This Month in . . . 1983 (February)

Rocky and Clubber

VHS Revival brings you all the box office and rental happenings from February


1983




4th February

The month of February would get off to a bang for horror fans. Released on the same day, The Entity would go head-to head with David Cronenberg‘s body horror classic Videodrome. Directed by Palm D’or nominated director Sidney J. Furie (The Ipcress File), The Entity is based on the real life Doris Bither case and tells the story of a malevolent poltergeist who purportedly raped and tormented her for years.

The movie was the subject of much controversy due to its unsettling sexual nature, and scenes in which the entity forced protagonist Carla Moran to have incestuous thoughts about her young son were cut from the final edit. Barbara Hershey gives a harrowing performance as the blighted Miss Bither in a film Martin Scorsese called ‘one of the scariest horror movies ever made’.

Videodrome

Not to be outdone in the freaky stakes, Videodrome was quite the oddity for moviegoers back in the early 1980‘s. Starring James Woods and Debbie Harry, the movie is a warped satire on television as a tool of indoctrination. Described as ‘techno-surrealist’, Videodrome tells the story of  Max Renn, a sleazy television executive who peddles softcore porn and graphic violence to the station’s small yet loyal fanbase. Renn is looking for the next big thing when he stumbles across the titular Videodrome, a surreal banquet of violent S&M that threatens to bleed into reality, turning harmless compulsion into politically motivated assassination.

Made during the infamous ‘video nasty’ scandal, the movie is also a timely commentary on the precarious boundaries of entertainment and civil liberties. Due to its peculiar presentation, the movie did poor numbers at the box office, recouping less than half of its $5,952,000 budget. By contrast, the much more marketable ‘Entity’ would rake in almost $14,000,000.


18th February




Mid-February saw another box office failure in Martin Scorsese’s black satire The King of Comedy. Starring Scorsese mainstay Robert De Niro, the movie tells the story of a desperate comedian forced into kidnapping his idol (Jerry Lewis) in order to land the big break which has so far eluded him.

An acerbic take on the dangers of celebrity, the movie derives its comedy from bleak misfortune, proving something of a turnoff for the movie-going public. Three years later the director would revisit the formula for New York odyssey After Hours, a movie that would prove a bigger box office draw.

The King of Comedy

Another comedic failure to hit the theatres that week was Jeremy Kagan’s The Sting II. Sequel to the Robert Redford/Paul Newman classic The Sting, the movie stars Jackie Gleason as legendary con Fargo Gondorff, who is released from prison and sets about seeking vengeance for the murder of his old friend Kid Colors.

Although the movie received an Academy Award nomination for Best Musical Score (Lalo Schifrin), it was panned by audiences and critics alike, in spite of acquiring the services of the late Oliver Reed and spending a truck load of money. A virtual retread of the conmen unite formula, the movie has become something of a forgotten relic in the years since its release.


25th February




Jason Lives! director Tom McLoughlin would release his big-screen debut One Dark Night. The antithesis of his meta-infused Jason Voorhees splatterfest, the movie is a slow-burning supernatural horror set inside a mausoleum, where a group of teenagers attempt to survive the night as part of a high school initiation after an occultist returns from the dead to haunt them.

Aimed at a younger audience, the movie would draw comparisons to Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, in spite of the fact that it was made prior to it. This was due to problems during post production which saw its initial release date delayed. The movie stars a young Meg Tilly as high school heroine Julie Wells, while Batman’s Adam West also makes an appearance.

Betrayal

Also released that week was underrated drama Betrayal. An adaptation of Harold Pinter’s 1978 play, the film is the semi-autobiographical story of a slow-building attraction between a man and his best friend’s wife. Starring Jeremy Irons and Ben Kingsley, the movie is told from the husband’s point of view and is presented in reverse chronological order.

Praised by critics across the board, the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.


US Box Office Charts for December

Rank Movie Title  Studio
Total Gross / Opening
1 The Entity Fox $13,277,558 $3,685,654
2 The Lords of Discipline Paramount $11,787,127 $3,011,932
3 Lovesick Warner Bros. $10,171,304 $3,093,281
4 Without a Trace Fox $9,632,062 $1,609,448
5 The Sting II Universal $6,374,072 $3,106,108

Top Video Rentals



Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist would dominate the rental charts in February, spending the entire month glued to the number 1 spot. Produced by Steven Spielberg, the supernatural thriller surrounded by real-world tragedy would prove one of the most successful movies of the year, spawning a whole batch of horror-through-appliances imitators such as Pulse and Demons 2.

Blessed with spectacular special effects, the movie tells the story of the Freeling family, whose home is invaded by a supernatural spirit intent on kidnapping their young daughter via a portal to another dimension. Carol Anne Freeling was played by the late Heather O’Rourke, who in 1988 would mysteriously pass away from cardiac arrest at the age of 12, but this was not the only Poltergeist-related tragedy. In November of 1982, just months after the movie’s release, actress Dominique Dunne, who played eldest Freeling daughter Dana, was brutally strangled by her abusive boyfriend and died after 5 days on life support.

Poltergeist

Rocky III would spend the whole of February trailing at number 2 in the charts. Sylvester Stallone‘s third outing as the ‘Italian Stallion’, the movie would reflect Sly’s real-life woes as Rocky loses sight of his roots due to fame and fortune, giving up the professional ranks to take part in a charity match with wrestling champion ‘Thunderlips’ (Hulk Hogan). Inevitably, Rocky rediscovers his passion for boxing just in time to vanquish young and hungry competitor Clubber Lang, who was played by motormouth A-Team star Mr. T.

Rocky III

The third Rocky instalment would prove a monumental success, grossing an incredible $125,049,125 at the box office. The movie is also famous for smash hit title song ‘Eye of the Tiger’, which would top the billboard charts for six consecutive weeks, earning songwriters Survivor an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.

Walt Disney’s cult science-fiction Adventure Tron would also remain in the top 5 for the entire month of February. More than half a decade in the making, the movie was initially inspired by video game Pong before taking the form of a short feature. Director Steven Lisberger would use live-action elements with both backlit and computer animation to achieve the movie’s iconic look.

Moonraker

Notable high-charting new releases for February would include Moonraker and Friday the 13th Part III. First released in 1979, Roger Moore‘s fourth outing as the irrepressible James Bond would be rushed into production ahead of 1981‘s For Your Eyes Only in order to capitalise on the unprecedented popularity of Star Wars. Richard Kiel would famously reprise his role as bumbling, metal-mouthed henchman ‘Jaws’.

After a lukewarm response to Jason’s first murder spree, the Friday the 13th Franchise would turn to the Reagan-era 3-D fad in order to rescue the franchise from commercial failure, and it worked. Although crammed with laughable instances of three-dimensional non-terror, the movie would prove to be one of the most graphic in the series, beating the subsequent censorship backlash by a matter of months. The original series would go on to boast an unprecedented eight sequels, making Jason Vorhees one of the most iconic figures in horror movie history.


Video Rental Charts Week Ending January 7

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
Released
Rating
1 Poltergeist MGM/UA 1982 18
2 Rocky III CBS Fox 1982 PG
3 Firefox Warner Home Video 1982 15
4 Tron Walt Disney 1982 PG
5 The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas MCA 1982 15

Video Rental Charts Week Ending January 14

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
Released
Rating
1 Poltergeist MGM/UA 1982 18
2 Rocky III CBS/Fox 1982 PG
3 The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas MCA 1982 15
4 Tron Walt Disney 1982 PG
5 The World According to Garp Warner Home Video 1982 15

Video Rental Charts Week Ending January 21

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
Released
Rating
1 Poltergeist MGM/UA 1982 18
2 Rocky III CBS/Fox 1982 PG
3 The World According to Garp Warner Home Video 1982 15
4 The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas MCA 1982 15
5 Tron Walt Disney 1982 PG

Video Rental Charts Week Ending January 28

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
Released
Rating
1 Poltergeist MGM/UA  1982 18
2 Rocky III CBS/Fox 1982 15
3 The World According to Garp Warner Home Video 1982 PG
4 The Boat (Das Boot) RCA/Colombia 1982 18
5 Tron Walt Disney 1982 PG

Cedric Smarts 




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