Thursday, April 12, 2012

25 Years Ago This Month: April 1987

The Police Academy franchise continued in April 1987 with the fourth installment, subtitled Citizens on Patrol. Each film in the series earned less at the box office than the previous chapter leading me to wonder how they went on to make parts 5, 6, and 7. The only actor who could reasonably be called a star in the entire series is Steve Guttenberg and he bowed out after the third film. Everyone else was famous for nothing other than their roles in this lifeless, flaccid, completely unfunny comedy series. David Spade made his film debut here as one of the titular citizen police officers. Sharon Stone also makes an early film appearance.

Pedro Almodóvar, the Spanish director of colorful melodramas that have a habit of earning Oscar nominations for the Foreign Language Film award, had his film debut in the United States. As far as I can tell, several of his films before Law of Desire played various film festivals and may have even had some tiny commercial release on this side of the Atlantic, but Law of Desire was his real coming out party. He's been dazzling art house audiences and Hitchcock enthusiasts ever since.

After a brief foray into drama with Light of Day, which opened a couple of months before, Michael J. Fox was back in form with a comedy that didn't really go very far, but at least it highlighted what Fox does well. The Secret of My Success didn't go very far in time, although it did finish at number 7 for the year's box office mainly built around star power. The film had no other big names in it and it's hard to even point at anyone in the film who went on later to have great success.

By 1987 Robert Altman had not directed a film that was worth the price of admission for almost a decade and hadn't made a significant impression in even more years than that. Beyond Therapy is an adaptation of Christopher Durang's bedroom farce stage play. Durang himself denounced the film as spoiling his original story. Serendipitously, Durang also made occasional acting appearances in films, this month in the aforementioned The Secret of My Success. Beyond Therapy opened in New York in February, but went wider in April.

From the annals of Long Forgotten Movies comes Three for the Road, a road comedy starring Charlie Sheen, Kerri Green, and Alan Ruck. Director Bill Norton went on to a 90s career of directing TV movies with such forbidding titles as "Deadly Whispers," "Gone in the Night," "Vows of Deception," and "Stolen Innocence." Then he spent the next decade directing TV episodes of "Buffy," "Angel," and "The Unit," among others.

The recently passed director Ken Russell was known for his often flamboyant and sometimes experimental style. His film Gothic was a fictional horror retelling of the night when Mary Shelley (Natasha Richardson in her film debut) created the story that eventually became Frankenstein.

Matthew Broderick, like Fox, also wanted to be taken more seriously for dramatic turns. His Ferris Bueller's Day Off follow-up was Project X, a semi-serious movie about military testing on chimpanzees to determine how pilots would fare after being exposed to radiation from a nuclear blast.

Finally there's this bizarre film I recall from childhood called Making Mr. Right about a socially reclusive scientist played by John Malkovich who builds a replica android of himself ostensibly to do deep space exploration. Of course the android gets out into the world and develops better human relationships than the scientist.

5th - Fox TV network debuts in prime time with episodes of "Married...With Children" and "The Tracey Ullman Show."

19th - "The Simpsons" first appears as a cartoon short on "The Tracey Ullman Show."

20th - Karl Linnas, a Nazi war criminal who lived only a stone's throw from my hometown on Long Island, was deported to the Soviet Union to face execution. He died 3 months later in a Leningrad prison hospital.

27th - Kurt Waldheim, that Nazi whom the Austrians elected to lead their government, was denied entry to the United States by the Justice Department due to his aiding of the Nazis during WWII. During his tenure as President of Austria he and his wife could visit only Arab countries and the Vatican, neither of which should come as a surprise to anyone.

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