Don’t expect the typical 1983 favorite movies. Not on this list. Most notably missing is Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.
Sacrilege? Maybe. What?
You try working in a Suncoast movie retail store for years where the only films on in-store play are the original Star Wars trilogy. You’ll never want to see a Lightsaber or hear the “Imperial March” ever again. Which is why I present to you, Dear Reader, some of 1983’s less-thought-of movies. Maybe one will find its way to your Netflix account.
Never Say Never Again
Except when rival James Bond movies are concerned. Never makes this list not because it’s good, but because of its historical significance in the 007 franchise: a remake of 1965’s Thunderball, produced by a rival company, and released the same year as Octopussy, the official next installment in the series.
Thunderball was originally written by Ian Fleming, with Jack Whittingham and Kevin McClory, as a screenplay intended to be the first Bond movie. But it cost lots of dough to make in 1962, so MGM adapted Dr. No instead.
Thunderball was published as a novel. McClory and Whittingham were never given credit, so they sued Fleming. When the gavel dropped, The book’s film rights went to McClory.
In 1965, producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli decided to make Thunderball. To do so, he had to bring McClory on as the sole producer. It was the first and last time any official Bond movie was produced without a Broccoli family member with full or partial control.
Afterward, McClory set about producing a rival Bond series. Much to the chagrin of the Broccoli family, McClory succeeded with Never Say Never Again. It’s major selling point was Sean Connery back in the role he originated for the first time in twelve years.
Between Connery and Kim Basinger, the praise ends. It’s a lack-luster effort, more comical than serious (Lorenzo Semple, Jr., who wrote numerous episodes of the campy 1960s Batman TV series, wrote the screenplay).
Despite that, it made some money and propelled McClory to begin work on his next rival Bond movie.
Which was never made.
The court battle went on for another twenty years. Around 2004, the Broccoli family and MGM were deemed the sole owners of the James Bond film rights. Ownership of the Thunderball storyline, along with the film rights to Never, were awarded to them.
What makes this more significant is that the Thunderball story includes the first literary appearance of 007’s nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and the SPECTRE organization – two elements missing from the series since 1971. They were incorporated into the rebooted franchise’s fourth installment which starred Daniel Craig.
If you want a good laugh, check out Never. Then purge any lingering ill-effects with one of the twenty-four real James Bond movies.
The consensus is that sequels suck. I agree. But there are a handful of follow-ups that don’t. Psycho II is one of them.
The premise is simple enough: after twenty-three years in an asylum, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is deemed sane and tries to immerse himself back into society, despite objections from many of Norman’s victims. The loudest voice among them is that of Lila Loomis (Vera Miles), sister of shower-victim Marion Crane in the first Psycho. But when Norman moves back into Mother’s house, new murders cause Norman to question his sanity once again.
The director, Richard Franklin, is devotee of the original film’s director, Alfred Hitchcock, even having met and worked with the Master of Suspense on occasion. The script, by Tom Holland, is focused on story above scares and gore (of which there are just enough).
The real treat is Perkins back in his career-defining role. Despite the years between, he slips back into character as effortlessly as Norman putting on a wig and a periwinkle-blue dress.
The other fun factor here is the return of Vera Miles. She’s just as feisty and determined as she was in the first movie, even more so. Her performance here shows that Lila was as much a victim of Norman as her sister. Which might be more tragic – Marion found peace in 1960, while Lila had to live a nightmare.
The King of Comedy
Thank The Lord for TCM. Otherwise, I probably never would have seen it. The fact that Martin Scorsese directed this is shocking. At least, on the first view; after that you’ll realize it’s right up his gritty alley.
Scorsese enlists his favorite leading man, Robert De Niro, in the role of Rupert Pupkin, hack comedian who’s worse than Ann Coulter. Well, maybe not that awful. To make his name in comedy, he sets his desperate, dillisional sights on a legendary comedian played by Jerry Lewis. De Niro’s performance is unsettling; Lewis’ remarkably restrained.
Leave it to Scorsese to make a film about the trappings of celebrity and those consumed by it, decades before this behavior became the norm.
Mickey’s Christmas Carol
Yes, it’s not actually a movie; it’s a short film. But it was paired with a re-release of The Rescuers, so there. As a kid, I wore this VHS out. The only movie I watched more was Ghostbusters. The animation is timeless; the background art masterpieces; the voice acting superb. It’s the first animated appearance of Scrooge McDuck voiced by Alan Young, who went on to voice the money-hungry mallard on DuckTales in the late 1980s. This cartoon may have ignited my taste for ghosts, animation, and storytelling. Probably the first film I could recite word for word. Other than Ghostbusters, of course.
The official James Bond movie of 1983. It has everything its rival lacked – story, wit, memorable characters, exotic locations, and a bitchin’ score by John Barry. In essence, everything a nearly-terrific Bond movie. This is Roger Moore’s sixth outing as Bond, and the buffoonery often associated with some of his films is all but missing. And what does remain, fits.
The plot is typical – when a fake Faberge Egg ends up in the hands of the murdered 009, Bond is sent to find the killer. His mission puts him in contact with the villainous Prince Kamal Khan (Louis Jordan) and jewel smuggler Octopussy (Maud Adams).
Of course, there’s more to the story than fake Faberge Eggs. A plot to blow-up an American military base in Soviet-occupied Berlin is uncovered and Bond must stop it. Yes, this is the Bond movie were he dresses up as a clown, but don’t let that deter you from watching it. The action scenes are tense and the characters memorable. Especially the post-title credit scene of a sinister knife-thrower on the hunt for 009.
Moore went on to play Bond one more time in a real clunker, but his performance in Octopussy is his second or third best, just behind For Your Eyes Only and The Spy Who Loved Me.
What is your favorite film from 1983? Comment below.