Classic movie report: June 2015

I declared as one of my New Year’s resolutions that I would watch more classic old movies, so each month I’m devoting an entry to how I’m doing with it. Despite competition from the NBA and NHL finals, I was able to work in two films that I’m happy to share with you here. One is a genuine classic. The other is so bad that, in its own perverse way, it is so good.

Jaws (1975) (4 stars out of 4)

What can one say about this iconic film about killer Great White shark that wreaks havoc along the beaches of a New England resort town? Steven Spielberg’s classic, now marking its 40th anniversary, is an eminently re-watchable movie. Even if you know what’s coming, it’s worth another viewing. Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss starred in one of the all-time great summer movies.

Let me add that the shark remains one intimidating dude, rendered in the days before CGI and other computerized enhancements. The underwater scene with Richard Dreyfuss ranks among the scariest man vs. sea beast scenes ever filmed.

Red Dawn (1984) (unrateable)

The cast list for this jingoistic, Cold War-era flick may cause you to wonder how future movie and TV stars like Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, and Jennifer Grey ever got wrangled into it.

I’ll offer a spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t watched it, but you may as well read this anyway. The movie opens with students at a high school located in a small Colorado town. They look out the classroom window to see paratroopers landing on the ground. Lots of them, and they’re not from the land of Yankee Doodle Dandy. Rather, they’re vicious, heartless Soviet and Cuban soldiers ordered to kill just about everyone in sight, including civilians.

A group of the high school kids manages to escape the scene and head for the hills, where they eventually train themselves to become a crack guerrilla outfit, outsmarting the Commies at every turn…at least for a while.

I won’t go into further detail — I don’t want to ruin the fun if you’ve never seen this masterpiece of bad writing and not-so-great acting.  (Please don’t blame me if you watch the movie and the phrase “let it turn, let it turn” runs through your head over and again.) It also helps to suspend disbelief over how enemy planes could’ve pierced through the American air defense system and barreled into the nation’s heartland without warning.

Flaws aside, Red Dawn reflected some of the genuine Cold War fears and hysteria of the era. I remember enjoying it when I saw it at the theatre way back in ’84, and I have to say I got a kick out of it this past week as well. Let it turn, let it turn.

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