While cooped up during this pandemic, take a look into the abstruse corners of Netflix or YouTube Movies.
Obscure Movie Review explores films that are more-or-less mainstream (or at least supposed to be), with actors and directors you've heard of, but flew under the radar.
This curious blend of genres and eras failed to win over audiences in 1984, but most of those involved would go on/continue to enjoy successful careers. Here's an examination of an ambitious action meets musical meets adventure meets noir meets romance meets drama.
'A Rock and Roll Fable'
Streets of Fire was directed and co-written by Walter Hill, who was coming off a smash hit with 48 Hrs - which featured Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte and is considered the beginning of the 'buddy cop' genre.
It stars Michael Paré as Tom Cody, a former soldier hired to rescue singer - and his ex-girlfriend - Ellen Aim (Diane Lane), who was kidnapped by The Bombers biker gang lead by Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe).
He reluctantly enlists the services of another former soldier, McCoy (Amy Madigan), who badgers him to be cut into the arrangement. And brings along Ellen's manager and current boyfriend, Billy Fish (Rick Moranis), who'd hired him.
They rescue Ellen in a - fittingly - fiery shootout and flee to prepare for the gang's reprisal.
You probably noticed...
Key to this movie is that takes place in its own world. Which brought together elements of 1950s Americana with a more contemporary setting.
The cars are old, but the music - and Ellen's onstage outfits - are very 1980s. It takes place in locations such as diners that are also awash in neon lights.
Given Streets of Fire is set in its own place and time, it has to be considered a 'fantasy'. However, its creators were a bit reluctant to adopt that tag, as it conjured something even more abstract such as Star Wars or something from Disney.
What's in a song?
While the movie may be obscure, Dan Hartman's 'I Can Dream About You' is not - it was a top 10 hit in Australia and the US and regularly gets a jersey in 'Awesome 80s' countdowns and compilations.
The track appears towards the close of the film, performed by fictional band The Sorels, whose lead singer lip-syncs vocals by Winston Ford.
Songwriter Hartman - realising its potential - would remove Ford's vocals, add his own and release it as a single.
In the music video he's seen singing while working as a bartender, as The Sorels play the song on the bar's TV. To the casual viewer that might not make a whole lot of sense, without knowing the context of it being off the soundtrack.
Why is it obscure?
Hill and co-writer Larry Gross had worked together on 48 Hrs, and given its success, their Streets of Fire script was snapped up and given a budget of $14.5m.
However, it would go on to make just over $8m of that back at the box office. In a 2016 interview, Gross said that the film had test-screened well, but he would be "shattered when the film didn't perform".
Critics panned it for being boring and poorly executed. Although, these days it does hold a fairly reasonable 67 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
In that same interview, Gross admitted that during filming he noticed the blending of different elements was coming together in a strange way - and that the finished product would be different to the concept they had on paper. He also pointed to RoboCop and Se7en, as examples of movies that did a better job of creating their own worlds.
As a director, Hill would return to form with Brewster's Millions, Red Heat, and peak in familiar territory with Another 48 Hrs. And as a writer and producer, he has the second two installments of the Alien franchise to his name.
Dafoe is the biggest name to emerge from Streets, although the majority of the then-young main cast would go on to bigger and better things. That is of course with the obvious exception of - ironically - the star Paré.
She may have had to wait a while, but Lane would land a role in a blockbuster, with 2000's The Perfect Storm. She was nominated for Academy and Golden Globe awards for Unfaithful (2002) and Under the Tuscan Sun (2003).
Whereas for Moranis, a not-so-little film called Ghostbusters was just around the corner. And Madigan would go on to play the female lead in Field of Dreams.
OBSCURE MOVIE REVIEWS RATINGS:
- Hidden Gem - the highest rating, a genuinely good movie that shouldn't be obscure;
- Missed Opportunity - a flawed movie that had potential but fell short for whatever reason;
- Guilty Pleasure - not a good movie, but enjoyable, think 'so bad it's good';
- Best Forgotten - obscure for a reason, don't bother with it.
Streets of Fire is a weird movie. Ultimately it's an example of its creators' ambitions exceeding what they were able to grasp.
The idea of blending eras to create a world for a movie to live in, would be done successfully just years later by David Lynch with Blue Velvet - which fused the 1950s, 60s, and 80s. And Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown and Death Proof looked like the 70s, but weren't set then - the characters have mobile phones in the latter.
At the outset, Streets points out that this is all happening in a fantasy land, by saying it's "another time, another place". Which implies trepidation on the part of its makers - like they don't think the audience will be with them on where it's headed.
As a study of film it's interesting, but probably might've been a better stage production.
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