MCO viewing: Forgotten gems from the 70s and 80s

APRIL 11 — For most of us, it's coming up to four weeks of staying home because of the fight against Covid-19 and of course, the Movement Control Order (MCO). 

At least my day job falls under the essential services umbrella, so I have alternate weeks of working at the office and working from home. 

Still, that leaves a lot of time spent at home, wondering what to do, when going out is not an option, which resulted in yours truly watching an awful lot of movies and TV series, which I'm sure is the case with everyone else as well.

I'm pretty sure that you've already read a lot of recommendations about new and current movies streaming on platforms like Netflix, Amazon and the like, so it's probably better that I do not repeat what most people have said about why you should watch current sensations like The Platform, or even suddenly rediscovered older movies like What Happened To Monday.

What I think would be more interesting is to recommend to you the more off the beaten path titles that I've explored in the last few weeks.

This time at home has somehow seen me gravitate to the more obscure and forgotten films from the 1970s and 1980s. 

Some have even surprised me with how good they actually were. So let's get on to the good stuff, shall we?

Miracle Mile

From 1989 came this unexpectedly awesome film from director Steve De Jarnatt, which I think is one of the sweetest, most romantic films I've ever seen about mass panic and nuclear apocalypse. 

It starts of like the best of John Hughes' 80s romantic classics, with the hero Harry meeting Julie, and it's love at first sight. 

They steal glances at each other, awkwardly start to talk, and find themselves engaging easily with each other, so after walking Julie to work, Harry promises to come by after she's finished her shift at an all-night diner so that they can go on a real first date.

Unfortunately an unforeseen set of events results in Harry missing the promised time, and Julie is nowhere to be seen when he finally arrives at the diner. 

Harry then receives a phone call at the public phone he's using to call and apologise to Julie, in which he's told that a nuclear apocalypse is happening in less than two hours. 

Is the phone call real or is it all just a prank? The movie has an immense amount of fun keeping that question hanging not just over the characters's head, but ours as well.

What happens from then on is probably best for you to discover for yourself. All I can say is, for an independent production made on a US$3.7 million budget, Miracle Mile plays like one of the most thrilling, suspenseful, action packed and head-in-the-clouds romantic 1980s Hollywood blockbusters that you've ever seen, but simply have just never heard of before. 

It's a one of a kind film, and it's lovely.

The New Kids

Director Sean S. Cunningham's most famous movie will probably always be the original Friday The 13th

But in 1985, he unleashed unto the world a film called The New Kids, which didn't do any damage at all at the box-office, and didn't even have any critical reputation as well to make it any sort of cult film. 

It was just a movie that arrived at the cinemas and was just as quickly forgotten. 

Having now seen it, I find it utterly strange why it wasn't a hit. Yes, maybe the concept is a wee bit offbeat, because at heart it's a truly nasty film that's reminiscent of Straw Dogs (hence the R rating), but with a setting and story that involves high school kids, so maybe that's why the kids couldn't go to see it because of its rating.

But the movie plays like gangbusters, eliciting and fully earning its many scenes of violence and thrills, as the titular new kids in town made up of a pair of siblings are terrorised by their new high school's gang of bullies, and things escalate viciously and murderously when the sister refuses the advances of the gang's leader. 

There's nothing fancy and nuanced here, just an expertly crafted and vicious little thriller that will have you cheering once the climax arrives and the siblings and the gang go into battle.

Sudden Fury

If not for its Blu-ray release by Vinegar Syndrome, one of the greatest champions of goofy, cheesy, underdog films from the golden era of VHS that most people would probably call B or even C and D grade films, I would never have heard of this neat little Canadian thriller from 1975 called Sudden Fury

Writer/director Brian Damude made only one movie in his career, this one, and what a one hit wonder this turned out to be.

It's a simple tale of a husband trying to murder his wife after an accident gives him the golden chance to do so, only for that plan to be spoiled by a well-meaning traveller.

This was superbly milked to the hilt for suspense by Damude, resulting in a Hitchcockian thriller that Hitch himself would have been proud of.

That simple set-up slowly evolves more and more complicated morally, as a game of cat and mouse develops and all sorts of accidents and sabotage happen to make its normal "wrong man" scenario turn murkier and murkier as the movie races towards its crushingly logical ending. 

A totally forgotten and under-rated movie that deserves to be seen.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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