Wednesday, 8 March 2017

1987: What The Flip Is On At The Cinema?

For those who have thrust an eye over my article about forgotten UK box office number one movies
might realise, there's something I truly love about that slightly disastrous, pre-megachain cinema experience of the 80s and 90s with sticky carpets, a wholesale ignorance of the code and the same fag burnt promotions of Kia-Ora and rotating meat product every time you went. Compared to today with its sticky carpets, ignorance of the code and etc. etc. you get the idea with that one. Yes, the prices have gone up but the experience in a big multiplex is largely the same so why do I get so nostalgic for that time?

Is it that the cinema seemed more of a big deal back then as I was a kid and it was an irregular treat? Was it the quality of the films themselves, many of which are now considered classics? Or more likely is it remembering a time where film was still considered somewhat important, not easily streamed, downloaded or on demand if you missed it? If it is the latter, we probably have piracy as a huge factor to thank in the fact that Britain now gets films released in the same space-time continuum as the US.

To put this to the test, I've used the exceptionally comprehensive Box Office Mojo to get the Top 10 Box Office results for this week thirty years ago in the US (or March 6th-12th 1987 if you like numbers) to see how badly gypped the British public were in 1987...

1. Lethal Weapon

Unresearched Plot From Memory: "White non-racist Mel Gibbons is a loose cannon and paired with Danny Glover on the toilet who is too old to take a shit. They stop the bad guy and eventually become best friends and then racists."

US Release: 6th March 1987
UK Release: 28th August 1987

And so from our very first entry, there's a wait of nearly six months. I mean, this has summer blockbuster written all over it but not the very end of summer! This was a film made for VHS re-watching and quoting, although I personally, like many people, saw the specially ruined for television version several years later.

"I'm too old for this shit. Plus three sequels."
2. Platoon

Unresearched Plot From Memory: "Bloody loads of war mate. Vietnam was rotten. Charlie Sheen was an actor."

US Release: 19th December 1986
UK Release: 24th April 1987

Looking at the path up the charts, Oliver Stone's "Platoon" was a slow burner released in only a few cinemas during 1986 before hitting the top of the box office at the end of January. This was such a mega hit that it would be the end of June before it even left the top ten. And they say war is heck.

3. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Unresearched Plot From Memory: "Freddy Krueger kills some children in dreams but then they gang up and a boy with no tongue shouts PISS OFF FREDDY or summat and it ends."

US Release: 27th February 1987
UK Release: 30th October 1987

Ok, I get the Halloween release date here but eight months wait must've been brutal for Freddo fans desperate for a fix of dreamworld dicking about. Weirdly, the fourth film came out in Summer 1988 over in the States and missed out Halloween entirely, eventually appearing in May 1989. The same happening with film 5 too.


4. Angel Heart

Unresearched Plot From Memory: "Mickey Rourke investigates some murders and is this the one where Lisa Bonet...oh yeah I remember that. Still awful though."

US Release: 6th March 1987
UK Release: 2nd October 1987

Dark, violent and with a final act that makes you want to mainline a Care Bears marathon straight after in order to save your soul, Angel Heart really does appear to be remembered solely for the sex scene with Lisa Bonet who was still in the family friendly "The Cosby Show" at the time causing much scandal to one handed letter writers. Although since all the recent revelations, it doesn't really seem quite so terrible now, does it? Feel free to hold that cinema release back further...

5. Outrageous Fortune

Unresearched Plot From Memory: "I don’t think I’ve seen this. Is Danny DeVito in it? No? No, I haven't seen it."

US Release: 30th January 1987
UK Release: 11th September 1987

A comic  "in over their head" "romp" of the sort that will always be remade with merely the vogue-ish actresses changed every other year. This was arguably the original "buddy comedy" with two strong female leads and Shelley Long and Bette Midler step up to the daft plot admirably. Quite why the British needed eight months to prepare for it is truly 'outrageous' and by the time it had come out here, Long had gone from being in "Cheers" to...erm, not being in "Cheers" anymore. Although we were six months behind on that anyway so it doesn't matter too much. Probs shouldn't have brought it up. Soz.

6. Some Kind of Wonderful

Unresearched Plot From Memory: "John Hughes remakes Pretty In Pink but with even less jokes and more scowling teenagers played by 26 yer olds."

US Release: 27th February 1987
UK Release: 12th May 1987

The most exciting thing I can find about this well-meaning but unexciting attempt to right the "changed to suit the test audience" ending of Pretty In Pink so the protagonist (this time a kooky boy, not a kooky girl!) ends up with the right love interest is that it was cut by 3 seconds to pass as PG here in the UK where we were still two years away from the 12 certificate. It would later be 15 on video.

7. Hoosiers

Unresearched Plot From Memory: "Is it hockey?"

US Release: 27th February 1987
UK Release: 9th March 1987 (BBFC classified)

Man, this was hard to work out, thanks in part to being renamed "Best Shot" here in the UK due to the word "Hoosiers" (a native of Indiana) meaning nowt. I couldn't find a definitive release date as a result but the film was passed by the BBFC on the 9th March, not long after its American release. Given the delays on all the rest, a fortnight gap in releases seems unlikely so this probably came out in 2012. Maybe.
Choose wisely or...dont. Literally the same. 
8. Mannequin

Unresearched Plot From Memory: "Bloke has it off with a shop dummy who you find out years later is Kim Cattrall and also under a curse or summat."

US Release: 13th February 1987
UK Release: 7th April 1987 (BBFC classified)

Still an extraordinarily strange idea for a film, "Mannequin" is, to the best of my memory, a lot of fun. This is another one I had exact date issues for with the BBFC classifying it on 7th April and Ireland having an official date of June 5th. Likewise, many of you may remember it had a hit single on its soundtrack - "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship - which entered the UK chart on the 4th April 1987 at just 82, eventually peaking up there at the top of the pops 5 weeks later for four long weeks. So it probably came out somewhere in all that. RESEARCH WINS! Thanks.

9. Black Widow

Unresearched Plot From Memory: "I can probably take a guess from the title. Is it THRILLER?"

US Release: 6th February 1987
UK Release: 16th March 1987 (BBFC classified)

Yes it is is thriller, about a woman who marries then kills off millionaires and claims their money, which I believe is 21 is The Big Book Of Bloody Obvious Plots. She is played by Theresa Russell who basically seemed to play this part in films for the entirety of the 80s then disappeared. Same problem as the previous two films for exactness but also with a much higher level of me not caring.

But at least its not "Body Of Evidence", eh?
10. Crocodile Dundee

Unresearched Plot From Memory: "Paul Hogan drinks some Australian beer, compares a knife and makes a film he cant possibly follow up with any degree of further success"

US Release: 26th September 1986
UK Release: 12th December 1986

At number ten and in its 24th week, there was no mistaking that Paul Hogan was the slightly orange, leathery face of 1987. He'd already felt famous in the UK thanks to the long-running Fosters adverts and Channel 4 showing his Australian sketch show from its very first day on air so this was like America catching up with us catching up with Australia. Just maybe forget that one he did in Los Angeles. Oh, you have...

In summary then, anything from three to eight months seems about standard in those sticky Fanta flooring days whilst looking at last week's box office results for both countries, the UK and US shared 8 of the same films, differing only on the slightly earlier release of "Get Out" in America and our own "T2: Trainspotting" not yet gracing American shores.

Does that make the movies slightly less magical? Almost certainly. But so does greedy over-reaching chain cinemas charging a unicorn's tears for a film ticket and some popcorn in order to "enjoy it on the big screen" whilst not even bothering to open the ticket booth so the poor concession staff have to try and flog the film AND the hideously overpriced food. Its no wonder that people will pay the few extra quid to go somewhere like the Everyman chain with comfy sofas and foot rests. And the prices! Don't talk to me about prices! And you can't even kill a child if its being noisy now! And...*injection kicks in* torremolllinosssssssssss.........zzzzzz


  1. Pointless fact: Dennis Hopper was nominated for an Oscar for Hoosiers, when everyone knows it should have been for Blue Velvet the same year.

  2. Mannequin was ripped off - sorry, was inspired by a 1950s romantic fantasy called One Touch of Venus, based on a hit musical of the day. I thought that original film was fantastic when I was little, and decades later watched it on DVD. Second time around it was... OK.

    The King of 1980s gaps between US and UK releases was E.T. which by the time it was out at the pictures here had been pirated to ludicrous degrees on VHS because everyone wanted to see it but it wasn't out for ages. Then they went to see it in the cinema anyway because the pirate quality was so poor that they couldn't work out what was going on.