Saturday, November 29, 2014

1984: Another Great Year For Blockbuster Movies!

Summer, 1984. One of the greatest blockbuster seasons ever at the cineplex. There were an amazing number of big budget, high grossing films released during that period, many of which have gone on to classic or cult film status. Influential films we're still watching and talking about today. 

Some of the most important directors of our time released their best work during this incredible period. Whether it was a fortuitous alignment of stars in the cosmos or just a random confluence of studio schedules, the Summer of 1984 was a great time to be a movie lover!

It just doesn't seem possible that it's been a whopping thirty years since these films were released.

Note that of all the films on this list, only two are sequels. And there's not a single remake to be found. You hear that Hollywood? Audiences like new ideas and stories. 

It seems silly to issue a Spoiler Warning for a bunch of three decade old movies, but... consider yourself warned!


Beverly Hills Cop

Released December 5, 1984
Budget $15,000,000
Grossed: $234,000,000

Starring Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Ronny Cox and Bronson Pinchot.


The Plot:
Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is a young police detective in Detroit. When his best friend Mikey is killed, he's determined to investigate and solve his murder. The trail of clues take him to Beverly Hills, where he teams up with a couple of local detectives to solve the crime. Hijinx ensue.

Thoughts:
Saturday Night Live may have made Eddie Murphy a household name, but it was Beverly Hills Cop that made him a superstar. 

• The role of Axel Foley was first offered to Mickey Rourke (!), but numerous delays caused him to leave the film. No offense to Mr. Rourke, but if he'd taken the part I doubt we'd still be discussing the film today. 

The role was then offered to Sylvester Stallone, who rewrote the script into an epic, over the top action film. The studio balked, saying his script would be too costly to film. This caused Stallone to leave just two weeks before filming began (Sly took some of his more action-y ideas and incorporated them into the movie Cobra). 

Richard Pryor, Al Pacino and James Caan were all considered for the Axel Foley part but turned it down.

The film was finally offered to Eddie Murphy, who accepted. This required a quick and massive overhaul of the script though, to pump up the laugh quotient and play to Murphy's comedic strengths.

• Martin Scorsese and David Cronenberg (!) were asked to direct, but declined. Martin Brest supposedly took the director job based on the results of a coin toss. Always nice to see an artist with a passion for his projects.

• Much of the between Murphy and co-stars Judge Reinhold and John Ashton was improvised. Many takes were ruined due to cast and crew alike laughing at the ad-libbed lines. Reinhold's "five pounds of red meat in your bowels" monologue came from an off the cuff line he performed during his audition.

• In addition to catapulting Eddie Murphy to superstardom, the film gave quite a boost to Bronson Pinchot's career as well. He practically stole the show as the odd art dealer Serge, and used a variation of the character (as well as his accent) as Balki in his Perfect Strangers sitcom.

• Amazingly the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing (Original Screenplay). Really? An Oscar nom? It's a decent film and I like it, but c'mon, it ain't that good.

• The Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack, including the iconic Axel F instrumental, is almost as famous as the film itself. It won a Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack.


• The film spawned two sequels, also starring Eddie Murphy and Judge Reinhold. In 2013 there were rumors that CBS was interested in a television series based on the films, featuring Axel Foley's son, but nothing ever came of it. That's probably just as well.

Dune

December 14, 1984
Budget: $40,000,000
Gross: $30,000,000

Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Max Von Sydow, Jose Ferrer, Patrick Stewart, Sean Young, Brad Dourif and Sting.

The Plot:
In the far future, various political houses fight over a planet that produces a drug that makes space travel possible (how's that for distilling such a complicated story into one sentence!).

Thoughts:
• David Lynch's adaptation of Frank Herbert's scifi novel is a glorious train wreck of a film. It was labeled a bomb in 1984, but as often happens, it's since become regarded as a cult classic.

• There were many failed attempts to film Dune before it finally came to the big screen. In 1971 Arthur P. Jacobs (producer of the Planet Of The Apes films) bought the film rights and wanted David Lean (of Lawrence Of Arabia fame, no less) to direct. 

Next a French consortium bought the rights and hired Alejandro Jodorowsky to direct. Jodorowsky had a lot of screwball ideas that would have no doubt made for an even weirder and crazier version than what we ended up with. In fact there's even a documentary about his vaporware film! 


Jodorowsky planned to make a ten hour long movie (!) starring artist Salvador Dali as the Emperor (!!!). Dali agreed to start in the film, but demanded $100,000 an hour. Jodorowsky accepted his terms, planning to film all of Dali's scenes in one hour (how he realistically thought such a thing was possible, I have no idea). 

Jodorowsky spent $2 million of the films $9.5 million budget on pre-production alone. Around this time the French investors' money dried up and the project was cancelled.

In 1981, Dino De Laurentiis (of the 1976 King Kong fame) bought the film rights. He hired Ridley Scott (ALIEN) to direct. Scott planned on making two films, but the project stalled yet again and he went on to direct Blade Runner.

Finally De Laurentiis hired David Lynch to direct. Lynch spent six months working on the script before filming finally began on March 30, 1983. Lynch's first cut of the film was over four hours long, which, all things considered, wasn't bad for a movie based on such a massive book. Universal wanted a two hour film (so it could play in theaters more times per day, raking in more money) and forced him to cut it down. Lynch claims Universal Pictures denied him final cut of the picture, and has distanced himself from the production, refusing to even talk about it in interviews.

• The film boasts an amazing international cast, but everyone acts in a dreamlike, languid style, as if they're either hypnotized by the complexity of the script or there was a gas leak in the studio.

• Rob Lowe and Val Kilmer turned down the part of Paul Atreides. Paul was ultimately played by Kyle MacLachlan, in his film debut. I wonder if Val Kilmer passed on the role because he was busy shooting Top Secret!, which also premiered in 1984?

• Patrick Stewart, who plays Gurney Halleck in the film, said the film's "stillsuit" was the most uncomfortable costume he's ever worn. He also said the same thing about the first season uniforms in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Maybe Sir Patrick just isn't comfortable in any kind of uniform. 

Although the musical instrument played by Patrick Stewart looks suitably futuristic, it was a real type of electric guitar called a Chapman Stick.

• At the time, much was made of Feyd-Rautha, played by Police frontman Sting, and his tiny winged g-string. Originally he agreed to film the scene in the nude, but the studio became nervous and demanded he cover up his "little sting."


• Universal saw how much money Star Wars toys were raking in and decided they wanted in on some of that sweet, sweet merchandising pie. To that end they released a whole line of ill-advised Dune action figures and accessories.

Never mind that the film is a complex tale of political intrigue and ecology and offers very little for a child to appreciate. Sure, there are a few action set pieces (mostly involving the sandworms), but they're bracketed by endless scenes of dry, bureaucratic machination.

Needless to say few kids wanted a figure of a five hundred pound sexually perverted dictator or a middle aged man with a photographic memory who inexplicably had a house cat and a rat hooked up to his bloodstream, and they were quickly clearanced from the nation's toy shelves.

• David Lynch makes a cameo appearance as a mining ship radio operator. For some unfathomable reason, new age saxophonist Kenny G. also makes an appearance as a drummer during Feyd and Paul's duel.


Dune has a very odd production design. Take a look at the object above. What does that look like to you? Some sort of futuristic wall clock? Nope, believe it or not it's a ray gun

Was the production designer simply trying to get away from the traditional pistol-like weapon? Or did he have six weeks to design one, but goofed off until the day he was supposed to present it and came up with this idea at a stop light on the way to the studio meeting? I'm betting the latter.


• Watch the end of the film carefully, because this is the only time in motion picture history that you'll ever see the credit "Music by Toto." Because who better to write the score for your sprawling, epic scifi adventure than an 80s prog-rock keyboard band?


Dune is the only film I can think of that's ever passed out "cheat sheets" to the audience. The plot was so complicated and filled with alien words and names that the studio printed up handouts featuring a glossary of terms for confused moviegoers. Can you imagine sitting in a darkened theater, squinting while trying to read your handout to find out what "mentat" means? 

If you have to resort to such drastic measures to explain what the hell's going on, then you've failed as a screenwriter and director.

• David Lynch was signed to direct two sequels to the film, but the poor box office squelched those plans.


Ghostbusters

Released June 8, 1984
Budget: $30,000,000
Grossed: $291,000,000

Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts and Rick Moranis.

The Plot:
Three parapsychologists lose their positions at Columbia University. After noticing increased supernatural activity in New York City, they form a successful small business called Ghostbusters. 

The paranormal activity continues to grow, culminating in the arrival of an ancient god named Gozer who wants to bring about Armageddon Naturally, the Ghostbusters are the only ones who can save the world.

Thoughts:
Ghostbusters was my favorite movie of 1984 and I still love it to this day. I vividly remember seeing it in a crowded theater while on a trip to St. Louis. This was way before the advent of the internet and spoiler sites, so everyone was totally surprised by the appearance of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. The entire audience roared with laughter for many minutes afterward, a reaction I've not seen since. Sometimes I miss those days.

• Dan Aykroyd wrote the film, intending to star in it alongside his friend John Belushi. The original script was quite different, featuring "Ghostsmashers" who traveled through time, space and other dimensions as they hunted an entire race of giant ghosts (one of which the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man!). The Ghostsmashers wore SWAT-type uniforms and used wands (?) to battle the ghosts.

Director Ivan Reitman liked the concept, but worried that the film would cost at least $200 million (in 1984 dollars). He suggested Harold Ramis help Ackroyd rewrite the script and make it cheaper to shoot.

• Ramis and Aykroyd wrote roles specifically for John Belushi and Eddie Murphy, who would play two of the Ghostbusters, and for John Candy as Louis Tully. Unfortunately Belushi died before filming began, and Murphy and Candy wouldn't commit to the film.

Eventually Bill Murray was offered the role of Peter Venkman. Most of Bill Murray's lines were ad-libbed.

• Christopher Walken, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd and Jeff Goldblum were all considered for the role of Dr. Egon Spengler before it was given to Harold Ramis. Although they all would have made interesting Egons, in the end I can't imagine anyone else in the role.

• Louis Tully was originally written as a conservative businessman. The part was given to Rick Moranis, who played the character as a geeky milquetoast and wrote most of his own highly technical tax law dialog!

• Gozer the Gozarian was originally going to be a man in a business suit played by Paul Ruebens (better known as Pee Wee Herman), but was replaced by scantily-clad Yugoslavian model Slavitza Jovan. Good move!

• William Atherton starred as the irritating EPA agent Walter Peck. Atherton claims that the film ruined his life, as to this day people yell at him on the street and even attempt to pick fights with him. The mark of a good actor!

• 1970s porn star Ron Jeremy makes a brief and puzzling camera appearance near the end of the film. Years later, in 2011, he starred in a porn parody called This Ain't Ghostbusters XXX. I hope that those triple Xs refer to the pornographic nature of the film and don't mean it's Part 30.


• Throughout most of the shooting the film didn't have a name. They actually considered Ghoststoppers before finally settling on the far more satisfying Ghostbusters. The producers then discovered that there had been a 1975 live action Saturday morning show called The Ghost Busters, produced by Filmation Studios. Fortunately Columbia worked out a deal with Filmation.

After the film became a huge hit, Filmation produced an animated version of The Ghost Busters with the incredibly inventive new title of Filmation's Ghostbusters. Not to be outdone, in 1986 Columbia countered with their own animated version of the film called The Real Ghostbusters. Confusing!

• The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man actually makes a couple of appearances before his big scene in the final act. The eggs which fry themselves on Dana's kitchen counter are sitting next to a package of Stay-Puft marshmallows. Later as the Ghostbusters roar out of their
headquarters in the Ecto-1, there's an ad for Stay-Puft marshmallows on a building behind them.

The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man suits cost approximately $20,000 apiece. Three were made and all were destroyed during filming.

• So what's up with that bizarre "ghostly sex" dream sequence in the middle of the film?

As originally filmed, Ray and Winston go on a ghost busting call to an old Civil War fort, which has been converted into a museum. They split up and start hunting for the ghost. Ray wanders into a bedroom and tries on one of the old Civil War uniforms. He then either becomes really sleepy, or perhaps is lulled to sleep by the resident ghost. He lies down on the bed and instantly falls asleep. He's then awakened by a female ghost who gives him a taste of supernatural sex. 

This scene was ultimately cut from the film, but part of it was used in a clumsily edited and out of place dream sequence in the middle of the "hard working Ghostbusters" montage (look closely and you can see Ray's inexplicably wearing the Civil War uniform).


• Did you know Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd played dual roles in the first cut
of Ghostbusters? The two played homeless men who witness Louis being chased through Central Park by one of the terror dogs. This scene was removed from the final cut because little was done to disguise their identities, and the filmmakers feared the audience would be confused by seeing Murray and Aykroyd playing other characters.

• If you're a Ghostbusters fan, you owe a debt of gratitude to the film The Razor's Edge. According to Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray was on the fence about starring as Peter Venkman, and only committed to the project after Columbia agreed to let him film The Razor's Edge, which was a passion project of his.

The film was released after Ghostbusters and tanked hard at the box office. Audiences no doubt had little interest in seeing Murray spouting philosophy in a serious and introspective film.

Ghostbusters was another film with a hugely successful soundtrack. Ray Parker Jr. wrote and performed the catchy theme song, which became an incredibly huge hit. Amazingly it won an Oscar for Best Original Song (!). Seriously? I'm starting to think it's not all that hard to win an Oscar.

Not everyone was pleased with Parker's success though. In the fall of 1984 Huey Lewis sued Ray Parker Jr. for plagiarism, claiming the Ghostbusters theme copied the melody from his 1983 song I Want A New Drug. So was it true? Did the Ghostbusters theme copy New Drug? Well, the two settled out of court, so that means the answer is yes. Yes it did.

Veteran film composer Elmer Bernstein wrote the film's musical score.

• Reitman knew he had a hit on their hands when a test screening of the film-- without most of the ghostly special effects-- still met with thunderous applause from the audience.

The film spawned a less successful sequel, and the long running cartoon series. Aykroyd has been trying to get a third film off the ground for decades now, but has so far been unsuccessful. With the untimely death of Harold Ramis and Bill Murray's disinterest in the project, I say why bother? Better to have one good and one OK film to enjoy over and over, than to release a disastrous third film and sully the memory of the franchise.


In recent months a new Ghostbusters film with an all female team has been announced.

Gremlins

Released June 8, 1984
Budget: $11,000,000
Grossed: $153,000,000

Starring Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Polly Holiday, with Frank Welker and Howie Mandel as the voices of Stripe and Gizmo.

The Plot:
An unsuccessful inventor buys his son Billy a strange creature in a Chinatown shop. The creature, called a Mogwai, comes with three strict instructions: Keep it out of bright light, never get it wet, and never, ever feed it after midnight.

Of course it doesn't take long for Billy to violate all three rules, and the cute and cuddly Mogwai mutates and grows into an army of destructive monsters that wreak havoc in the peaceful town of Bedford Falls, er, I mean Kingston Falls.

Thoughts:
Gremlins, along with Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, are the two films directly responsible for the creation of the PG-13 rating. Parents took their children to see Gremlins assuming it was harmless family fare, only to be outraged when their precious snowflakes were traumatized by the violence and gore on display. Executive producer Steven Spielberg called the MPAA and suggested a rating between PG and R, and the rest is history.

• The term "gremlin" supposedly originated in WWII, as pilots blamed mechanical failures on the unseen, mischievous creatures.

• I'm told that "Mogwai" is Cantonese for "hairy monster."

• Written by Chris Columbus, who also wrote The Goonies, Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire and three of the Harry Potter films.

• Spielberg handpicked Joe Dante to direct, based on his work on The Howling.

• The first draft of the script was even darker than the finished product, and included scenes of the gremlins eating Billy's dog (!) and decapitating his mother and tossing her head down the stairs (!!!). 

Also in the original script, it was Gizmo himself who mutated into the lead gremlin and caused much mayhem. Speilberg vetoed this idea, feeling that audiences would embrace the cute Gizmo and would be upset at his transformation. The script was then rewritten so that Stripe becomes leader of the gremlins.

This was probably a wise move on Spielberg's part, as the film birthed an onslaught of Gizmo-centric merchandise.

• Phoebe Cates plays Kate, Billy's girlfriend. Her speech about her father dressing as Santa Claus and breaking his neck while coming down the chimney was supposedly inspired by a famous urban legend. Spielberg didn't like the scene and wanted it cut, but Dante refused to take it out.

• Veteran actor Keye Luke played Mr. Wing, the shopkeeper who sells Gizmo to Billy's father. Even though Luke was 80 at the time of filming, he looked much younger and needed old age makeup in order to play the role.

• The backlot set used for Kingston Falls was the same one used for Hill Valley in Back To The Future.

• There are many similarities between Gremlins and It's A Wonderful Life, which I'm sure was intentional.

• The effects team tried dressing monkeys in gremlin costumes, with predictably disastrous results. That idea was quickly scrapped and most of the gremlins were sophisticated hand puppets. Certain puppets were built at a larger scale in order to be capable of more sophisticated expressions.

• Some critics with way too much time on their hands have accused the film of racism, saying the gremlins represent "negative African American stereotypes," as they're seen "devouring fried chicken, listening to black music, breakdancing and wearing sunglasses after dark." Jesus wept!

These are the same types of people who insist that the TV series The Munsters was really about ethnic groups moving into "nice" neighborhoods, and that Bewitched was really about interracial marriage. In other words, nut jobs. Sure those suppositions fit, but I can guarantee you that's not what the producers had in mind. You can read pretty much anything into any property if you try hard enough.

• As generally happens when a film connects with the general public, Gremlins spawned an entire cottage industry of copycat films in which small creatures cause lots of property damage and mayhem, including Critters, Ghoulies, Troll, Hobgoblin and Munchies.

The Last Starfighter

Released July 13, 1984
Budget: $15,000,000
Grossed: $28,000,000

Starring Lance Guest, Robert Preston, Catherine Mary Stewart, Dan O'Herlihy.

The Plot:
A teenaged videogame wiz named Alex Rogan is recruited by an alien to fight in an intergalactic war. It turns out that Alex's favorite game Starfighter was really a testing unit to seek out space pilots. Alex agrees and saves the Star League from the threat of the Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada.

Thoughts:
The Last Starfighter wasn't the first film to feature cgi, but it was the first to use such detailed and complex spaceship designs. The special effects look dated now of course, but at the time they were nothing short of jaw-dropping.

• Robert Preston's role as Centauri was very reminiscent of his Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, and the part was written with him in mind. Sadly, this was Preston's final film role.

• A large number of the film's cast starred in the various Star Trek TV series, including Wil Wheaton, Marc Alaimo, Barbara Bosson, Meg Wyllie and Kay E. Kuter.

Wil Wheaton's small part was virtually eliminated from the film during editing. He would go on to play Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Meg Wyllie, who plays Granny Gordon in the film, is probably best known as the Keeper in the first Star Trek pilot!

Dan O'Herlihy, who plays the alien Grig, went on to star as The Old Man in 1987's Robocop.

• In 2004, the film was adapted into an off-Broadway musical. We live in strange times.

• A sequel to the film was announced in 2008, but never materialized. Although it would be nice to return to the world of the film and see it rendered with modern cgi, it's probably just as well it's not happening. Sequels that are made decades after the original rarely if ever work.

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom

Released May 23, 1984
Budget: $28,000,000
Grossed: $333,000,000

Starring Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri and Jonathan Ke Quan.

The Plot:
In 1935, Indiana Jones, his sidekick Short Round and nightclub singer Wille Scott crash-land near a village in India. The inhabitants believe their village is cursed, and beg Indy to retrieve their sacred stones, along with their children, from the sinister Pankot Palace.

Thoughts:
• As mentioned above, this is one of the films directly responsible for the creation of the PG-13 rating. Apparently the scenes of villain Mola Ram reaching into the chests of his victims and pulling out their still-beating hearts caused much soiling of garments of the children in the audience.

• Most people don't realize that Temple Of Doom is actually a prequel, taking place a year prior to Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Why? Because George Lucas, that's why. He didn't want the villains to be Nazis again, and apparently felt the only way to solve this perplexing conundrum was to set the film even farther in the past. Or something.

This actually causes a continuity error in the film. In Raiders, Indy was confronted by a sword-swinging villain, and rather than engage in a lengthy battle, pulled out a pistol and shot him

In this film Indy's menaced by two swordsmen. He reaches for his gun, but finds it's not in its holster and runs. 

Even though this is supposed to be a cutesy callback to the scene in Raiders, chronologically it's happening before, and thus makes absolutely no sense. It's like Indy's answering a question before it's asked.

• Director Steven Spielberg wanted to bring back Marion Ravenwood for the film, but George Lucas vetoed the idea. Lucas wanted each film to feature a different love interest for Indy, ala the James Bond films. Thanks a lot, George. See? He was upsetting fans as far back as 1984.

At least Spielberg benefitted from the deal. He ended up marrying star Kate Capshaw.

• Spielberg blames the film's darker tone on the fact that both he and Lucas were going through messy breakups at the time.

• Note at the beginning of the film, Indy meets Lao Che at Club Obi Wan. Wakka wakka!

• Indy hands over the cremated remains of Nurhachi to Lao Che. Nurhachi was an actual emperor of China in 1916 and founded the Manchu Qing dynasty.

• The "running from machine gun fire while using a rolling gong" gag was originally written for Raiders Of The Lost Ark, but was cut from the film. It resurfaced in this film.

• Look for Dan Aykroyd's uncredited cameo as the official who arranges Indy's flight out of China.

• Even though the film is set in India, it was filmed in Sri Lanka. Indian officials supposedly refused permission to film there because they found the script "racist and offensive." 

They had a point, as the film bears little or no resemblance to actual Indian culture. It portrays the goddess Kali as evil, when she is in fact the Goddess Of Energy. The "dinner of horrors" was especially ridiculous as eels, beetles, eyeball soup and chilled monkey brains are most definitely not examples of delicious Indian cuisine.

• During filming Harrison Ford suffered a severe spinal injury while riding an elephant, and had to rest on a hospital bed between takes. His pain worsened until Lucas shut down production for three weeks to allow him to recover. 

Many of Indy's more strenuous scenes were actually performed by stuntman Vic Armstrong (which is an absolutely perfect name for a stuntman).

• The rope bridge in the film was real; it was built by a group of British engineers over a two hundred foot deep gorge. Spieberg was terrified of it and would drive a couple of miles out of his way in order not to cross it. Ford had no such misgivings, and would run across it at full speed.

• Amrish Puri, who played Mola Ram, shaved his head for the role and kept it shaved afterward, as he then went on to quite a successful career playing villains in Indian films.

• Jonathan Ke Quan accompanied his brother to the audition for Short Round in order to provide moral support. Spielberg saw Quan bossing his brother around before the audition and cast him on the spot.

• All three main characters are named after dogs. Indy is named after George Lucas' dog, Willie after Spielberg's and Short Round after screenwriter Willard Huyck's. Who the hell names a dog Short Round?

The Terminator

Released October 26, 1984
Budget: $6.400,000
Grossed: $78,000,000

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen.

The Plot:
An intelligent computer called Skynet sends a murderous cyborg back in time to 1984, to kill a woman named Sara Conner. Skynet knows that Conner will one day give birth to a freedom fighter who will lead a revolution that will destroy it. Wibbly wobbly, timey whimey.

Thoughts:
• Writer-director James Cameron's original script included two Terminators being sent back in time. One was a humanoid cyborg, while the other was made of liquid metal.

There was no way to realistically film the liquid metal Terminator in 1984, so the idea was scrapped. It was of course reused in the 1991 sequel Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

• Lance Henriksen was originally cast as the Terminator, because Cameron thought he should be able to blend into a crowd. When that concept was changed, he gave Henriksen the part of Detective Vukovich.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally going to play human time traveller Kyle Reese, while O.J. Simpson was to play the Terminator (!). Ultimately Simpson was dropped as Cameron thought he was too nice to be believable as a merciless killing machine (!!!). I think the Irony-O-Meter just exploded.

• Arnold has a total of 18 lines in the film, amounting to less than 100 words.

• Police frontman Sting was considered for the role of Kyle Reese.

• Geena Davis, Debra Winger, Michelle Pfeiffer, Diane Lane and Carrie Fisher (among many, many others) all auditioned for the part of Sarah Conner.

• The iconic line "I'll be back!" almost didn't make it into the film. Schwarzenegger didn't want to say it, because he had difficulty pronouncing the word "I'll." He wanted to say the more formal, "I will be back," but Cameron refused. It's amazing when you read things like this to think how different film history could be.

• The low budget, unassuming little film created a franchise and merchandising empire. To date there have been three sequels or prequels or whatever the hell they were, with a fifth film scheduled for 2015.

• Sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison claimed that The Terminator stole his screenplay for Soldier, an episode of The Outer Limits. This was nothing new, as Ellison has made a second career out of suing anything that moves for plagiarism. Ellison must have had better lawyers than Orion Studios though, because they ended up paying him a cash settlement, and all subsequent prints of the film include a "Story by Harlan Ellison" credit.

The Karate Kid

Released June 22, 1984
Budget: $8,000,000
Grossed: $90,000,000

Starring Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, Elizabeth Shue, William Zaba

The Plot:
Skinny kid Daniel LaRusso and his mother move from New Jersey to Reseda, California. Daniel gets sand kicked in his face by a local martial arts asshole. Mr. Miyagi, the handyman of Daniel's building, takes pity on him and teaches him to defend himself.

Thoughts:
• Like many of the movies that came out in 1984, this one spawned a film franchise and a ton of merchandise. There are four films in the series, plus a remake that apparently didn't understand its own title, as it's set in China, where Kung Fu originated.

• The studio originally wanted Mr. Miyagi to be played by Toshiro Mifune or Mako. They were leery of casting Pat Morita, because they saw him as a comedic actor (having played Arnold on the Happy Days TV series) and felt he wouldn't be able to handle a dramatic role. Morita ended up being nominated for an Oscar for his role in the film. So suck on that, studio execs! 

Why is it that studio executives seem to be so consistently wrong about everything? How do they manage to rise to such positions of power?

• Mr. Miyagi is named after Chogun Miyagi, an Okinawan who created his own style of karate. 

Morita's based his portrayal of Miyagi on karate master Fumio Demura, copying his attitude, mannerisms and speech. Demura doubled Morita in many of the fight scenes.

• In true Hollywood fashion, the teenaged Daniel LaRusso was played by the 22 year old Ralph Macchio (although Macchio did look much younger). Charlie Sheen was considered for the role but turned it down (thank the Maker!).

• In the film Mr. Miyagi gets drunk and reminisces about serving in the 442nd regimental Combat Team in WWII. This was a real regiment, composed of mostly Japanese-Americans (many of whom had been in internment camps) who fought in Europe and became the most highly decorated unit in the history of America's military.

During this scene Daniel sees Mr. Miyagi's Medal Of Honor. Unfortunately that's a mistake. Due to racism among the Army upper brass, no Japanese-Americans were awarded the Medal Of Honor in WWII, instead receiving lesser awards. This unfortunate oversight was finally corrected after an investigation in 2000. Whoops!

• Columbia Pictures had to get special permission from DC Comics to use the name "Karate Kid," as their Legion Of Superheroes comic book featured a character with that name.

A Nightmare On Elm Street

Released November 9, 1984
Budget: $1,800,000
Grossed: $28,000,000

Starring Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon & Johnny Depp.

The Plot:
A teen-aged girl is plagued by nightmares of a sinister child killer named Freddy Krueger. She eventually discovers that Freddy is all too real, and if he kills her in her dreams, she'll die for real.

Thoughts:
• Yet another film on the list that launched a franchise, consisting of seven sequels and a remake.

• Screenwriter/Director Wes Craven claims to have based the film on an article he read about "Asian Death Syndrome." According to the article, Khmer refugees from Cambodia began suffering terrifying nightmares, and some actually even died in their sleep. Doctors could find no physical cause for their deaths, which led to rumors and superstition that some thing in their nightmares was killing them.

• The film's villain, Freddy Krueger, was originally written as a child molester. Craven eventually changed this to the apparently more acceptable child murderer. Ah, that's much better!

Craven named the character after Fred Kruger, a childhood bully who regularly beat him as a youth. So chew on that, bullies of the world! Think twice before beating future filmmakers.

Freddy's red and green sweater came about after Craven read that that color combination was the most jarring to the human eye.

Despite Freddy's seemingly massive presence in the film, in reality he appears for less than seven minutes.

• Jennifer Grey, Demi Moore, Courntey Cox and Tracey Gold all auditioned for the part of Nancy Thompson, which ultimately went to Heather Langenkemp.

Nightmare was actor Johnny Depp's first feature film. He accompanied his friend Jackie Earle Haley to an audition for the movie. Haley was passed over, but Craven asked Depp to read for a part and ultimately cast him as Glen. 

Ironically, Haley ended up playing Freddy Krueger 26 years later in the remake of the film.

Nightmare was the first feature film released by New Line Cinema, prompting one executive to call the studio "The House That Freddy Built" (they produced a previous film, but it went direct to home video).

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

Released June 1, 1984
Budget: $16,000,000
Grossed: $87,000,000

Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Robin Curtis and Christopher Lloyd.

The Plot:
After the death of Spock in the previous film, Kirk and crew risk everything to find his body and bring him back to life through an unholy Vulcan ritual.

Thoughts:
• Before the previous film Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan began shooting, Leonard Nimoy had grown weary of playing Spock. He only agreed to star in the film if they promised to kill off Spock at the end.

However, Nimoy enjoyed filming Wrath so much that he decided he wanted to return, paving the way for this film and no doubt causing studio executives to wish he'd make up his damned mind.

• This was Nimoy's first stint as a director. He went on to direct Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Three Men And A Baby, among others.

• The original script cast the underused Romulans as the villains, but Nimoy insisted they be changed to Klingons. 

Apparently someone forgot to do a search and replace on the script, because the "Bird Of Prey" class of ship, which had always been a Romulan thing, remained unchanged and was now also assigned to the Klingons. The design of the Bird Of Prey also looks more Romulan than Klingon, complete with stylized feathers on the ship's "wings."

• Kirstie Alley, who played Lt. Saavik in The Wrath Of Khan, reportedly demanded an excessive salary increase to appear in this film. She was promptly replaced by Robin Curtis.

• In traditional Hollywood fashion, Mark Leonard, who plays Spock's father Sarek, is only seven years older than Leonard Nimoy.

• Nimoy didn't want the Klingons to spout alien gibberish, so he hired linguist Mark Okrand to come up with a language for them. 

And boy did he! Klingon proved immensely popular, and has gone on to become a fully realized, if fictional, language, spawning dictionaries, classes and books completely written in the language. There's even a Klingon Language Institute!

• One thing I never understood– in the film, a Klingon female named Valkris is traveling on a human freighter. She's stolen top secret information about the Federation's Genesis Project. She's met by her boyfriend, Klingon Commander Kruge (played by Christopher Lloyd). She transmits the Genesis info to him, and when he asks if she's seen it, she says yes. He replies, "Bummer!" and destroys her and the freighter.

Why'd Kruge kill his girlfriend? So she saw the Genesis document, big deal. Heck, even the mush-mouthed alien McCoy talks to in the bar knows about it. How big a secret could it be?

It just doesn't make any sense to me. Beam her off the ship & throw her in the brig for a month if that violates some Klingon regulation, but don't kill her. Maybe Kruge was tired of her crap and looking for an excuse to get rid of her? At least he didn't say, "Consida dis a divorce!" as he blew her to kingdom come.

By the way, as Kruge says goodbye to Valkris, it looks like he sheds a single tear. All good trekkies know that Klingons have no tear ducts. Whoops!

• Several new ship models were built for the film, including the Exclesior, the Grissom, the Klingon Bird Of Prey, and the space dock.

• The Enterprise's self destruct codes used here are the exact same ones the crew uttered way back in the original series episode Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.

Seems like they'd want to update such important codes once in a while, but what do I know?

Other notable movies that premiered in 1984:

• The NeverEnding Story
• Amadeus
• Footloose
• Children Of The Corn
• Red Dawn
• This Is Spinal Tap!
• Top Secret!
• Splash
• Conan The Destroyer
• The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension
• 2010
• Supergirl
• Repo Man
• The Toxic Avenger
• Night Of The Comet
• Starman
• Firestarter
• C.H.U.D.
• Runaway
• Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes
• Sheena, Queen Of The Jungle
• Birdy
• The Ice Pirates
• Silent Night, Deadly Night
• Dreamscape

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