Over twenty years ago, in the period before I met the woman who would soon move in with me and much later become my wife, I used to watch movies quite a lot. This was the golden age of VHS video and small video shops with quality making way for quantity meaning there was a neverending stream of films to rent of every genre imaginable. Some were great, some were appalling, some were both great and appalling.
In the period since I met my now-wife I have introduced her to some of these films as they’ve sprung to mind or I’ve accidentally rediscovered them somehow. I love all these films for their nostalgia factor or because I genuinely think they’re fabulous. My wife does not always share my opinion despite repeated attempts to change her mind.
My wife – being a woman with eyes – already had a bit of a thing for Johnny Depp. Thus, she had no problems at all agreeing to watch Cry Baby and there was no need for The Restraining Device. This, along with Hairspray, formed my introduction to my wife of the wonderful world of John Waters. Is there a more enigmatic film director on the planet? There is not. The film is a great 1950s-style musical with great songs and wonderful cast.
“Look!” I said to my wife. “That’s Traci Lords.”
“Should I know her?” she asked.
“Where do you know her from?”
Wife’s review: So good. John Waters can do no wrong.
My wife describes this fantastic fantasy adventure (my words; not hers) as my “Hawk the Slayer”, meaning I feel about The Beastmaster in the same way she feels about Hawk the Slayer; she has fond memories of the latter while accepting its many flaws and assumes I feel the same way about the former. I do not feel that way, though. She is wrong. It has Marc Singer, witchcraft, human sacrifice, Rip Torn, scary leathery bird things, and ferrets. That’s the sort of pedigree you won’t find anywhere else. The Beastmaster shits all over Hawk the Slayer. That’s all you need to know.
Note: under no circumstances ever watch Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time. Just. Don’t. I’m not kidding.
Wife’s review: It’s nice that you like it but it’s not very good.
Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. Cops. Sick and tired of getting nowhere with the criminal elements of Chicago they decide to retire to Miami. They’ve just got to survive the homicidal tendencies of Jimmy Smits and a montage to the sound of Sweet Freedom by Michael McDonald. One of the greatest songs ever.
Wife’s review: Are you sure I’ve watched this? It doesn’t sound familiar.
This is one of the films on the list that is nostalgic rather than good. I mean, I used to think it was good but then I watched it again and, well, it’s not really stood up against the passage of time that well. As far as my wife goes it’s not just that the film is badly written and badly acted but also that there’s not a single likeable character in it. She’s possibly right. But that’s beside the point when you remember that the film includes I’m Alright by Kenny Loggins. One of the greatest songs ever. Again.
Wife’s review: I liked the gopher’s dance.
Kind Hearts And Coronets
An Ealing comedy starring Alec Guinness in multiple roles as the obstacles to be killed in various ways by a man who feels his mother and he were wronged by the aristocracy. Dark, delightful, and Joan Greenwood’s portrayal of Sibella is delicious.
Wife’s review: Excellent film. Best funny serial killer film ever.
Many, many years ago I reviewed this Patrick Swayze masterpiece – Road House – on the occasion of my wife going out to buy the film for me for Christmas on account of me mentioning many, many times how much I loved it. She made a point of telling me how embarrassed she was buying it. I reassured her that after she’d watched it she’d realise there was nothing at all to be ashamed of.
Wife’s review: Such a bad film. I can’t believe I bought that for you in a shop in front of people.
The Princess Bride
“You’ll love this one.”
“Yes, I’ve heard that before.”
“No, but really. You like fantasy books. This is a fantasy but it’s funny.”
“Funny like Caddyshack, or actually funny?”
“Actually funny. There are rodents of unusual size! Inconceivable!”
“It’ll make sense after you’ve watched it.”
Wife’s review: One of the best films ever.
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve mentioned Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid to people and received blank looks in return. I’m struggling to think of a better Steve Martin film and yet this movie just seems to have slipped by so many people’s attentions and that included my wife. Luckily, it was easy to promote the film as mentioning it sort-of-co-starred Humphrey Bogart, Veronica Lake, Ingrid Bergman, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, James Cagney, and so on, and so on was enough to get her in a positive mood about it. The coffee-making scene is cinematic gold.
Wife’s review: Senor, your pajamas!
Armour of God
Armour of God was merely the first of the Jackie Chan films I made my wife watch. Amongst the others at the start were also Wheel on Meals, Project A, and Police Story. As you can tell, she didn’t prevent me from forcing the other films on her and that’s because it only takes one Jackie Chan film – particularly from that mid-1980s golden period of his – to hook a complete novice of humorous martial arts films in.
Wife’s review: How can anyone not like Jackie? Drove past his house in Hong Kong, don’t you know? Saw his star too.
Absolute classic! The various gangs of New York are meeting up to hold a truce, unite, and take over the entire city when the instigator of this and head of one of the largest gangs is assassinated. The Warriors from Coney Island are blamed and everyone is out to get them as they make their way back at night, on foot and on the grimy subway system. Great cast, great and simple story, and wonderfully over-the-top gangs.
Wife’s review: It’s a grower. I hated this the first time I watched it but, yes, it’s a really good film actually.
When you think of Tom Selleck you probably think of Magnum and his moustache or of Richard from Friends and his moustache. But I think of his role in Runaway with his moustache. A sci-fi film of 1980’s near future where robots are commonplace and starting to cause problems. There are elements of Blade Runner and I, Robot in it but with absolutely no expense granted to bring those ideas to the screen. But it does have terrifying spider robot things that inject acid and scared the crap out of me during my more impressionable era. And a moustache.
Wife’s review: Instantly forgettable because I’ve no memory of it.
Remo: Unarmed And Dangerous
Also known as Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins because everyone likes it when films have multiple titles for no reason whatsoever, but it’s the emboldened version of the film that I know it as and what I bought it as before subjecting my wife to its charms. The plot is that a cop is “killed”, then trained to become an assassin by a Korean martial artist in order to preserve the American Constitution. The plot is unimportant. What is important is that the interplay between Remo and his mentor, Chiun, is just great, often hilarious, and the film features Kate Mulgrew too. That’s Captain Janeway!
Wife’s review: I like Chiun. I do not like this movie.
The Andromeda Strain
Wonderful early 70s cinematography abounds with split screen action at times make this memorable enough without it being a great story, directed and acted fantastically. Great sterile feeling in the set design to reinforce the cold science taking place and it all adds up to a choking atmosphere of tension when the alien organism starts to expand beyond its confines, threatening everyone with a rather nasty case of death by nuclear weapon.
Wife’s review: Great film. Nice mix of science and action, and Dr. Ruth Leavitt is a brilliant example of a strong female role.
National Lampoon’s Vacation
I knew that my wife possibly wouldn’t like Vacation or its sequels because of Chevy Chase. But I also knew that repeated viewings of this tale of perseverance – the story of a man determined to spend time with his family and give them a good time whether they liked it or not – had a chance of winning her over.
Wife’s review: This is an awful movie. It’s got Chevy Chase in it, for fuck’s sake. How can you possibly like this movie? Why do you keep making me watch this shit? I don’t fucking like it.