Blue Thunder (1983)

Today's selection:

I can't seem to stay away from Los Angeles in this series. I don't mean to over-represent any one urban landscape of yesteryear, but some keep popping up more than others. 

So it goes.

I hadn't seen this movie in over thirty years. Some of the specific ways it hasn't aged well are addressed thoughtfully in this review. Also some nice words on the late great Roy Scheider:

"If you’re like me, you saw Blue Thunder in a drive-in theater when you were 13 and the two things you remember are 1) the bad-ass machine gun and 2) tits, but you’d be wrong. No, this movie boils down to 1 hour 45 minutes of Roy Scheider rolling his eyes."

Although I saw it not in a drive-in but on VHS in Germany (and I was ten) "tits and machine guns" pretty much describes my memory of the film, as well. There's a whole lot of the latter but not really an excessive amount of the former. What is there though is certainly gratuitous and more than a bit creepy: the first is when the helicopter cops hover outside "Nudy Lucy's" house, the second is when they demonstrate the Blue Thunder's extraordinary zoom-in video capacity by aiming the camera down a prostitute's blouse. 

Since neither are SFW you'll just have to take my work for it.

The plot is both simple and overcomplicated. The simple: Vietnam vet cop (Frank Murphy, played by Scheider) and his untested new partner (Lymangood, played by Daniel Stern) fight both the shadowy higher-ups that lost Vietnam have betrayed America him and an old nemesis from Murphy's past. 

The first draft of the script was apparently a little more First Blood-y, with Scheider's character going on a rampage and destroying much of L.A. before the F-16s shoot him down.
Some of that First Blood-ness is still there, such as all the scenes where Scheider blows up cops.
After taking on two F-16s and his old nemesis, he dumps evidence of the conspiracy on the press and blows up the Blue Thunder, saving the American public from Project THOR.

The overcomplicated: everything else (the Crime Task Force murder that starts things, the shadow council, some of the record-and-erase elements of the tech, most aspects of Project THOR, etc.) Oh well. It's entertaining, but there are plenty of plotholes and what not.

This scene, for example - they made a big point of showing all the helicopter's features. Among them (hardly technology of the future) is an external speaker.
Why not just turn it on and tell her where to look? (It's more dramatic for him to be gesturing and shouting, I guess.)

I ended up with an insane amount of screencaps this time around. This was a triple threat for Scenic Route purposes, as you'll see. Whole lot of Thundercaps * coming your way!

* I apologize for that. Also, "Thundercaps" copyright Dog Star Omnibus 2017.
I love fake military towns, in movies or otherwise. So surreal.
Apparently this is a supermarket now.
This L.A. River sequence is amazing. Dangerous from the sound of it, but amazing.
This scene where Murphy maneuvers the heat-seeking missile into the Japanese BBQ has some definite 80s undertones.

I expected all of the helicopter shots of course:

But it's a hell of a car movie, as well.

I've a friend who hates Chevrolets with a passion. Myself, I think the '71 Vega is pretty cool.
Some fantastic stunt driving all around. Not quite Gone in Sixty Seconds level - but what is? - but moreso than I ever hear when the film comes up.
I'd say the action's split 60/40 between helicopter and car. Much higher than I expected.

Murphy's reaction to database sharing via the internet is to blow up the computer. The extra rounds and computer tracking just ain't worth all the rest of it. I miss the 80s.
Thermograph. This was still cool ten years later for Patriot Games. Probably still now.
Helicopters eavesdropping with military tech!
Tapped phones!
Leave my girlfriend alone!
And so on.


Short answer: no.

Longer answer: while I was watching the ending of this movie, several of the shadow-government/ false flag / skyscraper missile attack elements began to join together in an appealing chain of 9/11 conspiracy. All for fun of course - I am in no way suggesting there even was a 9/11 conspiracy, or wasn't one for that matter. I just like narrative threads. Anyway, I googled it and saw a couple of posts along the same lines, but I didn't like the host sites. So I pursued no further. I mean - it isn't there, however "there" it is; that road ends in a parking lot in a fistfight over a Civil War replica saber, to paraphrase Kyle Kinane. 

It does, however, predict Top Gun in more than a few ways. 

Beyond the F-16s, I mean. First there's the murdered sidekick to be avenged:
Poor Lymangood.
Next there's everything hinging on "hitting the brakes and he'll fly right by."
Okay, a helicopter loop, but same principle.
Finally, Murphy's character arc redemption also involves huge attacks on downtown LA with massive loss of life, government collapse, and general panic and mayhem.

Perhaps it's only a case of shared 80s-bro Movie Tropes. And there are significant differences between the two endings beyond what I describe. (And it's not like Lymangood died as a direct result of his partner's (ahem) maverick decision-making.) Nevertheless.


We covered Roy Scheider already
Candy Clark, last seen in these pages here.
Daniel Stern, last seen in these pages never.
Malcolm McDowell. Possibly his first appearance here? I'm surprised by this, unless I'm forgetting something.
Sgt. Hulka, to whose memory the film is dedicated.
Larry Sheiner, as mentioned last time.
Jim Rockford's buddy in the LAPD Joe Santos.
Jason Bernard as the Mayor.
And his brother Ed as Sgt. Short.
Anthony James, typically cast as the shady-looking bad guy.
And this guy. "Aaaaay - get outtta there jagoff!"

I guess "Nudy Lucy" is actually an active and relatively locally famous yoga instructor named Ana Forrest. No screencap because this is a family blog, god-f**king-damn-it.

"Blue Thunder is an above average action movie from an era where CGI wasn't an alternative to doing something crazy." 
- Mark Pakavance (author of this fun Airwolf vs. Blue Thunder piece.)