Saturday, July 15, 2017

Nothing says 80s like....Terrorvision

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!

Recently I was having a discussion about movies (like you do) and the question was asked, "What is the most 80s movie ever?"  As the discussion proceeded, the topic morphed into not what is the movie most associated with the 80s (Back to the Future clearly) but what film most clearly captures the glorious, lightening in a bottle madness that WAS the 80s. Less than Zero, Flashdance, even Road House?   I, as usual, had a different take.  If I had to pick a film I felt most perfectly exemplified life in the United States in, say, 1986, the only film that comes to mind is the Empire Pictures classic TerrorVision.

TerrorVision? What is that?  I'm glad you asked.  Unless you are already a fan of the genius of Charles Band and his Empire Pictures and Full Moon.

It is a film, if made today, would probably be called SmartphoneVision (maybe FacebookVision?  Hell, I don't know now).  The film is centered around the very wealthy, guady Putterman household as we watch Stan Putterman (played perfectly by Gerrit Graham) putting in a new satellite system.  Now, what might amaze younger readers, if there are any, is before Dish and DirecTV there were large, full sized dishes that used to reside in the backyard.  And they were infinitely better than the satellite television we have today.  
You literally moved the dish to pick up different broadcasts meaning you could watch things live that might not be broadcast in your time zone for another hour or two.  In any event, for reasons I'm uncertain of today, those systems gave way to the cable lite version of satellite television we have today.

In quick order we are introduced to the entire family of Mom - Raquel Putterman (the ever beautiful Mary Woronov),  the oldest daughter Suzy (Diane Franklin), the little brother Sherman (Chad Allen), and World War II vet Grandpa (wonderfully done by the late Bert Remsen).  Also hanging around and drinking Mr. Putterman's Heineken's is Satellite salesman Norton (played by Sonny Carl Davis, who is a stalwart of Charles Band pictures).

During the opening scene on the planet Plutron, we see somewhat humanoid looking creature who works for the sanitation department disposing of some alien waste. However, there appears to be a malfunction and the alien is headed directly towards Earth...and guess whose satellite picks him up?

Now, reading that plot you may think to yourself, other than its production date, what does this picture have to do with the 80s.  Stay with me.

A couple of History degrees got me two things!  First, I'm pretty good at Trivial Pursuit (just not the sports stuff because I'm not interested in watching grown people play kids games for butt loads of cash...seem crazy on its face).  Secondly, and tragically, you develop a sense of the cause and effect of history.  Especially US History.  Why US History?  Because we are the only industrialized nation whose concept of history ends with who got a rose in the last season of The Bachelor. Seriously, ask the regular American who was President after Lincoln was killed...they'll have NO idea.  Trust me.  Ask them the name of the first President to be impeached.  They'll say Nixon because they used to watch Futurama or something, but that would be wrong.  Ask them about the Warren Court (or the Warren Commission...blank stare).  Ask them who Conor McGregor is getting ready to'll get an earful.

Tragic.  Simply tragic....

Expanding on that, I think it is safe to say that, from the 1940s onward, every decade has been the American public's response to the decade prior.  So, the 1940s battle against Fascism became the battle against Communism  (and against Uncle Joe, who we were allies with...and who killed many more people than Hitler could have ever dreamed of).  The youth of the 60s began to rebel against the standards of the 50s, so we got the Civil Rights movement, The Doors, Woodstock, Anti-War protests, Free Love...and rampant VD.  The 70s got a bit confused because, as the Vietnam war drew to a close, open wounds wouldn't heal and then Watergate topped it off.  However, after a decade (actually a bit more) of Americans wringing their hand and feeling bad about being Americans, the Iranian hostage crisis and the failed rescue...and the cringe worthy Malaise Speech, Americans took a right turn into not just Patriotism (because I hope the citizens of every country...and I mean every country, are patriots.  France, Nepal, Bolivia - LOVE YOUR COUNTRY!) but an orgy of consumerism, constant, chronic entertainment, sexual freedom (not saying it was good or bad, just that it was) topped off by the feeling that after a couple of rough decades...hell, we deserved it good.  And, by God, we reveled in it.

Everything I just mentioned in the paragraph above is exemplified by the film TerrorVision.  Including the confusion of it all.  The swinging parents bring up a porn channel on the new TV set up and the Valley Girl sister, hanging out with a metal head named O.D. (played by the great Jonathan Gries) throws her hand over her little brother's eyes.  An interesting dynamic from the Madonna wannabe.    The parents are swingers, but,, when Mr. Putterman realizes the husband in the couple they brought home wants to have sex with him...he's aghast.  His reaction alone is very 80s - He's like "Here's my thing and that is okay, but, his thing NO WAY."

Don't misunderstand me.  I grew up in the 80s.  I loved the 80s.  Some of the best times of my life took place in that decade..things I could never replicate if I had all the money and resources on Earth (not that these old bones could stay awake for it).  But, sometimes when you love something, you can see the faults without judgement or anger.  Sometimes, things were just what they were for better or worse.  You can hate it, love it or learn from it, it's your call.  And sometimes, when there is judgement, it's more out of disappointment than anger.  No one wants their memories to let them down.

I hope you'll pardon the history lesson...I'm getting old, like the Grandpa in TerrorVision, and, prone to the ramblings of an old fart. I'm old enough now to have lost many of the people who meant the most to me...for various reasons, many self-inflicted.  Watching TerrorVision (about once a year now), I'm reminded of when my whole life lay ahead of me.  Did I get to where I wanted to be or where I expected?  No...not yet.  And that is okay...the game continues.

Miss you Pops