I’ve made a few posts here about things nostalgic. I guess it’s natural when you get older. A part of you wants to be young again, because it looks a lot better now than it did then. I often daydream about my life in the eighties, but if the truth were known, I didn’t enjoy it as much back then as I like to think I did. I like going back and watching the movies and listening to the music, but the fact is, I was in the Army, then got married and became a father when I really wasn’t mentally mature enough for either (something I’m still occasionally apologizing for to my ex and daughter). I’m not trying to dredge up bad feelings, just saying that we often tend to look at the past through rose-colored glasses, and I do it even while I’m aware I’m doing it.
A good way to see that not everything is as good as you remember it is by revisiting old movies that you really, really, and I mean really, liked back in the day and seeing how they hold up. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when many of them don’t.
I’m thinking in this case of an early eighties movie called The Ice Pirates. It stars Robert Urich—this is before he played Spenser in the Spenser for Hire series later in the same decade—and Denise Crosby, who stared on Dallas (the original horrible series, not the new even more horrible series. Come to think of it, this is probably another example of something best left in the past), and even features Anjelica Huston in what must be one of her very early roles.
The Ice Pirates is a science fiction spoof movie. As far as effects go, especially the space going ones, it holds up pretty well, probably close to that of Star Wars. But as a story…well, let’s just say that, the whole time you’re watching it, you’re yearning for Spaceballs (but then, competing with Mel Brooks can be tough). Urich plays the leader of a band of pirates who steal ice from the evil Templars (when did Templars become evil?) in a galaxy that, for some reason, is short on water (it’s never really explained why water is scarce or if it is, I missed it).
I’d like to say it has its moments, but it really doesn’t. The acting is fine, the production is surprisingly good (though it has its low-budget moments), and even the costumes look really authentic. But the comedy, such as it is, tends to fall into the Stupid category, with some of it being really juvenile, such as a robot that gets scared every time they go into battle and ends up voiding itself of a mixture of nuts, bolts, and oil. This gag sticks out to me because they do it more than once—and once was more than enough.
Another one that, for me anyway, falls into this category is To Live and Die in LA. It’s a William Friedkin movie—the same guy who brought us The French Connection—and it stars William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Turturro, and Dean Stockwell, among others. I had fond memories of this movie, especially the chase scene that ends up going the wrong way on an LA freeway.
I can’t say the entire movie falls flat the way The Ice Pirates does, but parts of it are a bit hard to handle these days, mostly things that are very much a sign of the times it was made in, such as having Wang Chung do the soundtrack. Still, all in all, I’m a fan of the movie because the story is great, and the twist ending makes it all worth it, in my book. It’s just not quite as good as I remember it being.
Better Off Dead still works great, though, and so does Repo Man.
I guess it all evens out in the end, and I’d bet there are things about my misspent youth I’d still love to go through, just as there are some I’d love to get a do-over on. Of course, it makes me wonder how many things I really like now that I’ll think are crap twenty years from now.
That’s the way life goes.