. . . . T h r i l l e r B a b y  o m . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  est .  2003
                                    T H E    O F F I C I A L    W E B S I T E 
.  DEVOTED    TO    THE    GENERATION     B O R N    1965 - 1980;   
                                                                                THE   INTERNET 's   #1  SPOT   FOR   EVERYTHING   1980s  
.  ( ORIGINATING  FROM  THE  EPIC - NOVEL   SIGNATURE  PLACE   by  JOSHUA  CRAWFORD )                                                                                                                                        www/facebook.com/ThrillerBabyNEWS !

 T H R I L L E R B A B Y   M O S T   WA N T E D  .  . .                                                           
                                                          .   A   L I S T   O F   L O S T   A R T I F A C T S   F R O M   Y O U R   C H I L D H O O D   .  .  .
                                          . A N D   H O W   T O   G O   A B O U T   U S H E R I N G   I N   T H E I R   E X I S T A N C E
    A   W O R D   F R O M   J O S H U A   C R A W F O R D:
   If you ever wanted to know ... " WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THAT MOVIE ? " and " WHY CAN'T I GET IT ON DVD ?
... you're not alone.
    You ... and about a jillion OTHER thriller-babies, just haven't had your own place on the NET yet where you can create a list of rare and 
    unusual films, and then VOTE to have them released to DVD, which will hopefully happen during your lifetime. Another reason I wanted to
    create ThrillerBaby.com, was so that we, as a generation, could demand that our beloved cult-films, get reintroduced to new generations so 
    that they won't be lost and forgotten. Some titles will most likely be taken off this list as time progresses. Others ... probably never will. But
    rest assure. I'm making a strong effort here to at least TRY to have a voice. And if one man can lead the way for a rightful cause, then 
    others will surely follow. Each title on this list, remains, for whatever reason, unavailable on DVD ... and some were never even released to 
    the home video market to begin with. To the average and casual movie goer, this list will undoubtedly mean nothing. But to those of us who
    love the things that shaped our early and most formative years on this planet, it will mean one thing;
    I'm starting off the list with some really rare films that I feel had a strong impression on millions of thrillerbabies througohout the world, and
    if anyone else wishes to add a title (or bring me up to speed on how a certain title no longer needs to be on this list), please. Feel free to send
    me an email and enter "T H R I L L E R B A B Y   M O S T   W A N T E D " into the subject-box so that I won't overlook it.
    This website truly is a labor of love, and I want anyone who has a film that they love that they just can't seem to get, to make me aware of it. 
    Especially if it's one of high entertainment value for children ... such as 1984's KidCO released by 20th Century Fox, but has yet to be granted
    a proper DVD release so that other kids can enjoy it, just as much as WE all did!
                                                                                                             (By the way, I have a digital copy if anyone wants to email me about it.)
   In addition to titles and their describtions, where noted, there is also a place to VOTE for their DVD realease such as places like the Turner 
   Classic Movies website (TCM.com), PetitionOnline.com's website, and Amazon.com's website.
   And if there isn't a place to VOTE yet, don't let that fool you; simply just skip on over to
www.PetitionOnline.com and START A 
   PETITION! (It's very simple.)
   PS: For those movie studios who SEE this list and get inspired, I am available for DVD-commentary if they care to give me credit for ushering
   in the film's release. And to those OTHER 80s-movie websites, I don't mind if they want to use a partial snippit of one of my reviews for 
   their own site ... just as long as they email me and seek permission first and credit me as a source for some of their stuff. Afterall; the more 
   the word gets out about these overlooked pieces of art, the better. I didn't got to college long (I dropped out for Spielberg and to write 
   Sinature Place. Go figure.) But one thing I did excel at in schcool, was writing movie-reviews. So a lot of thought and care, let alone TIME, 
   went in to composing each and every one of the films mentioned below. But hey. I love my generation! What can I say! They're worth it!
                        Now let's get started
 Adrian Lyne's steamy 9 and 1/2 WEEKS  with        ( THRILLERBABY  SONG  TITLES  &  ARTISTS  INFO  ARE  AT THE  BOTTOM  OF  THIS  PAGE !  )
   Kim Bassinger & Mickey Rourke from 1986                                  
allegedly has a 3-to-4hr DIRECTOR's CUT that
    has never been seen by the general public.                                
ThrillerBabies throughout the world have been
    heavily anticipating its release for decades.
(Photo proudly donated to ThrillerBaby.com by Mickey Rourke Online & Associates)

                                                      .  . . ThrillerBaby MOST WANTED .  
. . 


                             (1983: Rated G)
eleased in 1983, this version of the famous play by Gilbert and Sullivan contains most of the original players from the Broadway show … with the exception of the wonderful Angela Lansbury. What harmed the film at the boxoffice, wasn’t critics (they loved it!), but that Universal Pictures tried it out with a pay-per-view type channel in L.A. called SelecTV at the exact same time that it was hitting screens, angering theater owners at the time, who mostly refused to show it. Released on February 13 (a perfect Valentines movie), the entire gross of the film’s short run came to just over half a million dollars.

However, when it began airing on HBO and the likes a year later in 1984, thrillerbabies quickly endorsed it with a strong thumbs up … though they found it a bit familiar to their OTHER favorite Pirate movie at the time, The Pirate Movie … which had beat Penzance to the punch by hitting theaters a year earlier in 1982; causing legions of thriller babies to fall in love with it and its MTV-like appeal of modernizing the story by kicking up the musical numbers up a notch with modern rock 'n' roll, and by making the entire movie a dream sequence in the 1980s. For DECADES, The Pirate Movie remained out of print, until finally, it saw a DVD release in 2005 after millions of thriller babies had demanded it in various blogs across the Internet.

The fact that Linda Ronstadt was still a huge rock-star at the time, and Kevin Kline was riding high with the ultimate BabyBoomer movie, The Big Chill, only helped Penzance dig into its own kind of audience, despite its Pirate Movie counterpart. And it's easy to see why critics fell in love with Kline as an actor … as you can see his enthusiasm for his craft all over this one.

But the real winner here, aside from the wonderful musical numbers that include Lansbury years before she would sing again in Disney’s Beauty In The Beast in 1990 (and just right on the brink of inking Murder She Wrote), is the phenomenal vocal strength in Rex Smith as Frederick, who had a top 10 hit in 1979 with You Take My Breath Away, and then replaced Andy Gibb on another ThrillerBaby favorite, Solid Gold, at the exact time this film was being shot and hitting the circuit. (He would later pick back up the Pirates role in 2007, except this time as Major General Stanley.) Which by the way, the man who played The Major General in this film, actor George Rose, was sadly BEATEN to death in 1988!

Today, The Pirates of Penzance continues to delight fans the more it gets rediscovered by new audiences, and it remains a prime example of when Linda Ronstadt was at her prime while dating George Lucas and doing albums with Nelson Riddle.

Off-Broadway shows are still performed across the world … so much that even a brief reference is made to the play in 1990’s Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts and Richard Gere attend the opera.

Many of the musical numbers are so famous in their own right, that even if one isn’t familiar with it, they will still most likely know one of the songs.

Kline, of course, would marry actress Phoebe Cates from Fast Times At Ridgemont High, and to the delight of my own self, Rex Smith would go on to have a son named “Gatsby.” (My favorite fiction-book, next to my own of course….)

Among the many requests I get for lost films from my generation, Pirates is usually the heaviest next to Howard The Duck and Resurrection; an irony in itself in that Universal did all 3! Universal has yet to realize the need for a DVD release however, even though a VHS version was put out in the early 1990s and still sells quite well amongst thriller-babies.

Commercial television will occasionally air it, but several musical sequences are usually omitted to cram it into a 2-hour timeslot.

An interesting tidbit of trivia, is that both Penzance and The Pirate Movie died quick deaths at the box-office … but became phenomenal cult-movies due to HBO which was still in its infancy at the time among that new thing called cable-television; something that by 1984, most thriller babies across the globe were finally acquiring. And where The Pirate Movie had a double-disc soundtrack released on vinyl record that to this day, is still a coveted collectable amongst thrillerbabies, Penzance never did, even though a Broadway Cast album featuring everyone but Lansbury (she was one of the few who wasn’t in the original stage production) was released in the early 1980s. Yet NEITHER film has ever seen the light of CD. Making their musical numbers even MORE rare. (2 songs from The Pirate Movie are featured in Signature Place; SEE SIDE STORY)

ThrillerBabies can VOTE for The Pirates Of Penzance to be released onto DVD by clicking here at Turner Classics’ website, here for PetitionOnline’s website, and here at Amazon.com (the later click requires that you have an account with Amazon in order to be able to vote, but you don’t have to either buy anything, nor provide them with a credit-card; just an email.)

I am blessed to have a digital full-frame version of this by the way until the darn thing finally gets a proper release … if anyone’s interested in emailing me.

                          ENDLESS  LOVE
                            (1981 Rated 'R') 
        I never saw 1981’s much talked about Endless Love until I was well into my 20s in the mid 1990s when I was researching all kinds of 80s films that I had NEVER SEEN in order to see what kinds of censorship waters were being tested with the YOUTH in the 1980s. I was getting really into the groove of writing Signature Place during this time, and Harry Potter had not yet been published. And I needed to know how far certain dark films aimed at youth were able to be … without being given that R-rating. (I was trying to keep Signature Place within the PG-13 bracket.) I was gripped by the movie from start to finish, and I was extremely gripped by Brooke Shields as “Jade” in this film, in perhaps her most compelling film ever made.

        Notoriously talked about at the time, due to its candid portrayal of two young teenagers having an intense sexual relationship under the guidance of Jade’s happy-go-lucky liberal hippie parents … until the boy, after being informed that Jade's father has grounded her from seeing him for a little while, starts to take things a little too far by setting fire to his beloved girlfriend’s house … in hopes that he can then act like the “heroic fireman who puts it out” which would get him in goods with her worrying parents … in which he can’t put the fire out, as the fire grew into much more of a blaze than what he was ever prepared for. Thus instead, he gets blamed for it, and sent off to rehabilitation as a convicted arsonist … only to get out years later to search endlessly for his high school lover … and discovers that she just might’ve actually gotten over him until … well … even her mother begins to fall in love with him and ... well ... I won’t ruin the movie.

        But the scene in which Jade tries to tell her long lost lover, David, that it just might not work, and then goes into tears because she can't fight him off ... is some of the most powerful and intense images I’ve ever seen on film. And Brooke is just so beautiful, and is one of the best on-screen criers, that you really are able to look at the film through the teenage boy’s eyes, and pity him as he tries to rekindle his endless flame with his endless love.

        The film has an ending unlike no other and could almost be called “The Romeo And Juliet of the 1980s.”

        Speaking of which, it was directed by Franco Zeffirelli. The same man responsible for giving us the more well known version of Romero and Juliet up until that point with Olivia Hussy, and also directed the powerful Jesus of Nazareth TV mini-series which grips the nation each year when the History Chanel airs it around Easter. So truly, it was handled in good taste, and with precise direction and wonderful cinematography by David Watkin (who was responsible for Chariots Of Fire and Out Of Africa) for all its wonderful cast which includes a young Tom Cruise (in his film debut!), and an even younger Ian Ziering from TV’s Beverly Hills 90210. And look for a young James Spader (going by 'Jimmy' Spader in his film debut here) playing the tacky older well-to-do brother of Jade who tries to divide the young lovers forever. (He would go on to play the tacky role in nearly every Brat-Pack film ever made throughout the 1980s!) A young Jamie Gertz from Mischief, The Lost Boys, Less Than Zero, and Twister, is even in it.

        How could it get so overlooked by audiences?

        Despite that the film had a mega-hit title song by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross, and despite that its soundtrack also contained hit singles from both KISS (I Was Made For Loving You), and Cliff Richard (Dreaming ... which can be heard on this exact page!) at the time, both the soundtrack (which did hit CD for a brief time in the late 1990s) and the film, have never seen the digital light of day on DVD. Though it has been released on DVD overseas, one can’t play the DVD unless they have a REGION 2 or multi-region DVD-player.

        I did find a tear dripping down my face after watching the credits roll, and the movie did help me take my two kid characters in Signature Place ….to a whole new level. It also changed me as a man as well. I realized that whoever I slept with, I’d better make sure to think long and hard about the kind of heavy soul-tie that sex does indeed create with someone you love … even if you can’t have them … or if they don’t love you back; which if this is the case, it might be wiser to have never had sex with them, because the heartache is just so unbearable once that tie is created and you attempt to cut it, or the other person attempts to cut it for you. 

         The underappreciated and overlooked actor Martin Hewitt as David Axelrod, does quite a phenomenal job of guiding the entire picture from his point of view. And you truly won’t ever forget this film. It kinda stays with you for days after you’ve watched it like Love Story did for so many of our BabyBooming parents in the 1970s.

        Embassy Pictures was a great little studio who put out films like this one … and The Sure Thing in 1985. And they folded shortly afterwards. Perhaps that has something to do with the reason why Endless Love has never seen DVD, which would allow new generations to embrace this powerful and compelling thrillerbaby heartbreaker all over again with the millions of thriller babies who first embraced the film in our own unique way.
For instance:

On the website IMDB.com (the International Movie Data Base), one man voices a review under the title as being one that gave him comfort after being around the same age that the two leading actors are in the film … and being in love with a teenage girl … only to loose her to death a few days later in a freak accident.

Endless Love effects people in
endless ways.

It truly is one of the greatest lost gems of the 80s that most likely would never get made in the politically correct world that we live in now; as even the poster itself openly states that Brooke is only fifteen years old. But sexploitation films were peaking in the early 1980s in America, thanks to Porkey’s and Fast Times and Private Lessons, and Endless Love got lost between the others. Yet ironically, it never exploits … it just delivers. And delivers well. Like a bullet straight to your heart. Then … somehow seems to never let go, no matter how much time has passed since last watching it.

“Intense” is putting it lightly. It’s a very beautiful film with very beautiful people and a perfect director to handle the tough subject matter. Endless Love is what I call a ThrillerBaby Masterpiece. (Even an episode of Family Ties in the 1st season, refers to the movie as a movie the family has seen recently while Alex -- Michael J. Fox -- is trying hard to get over a girlfriend!)
        I'd like to interview actor Martin Hewitt sometime in my lifetime.... He was picked out of over 5,000 auditioning men to play the lead opposite of Shields at a time when Sheilds was pratically wall-paper for American teenagers ... much in part due to her candid role in The Blue Lagoon and her "what comes between me and my Calvins?" ad that was banned from television, but not before it caused Calvin Klein to usher in bluejeans as being more than just a pair of working-class Levis; opening the door for designer-jeans in the 1980s; something that previous generations weren't quite familiar with until us thriller-babies came along.

        Though Hewitt took a few roles in other lesser known films and did some TV work here and there, he remains virtually obscure from the entertainment industry, and avoided the ultra-bright spotlight that his unknown little co-star in the film (Tom Crusie) would later live, eat, and breathe in ... when Risky Business came out two years later. And this was the last highly commercilized film for Shields sadly enough, as she never quite dove into another role like this. But after watching the film, one wonders, "Why did she even need to?" This one ... was just so good. And the chemestry between the two doomed lovers, is just so fascinating, aside from the brutal and surprising plot-twists that the film takes, that you just can't take your eyes off it from the moment it begins.

        Coming out during the peak of Star Wars and Indiana Jone, general audiences at the time found it a bit boring. But I think it's a thinking-man's movie, and was clearly ahead of its time at being a very accurate portrayal of the kind of intensity that young love can indeed have. And it remains a rather accurate example of the kinds of parents that our BabyBooming forefathers were trying to be to all us thrillerbabies. Particularly Jade's ... who being the hippies that they are (and very articulate ones at that!), treat her as if she's a grown adult because her mature looks at only 15 have caused the world to. Which truly was the case for Brooke Shields in real life at the time, as she truly was womanly-looking, even at the age of 10.

        Who could blame Martin Hewitt for seeing this and wanting to hold onto it before the rest of the world carved out a piece of her for themselves?

          In retrospect, looking back on it now, it seems almost insane that those BabyBoomers could be so free in their thinking, that they way over-asserted that freedom onto their children. But it's this kind of film that I always use as an example to say, "No, there truly was a lot of parents like that in those days. And that's part of the reason why they all went out and got divorces, leaving their entire youth to raise themselves."
Which leads me to my favorite twist in the film, and perhaps why I like it as much as I do:

        Neither teenager is a latchkey kid in the beginning ... but by the end, are left to wander the world to raise themselves, having come from families that tore themselves apart, due to one of the spouses dominating the other, with no equal balance. Thus, this grants major believability to why the two teens shoud try to be together ... because they need one another. And you truly root for them to make it, even though all impossible odds are against them.

        Based off the novel by Scott Spencer (which ALWAYS makes for a better and more realistic film, compared to material that ISN'T based off a book ... take it from THIS author! lol), Endless Love remains somewhat endlessly lost for future generations. Perhaps because it just got so buried beneath all the other action-packed films of the early 80s, when we were all just starting to come of age. And the abrupt ending might have been a little too thought-provoking for this era of pre-Shyamalan movie-goers. But today, it remains an early latchkey landmark. And if it was ever remade, I'm most certain they would either stay away from the realism that the film had, or throw so much in, that they would over-sex it and take the mystery of 'what love is' out of the picture entirely. And how could you ever re-cast Brooke Shields in what is perhaps her best role?

        Though truly, despite Shields' beauty, the film belongs to the one whom is able to shockingly anchor it, no matter WHAT he does to grasp the complete attention of Shields, even when he's going a little overboard; Martin Hewitt. And it's one of the few films, that by the time the credits roll, you're aching for him to have what he finally not only wants, but needs; a family of his own because he doesn't have one himself.

         Well, for all those thrillerbabies raised in divorce who fell in love with their dates ... as WELL as their date's families because you didn't quite have one of your own (and we know there's plenty of you!) ... here's the powerful results of what can happen.

        The fact that it was released to DVD overseas, makes me believe that we might not have to hold our breath too much longer.

        Currently, the CD soundtrack sells for up to $80 on Amazon.com. Click here, and you’ll see!

        VOTE for this thriller baby classic to be released onto DVD by clicking here. Niether Amazon.com nor PetitionOnline.com has a place set up to vote yet.

And hunt down an old VHS copy if you can’t hold off that long. It seldom airs on television uncut, but when it does, I imagine I’ll post it up here so that other ThrillerBabies can set their DVRs.

Once you see it, you’ll never listen to that song by Lionel and Diana the same way, ever again.

And to prove that theory, here's just a clip somebody put together on YouTube of the scene in which Hewitt first takes Brooke's virginity ... while at her PARENTS' HOUSE! And her mom happens to get up in the middle of the night!
So powerful is the clip, that I used it as OUR FIRST-EVER "THRILL OF THE MONTH" here on this website during its August 8th re-launch in 2008 in the THRILL-OF-THE-MONTH section!

     (1985-1988 Unrated, but suitable for ALL ages.)

        No, it’s not a movie (it never was in the U.S.A. that is), it’s a beloved cartoon series that was perhaps animated children’s fare’s biggest triumph of the 20th century. The story about a young woman who loses a music-mogul tycoon father, then inherits a mysterious computer named “Synergy” that has the power to project any hologram that the daughter chooses, including one of HER OWN named “JEM” ( a punked-out pop-singer rock-queen who aims to revive her father’s music business by selling out concerts around the world with her all-girl group “The Holograms”) was created, like many other cult-fave cartoon shows in the 1980s for young ThrillerBabies; simply to market a line of action-figures or dolls. But the show was no ordinary kiddie fluff, and has since gone on to become perhaps the biggest bootlegged show next to Disney’s “The Song Of The South” with Uncle Remus.

        With wonderful real-life looking animation that was beyond your average animated show at the time (even by today’s standards, the animation looks phenomenally modern!) , Jem and her band the Holograms spent an entire 65 episodes from the years 1985 to 1988. And although it was highly popular at the time, what makes it so popular now … is that after Rhino Records/Entertainment released about 75 percent of the entire series on DVD shortly after the turn of the 21st century, thrillerbaby parents who had grown up with the show, were now watching it and introducing it to their children, and found the show just as involving and entertaining (if not MORE so!) as an ADULT, in addition to the way they viewed the show as children. Jem perhaps remains the one true deliciously 1980s misfire ever NOT INTENDED. It was aimed at young girls, who didn’t have much cartoon fare in the 80s other than She-Ra Princess of Power and My Little Pony, to compete with all the G.I. Joe/Transformers/Superhero stuff that so many of their brothers were embracing on daily syndicated television. But the show was so well written, and so well animated, that even BOYS rushed home early from school to watch Jem; those dresses she wore, afterall, were just short enough to make her a bit sexier than Barbie.

        One of the first, if not THEEEE first animated show, to almost have every episode end with a “TO BE CONTINUED ….” cliff-hanger, the show was revolutionary in its time, both then and today, for adding such dimension to not just the Jem character who by day is the average book-wormy “JERRICA”, but by the time she steps on stage, she twists one of her computer-programmed star earrings which signals the “Synergy” synthesizer computer that her father spent his life building to either turn her in to JEM the ROCK QUEEN, or merely create another hologram, so that Jem and/or Jerrica, can be in two places at once! All this goes on of course, while a greedy record tycoon who feels Jerrica’s father should’ve left his legacy to HIM, seeks to avenge his loss by continually funding another all-girl pop group called “The Misfits” who stand for everything bad, greedy, and selfish (3 Gordon Geckos if you will!); continually always trying to upstage Jem and her Holograms, by stealing their spotlight, or going to astronomical lengths to merely stop Jem’s much awaited performances in front of sometimes, entire countries and legions of lost children.

        And to make things even MORE complicated, Jem’s road-manager name Rio, who has been best friends with Jerrica (who is Jem’s so-called MANAGER) since birth and is now her prime love interest as a coming-of-age adult, soon starts to fall in love with JEM … who he doesn’t know IS REALLY JERRICA! So a unique love-triangle, was merely one of the almost DYNASTY /DALLAS like qualities that the show had in its over-the-top attempts to dominate the world, all while corporate-takeovers are continually changing sides back home in Jem’s world of the dark side of the music industry (which is very much the case in the music industry even in today world!), is the true reason Jem is still as popular today, if not more so, than when it first aired. And it was the FIRST CARTOON ever to take the idea of MTV (which was extremely popular and freshly new when JEM first came onto the scene in the mid-80s), by infusing each Jem episode with a 2-minute rock-video of either JEM and her HOLOGRAMS band … or their opposing enemies, the Misfits … even though Scooby Doo and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters had managed to slip in an occasional video into their own shows a decade earlier; as had Josie And The Pussycats, and their forefathers; The Archies.

        As the opening catchy theme song says, “JEM IS TRULY OUTRAGSOUES, TRULY TRULY TRULY OUTRAGIOUS”, the music-videos IN Jem really are quite good! And the songs, themselves, although they fall short of just 2 minutes and you sometimes wish they were a little longer, are so catchy, even as a grown male, when finally taking time out to sit down and review the beloved series myself in 2008 in order to prep it for the premiere of the ThrillerBaby MOST WANTED page here on the now majorly revamped website, I left the show wishing it would’ve had a soundtrack that I could buy which featured all those great melodic songs that were so catchy, and easy, they truly did stay with you long after hitting the stop button on my DVD-player. And being a musician myself, I know a good song when I hear one, and Jem really does have some of the best for a kids show, aside from just the wonderfully catchy opening and closing JEM theme songs.

        As an adult male, I found JEM more sexier than Barbie ever could’ve been, because she truly tries to speak to people with her music as an instrument to uplift and bring comfort, and when she isn’t on stage as her alter-ego pop-queen, she’s simply back to being good old Jerrica who runs an orphanage for young girls (the Starlight house) and truly will do anything for them; none of them, of course, ever suspecting that their maternal surrogate mother … is secretly really the most famous singer in the world, with the exception of Jerrica’s close group of 2 other friends and 1 sister who serve as the Holograms back-up band and were with Jem when Jem was first given the magical earrings which led her to uncover the SYNERGY computer.

What a plot of plots!
Kinda sci-fi/fantasy … mixed with a Thrillerbaby’s love for Mtv.

        Although everyone’s hair is either punky purple, or noir-ish neon white and red (as the 1980s often was!), because of such mature writing in giving merely a cartoon stories such heavy 3-dimensional back-stories, and again, one of the first-ever syndicated cartoon-series to ever have those “TO BE CONTINUED …” cliff-hangers (most kid-shows up till JEM merely had an ending that revealed that a world crisis was solved, everyone laughs, and goes home until tomorrow’s dilemma), JEM has aged very well, and the fact that she’s such a good role-model for young girls (and quite a HOTTIE for young … and even OLD, lol, boys … such as myself ), as a comic book superhero lover, I actually found myself very hooked from the moment I first watched the beginning 5-part “origin” show that launched it all (and was released as a movie overseas). And only wish I had the rest of the series on DVD … but can’t get it, because it was never released. Which has angered legions of fans both old and new, yet inadvertently fueled the show’s popularity in recent years on the underground bootleg DVD market from one thrillerbaby collector to another as an example for their kids to display to them what it was like to grow up in the decade that first revealed a rock-singer’s face by tying in their song with a visual music video of them singing it; thanks to Mtv’s strong influence.

        To know this was all meant to market a Barbie-like doll with 1980s punky hair and anything-went fashion accessories, is almost a joke in itself, considering the nature of the how the show has taken on such a legacy for being an interested “retro-addiction” due to such good writing; much of that writing credited to the very talented Christy Marx, who was given a mission from Hasbro Toys to merely write a little show to help sell the doll. What Christy did, however, was tell many different storylines from many different characters, on many different episodes, over the course of the 3 year run of the series, all while managing to cram in wonderful morals for children about greed and money and how it can destroy your personality.
For example:

        While The Misfits will perform songs about materialism and fame, Jem will perform songs about love and giving. And you truly do start to feel for her (yes, she’s only a cartoon!) when she continually starts to try to tell boyfriend Rio (who’s always so torn between his love for Jem … and his love for Jerrica) that she REALLY IS one in the same person; but someone (usually it’s a Misfit) interrupts the moment, which prevents Jerrica’s true secret from ever being revealed.

        I won’t ruin it for anybody who has never seen the series, but this has to be the most brilliant and intriguing and engaging soap-opera out of all the pieces of Americana cartoon aimed at children that has ever been created!

        The last half of the last season never made it to DVD as Rhino Entertainment had planned, because Hasbro soon started to realize what they had, and bought back the rights, along with the G.I. Joe cartoons that were also peppered with scripts from Christy Marx (perhaps this is why Jem was so good, as Marx took the action-esque writing style she had asserted for a boys show, and then applied it to JEM … and MAN, did it EVER work!). And with G.I. JOE now soon to be the biggest anticipated movie of the 2009 summer season, JEM, herself, might not be too far removed from either hitting the big-screen in a live-action version (which would be so entertaining, they should do a TRILOGY of them!), or an entire re-launch of the original doll and original cartoon itself, because you just can’t create another decade as cool and as Halloween-ish as the 1980s … and why ruin a good thing?

        When I recently showed what few episodes I have of the show to my 4 nieces, whom all range in the age of 12 … all the way down to 2, they were completely magnified; even though I truly thought it might seem boring to them, and a bit surreal, considering not many singers or women in general dress like that anymore. But as each episode left a “TO BE CONTINUED …”, they begged for another, and then another, and were completely drawn into the backstories of all the complex characters that Christy Marx created. And even my two nephews came in from playing ball to marvel at how HOT Jem looked and how cool her songs were. And they enjoyed the action aspects in the show, as well as the fact that it seemed to be a type of mini-series. One question they ALL had, however, was “Did people really dress like that in the 1980s? ” My answer was, “Yeah, they kinda did!” And once I said this, they became even more fascinated with the decade in which their thrillerbaby parents were raised in (the 1980s) and how fun the cartoons of the 80s were then … compared to the very limited universally-appealing-to-all-ages cartoons of today. One of my nieces even said, “This is just like Hannah Montana, except better because of the music and the highly glamorous fashions!” 

       Jem obviously now has the distinct feature of not only being a very unique Barbie doll rockstar that began her life as a doll, but she’s so 80s, that trying to update her, would prevent her believability; as in the 80s, you truly ran into people who had hair and make-up like that, and with ThrillerBabies now being parents to millions of girls throughout the world, Jem is such a good role-model without over-asserting politics, sex, or violence. And the show was truly interesting to watch. SO INTERESTING in fact, that many believe (I know I do!) that a certain show on the Disney Channel about ANOTHER young woman who secretly turns into a rockstar after hours (Hannah Montana), is merely a knock-off of JEM itself! Well I got news for you; 20 years before Montana was ever on the small screen, there was JEM, and she and her all-too-brief groundbreaking music-video-esque show, were truly truly truly ORIGINAL for one thing (beyond what Hasbro ever expected for simply trying to sell a doll!), but she was also truly truly truly entertaining with ahead-of-their time multiple storylines that even adults can enjoy. Which is why perhaps those now out of print few dvds that were released by Rhino … now start at about $100 a piece on eBay and Amazon and have become the hottest bootlegged cartoon series of all time!

        If you can get your hands on a copy, it truly is wonderful life-teaching high-production entertainment value for children that way outdoes most of the crap we allow them to watch today, simply because there’s nothing else on.

        Well, I’m here to tell you, that there IS something else; there’s all those great 80s cartoon shows that defined our entire ThrillerBaby generation and made us the music-loving generation that we are today … and the parents of the next President. There’s Jem. And after about one episode, you truly do forget you’re watching a cartoon. I can’t even say that about some of Pixar’s stuff.

        I put on Jem late one night to try to fall asleep to it because I have trouble turning my mind off for the day, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t end up being so profoundly hooked by its writing and catchy rock-videos within each episode, that I stayed up an entire 2 days and nights, skipping meals in the process, just to finish out the series … in which I couldn’t because Rhino didn’t release that last half of season 3 in time before Hasbro bought the rights to show back from them!

        I truly do hope Hasbro doesn’t make us wait too much longer. I would love to be able to share Jem with more fellow thrilllerbaby friends and their kids. To girls, she’s cool, to boys, the story’s are just so action-packed and involving with multiple storylines that always leave you hanging, that she can be appreciated by anybody. Jem truly truly truly is perhaps the biggest unexpected GEM to have ever come out of the 80s. And if she were placed in any other decade, she just wouldn’t be as much fun.

        Anybody with white/purple hair who, with the twist of a magical star-earring, can generate and summon an alter-ego hologram that can influence entire countries full of children, is just too cool! And the fact that her boyfriend thinks he’s in love with two separate people (always feeling guilty for continually cheating on each of them), when really, it’s one in the same, is so fun to watch unfold. I can truly say that Jem is G-rated enough and safe enough for all ages, and they just don’t make fanfare for kids this safe anymore and with this much fun.

        Keep your fingers crossed, yet uncross them momentarily to write Sony a letter at THIS FOLLOWING EMAIL ADDRESS, and BEG them to put this entire 3-year series out on DVD with commentaries for each episode, and a soundtrack CD that we can all share with our kids. There’s never been a cartoon like Jem before or after, and because of the demise of Mtv, they’re probably never will be.

        Placing a couple of cartoon-rock-videos inside each episode that always contained lyrics that moved the story along more than verbal dialog ever could, was just brilliant.; as that is what I tried to do with my novel Signature Place, just in a different way. If Jem ever did make it to the big-screen as a live-action figure that takes place in the 1980s, I would hope and pray that they don’t oversex it and keep it within a PG rating as well as keep its angle on the good moral lessons Jem truly was able to teach in each episode. The young girls and boys of today have enough sex and violence in front of them. It’s easy to place that in front of them because it’s EVEYWHERE. Finding something as wholesome and self-esteem building as Jem, however, is just a rarity in itself. And her voice sounds so much like Debbie Gibson’s, that you truly start awaiting for Ms. Gibson, herself, to make a surprise cameo appearance in each episode.
Now THAT would be a GREAT MOVIE!

        Here’s where to write Sony and BEG!: spn_questions@sonypictures.com

And by strong request,  here’s that always catchy theme song that every thrillerbaby knows and loves which made its first appearance on our thrillerbaby myspace page:

(You might need to stop the above THRILLERBABY MOST WANTED SONGS media-player so that your sounds don’t collide!)

( 1986  Rated 'PG-13' )

            THE  MAGIC  OF  LASSIE
                             (1978 Rated G)
            In 1978, I went to see this one at the age of 3 along with my family, and just about fell out of the seat in tears by the time the credits rolled. Never has such a movie aimed at children, been able to force you to yank out the Kleenex so easily. Especially when Lassie gets kidnapped and has to spend the entire duration of the film finding her way through hell and back to get back home to Chris; a young boy who runs away from home, simply to look for the beloved collie and the two keep missing each other; keeping you  on the edge of your seat, glued to every possible time they might ever find one another.

            Aimed at the G-rated market during the decline of the Disney era to cash in the 70s family market, and mixed up with a wonderful soundtrack which features Debby Boone … who had just come off of a huge success with You Light Up My Life … the only Lassie film to be a musical was quite a hit with thriller babies …particularly because they never forgot leaving the theater in tears, overcome with joy that Lassie finally made her way back home. And when I say tears, I mean them. Truly.

            When I was first composing the Signature Place novel, and wanted to immediately blend in lost and forgotten tracks that hadn’t made their way on to CD yet into the pulp of the novel, I ran for my Debby Boone greatest hits CD which is just about the only place where one can find the film’s main theme entitled “When You’re Loved” that was nominated for an Oscar! All the other tracks remain lost on a vinyl soundtrack … as does the film itself.

            The incredible impression that the film had on me on more of personal note, was that it introduced me to Jimmy Stewart long before I ever saw It’s A Wonderful Life. And because Stewart looked so much like my grandfather in real life, I was taken with the actor from the very start, which compelled me to write him in the early 1990s, with him writing back, and the rest is history.

            I hunted down the film in the 1990s after placing When You’re Loved into my book, and was amazed how it still affected me. Once again, as soon as they played one of the film’s more memorable songs that’s lyrics echo, “Lassie … my Lassie … I don’t know why … but Lassie I can’t say goodbye. You and I were gonna be pals till we die … but Lassie I can’t say goodbye. You’re so strong, you’ll get along, but how will I? Oh Lassie I can’t say goodbye!”


            These are CHILDREN who are hearing those lyrics!

            I can’t deny the affect that the lyrics and melody had on my own craft as a singer-songwriter.

            And to know the film is an early glimpse at latchkey life right before the BabyBoomers started filing for overnight divorces, is just ageless; as the boy and his sister are orphaned due to losing their parents, which places them in the hands of their beloved grandfather; James Stewart … who actually SINGS in this film.

            Released onto video twice in the 1980s … the film has long been out of print since the mid 80s and hasn’t aired on television in years. Yet there was such marketing power behind it, that it even had it’s own lunchbox when the film first premiered.

            After contacting the Jimmy Stewart Museum in the 1990s to inquire about what the hold-up was on even re-releasing it back to video (this was right before the invention of the DVD), they too said they were having problems with the studio, despite the fact that it was one of their most requested titles from beloved Stewart fans. And without it, I might not have written a book called Signature Place … or ever named my leading nine-year-old character Chris; something I didn’t even realize that my book and the film had in common, until I was already midway through the novel.

            To this day, I’ll occasionally play a pretty good cover of When You’re Loved on the piano, and the audience I’ll be playing it for, who has never seen the film and has no idea the song was ever featured in the movie, will usually be weeping by the time I’ve reached the end chorus.

            Why oh why this one hasn’t been given the DVD red-carpet treatment, especially when it features Stewart in one of his last major and most beloved roles, is just bizarre. It was released onto a REGION 2 DVD overseas in a LASSIE boxed set, but even that quickly went out of print, and the only way us folks here in American can view it, is if we can get a used VHS copy on eBay; which usually starts at a pretty stiff $30 of $40 dollars.

            The Magic Of Lassie
remains buried deep within the vaults of our ThrillerBaby childhoods, yet for a G-rated film aimed at pulling in the kiddies, this one affects grown-ups just as equally, leaving hints of their lost latchkey childhoods in their life by the time the credit’s roll, reminding many of their hidden pain they were feeling when their parents first started to divorce.

            Part of the reason the film continues to be such a tear-jerker, is that it now remains one of the last few cinematic examples of portraying an American family who actually prays at the dinner-table. And without giving away the ending, it’s during one of these heartbreaking prayers by Jimmy Stewart at the tail ending, when all hope is gone and Lassie is believed to be lost and dead, that the prayer is suddenly interrupted by the faint sounds of a barking dog, and the praying children at the dinner table suddenly open their eyes in tears; as if God is answering their prayer before their very eyes; giving the film an extra spiritual tone in all the right places.

I get choked up just writing about it.

            I’m just glad I got to tell Stewart how much I appreciated his role in this film before he died.  And he was very honored I told him so. As he quit taking major roles after this picture, due to the fact that most of the roles that were being offered to him late in life, were that of grouchy grandpas. The grandpa he portrays here, however, remains one that forever gets embedded into your mind, no matter WHAT age you are!

            You can VOTE for The Magic Of Lassie to be released onto DVD at the TCM website by clicking
here. (They were the last ones to release a VHS version in the 1980s.) It doesn't exist at Amazon.com, however, nor is there any petition for it created at PetitionsOnline.com

                            (1984 Rated 'PG')
    It’s hard to believe this one remains out of print, since it sports such a well-known cast who turn in phenomenal performances, in addition to the heartbreaking score by famous pianist Richard Clayderman (one of only his few scoring jobs in Hollywood that he’s ever done!)

        I have close personal ties with this one, since I took two Clayderman instrumental tracks from this film (The Way I Loved You & Harmony which can only be found on his 1984 album AMOUR, since no official soundtrack was ever released) and put lyrics to them, turning them into heartbreaking bootlegs that float around out the in the world as part of my bootleg collection; The Price To Fame and The Giving Tree. (Hit me up with an email if you’ve never heard them, I’m very proud of them, and those that have been able to acquire my bootlegs, do seem to like them.)

        With a title taken straight from then California governor Ronald Regan’s endorsement of allowing No Fault Divorce in 1969 by signing the Family Law Act of 69 that we discussed on the DISCECTING THE GENERATION section of this exact website, I saw Irreconcilable Differences air on HBO in 1985, and was completely broken over it for days. As other than Spielberg’s E.T. which had come out 2 years earlier, this is perhaps Hollywood’s first-ever commercial mainstream attempt to show the affects that divorce can have on children, just as it was happening in America for millions of Boomers in the late 70s and early 80s. And having just come from my own parents’ divorce that suffered a brutal custody battle, I was glued to picture from the moment it began, and was crying by the time the credit rolled. As was the rest of the household. I was ten years old at the time, and felt that I finally had a movie that could help speak my mind at the time, because, I wasn’t mature enough yet to know how to. And thinking back now, I imagine that it was Drew Barrymore’s performance in this film, that caused me to send her a copy of Signature Place during the turn of the century. Both she and I are only about 3 months apart in our birthdays, and seeing someone at my exact age upon screen trying to convey to a courtroom what her take on the matter with her warring parents was, really struck a powerful chord in me. In a bit of irony, my father also just happened to buy Clayderman’s Amour album at the time which features the two tracks used in the film, and for years, I played them on the piano long before I would ever visit Spielberg’s office and become a songwriter instead of a filmmaker. And when I played them, I usually played these pieces in private, never knowing of course that I’d one day grow up and write lyrics for them.

        Both Barrymore and Shelly Long were nominated for a Golden Globe for their performances in the picture.

        The story about two struggling behind-the-Hollywood-scenes artists, who start out with nothing, then end up with everything, bare a daughter (Drew Barrymore) and then file for divorce … which leaves Drew traumatized, is almost a Terms Of Endearment for KIDS if you will; remaining a very early glimpse at what was soon to become normal latch-key life for so many millions of thriller babies.

        Both BabyBooming parents, played by Ryan O’Neil and Shelly Long, often “make it big” within the entertainment industry (O’Neil as a motion picture director, Long as a writer), but make it at different times in their life when the other one’s practically living on foodstamps. And often, they fight over their daughter, Casey (played with profound authenticity by Barrymore, fresh off of E.T. and Firestarter), yet when they are around her, sometimes take no notice that she’s even there; often leaving her to the household maid to look after her, while they duke it out as artists who crave the industry spotlight so heavily, that it soon devours their own marriage … and their successes, if not their once bright and wholehearted personalities; including their daughter’s … who after suffering brutal amounts of emotional distress, decides to do something that many millions of thriller babies probably wished they could’ve; she contacts an attorney in order to DIVORCE HER PARENTS!

        Though the very film starts out as a light-hearted comedy, it soon dives into brutal arguments between the parents once Ryan O’Neal has an affair with one of his up-and-coming actresses (played with pure bitchery by a young Sharon Stone before Stone became a household name 8 years later with Basic Instinct). And from there on out, until the final credits roll, it digs deep into the psyche of the overlooked daughter, who finds that in order to see her father after he’s left the house and divorced her mother, she now has to succumb to his mistress, Stone, which makes her feel even more worthless, and the comedy side of the picture, gets placed on the back burner while we watch Barrymore take the stand in the courtroom, and testify on behalf of herself, what all she has been through in just the few short years of her life on earth … with her divorced parents sitting below her near their attorneys. And it’s during this sequence, that the film rises to a whole new level of truly revealing what kind of atmosphere we provide for our children when we continually disrespect the mother and/or father that we were once married to … who is still forever tied to the child by their own birth-right. In doing so, we disrespect the child itself, and instill a worthlessness to their much needed seft-esteem.

        It’s gripping film-making at some of it’s very best, and for all those thrillerbabies like me who first saw this in the mid 80s, when most American families had now become broken homes, or double-incomed with both parents working in order to be able to afford the finer things in life, this one hit a nerve with us and we’ve never forgotten it.

        The scene in which Ryan O’Neil sheds a tear while watching his little girl tell her story to the jury, is compelling enough to get everybody in tears in the courtroom, in addition to the audience who’s watching the film itself!

        A winner, all the way around, and a revealing milestone for thriller-babies across the globe who never could get their divorced and bitter parents to see things from their side of the fence; the one that’s been forgotten.  Much less, invite them both to the same social function or merely have dinner with them.

        The film was based in part on the divorce of collaborators Polly Plat and famous director Peter Bogdanovich over actress Cybill Shepherd of Taxi Driver and Moonlighting fame, whom Bogdanvich had directed in the Oscar winning The Last Picture Show after Plat had discovered Shepherd at a grocery store; making Cybil a household name.
        And in an ironic sad twist, many aspects of the film's plot, overlapped into the actual lives of the film's real-life cast and crew. In one scene, Drew Barrymore’s nine year-old character drinks champagne. In real life, Barrymore would battle with alcoholism and drugs and strained family relationships. The husband-wife screenwriting team behind the picture, Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer (who also directed the picture), separated in 2000. In 2005, Shelly Long separated from her husband of twenty-four years. Sharon Stone developed a reputation as a homewrecker, when producer Bill McDonald left his wife Naomi Baca after he and Stone met on 1993’s Sliver. She would later break up with McDonald, just as she does with Ryan O’Neal in the movie after stealing him away from his wife. Nancy Meyers, however, would go on to become a well-respected woman director with What Women Wants in 2000, and The Holiday in 2006. (I, myself, hope to someday work with her!)

        VOTE for this historical landmark of a movie due to its early and gritty portrayal of latchkeyism, by clicking HERE.
And again, if you’d like to hear my vocal take on two very memorable Richard Clayderman piano pieces that are interwoven throughout the film, email me and put CRAWFORD BOOTLEGS in the subject-box so that I won’t overlook it.

A historically important thrillerbaby gem that every parent should watch!

             THE  LEGEND  OF  BILLIE  JEAN
                            (1985 Rated PG-13)
        This one is a thrillerbaby cult-classic in the truest and most commercial sense of the word. As it bombed at the box-office (making only about 3 and half million in 1985), despite the fact that the hit song written for the film by rock queen Pat Benatar, Invincible, had carried the tune all the way to the #4 spot on the Billboard top 40. But in the world of the 1980s, strange things can happen, and once the film hit video and TV within a year, it was watched by everybody … who by this time, was already heavily aware of the Invincible song and found it cool to see where the song had originated from! Critically listed just recently (AUGUST 2008: the same month this website got a major revamp!) as one of America's favorite "GUILTY PLEASURES" movies ... you've gotta love Billie Jean!

        Making his film debut, a young Christian Slater plays the baby brother of Billie Jean, played by Helen Slater of Supergirl/Ruthless People/Secret Of My Success fame. (Though they share the same last name, they are not related and this has only helped the film gain viewers over the years because by the 1990s, Christian had obtained far more notoriety within the entertainment industry than Helen had; beginning with his leading role in 1989’s Heathers; another classic ThrillerBaby film that failed miserably at the box-office, but is now listed as #5 on Entertainment Weekly’s list of The 50 Best High School Movies of all time.)

        The story is one of the most absurd stories ever brought to the silver screen: baby-brother gets his new motor-scooter vandalized by local boys who have a crush on his beautiful older sister, and to avenge the local boys, big sister attempts to obtain the scooter’s repair-money from the father of one of the boys who vandalized it. When the father offers Billie Jean the money only AFTER she agrees to earn the money back by sleeping with him, little brother invades the scene to rescue his older sister from being raped, and thinking he has an unloaded gun from man’s cash-register at his place of business (a novelty store), he accidentally SHOOTS the man; which starts a media-frenzy since the two teens live in the trailer-parks, and know that no-one will believe them if they tell the authorities that the gun wasn’t supposed to be loaded.

        Not knowing what to do?, they haul ass and live out of their station-wagon with a group of neighborhood friends amongst the back-drops of Corpus Christi, TX … where they soon learn by reading the newspaper, that the man they shot has indeed lived, and is now selling novelty T-shirts of BIILLE-JEAN-WANTED-POSTERS so that he can make an extra buck off the very problem that he and his bullish son created; blurring the concluded thoughts of the authorities, who always seem just a second away from catching Billie Jean, wondering what exactly it is that she wants?

        The pivotal scene in the entire film, comes when after watching a Joan of Arc film (1957’s Saint Joan) on late-night television at a house that she and her posse have crashed at (hooking up with a rich friend while doing so), the beautiful long-blond-haired Helen Slater as Billie Jean … chops off her hair, puts on some spandex, and makes a video-A.P.B. of herself in her “new look” which she then delivers to the media, in order to combat the misinterpretation of the press that she’s a Bonnie And Clyde of the 80s; simply telling the camera that she just wants the mere $608 dollars to fix up her brother’s scooter, and that “FAIR IS FAIR!

        Panned at the time by critics, and not doing so well at the box-office, despite strongly marketing itself to the new Mtv crowd of young thriller-babies at the time (who were most likely just a little too young in ‘85 to attend a PG-13 rated film), over the course of the twenty-some-odd years that the film has remained out of print, it has steadily grown wings due to a great soundtrack, the film debut of Christian Slater, and its strong leading anchor of a female character (energetically done to-the-T by Helen Slater in the title role), and the fact that it was somewhat of a cable-hit and good-renter on video; appealing to the teen-angst youth of so many thrillerbabies who love those cheesy 80s movies that weren’t quite John Hughes films, but weren’t quite Disney films either.

        Having personally grown up in Texas, if anything, I’ve noticed something as an adult when I watch the film now that I didn’t really appreciate then: it truly captures the spirit of how Texas culture operates and how socially isolated much of the youth here feel, because it’s such a large state and going from town to town is like traveling to another world in itself because the gaps between towns are so far … so much so, that often, the youth will find their own niche to prevent boredom, despite what the rest of the country is doing to prevent the same thing, and they’ll just run with it, now matter HOW crazy they may appear.

        Perhaps the better title would be “The Rebel Without A Cause for the 1980s,” The Legend of Billie Jean (which bares no resemblance to the famous Michael Jackson song off Thriller), is, if anything, a FUN movie to watch, and a very engaging one at that! Opening with the 1983 underappreciated minor hit-song “Boys In Town” by the Divinyls from the movie Monkey Wrench, which states, “I was always driving home … the boys in town … take this bus and park it … GET ME OUT OF HERE!,” from the moment the picture starts, you’re kinda hooked on this very surreal story of merely $608 dollars (that’s it!, no more, no less) in which is VERY real to all these Texas teens whose biggest thrill of the day, is merely watching wrestling on TV on the porches of all their mobile-homes. But once that scooter gets vandalized, they soon become the talk of the nation, so much so, that they develop their own cult-following of teens across the state, who often help the alleged outlaws hide out from the law itself. Once Billie Jean cuts her hair, so do most of the teenage girls in Texas, and the film, despite its unheard of plot, does have a good strong message of how we can make media sensations out of the misunderstandings of just $608, and that in the end, is it even worth it?

To Billie Jean, it seems to be!

And thrillerbabies have been selling bootlegs of this film for several years now, wondering what is the hold-up with the DVD release?

        Speculation has arisen in recent years that the hold-up could be that the film’s copyright holders, simply want to see the film get appreciated the way they had originally wanted it to when first releasing it in 1985, and often, by withholding something from the public for several years now, but allowing it to occasionally air on TV-networks like Turner Classic Movies and Shotime, the film keeps finding new audiences … all while appealing to older ones who pray they have a blank DVD-R in their players when the film airs or have programmed their Tivo.

        Singer Pat Benatar has been known to introduce her Invincible song at concerts by saying that this film in which it's from, did not live up to even her own expectations and is rather silly, but thriller babies have felt otherwise. And in an odd twist of irony, the film about a small select piece of counter-culture in Texas … has become a part of counter-culture itself by remaining out of print for so long.

        Given that thriller-babies were the first generation to see their songs get told on film visually through Mtv, and Mtv was at its wonderful peak when Invincible came out, it’s one of those songs, that even when played on a flashback-Friday over the radio, all of us drive to work or pick up our kids from their soccer games, envisioning this big and beautiful blond woman who cuts her hair and starts a cult-following, simply to get back $608 dollars. And usually, if no one is watching, we’ll sometimes remove our hands from the steering wheel towards the tail-end of the song when Benatar is singing, “We can’t afford to be innocent, stand up and face the envy, it’s a do or die situation” … and we’ll yell, “FAIR … IS … FAIR!”

        Though it could’ve easily been passed off as just plain stupid, the film works wonderfully on executing suspension of disbelief, and the side-characters who have strong Texas-hickish twains in their tones, are so entertaining in their own right, that quite often, watching THEM watching their friend Billie Jean … is just as entertaining as watching Billie Jean herself! Particularly with the performance of actress Yeardley Smith as “Putter”; Billie Jean’s trailer-trash sidekick who is so bored with her own life, she simply wants to travel with the gang … JUST so she’ll get grounded and have ANOTHER reason to rebel! When after the gang barely escapes a few gunshots at their station-wagon, “Putter” suddenly is revealed to be bleeding in the back seat of the car … and then reveals that she was just ‘getting her period’ … with Christian Slater’s one-word response (“GROSS!”) … you kinda have to laugh at the fact that even in a moment of despair, Smith, is a very funny actress and gives the film ample amounts of memorable material more than probably was ever anticipated, and she truly is an extremely under-appreciated actress. She would later go on to do Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive and As Good As It Gets with Jack Nicholson, in addition to her most famous role to date; playing the voice of Lisa Simpson on The Simpsons.

        The film’s director, writer Matthew Robbins, would later go on to do Spielberg’s Batteries Not Included, having already worked with Steven on several projects. And Keith Gordon, who plays the rich kid (“Lloyd”) in the movie that helps the gang (who has one HELL of a swimming pool in the movie that has a slide leading down to it from the second-story of his house!), was fresh off of Stephen King’s Christine, and is now a film director himself. The production team of Peter Guber/Michael Peters would land a best-picture Oscar for 1988’s Rain Man, and both of them also worked on Adrian Lyne’s Flashdance and many high-production superhero films such as 1989’s Batman, and the 2006 version of Superman (Superman Returns). So there is a ‘look’ to the film that’s perfectly glossed with A-list overtones, despite its portrayal of a small Texas trailer-park town (even though Corpus Christie, TX is a bit downplayed in the film, when in actuality, its population is now roughly 300,000). And Jeffrey L. Kimball, who did the cinematography here, also lit Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun; so again, it’s probably only a matter of time before thrillerbabies see this beloved film get the DVD treatment. (Again, I’m available for commentary when that happens by the way….)

        Barry Tubb, who plays the annoying “Hubie” who trashes the scooter, also went on to have a brief role in Top Gun as WOLFMAN for those that see a familiar face, and like Gordon, he also became a director.

        Despite the film’s hip spunk of its cast often sleeping in their sleeping bags at old abandoned miniature golf-courses and leaving I..O.U.s for anything they steal (whether it’s a walkie-talkie at the mall … or a CAR!) … where the film is most unique is during the smaller scenes that aim to truly help the youth. A scene in which Billie Jean, so used to getting approached for autographs wherever she goes, instead, gets approached by a group of boys who beg her to come help their abused friend Kenny because, “Kenny’s in TROUBLE!” … in which Billie Jean marches down the block and over to Kenny’s house (all while a legion of other kids are marching right behind her and Benatar’s Invincible is playing of course!) … is just priceless. She truly starts to realize how fame can be used for the betterment of humanity, and merely walks into the house where Kenny’s father is abusing him, grabs Kenny, and once the father realizes that she has half the neighborhood standing behind her, he lets her … and the boy … go!

        An odd mixture of suspense and comedy, and if anything, it’s very unpredictable, The Legend Of Billie Jean ranks as the perfect example of how a film can go from nothing … to everything … all while appealing to the rebellious youth of ANY era (1980s or not!) … and deliver a message to them at the same time. Very few films can do that.

        E.T. actor Peter Coyote as the sheriff who truly is both against Billie Jean, and FOR her by the end of the film, adds a nice prestigious balance to the picture of doing what’s right (like turning yourself in!) … but also doing what’s important (like not allowing the press to believe just anything and everything it airs.)

        VOTE for it to get released onto DVD at TCM’s website by clicking HERE!

        And watch out for those grainy bootlegs. (Did I mention that I’ve got a pristine full frame DIGITAL copy if anyone’s interested?, just shoot me an email and put BILLIE JEAN in the subject box so it’ll stand out.)

Afterall, when you deny thrillerbabies our beloved cult-films,We’ve got the right to be angry!,
and …

               THE  MOUSE  AND  HIS  CHILD
                               (1977  Rated G)
    The most influential movie of my life. And it’s never seen a DVD release. Such a crime. But I intend to change that one thrillerbaby at a time. For without The Mouse And His Child, there would be no Signature Place; my 2nd novel about the first majorital generation of latchkey kids who were the offspring of all these divorcing babyboomers in the 1980s that left us alone at the dinner table, and for the most part, self-reliant for the majority of our childhoods; growing us up a tad too early, and causing all us thillerbabies to crave the accompany of family … if we were to ever find one ourselves that is … and knew what it was to look for since we really didn’t have one while coming of age to begin with … other than other thillerbabies themselves; lending more credibility to the term “Latchkey” than ever before. As we often latched on to one another during those long days and nights of the 1980s while whichever single-parent (dad or mom) was off working … and the other single-parent was off … well … being single. The Mouse And His Child could not have been more precursive and ironically prophetic in its depicted plot of ‘keys’ that have to be inserted into toy mice (a father and son), in order to wind them up, and activate them to move in circles … until their winding dies, causing them to need re-winding again. (The poster for the film is tacked on to Toph’s bedroom door; the name of the nine year old latchkey character in my book Signature Place who often looks after another latchkey boy who is only 3 years old named Gabe; serving as Gabe’s surrogate parent.)

        A metaphorical masterpiece of a movie for the very first massive latch-“key” generation if there ever was one. And love it, I do. Like with a jillion other thrillerbabies who have, over the course of several years, blogged their thoughts on this memorable movie amongst the backdoors of the Internet, saying they “only saw it once” but that it ‘affected them for the rest of their lives” … I honestly can say the cult-following continues to rise each year for this film because I too share their opinion. But in all honestly, I think it’s fair, if I may be so bold, to say that no other thrillerbaby was as deeply effected by the film … as Joshua Crawford was. Afterall. Not every thrillerbaby ended up spending 8 years in isolation to write about his generation’s latchkey childhood, and why it was so latchkey to begin with. It took some time, and to this day, no publisher has picked up my book, but “Signature Place” remains one of boldest and most challenging endeavors I’ve ever had the privilege to meet destiny on with. And I hope I live to see the day when it will finally be up there on those bookshelves along with The Mouse And His Child; which began it’s strange cult-following life as just that; a book!

        Though author Russell Hoban was a little disappointed in this film that was based off his highly acclaimed book of the same title from 1967 … one which was marketed as a children’s book … but had adults reading it by the early 1970s … forgive me if I take my time here, but I have to be meticulous in my review for this one, because it’s just so layered with almost everything … though looks as if it has practically nothing upon first glance. But that second, third, fourth, fifth, and even six and seventh glance … is just so sweet. And if any film deserves its cult-following, this one does. I believe I’m the first one online to stay that it does indeed have a cult-following, so if you state somewhere else online that it is now considered a cult-film, at least think of me, and the work and effort I’ve gone through to write such a thorough review of a film most people could care less about, until they view it. Hoban’s book has even become more popular in recent years, due to this film. And the film is often generally regarded as one of the few times that Hollywood didn’t “omit” much in the book during the translation process. And with the book being even MORE layered (and with no visuals to go by!), students often generally feel that the film makes for a far more graspable story than the book ever could! Though it will often lead one to dig up the book and read it, to see just what the author was trying to say in the film; one that was released with the title “The Extraordinary Adventure of The Mouse And His Child” in North America, and was directed by two men:

Charles Swenson (who later went on to be one of the writers for the sequel to the Spielberg/Lucas An American Tail movie; Fivel Goes West in 1991) … and Fred Wolf… who later went on to have a strong upper hand in lending his talents to such 80s thrillerbaby cartoons as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Strawberry Shortcake, DuckTales, The Wuzzles, The California Raisins, and had won an Oscar for his 1968 cartoon short The Box, while also doing some animation for the thrillerbaby cult-fave 1974 special Free To Be You And Me that’s song by The New Seekers is featured on the CONTACT page to this website.

Both men, together, are responsible for the much beloved 1978 animated TV special “Puff The Magic Dragon” and its many sequel shorts, and Wolf himself later went on to direct one of the greatest cold-war animated films of all time that thrillerbabies ate up; 1986’s The Adventures of the American Rabbit … in which he also voiced the character of Fred Red.

        Made at a time when the invention of the V.C.R. was just starting and had not made its way affordable enough to enter homes just yet, I happened to The Mouse And His Child at Roswell, New Mexico’s SUMMER MOVIE CAMP that they held over at the old Park Twin Cinema over on South Union Street at around the age of 3. For those of you who aren’t thrillerbabies, and don’t know what SUMMER MOVIE CAMP is, it was a season in the summertime when your local cinema would run a festival of films for the price of a movie-pass card; a card that featured all the movie-titles that would be ran over the course of usually 3 months, and what day they would be ran on; usually the same day, every week, until the final title was shown (Wednesday or Friday right before lunchtime was most common). This PASS-CARD if you will, would receive its featured movie-title-of-the-week PUCNHED out by the box-office clerk with a hand-held hole-puncher, so that you would know you had seen that film, and the films which remained to be seen, were left unpunched, until the following week, when you came to see the next one. It was very cool, and though a few cinemas still participate in such a festival (as the festival usually consists of older children’s titles from the previous year or two … or dusty and beat-up prints of famous ones like The Wizard of Oz, The Little Prince, etc.), many younger generations that weren’t born prior to 1980, often aren’t even away of such a festival; as it’s usually now done FREE for the public (or for a BUCK a movie), so that children can have some form of cinematic entertainment, all their own, during the course of the summer, with little or no cost. And the festivals aren’t that played-up or commercially marketed anymore. But in the days when thriller babies were babies in the 70s, these yearly festivals and PUNCH-CARDS that admitted one to them, became our most looked-forward-to-event of the season, once school let out. And having a mother who once modeled and like or own mother (my grandmother) loved “the arts”, she always seemed to know when and where these festivals started, and as soon as school was out, she always had our PUNCH-CARDS ready and waiting to give to us as a nice treat for working all year in school. (Jee. Am I plugging SUMMER MOVIE CAMP? Or WHAT! Lol)

        Anyway, I loved it. Because you were exposed to all kinds of old children’s films that you wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to, as these were the days before the V.C.R. entered our living-rooms which allowed what I call “rewatchability”, and seldom did any of these titles I saw … ever appear on Saturday Afternoon television … which one has to remember … consisted of only 3 television networks; as cable had not yet entered everyone’s living-rooms either and most TV-sets still had “dials” (channel-changing KNOBS) on them. The cable explosion wouldn’t happen until the dawn of the 1980s. Some films, such as The Mouse And His Child, were only seen this way, if they never had a great opener to begin with. Which explains why you’ll often see so many blogs and message-boards by thrillerbabies, smeared across the backdoors of the Net, stating that they only saw it ‘once’; because although HBO, The Disney Chanel, and the likes … did occasionally air it in the early 1980s, it has seldom seen the light of day in recent years, and its early 80s video-release has fallen so out of print, that if you can find one, it’s usually worth a good $50 or more, even if it’s an ex-rental.

        (By the way, thank God for those DVD-recorder/VCR-combos! For those of you endlessly searching from here to China and back for a copy on dvd, I do have a rather pristine and clear VHS-to-DVD-R transfer that I’ll share with just about anybody, simply because I know how much this film means to thriller babies! Email me, and we’ll talk it over. As it may be years … if ever … before this one gets an American restored DVD release with bonus features. Yet again, now that it’s here on the site, that might change things, as I hope ThrillerBaby.com will. The Mouse And His Child having always been at the forefront of my mind when I was thinking about designing a web site that I knew did not exist anywhere else on the world wide web.)

        The story appears so simple, but gains enormous complexity within the first 5 minutes:

Here we go:

        The story opens with one of the most haunting songs ever put to animation, entitled “Tell Me My Name” (this song is featured on this site on the DISCTING THE GENERATION page, sung by Colin Chasain Kellaway), while a homeless bum (or “tramp” as they used to call them) scouts the streets with his dog, then stumbles upon a specialty toy-store window deep into the night, where he smiles at what lays before him:

        Two toy wind-up-mice (a father and his child son) whose arms are connected to each other, with each mouse facing the other … awaken in a specialty toy-store to find that they are empty of any memory of how they got there, what they’re there for, and most importantly, WHO ARE THEY?

        When the father mouse notices the key in his back, and the other toys (which includes a wind-up tin-seal that bobs a beach ball on her nose … and a wind-up mama-elephant) inform him that he and his son are wind-up toys that will one done eventually get bought (if they’re lucky), and will then enter “the real world”, the two become perplexed with intrigue as to why they even have to go into this so-called “real world” ?

From the very moment, the son speaks, “WHAT are we Papa?”

To which the father responds, “I don’t know son, we must wait and see.”

You know you’re not getting the average Disney film here. As the reason the book was so appealing to adults, as well as children, was that, depending on who you talk to, it contains some rather profound hidden metaphors. For example, if you were to replace the mice with people, asking those same questions, you get “life” in general as humankind only knows it.

        Now that you might be “reading between the lines” a little bit more on this review of mine, let me do this. I’ll underline things that might make you think twice about the story you’re watching that’s masquerading itself as a cartoon … based off a novel that was marketed at children, but was really meant for deep-thinkers in the likes of Animal Farm and Watership Down.
Let’s continue:

        After a giant hand picks up the two mice and uses the key in the father’s back to wind up the mice, they’re then sat back down, where they move in circles.

        Meanwhile, the toy store owner turns off the lights, and closes up for the night.

        Once a large clock in the store strikes midnight however, every toy that once sat inanimate, now comes to life and begins to operate whatever function they’re meant to: Dolls go “Wha-wha”, a teddy bear with symbols on his paws bangs them together, a toy couple inside a doll-house brag about things that moms and dads do (listen closely, and you’ll hear their quite dark topics masquerade themselves as “newsworthy”; heavily metaphoring the way in which the media often trick the public into thinking they NEED to tune in to such darkness … which usually only empties their optimism.)

        And the homeless bum outside with his dog, smiles as he watches the wind-up mice dance in circles; in which he turns to his friendly dog, and mimics the same dance in a circle.

        But the dogmatic clock forbids the young mouse-child to ask any further questions as to origin of “why he’s here, what’s he here for, and who is he?” (The song TELL ME MY NAME echoes in an instrumental form rather appropriately!) And once the little mouse-child gets so depressed while all the other toys smirk at his optimism in wishing that he’ll never have to leave the toy store and that he merely wants to have a family while living inside the nearby dollhouse to serve as his family’s home, he accidentally drags his father a little too close to the edge of the high shelf in which they’re on while dancing in their wound-up circle, and they fall into the nearby waste-basket bellow … which shortly ends up getting dumped in the outside alley trash-can:
Is this the world? I’m scared Papa.”

I hope not,” the father replies.

        The “connected two” then get delivered to the junkyard … where they tossed aside near an old broke-down car in which “the bum” is sleeping in. It is the bum’s dog, who brings his master the two now helpless wind-ups (because no-one can wind them up now), and the bum turns the key, then sets the father-and-son down on the dusty ground, to be on their way out into the so-called ‘world.’
Be TRAMPS,” he says.

        The two mice, accustomed to always walking in circles, are now walking straight ahead of what’s in front of them.
So this is the world?” the father-mouse says.

And we’re out in it and it’s all my fault,” says the mouse-child.

Son … it had to happen son, sooner or later, though walking straight ahead … does feel strange.”

I don’t mind walking backwards papa … at least it’s better than going in circles.”

Not if there’s no one around to wind you,” papa-mouse says.

I’m not afraid papa. I’m not afraid.

        Immediately, the two almost get run over by an oncoming train, which scares them in unison.

        Until a nearby rat with big teeth, plucks them out of the track, and saves their lives; gaining their trust as he winds their key. The rat soon asks them what they want, to which the son replies; “I want to go home.”

To which the rat responds, “The very place in which I’m taking you.”

        The master rat sees some sort of potential in the two new mice, and travels by way of an empty sardine-can (used as a boat) across a stream.

        The rat then takes  the two to one of his employees who happens to be a frog working as an alleged oracle psychic … to which the frog (who wears a medallion-coin necklace around his neck which reads, “YOU WILL SUCCEED”) displeases the master, and is soon fired; revealing to the two mice that the rat has tricked them into arriving at his converted doll-house that’s now a slave-quarters for many other drunken rats, in addition to many other familiar wind-ups that once existed in the toy-store whose feet are often chain-bound to work for their engrossing leader who thinks he’s a god; revealing that he has the sharpest teeth of them all, and that seems to be why he is able to control his slaves. “A warm welcome to the new members of our little family,” the rat states to the other rats.

        A nearby toy-donkey, who is so tired from being the master rat’s slave that he momentarily rests … soon displeases the Master, and in one of the film’s most graphic images, the donkey is disassembled with a slaughter to be used as spare parts! (Which happens off-screen, but is still very impactful never the less!)

        When the rat with the big teeth known as “Manny” (or MANY) tries to use his two new captives to smuggle some fine “treacle brittle” (a type of “toffee” like that of Heath candybar) by sending them along with another slave rat to go steal some from a nearby bank that is run by a badger in a hollowed tree, they bump into the once employed frog who offers to tell them their fortune, greeting the two by saying that he’s “Destiny.” And offers, “Give me your palm?”

To which the child mouse, whose hands are connected to his father’s, replies, “We don’t have one.”

That’s ok,” the frog says. “I’ll just read your feet; an ancient form of divination taught to me by the praying mantis of the Babylonian persuasion.”

        The child-mouse voices to the frog that he desires to have a real “family” and longs for the wind-up elephant to be his mother; whom has now become a slave to the leader of all the rats in which they just came from. (The wind-up elephant is later revealed to be now missing an “eye” and remains captive back at the slave quarters.) The child mouse also wants The Seal to be his sister. And they all can live together in the toy store.”

        The father mouse’s response is a bit different:
I don’t want anything given me. I want something taken away; our key. The world, being what it is, we’d be better off if we were free to wind ourselves

Free?” the frog replies with a certain hidden knowledge. “Is THAT the key? Well, let’s see what fate has in store. Trust in the angels. A great line emerges. Follow it. The road is long. A broken path re-gathering. The enemy you flee at the beginning … awaits you at the end.

        But the slave-rat soon interrupts the frog’s sermon, and takes the two to the nearby bank within a hollowed tree, where he tries to one-up the bank teller (who is also a rat) and rob the bank’s vault of treacle brittle from the bank’s owner; the badger … who in return, gobbles the rat up for lunch!
The two mice are now alone.

NOW what,” the father-mouse says. “We surely can’t go back.”

        But they are suddenly re-greeted again by the frog who replies, “Once choice than. We’ll go forward. The seeds of our faith … the thread of our destiny … bound eternally. I’d like to help you.”

But the road is long,” says the father-mouse. “Remember?”

And very hard,” the child-mouse adds.

Awe,” the frog says, “we can travel it together. I’ll keep you wound, and you keep me company. We can start by finding your sister; the tin-seal. I heard there’s just such a seal playing in a show over in Hollow-wood (or HOLLYWOOD). Could be the very one you’re looking for An actress over in the hollow wood; a tin seal in tinsletown.

        But when the frog attempts to take the two wind-ups to the tin-seal across a frozen stream, Manny-the-rat shows up in his toy-car in an attempt to retrieve his two slaves.

Let me tell your fortune Manny, it will only take a moment.”

Why not,” Manny says.

I see a dog … rising,” the frog says. “A dog shall rise … a rat shall fall.”

That’s enough,” replies Manny.

        But the two mice manage to get away for just a brief moment … just as their friend frog accidentally gets picked up by a flying old owl; leaving behind his coin-medallion necklace which reads, “you will succeed.”

        An old motherly bird close by, suddenly hears the two mice who can’t move and lye dormant on the frozen lake … then notices the medallion necklace, and reading its inscription, she says, “Come on you two, success is just around the corner.” And she flies to two to a nearby stage run by theatrical animals and declares, “My dear friends. I’ve just found two new members for our acting group.”

        “But we don’t want to be actors,” father-mouse replies. But after the head crow director tells them that Tin Seal ran off along time ago with a muskrat, the two mice are thrown into a play entitled, “The Last Visible Dog”; one in which places the wind-ups right in front of a couple of BONZO-brand dog-food cans that’s logo on the can’s label, features a well-known dog, holding another can of the very dog-food that he’s on, who’s holding another can of the very same thing, and so on, creating a dizzying affect for both the mice … as well as the viewer of the film.

(This dog-food can alone, has left quite an impression on young thriller-babies who first saw the film in 1977!)

        Two of the birds in the play, recite their lines:
Life is a search … inward, outward searching … for truth. For beauty.”

        But MANNY-the-rat interrupts the scene, with attempts to retrieve his two captive wind-ups once more, and the motherly parrot bird now wearing the coin-necklace, picks up the mice from stage, with the mouse-child replying, “Everybody has a home papa … and we’ll find ours….”

To which the father responds, “Not with a key in our back…”

        And the bird offers to take drop them off at the same old muskrat that Tin Seal once ran off with; the one that made the Tin Seal self-winding.

        Having had the frog prophesied to the two mice to help navigate their own destiny … which is often alluded to in the movie as “being beyond infinity.”, everyone seems to know that the tin-seal was once a wind-up like the mice, but then sought out her own destiny, and became self-winding. So the goal of the mice that was once a dream, now seems obtainable, so that no-one will ever have to wind them again. And their quest to find the tin-seal, so that they may learn how she became self-winding, now places them directly into the old muskrat’s hands who once made Tin Seal self-reliant.

        This old muskrat who has a wooden leg and is considered a genius for having turned tin-seal into a self-winding star (she was also his student at one time!), says he can turn the two mice into self-winders as well, but only after they earn their keep by sawing down a tree outside the rat’s home; which being toy mice who seem forever joined at the arms, their mission seems like forever, even though it’s two for the price one, given that they can work as a team to cut the tree down while being attached to a spring-loaded axe to help them. But once the seasons change, father-mouse begins to lose faith that they’ll ever reach their destiny. While child-mouse remains hopeful that they’re so close to finally knocking the tree down, yet he’s always curious as to “what’s beyond infinity?”

        But the child-mouse’s wishes seem almost too surreal for father-mouse, who along with his son, has been grinding an axe, all to knock one single tree down, for an entire season. And soon, the mice faint, yet are plucked from the ground by another bird; but this time it’s a hawk who thinks its gotten a REAL mouse and child for dinner, then DROPS the two in mid-air after uncovering that they are just toys. The two wind-ups then land in a nearby pond, sinking all the way to the bottom, where they meet a turtle, who reveals himself to be the author of the play in which the mice had just seen; The Last Visible Dog.

        When the child-mouse explains to the turtle they he and his father are looking for home and desire to be self-winding and to be part of a family, the turtle sighs with exhaustion that their desire may never happen unless they can see “beyond the infinity” of the most famous dog (or shall we say dog-MA?) in the world; the one that’s on all the dogfood-cans; one in which just happens to be lying at the bottom of the ocean near the two mice. “Somewhere,” the turtle states, “beyond the smallest dog, the last of them, is infinity. See if you can find it.”

If we find it,” the child-mouse asks, “will you help us out of the pond?”

To which the turtles replies, “Each of us, however sunk in the mud, however deep, must rise on the propulsion of his own thought. Each of us much journey through the dogs, beyond the dots, into the truth … alone.”

        When the child-mouse looks at the can, again, he sees that the label reveals a dog, holding a dogfood can of a dog holding a dogfood can holding a dog holding a dogfood can, and so on; getting so dizzy trying to count the number of dogs (with each dog getting smaller as the label gets smaller), and nearly gives up, until he declares to his father that he thinks he can see beyond the last dog (the smallest one that not even the naked eye thinks it can see); beyond infinity!

        Faithless father soon brightens up with hope when his son counts the number of dogs on the dogfood label, arriving at “10”, then after losing count several times, sees way beyond the 10th dog … arriving at what he thinks to be an area of empty space. “I can see what’s beyond the last visible dog!”

“Is it infinity son?” the father replies.

“I think so,” son replies. But the blank area on the dogfood can beyond the several LAYERS of dogs holding dogfood cans, reveals itself to be none other than … mirror-reflective: “Papa … it's US!”

What can I say,
other than,

If you haven’t gotten the story by now, you probably never will.

        What soon follows, is that once the two mice can no see beyond the last visible dog, they are greeted on the bottom ocean floor by the Tin-Seal herself.
Have we really FOUND you?” the mouse-child asks in wonder.

No silly,” Tin Seal replies. “I found YOU.”

        And along with a bird who fishes, the prophetic frog (who has always believed in their desire to be FREE) joins in the rescues of the two from the bottom of the pond, but then witnesses MANNY THE RAT approaching the scene in vengeance for escaping him, only to CRUSH the two mice into bits and pieces; shattering hope of all they journeyed to find;

(This also marks the first appearance of the one-eyed mama elephant who seems to have traveled along with Manny in search of the two wind-ups as his now slave; and one with deep concern and worry.)

        But MANNY walks away with a trace of sad guilt that he has now KILLED the two wind-ups whose only desire in life … was to have someone “TELL THEM THEIR NAME” and “WHAT THEY WERE HERE FOR.” And he walks away, leaving the frog, the bird, the tin-seal, and the one-eyed mama elephant to morn the loss of the latchkey soles who always had hoped for a home and a family.

        But the tin-seal still has some of that hope, and she and the others take the two broken mice to the genius rat with a wooden leg who was the same rat that had made HER self-winding.

        He at first looks at the damage, and states he could never repair them. But after the same friends who once made fun of the mice back in the days of the toy-store, CRY … the rat with the wooden leg changes his mind … and with a little help from some nearby tools (in addition to some long hours at the work-table!), the two mice are sat down … FREE of a KEY … and free of being LATCHED at the arm!

        The two now-separated mice … then are so strong in their renewed faith, that in order to complete their family, they attempt to re-enter the Manny-the-rat’s slave-quarters … and rescue the wind-up elephant, in which they are able to accomplish by way of their fellow friend bird carrying them away, with the mice and the frog inside a Bonzo-dogfood can that’s held in the mouth of the flying bird as Manny the rat looks up in sadness, watching his free enslaved wind-ups hovering above him. “A dog shall rise,” he says to himself. “A rat shall fall. Could the frog’s prophecy be coming true?”

        High above, inside the dogfood can, the father-mouse, now free from captivity once caused by a key in his back, yells down, “Rats. Hear this. The hand of destiny is upon you. Resistance … is useless.” And the coin-medallion which reads, “you will succeed” suddenly gets dumped out of the flying dog-food can by the now key-free mouse, with the medallion breaking Manny’s proud TEETH to pieces; humiliating him in the process in front of his other slave rats who now refer to him as old fool.

        The toys celebrate the victory with praises of life, just as MANNY THE RAT tries one more time to kill them all off … but the bird ties a piece of string on the MANNY’s doll-house slave-quarters that hangs high upon and old pole … and then ties the other end to the nearby train just as its passing by, with the entire race of slave-rats now driven far away (literally!), while MANNY is accidentally electrocuted on the telephone pole in which his slave-quarters once hung, and falls to the ground.

        But even still, the father-mouse takes pity on the father rat who once enslaved him and his son, and he walks over to the rat, to give Manny the medallion necklace once again as a sign of hope; you will succeed. Then smiles, and walks away.

        The story concludes with the spirit-driven free-from-winding toys in one giant doll-house back at the toy-store, now independent and committed to what matters to them most; sharing their life with someone who will never abandon them; each other; their own kind; other toys.

        The father mouse marries the mama-elephant, with the tin-seal standing by, and the as child-mouse stands by with celebration, the homeless bum and his dog look into the store window once more, so that the bum can say in his ’fatherly’ type way, “Be happy.”

        And he hangs the dollhouse on the very pole in which MANNY’s slave-quarters once hung.

Instead of the song declaring, “TELL ME MY NAME. WHAT AM I HERE FOR?” … it now says , “I KNOW MY NAME. I KNOW I’M SOMEONE. NO ONE IS FRIENDLESS.”


        One has to remember, I was just 3 when I saw this. (Though I’m most certain this is not the kind of film either of my parents, nor any other parents for that matter, were aware of in its “ultra-heavy” philosophy of life and love and family.) And I’m most certain theater owners didn’t quite know how to market this one. But I was a very mature child. And these were the pre-911 days in the small town of Roswell and my mother could drop me and my sister off at the theater to enjoy our CHILDRENS MOVIE OF THE WEEK. But this was no children’s movie, it was EVERY MAN’S MOVIE. And I cried for weeks alone in my bed. Wondering if the move about wind-up mice with the keys in their back would ever be shown again?

        Though I never picked up on the true metaphor of the movie until 28 years passed and I finally found someone to make me a DVD from an old VHS rental (as no one in Texas seemed to even have an old VHS anymore; and believe me, I searched everywhere for years), I finally saw the film for the second time in my life at the age of 31, during a time in which I thought about killing myself because I had been hit by car, and it had tore the disc in my back which had caused ample amounts of pain for several years that no pain-medication could cure. And as I began to watch it, I wondered if it would be anything like I remembered. I only had images to go by, images of a father and son mouse who needed keys in order to move, and some child singing a song about, “Tell me my name. What am I here for? I just want a home.”

        Yet even then, during this 2nd viewing, I never picked up on something that seems so obvious, once I finally noticed it on the 3rd viewing, which happened in July of 2008 as I was prepping to revamp thrillerbaby.com for an August 8th 2008 re-launch.

        I noticed that the homeless bum seems to be the opener and closer for the story; the first one to have ever sat them on the earth to begin their quest to find “why they were here?”

        And that he ends the final moment of the film when upon looking upon the dollhouse where now many self-reliant toys are socializing with each other, instead of making fun of each other’s fight to be bought and sold into part of a theater of dogma, by saying, “Be happy.”

In Joshua Crawford’s mind,
The bum …
is God.

And the latchkey wind-ups … who are now self-reliant only after heartache and strife,
are all his children …
who have finally come back to their original home, more completed than when they first started out in it.

What else can I say?

        If I never live to see my novel published for children and parents,
I do hope to live to see the day that this film gets put out on DVD with a remastered and restored print and ample amounts of bonus features.
Features that I would love so much to be a part of, considering I’ve now elevated the forgotten film to legendary status by finally revealing that those images of a key sticking out of a mouse’s back … were in the back of my mind when I was desperately fighting to give my “latchkey generation” some sort of name by documenting their trials and tribulations for eight years while I didn’t even own a car and was the thinnest I’d ever been in my entire life, and could only come up with one word: thrillerbaby.

        Though the film has popped up in Japan on dvd there, where much of its production was in co-creation with the company who made the picture; Sanrio, along with some additional creative help from Peanuts creator Charles M. Shulz, it is dubbed and has no English subtitles.

        So again, I have it, if you wanna place the title in the subject box of your email to me an we’ll talk.

        With a lush jazzy musical score by Grammy-winning pianist Roger Kellway (whose son is believed to be singing on the song Tell Me My Name which is featured on our Dissecting The Generation page on this website, written by legendary  songwriter/storyteller Gene Lees), Kellway, himself, is responsible for the memorable closing theme song to TV’s long-running All In The Family entitled Remembering You, sung by Archie Bunker himself. The Mouse And His Child has only begun to peek people’s interest in a wide variety of ways to both storytellers … as well as musicians … and SOME who just happen to be BOTH. (lol)

        Even if you HAVEN’T seen the film, for GOD’S SAKE, vote for the sucker by clicking HERE and sign the petition HERE!


        (A word of suggestion: The film is not meant for young minds … well maybe SOME young minds…. If you think your 3 year old kid can handle it, you never know if he or she might grow up to write an epic for kids about latchkey-ism someday. But you might want to preview the film first, just to make sure; as it makes a great quadruple-feature along with three other maturely-written animated films; Watership Down, The Last Unicorn, and Raggedy Ann and Andy: a Musical Adventure … which is coming up next for review after this one; as it too is also heavily out of print, but left an indelible impression on an entire generation.)

        And if you want to watch just the Bonzo-brand dog-food label “infinity” scene
, to get your mind blown as to the kind of imagery that was projected onto my 3yr.old childhood youth that once rode a green inchworm that everyone on my block seems to remember, it occurs at precisely 52 minutes and 24 seconds into the film by clicking on this link. As some beloved thrillerbaby out there, recently posted the entire movie on YouTube: 
 www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OWdw1IwdYY  enjoy!

NOTE: If you want to watch the movie on this site, you might want to stop The ThrillerBaby Most Wanted Songs in the media-player at the top of this page so that your sounds don't collide.

                   THE  PIRATE  MOVIE
      (the original 1982 soundtrack on Polydor records)
     Perhaps the most PIRATED soundtrack of all time !
            Often imitated, never duplicated … well … often duplicated, never imitated would be a more better way to put it. But then again, duplicating this soundtrack into the Signature Place soundtrack is what I’m known for most!

Released in 1982, this loose remake of The Pirates Of Penzance play, updates the fable to the 80s, where everybody had great hair, great tans, and of course, great tunes.

            I was at a public pool along with several other kids in Roswell, New Mexico when I first heard “How Can I Without Her” on believe it or not, the radio! Yes, dear old Christopher Atlkins who rose to fame in The Blue Lagoon just 2 years earlier, actually SANG! As did Kristy McNichol. And by golly? They weren’t half bad. In fact, the soundtrack to this film on vinyl record, usually goes for a minimum of $100 if you live in New York. (That’s why I got mine from a dealer in Canada that didn’t know what he had! And thank God, otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to incorporate How Can I Live Without Her and First Love into Signature Place.)

            The Pirate Movie
made a gentle summer splash at the box office in 1982 and made just a little over 2 million (which was pretty good for 1982), but when it went into heavy rotation on HBO in 1983, thriller babies throughout the land had a new MTV-like film a year before Flashdance! So thick was the soundtrack to the film, that it took up two albums. And though a DVD release was granted for the film after years of remaining out of print (I had to get my original VHS copy through the Columbia House Video Club because in stores, it was going for $79!), the soundtrack curiously remains unavailable on CD. Well … until I came along that is … as I was perhaps the first to ever transfer the vinyl record to CD before the dawn of the millennium. And thank God. I get more compliments on incorporating the lost Pirate Movie songs into my Signature Place soundtrack more than other lost batch of forgotten 80s music. And trust me. For those that are familiar with Signature Place, the soundtrack is over nine discs. So to have Christopher Atkins and Kristy McNichol continually rise to the top, always amazes me. Quite frankly, for the longest time I could always tell when my transfer had been posted up onto the Net, because my version had a certain 'scratch' at a certain point in the song. It made me proud. And it makes me even more proud to know that some little guy such as I, had a lot to do with the film’s eventual release onto DVD.

            When the soundtrack to Signature Place first started to get out into the public around the turn of the 21st century, The Pirate Movie helped the book stand out like a sore thumb no matter WHAT publishers thought, and ushered in an entire new appreciation for the film.

            Upon the DVD release in March of 2005 after having several false delays, I rushed out to buy it and then wrote the team at Anchor Bay who had worked so hard to not only give it a proper release, but also a commentary! Thank God they listened to ThrillerBabies throughout the world, and persevered this little cheesfest-of-a-film (equipped with 80s hair bands on McNichol)!

            Here’s what they wrote back within 48 hrs of the highly anticipated street-date of the film on March 23rd, 2005, at precisely 12:02pm.

I’m so glad I saved the email.

This is the very first time I have shared it with the public, if only to let each and everyone know, that no matter how unimportant they think they are, no matter how alone they feel, they truly can have an affect on the entire universe by just voicing their strong determination to get the word out there, whether they’re an author and singer-songwriter like me, or not.

It makes me very proud as a struggling underground artist, to know I affected the release of a movie unlike no other; something millions had been waiting for since its first VHS release 22 years earlier. And it makes me even prouder to know that the music in the film ... continually leads people to Signature Place, and vice versa:

" March 23rd, 12:02pm


I just wanted to drop you a quick line to thank you for your kind words about our DVD of THE PIRATE MOVIE -- I'm so glad you liked it, and I want you to know how much I appreciate you taking the time to write me such an extensive and thoughtful letter about it. That was a fun DVD to work on -- I agree the movie is charming, sweet and full of positive energy: qualities that are painfully absent in most movies today. I'm also glad you enjoyed listening to the commentary -- I really enjoyed working with Ken {Annakin} and have admired his work for many years. I will pass your e-mail on to him -- I know he will be touched.

Just so you know, we did try to reach Kristy McNichol for an interview but were unable to reach her -- no-one seems to know where she is these days -- and Chris Atkins was unavailable at the time we needed to work with him. Our goal was to interview them both, but sometimes things just don't work out the way you hope.

Anyway, thanks again for your kind words -- you certainly made my day. I will check out your websites and keep my fingers crossed for you regarding your novel's prospects of becoming a film.

Best Wishes,
DVD Producer
Anchor Bay Entertainment, Inc.

            What can I say? Although The Pirate Movie soundtrack still remains missing-in-action, thanks to little guys like me, the movie, and its music, live on in a little book called Signature Place. And I use The Pirate Movie, along with The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane, as the perfect example to show others how they can affect the word and bring their childhood back to life for other generations, so that it won’t remain lost forever.

(By the way, to get the Signature Place soundtrack these days, you have to buy my 3-part book, just in case you were wondering.)

                              (1984 Rated 'R')
    Released near Valentines Day in 1984, Reckless sports an ultimate 80s feel, with far-above-average cinematography by Michael Ballhaus, (who has lit many Martin Scorsese films such as The Departed, Goodfellas, and Gangs of New York), and a screenplay written by a rather young Chris Columbus, here with his film debut, just a few months before his GREMLINS script would be released to theaters in the form of a motion picture that almost stole the entire spotlight during the summer box office season in 84, thanks to a producer named Steven Spielberg and a director named Joe Dante. (But without a good script, the film wouldn’t be what it is today!)

        Featuring a young Daryl Hannah right after Blade Runner but just months before she would become a household name for portraying a mermaid in Ron Howard’s SPLASH which also came out later this year, the film is anchored by a young Aidan Quinn, a rough ten years before he became Bard Pitt’s older brother in Legends Of The Fall; a film in which he practically steals the spotlight from Pitt himself.

        Though it’s a simple premise, “good high school girl meets bad rebel boy and is strangely attracted to him with an intense sexual nature” … the film is interesting to watch not so much because of its over-done storyline, be that it’s done with such stylization in its directing, and its unusual cinematography which to this day, looks very sleek in a nonchalant way.

        Quinn,  making a wonderufl fim debut in this very movie, rides a motorcycle in the film, and  although he is portraying a highschooler, the maturity in his physique and acting capabilities causes his appearance to seem a bit more older than Hannah’s … but then again, Hannah, who was quite young herself during filming, is beyond pleasing to the human eye compared to just your average high school girl. So like with Endless Love (though not near as plot-driven and well executed), the film works, if only as a time-capsule of the kind of stylization that Mtv and Adrian Lyne’s Flashdance was starting to have on American cinema that would later open the doors for directors like Michael Bay (The Rock, Pearl Harbor, Transformers.)

        Scenes in which Quinn is biking down a wet street in a blue-collar steel-mill town, look beautifully sheik and glossy compared to how the average steel-mill town usually would look in real life, and the director, James Foley, seems quite conscience of keeping the what-could-be very average looking sequences … much more interesting than one might expect.

        Known for having what was considered a rather shocking glimpse at full-frontal nudity by a leading male actor at the time (Quinn), which had been ushered in largely in part due to Richard Gere’s endorsement of it just 4 years earlier in American Gigolo, the story seems trite and rather slow in the world of soon-to-be high school movies by director John Hughes … who would be giving teen-films an entire new genre just a few months later with the release of his first film, Sixteen Candles. But for a good rainy day, or a study for film students who desire to know how to make even the most average and mundane story … look fresh and lush, Reckless isn’t half bad. And it’s always fun to watch just how serious teens were taking themselves during these early latchkey years for young thriller-babies, when their parents were either both working, or living the white-collar life of the 1980s and were nowhere to be found. (Why WAS that?)

        Although the ending leaves the story far too open as to the logic of it ever happening, because the film was a major studio production and not on a shoestring B-movie budget, it’s highly peppered with great new-wave songs from the early 80s which truly is the real winner here once the credits roll.

        Having first come across the film in the mid 1990s when once again, I was digging up old and odd R-rated teen fossils to see how far they were pushing the boundaries of American cinema for the youth in those early 80s with films like Endless Love and Fast Times At Ridgemont High, being the director-at-heart that I am, I was kinda taken by the ‘look’ of Reckless more than I was with its characters, in addition to being a big fan of Quinn’s always underappreciated and overlooked acting. And it’s fun watching the Mtv-ish appearance of the film, simply to study, once again, the way it was affecting directors. And who knew writer Chris Columbus would go from this … to directing Home Alone? The feel of the film seems far too R-rated for a man who would one day direct Julia Roberts in Stepmom. The actors are so good-looking, however, that it almost seems implausible that they would ever be considered highschoolers with problems. And their lives just don’t seem interesting enough to want to study it for two hours. But again, the look of the film, in addition to its soundtrack, is what is of keen interest here for thillerbabies, who have wanted the film to get released onto DVD for quite some time.

        Because of the soundtrack to small high school films such as this, that quite often, the studios that originally produced these films, never expected the world of DVDs and thriller babies who wanted to take a trip back to the past when weekend cinema fanfare consisted of average teen movies … that rose above the average because their soundtrack was so great … getting proper licensing to be able to re-sell the films again in the digital world of today, can be quite tricky if the film never made much money to begin with. As often, the songs, because of coming out of the 1980s, have become more popular overtime than the studios expected, and things have to get shuffled around again in paperwork in order to re-package the deal for nostalgists such as I. But I liked Reckless, if only for the kind of feeling it evokes. When even riding a motorcycle … was still considered major rebellion for a high schooler who took the average bus. And it’s the kind of film that unlike today, at least tried hard to grant a seriousness and maturity to its high school cast … that you just don’t see anymore, because the high school films of today try to continually be American Pie clones in their strife to deliver comedy. Reckless is far from being Gone With The Wind, but it does treat its cast with more depth than it would if the film were made today. And because it rode in on the tail-waves right before the PG-13 rating was established, it’s a good slice of cinema that proves to us there was this time, when acquiring a rating that teens under 17 could legally go see and having those huge opening weekend box-office numbers … wasn’t all that mattered. In these early 80s, quite often, they just took the material, no matter how sexually charged it was, and ran with it. Whether it got slapped with an R-rating or not, didn’t seem to matter as much, because though it might be hard to believe, the world was a more liberal place in those early 80s prior to the PG-13 rating, and theater owners kinda knew that audiences who looked old enough to be having sex, would see the film anyway. What were box-offices supposed to do; not sell a single ticket if the teen was under 17? The rating that one’s supposed to be in order to see an R-rating? Hell no. They needed money too badly to ever be so morally conscience.

        Would Reckless get an R-rating if it were made today? Probably, but it just wouldn’t seem as naughty because they just wouldn’t make it today, and if they did shoot for an R, to get their money’s worth, they would probably oversex it. These were the days, when Hollywood was pushing the envelope in appealing to the teen market, and for that alone, the film is of high interest because it represents a time when Hollywood was trying to re-invent the teen picture due to Porkey's and Fast Times being so successful, by adding to it with much more serious undertones. Tones that wouldn’t be able to be put in a bottle and sold, until The Breakfast Club came out a year later, and was slapped with an R not for any nudity (there was none!), but for its language; which is probably a much more accurate depiction of your average American teen, than a film like Reckless is.

        Though in hindsight, one can tell while watching Reckless that the cast seems to be having fun with their very adult-like roles, and there’s a certain innocence to that. As there is for fans of Hannah and Quinn, who made this picture right before either of them got to be known as serious actors. And again, it just doesn’t seem like it was written by the writer of Home Alone … but what’s interesting is that that same writer, would join forces with John Hughes anyway, to GIVE us Home Alone. (Hughes produced Alone.) So if anything at all, the film should see the release of DVD because it was written by the guy who would latter team up with the guy that did pictures like Reckless, but did them much better … and for the most part, did them with no R-rating needed, with the exception of The Breakfast Club, a film that is now considered the #1 teen film of all time.

        Here’s what the world of teen-films looked like right BEFORE the brat-pack took over and tossed in a lot more interesting dialog … and a lot less unnecessary sex, even though Reckless is far from being X-rated, despite having a scene in which the two teens go for an intense skinny deep inside a public high school pool.
(How often would you like to do THAT in real life, but never would?!)

        Having been a fan of Quinn's acting, due to his scene-stealing roll in Legends Of The Fall, I was kinda unprepared for Quinn’s naked modesty, but if anything, it made me realize how daring of an actor he was and is. And Hannah, who was built for acrobatics, is always a plus to watch, especially when she was right in between two films that are now considered classics today; Blade Runner … and Splash. So there is a ‘heat’ to the picture that is far more interesting than the sex that the two leads have in it, but what’s even more entertaining, is the fact that it all just happens to take place in the 1980s world of music; a decade which I still believe, years from now, when the world is analyzing the 20th century world of music, will still be talking about most.

        For those that are interested in knowing if I ever was inspired to take anything from Reckless and worked it into Signature Place, I did. I was stunned to hear “Kids In America” by Kim Wilde in the film during the pool sequence, as this was before radio-stations started playing 80s-flashbakes, and the song had kinda died out by the 90s, but because I heard it in this film, I used it in a very prominent scene in the book when all the neighborhood children decide to leave their broken homes behind, and head to the mall on their bicycles. What’s ironic, is that they’re heading to the mall to watch Gremlins; written by the same guy who wrote Reckless. And I never even made the connection that I had literally re-linked the song into another work of Chris Columbus … until I started revamping ThrillerBaby.com in 2008; a mere nine years after completing Signature Place.

        So it just goes to show you, that the often overlooked films that nobody remembers, can have wonderful results on writers like me … who just happen to be documenting their entire generation and wanting to put together the ultimate soundtrack.
Reckless has a good one. And not all overlooked 1980s teen films do.

        There’s even a cameo of a very young Jennifer Grey in the tail-end of it, right before Red Dawn and Dirty Dancing.

Here’s where to VOTE for it to get released onto DVD.

        It occasionally airs on TV, but not often enough. So if you can track down a VHS copy, and want to see the 80s at their ultimate bliss before teen films were taken seriously and had to decide between a limited R and a more commercially-appealing PG-13, this one’s right on the cutting edge and looks it; appearing to have been directed just last year. And it makes for a great companion piece or ‘double-feature’ with All The Right Movies; the early Tom Cruise flick that had come out just a year earlier (1983) with a similar steel-mill setting, a decent soundtrack, and yes, another notoriously known full-frontal scene for a leading male. But don’t let that be your only reason for seeing Reckless … it has a better soundtrack than All The Right Moves ever did, and its that type of soundtrack that gives a little film like Reckless its needed energy to make up for its plot.

                            THE  WILD  LIFE
                               (1984  Rated  R)
    A loose sequel to Fast Times At Ridgemont High, which had taken the teen-genre by storm just two years earlier, introducing the world to a jillion up-and-coming stars … let alone black-and-white checkered VANS, this Cameron Crowe scripted piece (he also wrote Fast Times, based off his book), was heavily marketed at the time of release in 1984, along with the theme song (The Wild Life) by Bananarama of Cruel Summer fame.

        A major vehicle for Sean Penn’s brother Chris (who had appeared in the mega blockbuster Footloose also in 1984), the tagline “It’s casual” … actually caught on with young thriller-babies in American lingo at the time simply by all of us watching the film advertised on tv with a clip of Penn saying probably his most famous acting line, even though most of us were too young to see this R-rated partially post-high-school pic that merely follows an ensemble group of characters after high school, (though a few are still in it) and into their job force of the world in which they never feel they’re truly a part of unless they mingle with the older, or throw the biggest party to prove that they’re still young.

        It’s a bit amazing this one’s not on DVD yet, if only because Crowe latter obtained such huge fame with Say Anything, Jerry McGuire, and Almost Famous. But it is strongly believed the “music rights” is what is holding up the picture from obtaining release, as although the movie didn’t meet box-office expectations, it had a great soundtrack (as most teen movies in the 1980s did!) which featured an entire SCORE by Eddie Van Halen, in addition to songs by The Human League, Huey Lewis, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Buffalo Springfield … and low and behold, Madonna herself, singing “BURNING UP” … which ironically, is in my own novel Signature Place, just as "Mirror Man" by the Human League (which is featured in this film), is also featured in my 1st novel, TRUE.
* (
This might very well be the first time a Madonna song was licensed for a movie, as she had just arrived on the scene in 1983, with ‘84 being her official red-carpet household name imprint. And since then, most pictures can not feature a Madonna song unless she wrote the song directly for the picture like "Crazy For You" which was written for the 1985 film Vision Quest, although she did approve "Holiday" for The Wedding Singer soundtrack.)

        Sadly, Chris Penn died not too long ago, and if anything, Universal Pictures might start to dust off Chris’s earlier stuff the more his work gets rediscovered and more analyzed, since so often it was hard to shine under big brother Sean’s incredible career … who ironically, married Madonna a few years after this film’s release, even though Chris was an exceptional actor who played his parts with fun and grit.

        Playing a bit of a knock-off of Sean’s original Fast Times “Spicoli” character, Chris is the ultimate boy-toy “John Drake” who won’t grow up even though high school is over for him … and he is obsessed with on-again-off-again girlfriend “Eileen”, played wonderfully by actress Jenny Wright shortly before she did St. Elmo’s Fire and Young Guns II. In many ways, the picture belongs to her; as she seems to be the most well scripted out of the bunch and somewhat anchors the picture by interlinking it with everyone else, including her best friend, played by a young Lea Thompson, as “Anita” fresh off of All The Right Moves and Red Dawn. Thompson’s character is also on-again, off-again, with Eric Stolz as “Bill Conrad”; the bookworm post-high-school bachelor in the film, and the two actors carried on a relationship for quite some time in real life, which ended on the set of the highly respected John Hughes production “Some Kind Of Wonderful” three years later in 1987, once Lea fell in love with Wonderful’s director.

        The film also features Ilan Mitchell-Smith as “Jim Conrad”, Bill’s baby-brother … who carries a unique torch throughout the picture by adding a healthly message to the film with a subplot consisting of being obsessed with how cool he thinks it is to be talking to an ex-Vet who served in the Vietnam War, wonderfully crafted by  beer-bellied Randy Quaid. Smith, who walks around town in the film wearing army-gear and a tough know-it-all attitude, builds up Quaid to all his peers, then finally figures out by the end of the picture, that Quaid is no role-model to idolize, and along with Jenny Wright, he helps save the picture from being just your everyday 1980s exploitative teen-fare. Like Thompson, Smith would also go on to work with John Hughes in Weird Science right after this picture, as would actor Ben Stein, who also plays a brief role in the film … and then later went on to become the dull Economics Teacher in Hughes’ Ferris Buller’s Day Off in 1986.

        Rounding out the cast is a very young Sherilyn Fenn years before she stole Laura Palmer’s thunder in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, and Rick Moranis as Jenny Wright’s nerdy new-wave clothing-store boss who’s always hitting on her, and who was having a good year this year in real life, having appeared in one of the year’s biggest hits, Ghostbusters, as well as the cult-fave Streets of Fire … years before he would become the Disney-friendly dad in the Honey, I Shrunk The Kid films and Ron Howard’s Parenthood. So the cast IS INDEED a great ensemble one that went on to bigger and better things. There’s even a brief-role for a young and often overlooked and underappreciated Hart Bochner as Lea Thompson’s sex-obessed cop/boyfriend who stops by a little too often at the doughnut house where Thompson works, fresh off his role in Supergirl (released this year as well) and 4 years away from his scene-stealing appearance in DIE HARD as “Harry Ellis”; Holly’s boss who gives her the Rolex-watch … then gets blown away for acting like he knew Bruce Willis.

        Like with Fast Times, The Wild Life was an early example of the main character … being an entire GROUP of characters, and I just love those kinds of pictures, because although they may not have much to offer, the illusion they give, no matter how bad their plots may or may not be, is one in which the viewer always gets the feeling that they’re truly opening a window to a real slice-of-life to all these average folks who spend their days and nights working … or going out trying to find their place in the world. And considering there was this mystique with wounded BabyBoomer Vietnam war-Vets at the time (as this movie was 2 years before Oliver Stone's  Platoon would  become the official Vietnam awakening story for young ThrillerBabies), I’m most taken by this realism of this subplot alone, as for all the T&A that’s featured in the film, Randy Quaid places the movie into real-time perspective … and then gives it a nice twist by revealing during the end-sequence, that he’s shooting heroin in his arm, all while the two young boys who are fascinated with him, are waiting for him in his living room so that they can hang out with him and drink beer underage. It’s a bit “heavy” for a film this light-hearted and at first feels a bit out of place, but upon the re-watches of the film (which we ThrillerBabies are good at doing; afterall; we were the 1st generation allowed to re-watch films due to the invention of the VCR), this scene stealer moment waves a strong flag for the kinds of role-models all us latchkey kids like Smith were trying to find at the time.

        Smith is probably the coolest one in the movie, and with the most brains, even though that title was obviously meant to be for Chris Penn’s character … who gets quit annoying after a while (as Spicoli in Fast Times was downright funny, Drake in The Wild Life is almost TOO CASUAL) … even though he does get more authentic towards the end of the pic, despearatly trying to win back Jenny Wright; who has the ultimate 80s punk hair in this picture, that was oh so popular at the time.

        It’s a wonderful slice-of-life 80s style for those of us who want to re-introduce the picture to those who were born after the 80s, and have never heard of it, and truly, it’s not that bad of a film if you completely separate it from Fast Times, and just enjoy it for the small film it is … but one with one hell of a soundtrack that never made it to CD. It’s films like this that one can easily say, “had it been made as an indie and with no studio backing, it would be considered a respected classic because of its great cast and  solid soundtrack!”. So just say that to yourself upon viewing it for the first time, and you’ll probably like it.

        One can easily tell by listening to Van Halen’s score, that it would eventually evolve into Halen's future 5150 album 2 years later. And the film has become relished by Halen fans because so, as it has Chris Penn fans, and Crowe fans, let alone, the always beautiful Lea Thompson. But again, the two characters who end up owning it, are Jenny Wright and Ilan Mitchell-Smith; 2 actors who ironically, dropped out of the Hollywood scene and went on to live regular lives shortly after their careers got started; Smith becoming a college professor in San Angelo, just right up the street from ‘me’ in Midland, TX. So it’s a novelty of a movie, that’s own lead-single by Bananarama didn’t quite make it as a success either. But 1984 marked the birth year of John Hughe’s arrival onto the teen scene as a director with Sixteen Candles. And high-school films were changing formats during this time, trying to move more away from an R-rating … and approaching PG-13 terrority in order to try and make more money by allowing more people under 17 into the theater. The Wild Life works like a time-capsule both in and outside the movie industy of one of the last sexploitative films to be commercaily made by a major studio, yet because of Crowe’s script, it rises way beyond that by the end of the picture, and you just wish you could step back into the 1980s … just for a little while, where payphones served for cell-phones, and town was still safe enough to walk around it at night and head for the bowling alley to cruise for junior-high chicks … AND your older brother or sister whom you hated because you wish you were as cool as they were ... or prayed to God you would never end up LIKE them.

        VOTE for the The Wild Life to get released onto DVD by clicking HERE. And as I said earlier, some of these songs used were not quite famous at the time, yet have since gone on to become major pieces for the artists that sang them. Contracts to use such music was often made for film and video rights, but since the invention of the DVD was a few lightyears away, the rights to use the same music on a DVD, was never even taken into consideration. Van Halen is now considered the best guitarist of his generation, and Hendrix is one of the richest dead musicians in the world. Then there's The Stones; the oldest and most respect rock group alive. And since the film was not a huge success, it might be a while before we see a DVD of the exact same print without any music altered.

        For now, you can look for it on TV … or simply contact me and we’ll talk about it; I have a fully digital full frame copy that I was grateful to get by way of recording the film uncut when it aired on cable a few years ago, never knowing it wasn’t even available on DVD. As I truly like films about ensembale casts … and not just one character. And THE WILD LIFE barely gets the job done by putting the camera on so many differeat types of personalities; sometimes that truy IS how real life LOOKS! It’s hard on ALL of us, no matter who or what we are.
Afterall dude, “It’s casual….

                           KEY  EXCHANGE
( 1985  Rated  R )

        Based on a well-known play by Kevin Wade (who is now a respected screenwriter with the likes of MEET JOE BLACK and MAID IN MANHATTAN), this one is probably our most oddest entry yet … as it truly is hard to put this one in a genre.

        With ThrillerBaby.com, I didn’t want to include just ANYTHING from my generation’s era that was out-of-print or not yet released (that might include just anything!), I wanted to only include those pieces of film art that in some way, sparked our interest either large or small, and were somehow either overlooked, or have been out of print so long, that they’re virtually dead to the public. And truly, I don’t even remember this one at theaters, which in 1985, would’ve been released somewhere in between St. Elmo’s Fire, and Back To The Future; not an easy position for many films that were caught “in between” genres during Spielberg’s most diverse decade.

And this one is definitely caught “in between.”

        If for any other reason, as a writer myself, I think Key Exchange is interesting for studying storytellers (in any medium, whether it be filmmaking and screenwriters and novelists) to display perhaps a rather good example of what I call “central character out-of-focus”; in that I mean how the writing and casting process in a film is so crucial in any way shape or form, no matter if you’re playing the leading deaf teacher who teaches other deaf students how to hear with their hands and read lips … or the janitor walking the streets who offers to sell them his entire musical collection because he’s now gone deaf due to a horrible accident and wants no trace of how he was once a famous musician. (These are just examples mind you, with the intention being that the 2nd co-character sounds like a much more interesting character, even though he just might be a bit part in the film and with very little screen time.)

Now, let me metaphor that scenario to Key Exchange:

        What’s interesting to me here, is how the entire movie is obviously meant to be a story about a sexually-liberated open-to-seeing-other-people couple in NY, portrayed by actors Ben Masters and Brooke Anderson (who do exceptionally well at having fun with their somewhat interesting characters) … yet … what is supposed to be a rather sublime subplot by the writer in order to add “motivational growth” to the two leads about a best-friend to Ben Masters (played hauntingly real-to-life by Daniel Stern of City Slickers and Home Alone fame), actually STEALS THE MOVIE AWAY from the two leads, so much so, that there’s moments in the film when you wish HE would end up with Brooke Anderson; as he seems to be much more suited for her, not Ben Masters, whose character is just plane flat shallow, if indeed real.

        But in movies, things can go strange when you’re turning what works as PLAY into a film with perhaps very little money. And that “small production” does show. The directing is just almost too wide, and not closed in enough … the back-story features far too much bike-racing for a movie that has nothing to do with bike-racing … the leads are kinda hard to relate to, considering one’s a writer, and the other one’s a production assistant living in NY … these kinds of arty people who live life wherever their inhibitions take them, might be fine with small films, but in the “real world”; as in those other 48 states that make up the U.S. and really do have real boundaries with real relationships that either last or don’t last, this one is a wonderful example of a DELICIOUS MISSFIRE to study how the small-part for the co-character (STERN) … actually gets so much wattage from the writer … that by the time the film’s mid-way over, you get this wonderful feeling that indeed the movie is supposed to be about HIM; as he is just so likeable; and I don’t think that was intended.

        Not many ThrillerBabies even know who Brooke Anderson and Ben Masters are or were … but Stern played a burglar in Home Alone in 1990 (five years after this film), and because that film was so successful and is now a staple of our Christmas world every year, it’s kinda neat to look back and see that he was, and remains, a very talented actor who has quite a bit of interesting work leading up to Home Alone and City Slickers, that I think, in time, will be re-popularized the more the film-world looks back at him in future years. 1982’s all-star “Diner” is always great (and by the way, Diner makes a great gift for a groom if one of your comrades is getting married! I’ve given to grooms several times, and they always call and thank me for it personally, which doesn’t always happen when you give a toaster to one of your buds!) Stern’s work in his film debut in “Breaking Away” with an early Dennis Quaid is wonderful as well. But I like Key Exchange because I’m a writer at heart.

        Granted, I’ve only written 2 novels, but I write a song about an average of one per week and have done so for nearly 20 years now. So it’s kinda hard to SURPRISE me with anything new, or anything old that provides a fresh “newness to it”, and what made watching Key Exchange fun, is that you really never know where it’s going and what it’s trying to say exactly, but the few times Stern has screen-time, he steals all of it, all without saying much. There’s something to be said about that. As not even ‘I’ can pinpoint it. He has this thing with all his characters who are not all oddball PG-rated burglars or horse-riding comrades, that he just is kinda your average everyday man whom you find yourself rooting for. And much of it here, is due largely in part that the film was indeed a play in 1981, so with that said, I kinda could see how the writing was all over the place. But what the writer and director probably didn’t anticipate, was Stern going on to bigger and better things like my personal favorite; narrating “The Wonder Years”; another tid-bit of information seldom known to thriller babies; which he started to do 3 years after his work in Exchange; 1988. So this is one of his better ones, and one that is intriguing to watch because by all means, the film looks as if it’s going to go to him … than doesn’t, all unintentional. And when it doesn’t, you almost admire his character for going on with his life. Yet had I viewed this picture in a test-screening (I was 10 in 1985, so HOW COULD I? lol), but I would’ve thrown out everything and made Stern take over the wheel since he does anyway; which is why I call it “central-character out of focus” because the central characters (Ben Masters) is just not focused enough in writing department both on and off the screen, and because of this, his supporting character (Stern) shoots him out of focus even more so by stealing his leading role. This rarely happens in a film to this kind of magnitude. (As Stern seems to be given an awful lot of screen time!) So that is why I think the film is one to study in craft.

        It’s a great case of a smally-written “just a good friend with advice” type supporting role … emerges if you have an interesting actor to play it, and somewhat not-so-interesting characters who are portraying the lead.

        It’s filled with everything that made the 1980s dated (and yes, I love the decade, but sometimes I am a bit shy with revealing some of our styles), jeans that for some reason went all the way up to a woman’s bra … and entire soundtrack by the same folk-type singer that has a decent voice and I’m sure a lot to say, but it drowns the picture because the melodies aren’t very memorable; with the SHOCKING exception of how they were ever able to acquire the rights to use James Ingram’s “100 WAYS” from 1981; a major hit for him and Quincy Jones. In fact, when this song is played, is when the picture starts to become so interesting, due to Daniel Stern, that you are somehow able to completely forget that it was ever meant to circle around Ben Masters who continually shares keys to a single apartment with one special girl, ready and willing to be ok if they each want to see other people IN the apartment; a great problem-causer that makes way for plenty of dilemma, but it just needed a bit more crafting for the screen, and perhaps another director and bigger budget. But hey. I love the little films that could … and didn’t, and then a quarter of a century after they’ve appeared died, we’re still somehow talking about them.

        It’s a perfect little “fluff” of a pic to fill in those nights when you just don’t want to watch a whole movie because you you’re too tired and are trying to go back to sleep but can’t (as is often the case with ME and MY busy brain) , but end up wasting 3 hours because you did nothing but surf channels to find even a decent movie that wouldn’t require Malcom’s Law in order to understand its plot; which means you could’ve spent that 3 hours watching a great film like Dance With Wolves or The Godfather; instead of reality junk you’ll never remember. (Trust me. Pop on a dvd-movie, instead of surfing television for 3 hours to find one; you’ll learn more, even if it’s one you’ve already seen. I often fall asleep best and most comforted when listening to a great commentary, that often causes me to open my eyes to hit the rewind button. And by morning, the wonderful knowledge that soaked into my brain while I was dozing off, somehow made me a better storyteller!)

        “Key Exchange” is that kinda movie. As it also a good example of the kinds of ways that the young Me-Generation yuppies (those a bit younger than the BabyBoomers) were seeing themselves in the decade of trying to create equalness for women in what was once a man’s world. These kinds of pictures most likely come across as a bit shallow now, because AIDS rose to fame in 1985 during the heist of such pictures like this, and looking back on all those “it’s hip to have many partners” faze of society just seems out-dated now, and somewhat immoral; another pointer Stern is brought in to ad; as he seems to be the only non-selfish one in the picture, and because so, everything is thrown his way, yet he turns it all down to resume the average life by the end.

        It’s very interesting for this alone, as it is to see the kinds of sexual ideologies that were going on right before the AIDS crisis, and were the results of all those ’key-parties’ by the BabyBoomers in the 1970s just five years earlier.

        Until it get’s an official release which you can vote for by clicking HERE, email me and put the name of the title in the subject box. As I have a pretty good widescreen digital version that might help the wait not seem so long; and I seriously doubt much attention has been given to this film since it’s release in 1985.

        And it should be used in film-schools and creative-writing as an example of how perfectly casting a supporting character with not much to his life on paper, can get exemplified and can become more REAL than the two leading characters who seem so UNREAL, that the REAL steals the light; but when “that light” is Daniel Stern, it’s very genre-less … you just can’t decide if you like the picture or loathe it, but I guess Stern saves it, and it also features wonderful bit parts for Danny Aiello who would do Moonstruck shortly after this film in 1987, as well as the always watchable and underappreciated TONY ROBERTS who plays Anderson’s talk-show-host/boss, and did one of my personal ThrillerBaby favorites (Disney’s The 1,000,000 Duck !) from 1971.

        Key Exchange probably worked better as a play, but then again, it’s not a play that caused me to talk about it here a quarter of a century later on a very anticipated website.
So it did SOMETHING to me….
See if does something to you sometime. You might just like it. Many people come away with different elements they like from it, none of them agreeing on one specific thing. Very few films are like that. If anything, the film has a genre-less genre all its own. Comedy? Drama? Social Commentary Statement? Or just good old mid 80s when everybody’s apartment looked empty in furniture … because the “I’m just so eclectic, I don’t believe in many furnishings” attitude was rather hip; much in part due to a style that a certain movie opened the decade with; American Gigolo in 1980. A billion and one Americans tried to copy the style of Richard Gere’s bachelor-pad in that film, and this is one of the many; as is the television series Moonlighting which often made the offices of Bruce Willis and Cybil Sheppard look SO clean, one hardly believed that they ever dirtied it and got any work done! 

        To VOTE for it to be released onto DVD, you'll have to start a petition for it at www.PetitionsOnline.com
 or www.ipetitions.com; as it's so uknown, even TCM's website doesn't have it listed under Stern's credits.


                 RAGGEDY  ANN  and  ANDY:
                            ( 1977  Rated 'G' )

( 1979 Rated 'PG' )

( 1986  Rated ' PG-13' )