time and I would still rather watch these animatronic puppets than CGI any day. And one can’t not be impressed with how many Gremlins they actually put in some of these scenes. In the movie theater segment alone, it looks as if there are dozens of these creatures, all controlled and animated by some off-screen puppeteer.

The story is pretty basic and straightforward but most fairy tales are. But this is a dark and amusing fairy tale. The Gremlins, for being terrifying little monsters are hilarious. They joke around, act crazy and are lethal, even to each other. The fairy tale also has its rules that must be followed. Of course, the rules aren’t followed and that is why we end up with the glorious chaos that is this film.

Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates are perfect as the leads in this film and they had great chemistry, which also worked well in the sequel. In fact, unlike other boys my age, this is the film where I got a huge crush on Phoebe Cates, as opposed to Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Hoyt Axton was entertaining as the father character, a struggling inventor whose gadgets are the butt of several jokes in the films. Judge Reinhold and Dick Miller both show up for a bit as well.

This was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid and it has aged well. It still exudes the magic I found in it as a five year-old in the theater. Yeah, it is cheesy and over the top but it has a grittiness to it that you will never get when this film is eventually remade.

Gremlins is great. It is some of Joe Dante’s best work as a director.

And the soundtrack is fantastically nuts.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990):

Release Date: June 15th, 1990
Directed by: Joe Dante
Written by: Charles S. Haas, Chuck Jones
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith, Carl Stalling
Cast: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, Jackie Joseph, Christopher Lee, John Glover, Robert J. Prosky, Robert Picardo, Hulk Hogan, Paul Bartel

Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 106 Minutes

gremlins_2Review:

The New Batch is a pretty satisfactory sequel. I feel like they took too much time off between films but it still has a lot of the spirit of the original. It was also cool to see Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates return, as well as Dick Miller.

The film also has Christopher Lee in it, one of my favorite actors ever, as a mad scientist who does zany experiments on animals. His carelessness leads to the Gremlins acquiring some extraordinary abilities and a few bizarre abilities. The inclusion of Christopher Lee’s character ups the ante in this film, making the Gremlins more of a serious threat than they were in the first movie.

Also joining the cast are John Glover, as Daniel Clamp (a parody of Donald Trump in the 80s), Robert Picardo (a regular collaborator with Joe Dante) and Robert Prosky (as a late night horror movie show host dressed like a vampire). All three of these guys give superb performances, especially Glover.

Gremlins 2 isn’t as good of a film as the first but overall, it might be more fun. It is less dark but it is more campy. It has more Gremlin gags as opposed to a straightforward fluid story. The plot exists and there is a beginning and an end but the in-between stuff plays more like sketch comedy with a few plot points added in to keep it somewhat coherent.

This is a very different film than the first, which is refreshing. I probably wouldn’t want a rehash of what was done previously. This film did a great job of being its own thing while continuing the story on from the original.

I had always hoped for a third and final film but that ship has most likely sailed and Joe Dante isn’t the same director anymore.