This Month In…1985 (August)

VHS Revival brings you its monthly retro box office and rental rundown

August 2

1985 was a fantastic year for the notoriously tricky horror comedy genre and August gave us two of the most lauded of the era. The first of those, released on August 4, was Tom Holland’s delicious vamp slayer send-up Fright Night. Starring a superlative Roddy McDowall as a thespian ham facing unemployment in an era of slasher bedlam, the movie tells the story of Charlie Brewster, a young horror obsessive who becomes convinced that his suave neighbour, Jerry Dandridge, is an ’80s incarnation of Nosferatu responsible for a series of unexplained murders. The fact that McDowall’s Peter Vincent character shares his name with two of horror’s most famous vampire killers should give you some indication of the movie’s jovial tone.

That’s not to say Fright Night doesn’t offer some genuine scares. Brewster’s situation worsens when Dandridge catches on to his mischievous meddling and receives a domestic invite from his immediately smitten single mother, giving Dandridge free reign on the Brewster household and making Charlie and his friends fair game — particularly sweetheart Amy Peterson (Amanda Bearse), who just happens to hold a rather striking resemblance to Dandridge’s long-lost love.

Fright Night Jerry

Chris Sarandon, who was initially dubious about starring in a horror picture, is a revelation as toothy suburbanite Dandridge: handsome, debonair and able to operate with impunity in a society that looks for the madman in the hockey mask rather than the Gothic traditions of yore. The movie is also buoyed by a series of superlative practical effects and a scathing synth soundtrack by composer Brad Fiedel, who perfectly encapsulates Dandridge’s suave wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Child’s Play writer/director Holland has proven himself one of the best at balancing horror with comedy, and though Fright Night seems to lurk in the shadow of The Lost Boys in terms of iconic ’80s vampire flicks, for me the movie is much more skilfully defined and respectful to the genre it so cutely lampoons. Comedies of this nature are rare in today’s shock-driven climate, but Fright Night is one of the finest films the horror comedy genre has to offer. Audiences agreed. Fright Night would prove the third highest-grossing film released in August, with a healthy opening weekend of $6,118,543 and a US domestic gross of $24,922,237.

Released in Europe on August 1 was Dario Argento’s cavalier giallo Phenomena. Later released in the United States under the title Creepers, the movie was widely criticised for its scattergun plotting, meandering pace and the kind of second-rate acting that critic Kim Newman described as, “astonishingly awful”. The Guardian would also criticise the director himself, describing the movie as “Argento at his most throwaway”.

Be that as it may, I love this movie. Is it harebrained on occasion? Absolutely. Does it lose the plot both literally and figuratively? Quite frequently. But as a mad spectacle of grisly deaths, elegant lighting and switchblade-wielding chimpanzees, it is a rather beautiful experience that wows on a purely aesthetic level. It also gives us one heck of a juxtaposing soundtrack, the director’s decision to ditch Goblin convention for a more US-friendly OST that features the likes of Iron Maiden an inspired creative and commercial decision, though Goblin do treat us to a suitably erratic theme that bounces off the walls like Beelzebub’s spawn pepped-up on glucose. It’s no wonder Argento cites the film as one of his personal favourites.

Phenomena, inspired by the fact that insects are sometimes used in murder cases, is typically potty. Jennifer Connelly plays Jennifer Corvino, a young girl with a rather special affinity with insects whose powers are used to unravel a series of unexplained murders in and around a Swiss boarding school. Her telepathic powers soon grab the attention of wheelchair-bound forensic entomologist John McGregor (Donald Pleasence), leading her on a path of macabre splendour that becomes progressively erratic and as a result increasingly beguiling.

As you would expect from Argento, there are also some spectacular set-pieces that will please genre fans no end, but there is also an emphasis on child-led fantasy, a startling matrimony of genres that negates the movie’s sometimes heedless plotting, resulting in the kind of cavalier filmmaking that will forge both enemies and allies.

John Hughes would also return to theatres during the first week of August with racy teen comedy Weird Science, a movie that acts as the perfect platform for Hughes go-to brat pack extraordinaire Anthony Michael Hall. Once again tapping into the hormonal frustrations of middle-class teens relegated to the doldrums of geekery, the movie would parody Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by having our two boys create a flesh goddess on sidekick Wyatt’s home computer, which were promoted as having limitless powers back when such technology was a complete mystery to the majority of moviegoers.

Weird Science would also introduce a generation of horny teens to the aesthetic majesty that was supermodel Kelly Le Brock, her surprisingly inspired turn as the anarchic, strong-willed Lisa going against the chauvinistic grain. Though created as a veritable sex toy for our women-repellent duo, Lisa’s ultimate goal is to have Gary and Wyatt impress their peers based on who they are not what they can give them. This sees them winning the hearts of Deb and Hilly, two teenage sweethearts under the thumb of high school convention and self-serving Alpha Males Ian and Max, played with glorious arrogance by familiar ’80s faces Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Rusler.

There is also an iconic turn from the late, great Bill Paxton as Wyatt’s douchebag older brother, Chet, in what many believe to be his greatest ever performance. Paxton lends his moronic touch to a supporting role that threatens to eclipse the entire movie as the oppressive sibling from hell, a misogynistic buzz cut with a penchant for extortion whose every misguided philosophy and moronic belch is transformed into pure comedy gold. Hughes was at his commercial zenith during the mid-80s and his understanding of teenage tribulations has never been keener than in Weird Science, the fifth most successful movie released in August with a US domestic gross of $23,834,048.

August 7

By the mid-1980s, College campus high-jinks flicks were ten to a penny, and it’s easy to see why. First of all, they were relatively cheap to make and almost guaranteed to turn a profit, which is music to the ears of any producer looking to churn out a quick and easy hit. Second, the material doesn’t have to be refined. When all your target audience desires is a little toilet humour and nudity there’s no need to push the boat out. It’s a bonus if you happen to create a star à la Tom Hanks in Bachelor Party, but if the movie’s pants, so be it.

Released on August 7, 1985‘s Real Genius was a campus flick with a twist. The movie would star a young Val Kilmer, who after turning down a part in Francis Ford Coppola’s hard-hitting teen drama The Outsiders and landing the lead in lesser-known Zucker/Abrahams spoof Top Secret! would tackle the role of a slacker genius-come-government-stooge who unwittingly agrees to create a space shuttle-mounted laser for use in political assassinations, until ultimately getting wise and jeopardising the whole sordid plot.

Such a tale allows for the kind of conflict and character development rarely glimpsed in such a low-brow sub-genre, though some were unconvinced. The Washington Post’s Rita Kempley was distinctly unimpressed, explaining that “badly written” scenes “fail to fulfil their screwball potential”. Roger Ebert would instead praise the movie for its ability to persuade audiences that “the American campus contains life as we know it”, and by that point many were in need of convincing.

Director Martha Coolidge was certainly aiming higher and would set out to make a movie that deserved more than our derision. “The audience has a kind of sixth sense, they know when they’re being lied to,” she would explain. “I was taken by the story from the start; I’m fascinated by science. But I knew that to make the comedy work — and the characters worth caring about — we had to do our homework”. In the end, the movie would market itself as one thing while providing us with something else entirely — a surefire way to alienate your target audience. The figures were indicative of this, Real Genius managing $13,000,000 domestically for an overall profit of $5,000,000; hardly figures worth writing home about.

August 16

With Fright Night already in the bag, things were about to get a whole lot better for the horror comedy genre. August 16 would mark the release of Alien writer Dan O’Bannon’s anarchic zombie spoof The Return of the Living Dead.  A cute send-up of George A. Romero’s ‘Living Dead’ films, O’Bannon’s alternative take starred future Tommy Jarvis Thom Matthews as a medical supplies warehouse clerk, who, along with foreman Frank, unwittingly awakens the dead via a mysterious toxic chemical known as Trioxin 5.

This leads to a rather familiar turn of events that pay due homage to Romero’s walking dead, but in spite of the movie’s openly derivative formula, The Return of the Living Dead was actually something of an innovator, introducing fresh tropes to the sub-genre, such as zombies that run in search of their prey. It also introduced the now synonymous concept of a zombie specifically targeting brains rather than human flesh, while removing the head of a zombie was no longer enough. Why? Because it made for great comedy.

Such ingredients were sure to please horror buffs the world over, and of all the ’80s horror flicks that have fallen headlong into the realms of fandom, Return of the Living Dead is up there with the most revered, thanks to its rebel wit and punk aesthetic. The film also features an iconic dance from B-movie scream queen Linnea Quigley. So strong is The Return of the Living Dead‘s cult following that one fan began a petition to have the movie transferred to DVD in the wake of VHS obsolescence and even contacted O’Bannon directly, a move which saw the filmmaker approach owner’s MGM personally. Otherwise, it may have never existed.

Despite its niche appeal, The Return of the Living Dead did pretty healthy numbers for such a modest production, with an opening weekend of $4,403,169 and a US domestic gross of $14,237,880. The series would match Romero’s trilogy with two increasingly inferior sequels that included cult body horror director Brian Yuzna’s creative misfire Return of the Living Dead 3, a movie that would keep the series well and truly underground.

 August 23

Long before he was anointed the prince of ’90s alternative romcom, thanks to starring roles in Americanized Nick Hornby adaptation High Fidelity and black assassination farce Grosse Point Blank, John Cusack would find his feet in the teen arena, returning for his second silver screen lead as growing pains heartthrob Lane Meyer — this only months after starring alongside fashion model Nicollette Sheridan in Rob Reiner’s coming of age comedy The Sure Thing in what would prove a busy and significant year for the prodigious actor.

Savage Steve Holland’s Better Off Dead tells a similar story to Reiner’s The Sure Thing, Cusack’s recently dumped Meyer spiralling into depression after blonde babe Beth, played by A Nightmare On Elm Street‘s Amanda Wyss, runs off with the high school jock. This leads to an unforeseen romance with a comparatively mousy (but equally beautiful) French foreign-exchange student named Monique (Diane Franklin), a less idealistic vision who teaches our young protagonist the true meaning of love.

The movie also provides a warts-and-all critique of the modern suburban family and its various inadequacies, one punctuated by a series of failed suicide attempts from our confused adolescent in a rather macabre development that was semi-autobiographical according to the film’s director, who described his own real-life suicidal tendencies after his high school sweetheart ditched him for the captain of the ski team. Ski team? Really?

This was about the only thing Holland and Cusack had in common, the latter furiously removing himself from a screening after barely twenty minutes. Speaking of the incident, Holland would explain, “The next morning [Cusack] basically walked up to me and was like, ‘You know, you tricked me. Better Off Dead… was the worst thing I have ever seen. I will never trust you as a director ever again, so don’t speak to me.’ Unfortunately, Cuscask was already contracted to appear alongside Demi Moore in Holland’s next movie One Crazy Summer.

Panned by critics for its tired genre regurgitation, Better Off Dead managed a mediocre US box office gross of $10,297,601. I’ll bet that pleased Mr. Cusack no end.

Another teen movie to underwhelm in August was Michael J. Fox high school sports comedy Teen Wolf, which could technically pass as a horror comedy, though the month’s other releases only served to highlight its inadequacies. It didn’t help that Robert Zemeckis’ cultural phenomenon Back to the Future was released just a few short months later, launching Fox to superstardom and leaving its predecessor burning in a trail of time-travelling flames.

Fox plays Scott Howard, a middling high school kid who wows the ladies after inheriting his father’s werewolf gene and dominating the basketball league (just take a moment to process that), becoming the focal point of yet another morality tale about a hormonal teen looking for love in the wrong place, before ultimately realising the error of his ways. This time the blonde bombshell in question is popularity hound Pamela (Lorie Griffin), who ditches high school hunk Mick as soon as Fox’s hairier incarnation becomes the talk of the classroom. And who said beauty was only skin deep! Standing in their way is long-time friend Boof, whose goofy name should tell you everything you need to know about that particular character.

Another obstacle comes in the form of petty high school principle Thorne, who holds a grudge against Howard based on an old beef with father Harold (James Hampton), knowing what it’s like to feel the sting of a follically rampant Alpha male in an environment where popularity is everything. Why Howard is allowed to participate in competitive sports with such a vast and potentially dangerous advantage is never explained, nor is the reason why government officials don’t cart him off in a van for testing and lifelong quarantine, but I suppose I’m just nitpicking (pun intended).

Of those who starred in Teen Wolf, only Fox was able to flourish in the movie’s aftermath (thanks to the immediate distraction that was Back to the Future fever, no doubt), the rest of our young and hopeful cast fading into relative obscurity, which should give you some idea of the movie’s critical success. Still, if you’re anything like me, the sight of Fox ‘Surfin’ USA’ on top of the ‘Wolfmobile’ will provide you with a heady shot of ’80s nostalgia.

August 30

By 1985, Israeli cousins Golan-Globus were riding high in Hollywood after capitalising on the VHS boom with meagre productions built on bottom-rung scripts and a quite incredible output, the kind that would see them collaborate with the likes of Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris as they grew and grew in ambition, even working in collaboration with Warner Brothers for Sly vehicles Cobra and Over the Top before the studio grew wise to their increasingly controversial and cavalier methods.

Norris was originally set to star in cult Cannon martial arts vehicle The American Ninja before refusing the part out of protest for having to cover his face with ninja regalia. What a diva! Luckily for us, Golan-Globus replaced Norris with Bachelor Party‘s Michael Dudikoff, who would forge one of B-movie cinema’s best-loved double acts alongside brick shithouse Steve James, and it all began with Sam Firstenberg’s irresistibly second-rate actioner.

The American Ninja would forge four sequels between 1987 and 1993, American Ninja 5 starring none other than The Karate Kid‘s Pat Morita, but it was the high-kicking tandem of the first two movies that brought joy to a generation of peewee martial artists looking to choreograph their own second-rate productions, most of which probably featured more blood than the notoriously cheap tale of an amnesiac soldier forced to uncover a top-secret ninja operation on an exotic island.

Two years later, Golan-Globus would live up to their reputation as Hollywood’s foreign agent of excess by plunging their money into a mainstream venture that included monumental flop Masters of the Universe and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, movies that were supposed to announce Cannon Films as major players but ultimately resulted in their bankruptcy. If you haven’t already, I suggest you see Mark Hartley’s wonderfully enlightening documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. They don’t make them like Menahem Golan anymore.

US Box Office Charts for August

Rank Movie Title  Studio
Total Gross / Opening
1 Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure Warner Bros. $40,940,662 $4,545,847
2 Teen Wolf Atlantic $33,086,611 $6,120,348
3 Fright Night Columbia $24,922,237 $6,118,543
4 Summer Rental Paramount $24,689,703 $5,754,259
5 Weird Science Universal $23,834,048 $4,895,421

Top Video Rentals

Rarely has a rental chart been dominated as much as it was back in the summer of 1985. A year prior, Rocky director John G. Avildsen’s sleeper hit The Karate Kid tapped into the tween market and the marital arts fad of the era, but it also gave us a touching underdog story to rival Balboa’s, thanks in large part to the onscreen chemistry of all involved but mostly because of the surrogate bond formed between Pat Morita’s wizened karate expert and Ralph Macchio’s pugnacious stranger in a strange land Daniel LaRusso, who would overcome the autocratic John Kreese and his rabble of Cobra Kai drones to frolic with apple pie sweetheart Ali (Elisabeth Shue).

The Karate Kid was more than your standard coming of age fodder. Sure, it was predictable and somewhat familiar, featuring the kind of borderline offensive stereotypes that are rarely found in 21st century cinema, but what it did was tell a beautiful story that spoke to a generation of youngsters beyond its superficial selling point, leading to two enjoyable sequels and a 2010 remake starring Jackie Chan and Will Smith offspring Jaden, though none of them were able to replicate the original’s intangible appeal.

The Karate Kid featured

So beloved is The Karate Kid and so universal its themes that those involved have experienced something of a renaissance during the last few years with the emergence of the distinctly millennial yet nostalgia-scorched TV spin-off Cobra Kai, which while smartly appealing to modern day kids flipped the script by portraying Cobra Kai punk Johnny (William Zabka) as the sympathetic character, a cute twist that appeals to our nostalgic sensibilities in a way that feels fresh. The only blight is the absence of the movie’s true star Mr Miyagi following Pat Morita’s passing in 2005, though the show manages to pay due homage.

Becoming the top rental of 1985, The Karate Kid would spend all of August glued to the number one spot after an already impressive 14 weeks in the charts and it wasn’t about to let up, despite the competition.

Running The Karate Kid closest during August was John Carpenter’s atypical sci-fi romance Starman. Starring Jeff Bridges as an alien on Earth forced to disguise itself as the deceased husband of Karen Allen’s Jenny Hayden, the movie was something of a diversion for Carpenter, one he consciously undertook as a way to distance himself from the horror genre he had become so synonymous with following 1978‘s slasher sensation Halloween, a movie so popular it inspired a generation of independent filmmakers to pick up a camera in the hope of making a quick buck in the ever burgeoning home video market.

Bridges, who would study ornithology in preparation for his role as an alien assimilating the human form, would receive a much deserved Oscar nomination for his turn as the perpetually curious Starman, a character confronted by the best and worst of what our species has to offer. Incredibly — or not for an awards ceremony with a clear political and commercial agenda — his is the only Academy Award nomination accredited to a Carpenter movie.

Initially, the script for Starman spent a total of three years in production limbo thanks to the release of Stephen Spielberg’s era-defining, kids in peril masterpiece E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, its monumental success relegating it to the shadows over at Columbia Pictures back in 1982. Interestingly, Tom Cruise was initially considered for the lead. Being only 23 at the time, it’s hard to imagine the young actor fitting the part, though if time has taught me anything it is never wise to underestimate Tom, both personally and professionally.

Often overlooked in the Carpenter canon, Starman is one of the director’s most rewarding and compassionate ventures, and was certainly enough to impress the movie’s a-list producer Michael Douglas. Speaking about Carpenter, Douglas would explain, “John’s a great choice for Starman. He’s got a great sense of style and deals with action masterfully. I knew he was looking forward to directing a film that’s essentially a love story, one that depends exclusively upon handling the relationships between people and their character development.”

Also vying for second place in August was John Schlesinger’s spy drama The Falcon and the Snowman. Based on true crime author Robert Lindsay’s 1979 book The Falcon and the Snowman: A True Story of Friendship and Espionage, it is the true-life tale of a disillusioned military contractor who becomes a walk-in spy for the then Soviet Union along with his dope-peddling childhood friend.

Starring Timothy Hutton and a young Sean Penn, this was yet another Cold War movie as tensions reached their peak, but one that refused to take a polemical stance, extricating itself from the propagandist extravagances found in the likes of Rocky IV or even your typical, black-and-white spy thriller by concentrating on how two misguided Americans managed to get in way over their heads in the world of political subterfuge. What we get is the kind of peculiar story that can only be found in the realms of reality. Penn, who would play Andrew Dalton Lee, was so moved by the tale that he later hired Lee as his personal assistant after he was paroled in 1998.

Back in 1985, mainstream bad boy Penn, who would marry pop sensation and sexual icon Madonna that very same year before a rather messy, high-profile divorce four years later, was notoriously difficult to work with, and his time on The Falcon and the Snowman was no different. So strained was the actor’s relationship with director Schlesinger that they were no longer on speaking terms by the end of production. The movie also featured the debut screenplay of veteran writer Steven Zaillian, whose impressive catalogue would grow to include Awakenings, Schindler’s List, Clear and Present Danger and Scorsese epic Gangs of New York.

The Falcon and the Snowman would spend the entirety of August inhabiting the top 5 of the rental charts and would continue to climb, ending the month at number 2.

Surprising everyone in August was Garry Marshall’s unique coming-of-age drama The Flamingo Kid, starring an up-and-coming Matt Dillon, who gives an admirably subtle performance alongside First Bloods Richard Crenna. Crenna plays a wealthy card shark who meets Dillon’s summer job sweetheart at a high-class holiday resort, teaching the sweetly naive, working class kid the tricks of the trade and a whole lot more.

Crenna’s Gin rummy champion is an unusually endearing character, a man who sees through the pretensions of his wealthy peers and takes great satisfaction in having them under his thumb. Crenna is typically magnetic as Phil Brody, proving the perfect foil for Dillon’s tentative outsider, the latter proving that he was more than just another flavour of the month pretty boy.

Contrary to what many believe, The Flamingo Kid was actually the first movie to be given a PG-13 rating after a shake-up over at the Motion Picture Association of America. That distinction would ultimately go to absurd Cold War drama Red Dawn after The Flamingo Kid was put on hold for five months. The film would also feature a small role for future A-lister and Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei. Incredibly, Neil Marshall’s script was in production limbo for over a decade, and was actually pitched to producer Michael Phillips by Cass Elliot of The Mama and the Papas. Now there’s some California Dreaming for you!

Grossing a rather impressive $31,684,321 worldwide, the movie would be well-received critically, and would fare just as impressively in the rental arena a year later, spending the entirely of August in the top 5 after 7 weeks in the charts.

In November 1984, Wes Craven’s game-changing sleeper hit A Nightmare on Elm Street surprised everyone, grossing an incredible $25,504,513 at the US domestic box office on a meagre budget of approximately $1,800,000 and becoming the second most successful movie released that month. This is even more incredible when you consider the fact that the film was only shown at 380 theatres. To give you a comparison, cheapo action movie Missing In Action, the third most successful movie in November ’84 was shown at 1,209 theatres, while even cheapo festive slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night received a more widespread release (398 theatres), before being quickly pulled in the wake of ‘video nasty‘ hysteria.

This was quite the achievement for the then low-profile New Line Cinema, who would take a punt on Craven’s dreamworld concept after his screenplay had been passed around with glib disinterest. This would leave much of Hollywood red-faced. By 1984, censorship and a lack of creativity had all be killed the slasher sub-genre, Paramount even announcing that year’s Friday the 13th instalment ‘The Final Chapter‘, but the fritter-faced Krueger would turn a corner, Robert Englund’s inimitable turn as the world’s most sought after child killer transforming the character into a pop culture juggernaut the likes of which we had never seen as the series made the transition from serious horror to gimmick-laden frivolity.

Word would quickly spread following the movie’s release, and before long everyone wanted a piece of horror’s most intriguing slasher creation, scenes such as the one in which Krueger’s hand comes up through the plughole while final girl Heather Langenkamp is dozing in the bathtub quickly becoming a part of horror folk law, leading to a slew of rentals from horror fans the world over. Craven’s once in a lifetime concept would breath new life into the sub-genre, the movie becoming a godsend for fans tiring of the same old formula. Rarely has a horror character sparked the imagination quite like Krueger, a profiting New Line Cinema later being dubbed ‘the house that Freddy built’.

A Nightmare on Elm Street would go on to spawn an incredible seven sequels, making it one of the most successful horror franchises of all time. So profitable would the series become that former slasher kings Paramount Pictures would approach New Line with the idea of co-producing a Freddy vs Jason crossover as their own series continued its decline. New Line rejected the offer, their solo project A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master  becoming their highest grossing to date, with a US domestic gross of $49,369,899, a record that stood until New Line bought the rights to the moribund Friday the 13th franchise and released a Freddy vs Jason movie of their own. The fact that a 2010 reboot floundered creatively speaks to an absent Robert Englund’s importance to the character.

Underachieving in August was Michael Crichton’s gaudy techo-thriller Runaway, a movie that was tipped for big things in 1984 after landing popular Magnum PI actor Tom Selleck in the lead role. The brains behind groundbreaking sci-fi horror Westworld and innovator in the use of a then fledgling CGI, author/director Crichton had a reputation as something of a visionary, and there were high hopes for his latest project, which was seen as a superior, high-end rival to rookie director James Cameron’s The Terminator released that same year. Ironically, The Terminator spent most of the month ousting its rival in the rental charts, despite the fact that it had already spent 17 weeks there as opposed to Runaway‘s 5.

It’s not all bad, however, and for those of you who saw Runaway as an impressionable youth you’ll likely remember it fondly and with just a bit of adolescent dread thanks to a rabble of mechanical spiders who would carry out the evil deeds of antagonist Luther, played by a deliriously over the top Gene Simmons of Kiss fame. 1984 was a time of technological naivety where teenagers could manufacture fully formed women on their home computers (Weird Science) and bullied military school cadets could raise the spirit of a long dormant evil for a ‘video nasty’ revenge massacre (Evilspeak), and Runaway was no exception, painting a kitsch, near-future reality where printer/fax machine hybrids played an integral part in society.

runaway kirstie alley

Selleck plays Sargent Jack Ramsay, a typical ’80s cop living a life of self-imposed solitude following the death of his wife, but one who happens to belong to the Runaway Division, a robot control sector which proves busier and more dangerous than one might imagine, particularly when Ramsay’s son, played by Flight of the Navigator‘s Joey Cramer, becomes the latest target for robotics-led termination. This is a worry, since basic household robots no bigger than a toaster can become deadly, knife-wielding assassins, a fact proven by an opening stand-off that has to be seen to be believed.

Also starring future Cheers favourite Kirstie Alley, Runaway would fare slightly better in the VHS charts than it did at the US domestic box office a year prior, and in spite of its ludicrously outmoded concept and gauche embellishments, this is one that is guaranteed to stir the ’80s nostalgia juices. Go and see it.

Video Rental Charts Week Ending August 10th

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
1 The Karate Kid RCA 1984 PG
2 Starman RCA 1984 PG
3 The Flamingo Kid ABC 1985 R
4 Falcon & the Snowman Orion 1985 PG-13
5 The Terminator Thorn EMI 1984 R

Video Rental Charts Week Ending August 17th

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
1 The Karate Kid RCA 1984 PG
2 Starman RCA 1984 PG
3 Falcon & the Snowman Orion 1985 R
4 The Flamingo Kid ABC 1985 PG-13
5 A Soldier’s Story Columbia 1984 PG

Video Rental Charts Week Ending August 24th

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
1 The Karate Kid RCA 1984 PG
2 Falcon & the Snowman Orion 1985 R
3 Starman RCA 1984 PG
4 The Flamingo Kid ABC 1985 PG-13
5 A Soldier’s Story Columbia 1984 PG

Video Rental Charts Week Ending August 31st

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
1 The Karate Kid RCA 1984 PG
2 Falcon & the Snowman Orion 1985 R
3 A Soldier’s Story Columbia 1984 PG
4 The Flamingo Kid ABC 1985 PG-13
5 Nightmare on Elm Street New Line 1984 R


  1. Good stuff; I didn’t view “Runaway” in its entirety until last year, but I quite liked it. Am I wrong, or did “The Flamingo Kid” have odd, stretchy aspect ratio to it? Maybe it was just the version I saw. Good film though.


  2. Hi Eillio.

    It’s not you. I thought the same about The Flamingo Kid. Unless we saw an identical copy. Runaway is so much fun. So silly. I wrote an article on the movie for the site a few months back. Crichton was such an innovator but this one fell into obsolescence almost immediately. Absolutely love how naff it is though.


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