Author Archives: fantesinferno

A Most Underrated Year: Revisiting the Films of 1981

It’s been way too long since the last film retrospective appeared on Fante’s Inferno. My previous posts on the films of the Summers of 1982, 1983 and 1984 were a lot of fun to write, and even more fun to research. But with each year that passed since my last retrospective in 2014, I kept telling myself to get started on the next one, only to have life get in the way of revisiting the films of the Summer of 1985 and onward. So to find the subject of my next film retrospective, I reviewed the list of film releases from 35 and 40 years ago (to stay within my unofficial 80s timeline) to revisit the classics of that era but more importantly to rediscover some forgotten gems.

I initially planned on writing a retrospective on the films of the Summer of 1981, which in my opinion had a very solid lineup. But 1981 was also the year that some of my all time favorite films were released, namely John Boorman’s Excalibur and Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (both of which are still in my personal top ten list of favorite films). Over the years I’ve reviewed several films from 1981 on this site (The Hand, The Last Chase, Gregory’s Girl, Southern Comfort and Time Bandits), so looking over the entire year’s film releases made me realize that 1981 as a whole had a strong mix of classics, cult favorites, guilty pleasures, and a few underrated and forgotten films that deserve to be revisited. Many of them can be found on streaming services today, which allowed me to dig deeper into that year’s lineup and rewatch a few of the less remembered films for the first time in four decades.

But researching this cinematic year led to a very surprising and unexpected opinion: that 1981 is one of the most underrated years of cinema, not only of the 1980s, but of the last 50 years.

I know, I know, that’s a bold statement. But I wrote “underrated” and not “best” for a reason. And while 1939 is considered the definitive “Best Year of Movies,” two recent books add the films of 1962 and 1999 to the debate, and in my opinion 1994 wasn’t too shabby either. Without question the films of 1939 still hold the crown of the greatest cinematic year due to their classic, enduring qualities and the reverence with which they are held to this day. And while only a small handful of films from 1981 could be considered true classics today, the fact that many of the lesser known films from that year are still very enjoyable forty years later legitimately puts 1981 in the category of “underrated” and well worth another look.

It’s safe to say none of the films of 1981 have reached the stature of 1972’s The Godfather, though Raiders of the Lost Ark is one film from 1981 that has earned both classic and blockbuster status along the lines of Jaws (1975) and Star Wars (1977), and was the highest grossing film that year. But two of 1981’s Oscar winners Reds and Chariots of Fire probably don’t get watched with the same frequency these days. If you look at the films of 1972, 1975 or 1977, you’ll see a number of great films (for example 1972 also had Deliverance, Cabaret, and Jeremiah Johnson; 1975 included One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dog Day Afternoon and Three Days of the Condor; and 1977 included Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Saturday Night Fever and A Bridge Too Far), but in my opinion 1981 pulls ahead in terms of the consistency in the quality of a lot of films across all genres, even the hidden gems and cult favorites.

That’s not to say there weren’t any clunkers or outright bombs that year. For every Raiders of the Lost Ark, On Golden Pond and Chariot of Fire, there was Sphinx, Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen, and the best example of the worst type of film: Going Ape! Like any other cinematic year before or since, there are films that have been forgotten for good reason. But others may also fall into the category of “badly made but fun to watch.” One thing I never do when I revisit an older film is to judge it by today’s standards with regard to effects, cinematography, etc. I’ll mentally turn the clock back and view a film and judge it on its merits of the time. Easier said than done with some films, but I choose to give each of these a fair shake even if some were intended as B movies and lacking in production value. Even some of the lowest budget horror or action films can still be enjoyable in their own right.

Let’s take a look at some of the notable films of 1981:

January to March:
Scanners
Fort Apache The Bronx
Diva
Goodbye Pork Pie
Modern Romance
American Pop
Eyewitness
Cutter’s Way
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Thief

April to June:
Atlantic City
Nighthawks
Excalibur
The Howling
Knightriders
The Hand
Ms. 45
Bustin’ Loose
The Four Seasons
The Last Chase
Gregory’s Girl
Cheech & Chong’s Nice Dreams
Clash of the Titans
History of the World: Part I
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Cannonball Run
Superman II
Dragonslayer
For Your Eyes Only
Stripes

July to September
The Decline of Western Civilization
Escape from New York
Arthur
Blow Out
Eye of the Needle
Wolfen
Escape to Victory
Gallipoli
Heavy Metal
An American Werewolf in London
Prince of the City
Body Heat
Continental Divide
Das Boot
Raggedy Man
Southern Comfort
True Confessions

October to December
Enter the Ninja
My Dinner with Andre
The Evil Dead
Time Bandits
Ragtime
Whose Life Is It Anyway?
Four Friends
Pennies From Heaven
Absence of Malice
Chariots of Fire
Taps
Quest for Fire
On Golden Pond
Reds

This list will likely bring out comments defending some of the less successful films, questioning their inclusion as “notable,” or debating whether some of the acclaimed films of that year even hold up today. A few additional titles from 1981 might also be included in this retrospective. I look forward to a spirited discussion.

First up in this retrospective will be the films of January through March of 1981!

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Vision and The Scarlet Witch #1 (Marvel Comics, November 1982)

In this episode we’ll take a look back at the first issue of Marvel’s 1982 mini-series Vision and The Scarlet Witch that hit the spinner racks on August 10, 1982.

This issue can be found in Vision & The Scarlet Witch – The Saga Of Wanda And Vision on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3ij08Iw As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  Thank you for your support!

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Cloak and Dagger #1 (Marvel Comics, October 1983)

In this episode we’ll take a look back at Cloak and Dagger #1 that hit the spinner racks on July 12, 1983.

Cloak and Dagger #1 can be found in Cloak and Dagger: Child of Darkness, Child of Light on Amazon and ComiXology.  As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  Thank you for your support!

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Movies for Memorial Day 2020

With Memorial Day coming up on Monday May 25th, I would like to thank all veterans and active members of the armed forces for their service and sacrifice.

I’ve always appreciated the combat film having grown up watching old black and white war films on Saturday afternoons. My favorite films of the genre are Peter Weir’s Gallipoli and Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One, but over the years Glory by Ed Zwick and Band of Brothers have made it on to my list of personal favorites.

Each Memorial Day Weekend I review the TV listings and streaming services and make a list of military themed films and documentaries that are available for free and subscription streaming and cable TV.  I make an effort to avoid the comedy and caper films that only use wars, major battles or military life as a backdrop.

Every year Turner Classic Movies has a strong lineup of films for Memorial Day Weekend.  While the streaming services seem a little lighter on the military and war themed feature films this year, military documentaries are well represented on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Tubi. Unfortunately one big disappointment this year is that Band of Brothers, The Pacific and Taking Chance are not available for free streaming on Amazon Prime.

Turner Classic Movies (all times listed are EST):

Friday, May 23rd
9:30 AM – Glory (1989)
11:45 AM – Sgt. York (1941)
4:00 PM – The Steel Helmet (1951)
5:30 PM – The Green Berets (1968)

Saturday, May 24th
12:00 PM – Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
12:30 AM – Wings (1927)

Monday, May 25th
5:00 PM – Battle of the Bulge (1965)
8:00 PM – The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Netflix
Hamburger Hill (1987)
Jarhead (2005)
Five Came Back (2019)
World War II in HD (2009)
Women at War 1914-1918 (2014)
Women at War 1939-1945 (2015)
Medal of Honor (2018)
USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (2016)

Amazon Prime Video
Gallipoli (1981)
American Experience: The Great War (2017)
Journey’s End (2018)
The Great War (2019)
A Bridge Too Far (1977)
Sands of Iwo Jima (1950)
The Battle of Britain (1969)
Flying Tigers (1942)
The Bridge at Remagen (1969)
The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1955)
Pork Chop Hill (1959)
Heroes of the Forgotten War: The Heroes of Kapyong (2011)
Dick Winters: Hang Tough – Honoring Leadership on D-Day (2005)
Vietnam: The Battle of Khe Sanh: The Fires of Hell (2006)

Tubi
Go For Broke (1951)
The True Glory (1945)
Desert Victory (1943)
Navajo Code Talkers of World War II (2018)
The Way Ahead (1945)

Pluto
Gallipoli (1981)

Crackle
Bat 21 (1988)

Tubi, Crackle and Pluto are free apps, Netflix and Amazon Prime require subscriptions. Check these links for information on free trials of Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime Video. As a member of the Amazon affiliate program, I may receive commissions for qualified purchases at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support.

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Jon Sable Freelance #1 (First Comics, June 1983)

In this episode we’ll take a look back at Mike Grell’s Jon Sable Freelance #1 that hit the spinner racks on February 19, 1983.

Please subscribe to the Fante’s Inferno YouTube Channel!

Jon Sable Freelance #1 can be found in the Jon Sable Freelance Omnibus #1 on Amazon.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Thank you for your support!

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Micronauts #1 (Marvel Comics, January 1979)

In this episode we’ll take a look back at the first issue of Marvel Comics Micronauts that hit the spinner racks on September 19, 1978.

Please subscribe to the Fante’s Inferno YouTube channel!

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Fante’s Inferno On YouTube!

Fante’s Inferno now has a YouTube channel and my first video has published!

Episode 1 will post this week.  Please check it out and subscribe!

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