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A 20th Century Fox Retrospective Scrapbook: 1980


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The dawn of the 1980s brought changes to Fox in the form of a new regime and new styles of filmmaking.

The first film of the year was Anne Bancroft's only directrial effort, Fatso, a likable comedy vehicle for Dom Deluise that had a pleasantly sweet yet rowdy feel to it and a keen understanding of Italian-American customs. And it was groundbreaking behind the scenes as this was the first studio release to have its cinematography done by a female director of photography.

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The Italian style of giallo horror films returned in Inferno.

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Headin' for Broadway was one of those sagas of hopefuls trying to make it into show business.

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The Empire Strikes Back was the biggest film of the year commercially (naturally) and regarded by many critics as the best of the Star Wars films

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Robert Redford faced troubles as he attempted to rehabilitate a notorious prison in Brubaker.

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The stunt Man was purposely surreal, a film about a runaway convict (well-played by Steve Railsback) who becomes a stunt man on a film with a bizarre, malevolent director (Peter O'Toole). Sidenote: Barbara Hershey's entrance in this film is one of the more memorable character introductions on film....

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Oh, Heavenly Dog! was one for the oddity file. To wit, it was a saga where Chevy Chase was killed and came back as Benji. Jane Symour, Omar Sharif, and Robert Morley were also featured.

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Bruce Dern and Ann-Margret played a couple with a marriage in jeopardy in Middle Age Crazy.

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Willie and Phil was an American variant on Jules and Jim directed by Paul Mazursky.

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HealtH, combined with the box office fizzle of Mazurky's Willie and Phil above, spelled warning signs for the autherist cinema of the 70s. This Robert Altman title (which also featured Alfre Woodard) was barely released.

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Don't let the simplistic poster fool you. My Bodyguard was a sensitively observed comedy-drama of teenage friendship, hopes, fears, and regrets, and in a decade filled with teen films, emerged as one of the best, one of the wisest, and one of the most moving. Commendable work by everyone involved, including leads Chris Makepeace and Adam Baldwin, newcomers Matt Dillon and Joan Cusack, and by adults Martin Mull and Ruth Gordon (and John Houseman in a very funny cameo)

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The Man with Bogart's Face was low-budget and had an uncomfortable tendency to get most of its cast down to its underwear (or less), but, at the same time, for film buffs,  it was worth catching with an often witty script busily making homages to Bogart classics, making references to 40s cinema, and making nods to the late 70s era in which it was filmed. Not to mention, the leading man, really did look and sound like Bogart. And Robert Osbourne has a one-line cameo as a reporter. (Another cameo here was the end of the line for George Raft, who died in 1980)

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Jaime Lee Curtis and Ben Johnson were not in for a restful trip in the horror film Terror Train.

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In an unexpected move, Fox next financed the newest epic from Akira Kurosawa: Kagemusha.

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Two films in a row about cheating spouses. And Shirley MacLaine was in both of them. First it was Loving Couples.

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And then it was A Change of Seasons

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Jack Lemmon played a dying man hoping to reconnect with son Robby Benson in Tribute.

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The year closed with 9 to 5, the exceedingly successful comedy that received big laughs wherever it played, both when it first premiered and ever since.

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  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. The Stunt Man
  3. Kagemusha
  4. 9 to 5
  5. Terror Train
  6. Health
  7. Brubaker

I've also seen TributeLoving CouplesThe Man with Bogart's FaceMy BodyguardMiddle Age Crazy, and Oh Heavenly Dog.

Inferno wasn't a giallo, but rather a supernatural horror film, and the inferior sequel to SuspiriaGiallo were Italian masked-killer mysteries that have a lot in common with American slasher films. While Inferno and Suspiria were directed by Dario Argento, who first made his name in the giallo genre, they are both supernatural horror films, and don't feature any giallo elements. Argento blurred the lines between the giallo and the supernatural with 1985's Phenomena.

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The Stunt Man, hands down. Good script, well directed by Richard Rush, and, above all, a flamboyant, smashing performance by Peter O'Toole. A local movie theater showed it only for the weekend, and I went to see it every single day.

For me, the main reason to watch Tribute is Jack Lemmon's fine performance.

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