Tuesday, November 1, 2011

25 Years Ago This Month: November 1986

The fourth Star Trek feature film, Dennis Hopper's only Oscar-nominated role, Mike Tyson wins his first pro boxing title, a large chemical spill turns the Rhine red, the Iran-Contra scandal gets its first exposure, and the loss of a Hollywood legend, all 25 years ago this month.

In putting this post together I may have discovered a movie that I'd seen in parts when I was a child, but since forgot. I have very vague recollections after seeing still photos and reading the cast list and plot summary of Solarbabies, starring Jami Gertz, Jason Patric, James Le Gros and Lukas Haas in his follow-up to Witness. It's one of the 80s' many post-apocalyptic films, this one involving a group of teenagers in an orphanage who play a sport that's a kind of roller hockey and lacrosse hybrid.

The month also saw the release of one of John Frankenheimer's lesser-known films, 52 Pick-Up, starring Roy Scheider and Ann-Margret.

Clint Howard (left) and Nick Cassavetes (right)
Now here's a movie I remember from my youth: The Wraith. This winner starred Charlie Sheen as the titular specter returned to the earth to avenge his own murder, by using a super-fast car to race against his assailants and cause spectacular wrecks. Sherilynn Fenn is the love interest in an early role for her. Nick Cassavetes is the villainous leader of the baddies. Also with Ron Howard's brother, Clint. For some reason, it used to hold major appeal for me.

With An American Tail Universal Pictures and Steven Spielberg attempted to compete with Disney or, more appropriately, fill the void Disney had left by going nearly two decades without an animated feature that topped $100M at the domestic box office. Well, they weren't quite successful, taking $47M and finishing 16th on the 1986 box office list.

Because one Chuck Norris film in a calendar year is never enough, Firewalker, co-starring Louis Gossett Jr., took a modest $11.8M.

The two most significant releases of this month, however, were Hoosiers, which I've already written about here, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. That's the one where Kirk, Spock and crew travel back in time to San Francisco circa 1986 to get some whales to communicate with some alien ship that can destroy everything in the future. This is one of the most accessible films in the franchise, although far from my favorite.

In news outside of movies:
1st - a fire in a factory near Basel, Switzerland sends 30 tons of chemicals into the atmosphere and the Rhine, turning it red. The cause of the fire was never found, but a US intelligence official reported in 2000 that it was suspected KGB sabotage to deflect attention from the Chernobyl disaster several months earlier. Damn commies!
3rd - a Lebanese magazine first reports the secret sale of arms by the United States to Iran in exchange for hostages held by an Iranian group in Lebanon. The Iran-Contra scandal is born.
12th - Roger Clemens wins his first of 7 career Cy Young awards.
Colonel Oliver North swearing an oath before Congress.
21st - Oliver North and his secretary begin shredding incriminating documents related to the sale of arms to Iran, the profits of which were then channeled to the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua.
22nd - Mike Tyson defeats Trevor Berbick in a second round TKO to win his first heavyweight boxing title, becoming the youngest (at age 20 and 4 months) heavyweight champion in history.
23rd - The Reagan administration confirms that the profits from the Iran arms agreement were illegally diverted to Nicaraguan rebels.

17th - Manchester United and Portuguese midfielder Nani is 25.

Significant Hollywood Deaths:
22nd - Scatman Crothers (voice of Jazz on "The Transformers" animated series and Dick Hallorann in The Shining)
29th - Cary Grant at 82

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