In the summer of 1983 I was 19 years old, and my best friend Gordon worked as an usher at the local multiplex. What a deal: I saw fifteen summer flicks, and I never paid a cent! Looking back after 30 years, I remember Tom Cruise’s Ray-Bans, Roy Scheider’s tan, and scary computers. Roger Moore and Woody Allen were cool, Saturday Night Live veterans were everywhere, and Aunt Edna was strapped to the roof. I wrote it all down. Here are a few notes from my 1983 movie diary.
May 21: Blue Thunder
What better way to start the summer than with a buddy cop movie in a helicopter? “Great action,” I noted in my diary, but Gordon and I didn’t believe that a helicopter could really do a loop or fly in “whisper mode.”
May 25: Star Wars Episode VI — Return of the Jedi
We waited two hours to see it, and Gordon immediately dubbed it “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” in honor of the Ewoks. I noted that it “answered all the questions.” Well, apparently not.
June 7: Spacehunter
Molly Ringwald starred in this 3D sci-fi misfire that I slammed as “basically a bore.”
June 12: WarGames
Although it was hard to be a computer geek just two years into the PC era, we were at least interested. “M. Broderick is great!” I wrote but added that the movie was “a little too earnest and fervent at the end.”
June 22: Octopussy
In retrospect it’s clear that Roger Moore and the entire Bond franchise were both running on fumes, but at the time I said “Wild and crazy! Great fun!” Sometimes I was easy to please.
June 26: Twilight Zone: The Movie
Gordon loved it, but as a veteran of late-night encounters with Rod Serling’s black-and-white creepiness, I found it too funny to be scary. Was this the first comedic cinematic remake of a TV show?
June 29: Trading Places
Today it’s considered a classic, but I regard it now as I did then, “No major thrill.” I’ve never really been on Team Eddie.
July 26: Jaws 3D
This film was so murky and out of focus that I felt like I was swimming underwater through a red tide. Remind me: did the shark win this one?
July 27: Flashdance
Thirty years on I’m much more cynical, but even then my reaction was, “You have GOT to be kidding me!” Yes, if you dream big, work hard, and stick to it, you’re sure to succeed… as long as you have a rich and influential boyfriend to make some calls for you. Great soundtrack, though.
August 7: Risky Business
Loved, loved, loved it! What teenage boy wouldn’t want to turn his home into a whorehouse, be straddled by Rebecca De Mornay on the Chicago subway, and get into Princeton? “Sometimes you just gotta say, ‘What the f***.’” became the quote that got me through college.
August 11: Krull
This low-rent fantasy epic didn’t do wonders for Ken Marshall’s career. Who? Exactly.
August 17: Zelig
I proclaimed it to be “fascinating,” and I still feel the same way.
August 18: National Lampoon’s Vacation
Gordon and I agreed this was the funniest movie we had ever seen. Airplane? That was so 1980. To this day I remember every twist and turn of Clark W. Griswold’s “quest for fun,” and I still have much of the dialogue memorized. Cousin Vicki? French kissing Daddy? I’m laughing right now.
August 22: Metalstorm
A movie so terrible that we gleefully shouted “REFUND!!” even though we hadn’t paid to get in.
August 24: Cujo
Mainly I remember the dog slobber all over the windows of the Ford Pinto.
And with that, I went home, packed my truck, and headed back to college. A week later I was knee-deep in Shakespeare and Chaucer once again, and the college film society kicked off the year… with an Ingmar Bergman festival.