“blue thunder” and “backtrack” (aka Catchfire”)

I watched two movies back-to-back (unintentionally) that had helicopter chases.

The first was Blue Thunder, staring the greatest leading man of all time…Roy Scheider. It is also the greatest movie that Paul Verhoeven never made.

No disrespect to the highly competent John Badham, but Verhoeven would have crushed the shit out of this material. The film takes place in 1980s LA and is about a police pilot and Vietnam vet, played by Scheider, who gets introduced to a military-style helicopter that the city wants to use for patrol. The villain is Malcolm McDowell, a British man that somehow became a Lt. Colonel in the US Army, who for some contrived reason wants to kill Scheider. The fascistic overtones are right up Verhoeven’s alley, and even some of the story beats would be echoed in Robocop four years later.

But the movie looks incredible. John A. Alonzo is really an unsung hero in the field of cinematography. The handheld work is really ahead of its time, and masterfully done. After watching the first scene of Scheider walking out to his helicopter, I was shocked that this came out in 1983. It’s a natural look that even films today have trouble emulating.

And that final helicopter chase was incredible. All of the concerns that Scheider’s character had regarding public safety goes out the window once when he gets hunted by fighter jets and Malcolm McDowell. Chicken factories and buildings get blown up while debris falls on the people below. Meanwhile, Candy Clark drives like a bat out of hell down the streets of LA. As far as 80s action movies go, I’m not saying that it’s up there with the Schwarzenegger, Verhoeven, and John McTiernan classics, but it is very good. In fact, I would say it was a prototype for subsequent 80s flicks.

The other film was less of a banger but no less interesting (for various reasons). It was Dennis Hopper’s Backtrack (or Catchfire, idk). There are apparently two versions: theatrical cut and a directors cut. I guess I watched the director’s cut.

Hopper himself was apparently dissatisfied with the original version and had his “directed by” credit given to Alan Smithee. Honestly, he should have taken his name off the director’s cut as well.

What’s it about? Not sure.

I think Jodie Foster accidentally sees a mob hit by Joe Pesci and Pesci tries to track her down by hiring Hopper and Hopper falls in love with her (and she with him).

Now I’ll say this because I’ve said enough about dude’s bodies in this blog and it’s time women get their due: Jodie Foster is fiiiiiiiiiiiine as hell in this movie. You could say that I was “sexually attracted” to her. It made me uncomfortable (in my pants specifically). I could understand why Hopper didn’t want to kill her.

But the problem with this movie (one of many) is that Dennis Hopper is, I’m sorry to say, not fit for the role. Hopper is at least 25 years older than Foster. There’s nothing romantic about their scenes together. They’re downright creepy. It’s a role that someone like Nicholas Cage, Mickey Rourke, or Sean Penn could have aced at that time.

That being said, Hopper REALLY makes some decisions in this movie, both in front of and behind the camera. To be honest, I don’t even know what he’s trying to do. Is that accent New York or Cajun? Does he know his lines or is he just making shit up? Now no one on God’s green earth could have saved this screenplay, but Hopper’s visual flair and strange acting decisions steal the show…almost to the point where you forget that heavy hitters like Joe Pesci and Vincent Price are also in the movie.

RIP Dennis Hopper and Roy Scheider 😔

man with the golden eye v: 4 your eyes only

The warm breeze blew through the trees while the sun beamed down. Dead and mangled bodies littered the jungle floor.

I rested beneath a tree, waiting for the Angelikas.

A chopper rattled in the distance. The trees rustled as it hovered overhead. Four ropes dropped down to a clearing in front of me.

The four Angelikas lowered down.

“You’re coming with us,” they said.

“Not today sisters!”

I attempted to fire off a clip, but my rifle jammed. I threw the weapon down. If it came down to hand-to-hand combat, I was fucked.

Three of the Angelikas attempted to corner me. One stood back. I threw a grenade, but one caught it and threw it back. The explosion knocked me back a few feet.

The chopper continued to hover overhead.

As I laid there in a daze, I suddenly remembered: Izzy packed my burst action Beretta. The Angelikas were inching closer. I pulled out the sidearm and unleashed the three rounds into the chopper.

I could see the pilot’s brains splatter across the glass. His body leaned forward and the helicopter came careening down into the jungle. As it exploded, fire rained down onto the three Angelikas.

They might’ve been genetically enhanced. But as I’ve learned time and time again, no one is immune to the destructive force of a fireball.

I walked towards the last remaining Angelika. She instantly cowered down.

“Don’t kill me! I’m the original, I’m not genetically enhanced,” she screamed.

“Where’s Franco?!”

“He’s holed up at the abandoned airstrip a few klicks away.”

“You’re taking me to him.”

I held her at gunpoint as we journeyed towards the airstrip. Franco was in the hanger while his private jet rested on the runway.

“Here’s your communist mole,” I told him.

“Excellent work, Mr. James,” he replied. “Now that I can trust you, I’ll reveal to you my secret plan.”

Franco turned around and removed his eye patch. A brilliant flash of gold appeared from where left eye once was. He laid a steel briefcase on the table.

Inside was a ridiculous looking retinal scanner.

“When I run my golden eye through this retinal scan,” he said. “50 scud missiles armed with nuclear warheads will fire from beneath the Gulf of Mexico. Each aimed at a major city in the Western Hemisphere.”

“You’re a madman, Mr. Werner,” I replied. “You’re not even gonna attempt to blackmail world leaders? What kind of villain are you?”

“Once when the world’s major cities have been destroyed,” Franco continued. “They’ll blame the communists, and leaders of the world will have no choice but to use my services to defeat them.”

“Billions of people will die, just so you can make a profit,” I replied.

“Basically, yeah.”

I’ve seen these cases hundreds of times: madman wants to destroy the world just so he can make a few extra pennies. People will do anything for money these days.

“With that type of destruction,” I interjected. “Nuclear winter could last ages. Are you sure that you completely thought the consequences of your plan, Mr. Werner?”

Franco pondered for a second.

“Shit, I guess I didn’t,” he replied. “Oh well, it’s a risk worth taking. But tonight, we feast!”

Franco left the hanger. Angelika was locked up behind a gate.

“James,” she said. “Franco killed my friends, my family. All I’ve ever wanted was justice. Please don’t let him do this.”

Franco returned with his servants. They were bringing in cartons full of local cuisine out of the jet. He poured a glass of bourbon, then lifted it to make a toast.

“To the future,” he said.

I had to act quickly.