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1984's Streets of Fire
September 7, 2011 5:13 PM   Subscribe

From the Salon review: "There [is] all kinds of pop culture iconography floating around in Walter Hill's "Streets of Fire": rock stars; outlaw biker gangs; neon marquees; Dick Tracy-style police cars; diners that serve up coffee in Syracuse china; silent, tough-guy heroes; bars that are rowdy dives and bars meant for quiet, solitary drinking; leather; a battered wallet photo of someone's sweetheart; lovers' reunions; lovers' breakups; dusters; convertibles; pompadours; guns. "Streets of Fire" is nothing but iconography, an attempt to boil down 30 years of pop to its familiar essence and then contain the whole thing in a comic-strip B movie... If chrome could bleed, it would look like the colors that run together in the streets of this movie."

1984's Streets of Fire, directed by Walter Hill (48 HRS, The Warriors) (view trailer): the storyline is pure kitsch (beautiful girl rescued from evil captor by old flame who still carries a torch), but it's set in a strange 1980's/1950's mashup world that's part graphic novel, part music video, and mostly over-the-top stylized melodrama.

The musical numbers are by far the strongest part of the film, featuring an incredibly hot Diane Lane (all of 18), doing a fantastic job lip-syncing as the rocker chick Ellen Aim. She sports a Joan Jett mullet and pouts sulkily when not throwing down on stage. Also featured are Rick Moranis as her jerkwad manager (playing a completely non-comic character), the laconic Michael Pare as the old flame, former soldier-for-hire back in town at his sister's behest when Ellen's kidnapped mid-performance by a glowering Willem Dafoe.

Oscar-nominated Amy Madigan shows up to help Pare find Ellen; other characters come and go as the rescue plays out, including Ed Begley Jr., Bill Paxton, Lynne Thigpen, Robert Townsend, Mykelti Williamson and even (an uncredited) Kathy Griffin. There is LOTS of fighting, shooting and general mayhem culminating in the most badass score-settling face-off ever- a SLEDGHAMMER FIGHT between Dafoe and Pare.

Again- the musical numbers are near-perfect, especially Steinman's "Tonight is what it means to be young." The overplayed "I can dream about you" is actually quite watchable. The opening "Nowhere Fast" culminates in the uber-creepy Dafoe's reveal as the light comes up on his evil pallor.

Streets of Fire was a theatrical flop, although Roger Ebert bestowed 3 stars, giving highest praise to Madigan and Lane (although Lane's performance earned her a 1985 Worst Supporting Actress Razzie Nomination).
posted by I_Love_Bananas (62 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously.
posted by eyeballkid at 5:17 PM on September 7, 2011


Streets of Fire is what my dreams look like. Some people's fantasy worlds are inspired by Lord of the Rings or Conan. I want to live in a world based on Jungleland and Bat Out of Hell, Springsteen and Gaslight Anthem, rainswept streets and broken heroes and neon lights and last chance power drives.

I built this film up in my head so much before I saw it, and it didn't live up to my expectations. But that's okay, because I love what it represents, and the idea that Walter Hill saw it means I'm not alone - that other people imagine that 50s/80s world of neon and Jim Steinman. Someday I'll write it all out, and everything will make sense.

The reality is that Streets of Fire feels a bit underdone. Teleport City reckons it inspired 80s anime like Akira and Bubblegum Crisis and beat em ups like Final Fight....
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:19 PM on September 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


Love this movie, love the look, love the music.

There's a sequel of sorts made by Albert Pyun called The Road to Hell. Even though it stars Michael Pare and Deborah Van Valkenburgh, it sounds very low budget. How low? Low as in "the camera broke so the film's on hold."

Good luck seeing it. There's no DVD and a rough cut has only been screened publicly a few times.
posted by codswallop at 5:20 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


a glowering Willem Dafoe.

IN PVC OVERALLS. This was possibly the second movie I owned on VHS and I must have seen it a zillion times. And you didn't even mention The Blasters.
posted by jessamyn at 5:20 PM on September 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's currently available for streaming on Netflix.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:23 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


I had a crush on Amy Madigan in this.
posted by jonmc at 5:24 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


... I have the DVD, with the original artwork - didn't know it was so hard to come by.

Sorry about the Blasters omission Jessamyn!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:25 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


And let's not forget Lee Ving as Greer.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:26 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lee Ving was in Get Crazy a far more ridiculous but still entertaining rock and roll movie that featured Lou Reed, Half of Flo & Eddie and the guy who played Arvid on Head of The Class.
posted by jonmc at 5:28 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love Hill, but I've never gotten around to seeing this. Thanks for the heads up on the Netflix streaming, I_Love_Bananas!
posted by brundlefly at 5:34 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just found this awesome description: "Willem Dafoe in the best possible light is an odd looking dude. However, in Streets of Fire it's like they've taken every one of his most distinctive features (his broad forehead, his protruding lips) and accentuated them to the nth degree. The end result resembles a fully human-sized ventriloquist dummy crossed with Frankenstein's monster."
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:36 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


God I love this movie. (Even with Willem Dafoe's ridiculous fetish coveralls.) Especially love the hints of the strangely other world in which it takes place. It's like the city just goes on forever, with borders every so often dividing it up into "sectors." And every car that isn't part of the story is the same dull gray.

It's had a persistent influence on my own writing. I've stolen that opening super: "Another time, another place." for a couple projects of my own that set out to take the ambiance we associate with some particular period (the Gatsby 20s in the better of the two) and then just spin them off axis a little so at first you can convince yourself you're in the familiar world, but then the alternate world starts bleeding through at the edges.

Love this movie.
posted by Naberius at 5:38 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am completely ashamed that I only just realized that Streets of Fire and Eddie and the Cruisers were two different movies. In my defense, I was a preteen when I saw them both and spent most of my time swooning over Michael Pare. I re-read the post twice thinking "where's Tom Berenger?"

So thank you for this post. Now I have _two_ movies to watch this weekend. :)
posted by librarianamy at 5:41 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also love how its billed as 'A Rock and Roll Fable'. I want more rock and roll fables, like Wild Zero (which probably deserves its own post).

I've tried writing my own but it didn't get too far.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:42 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know exactly what you mean, Naberius. I remember leaving the theater after seeing it and rushing IMMEDIATELY to the record store to buy the soundtrack on cassette, and playing it to. death. trying to recapture that ambiance.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:42 PM on September 7, 2011


I introduced the glory of Streets of Fire to another friend last week! (Netflix streaming means you put it on to show them the intro music video and then end up watching the whole thing, because it's that wonderful.)

Just as I can't see this movie too many times, it can't be posted to MetaFilter too many times.
posted by asperity at 5:57 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


This and Trouble in Mind would be maybe the best double feature ever.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:00 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


This and Trouble in Mind would be maybe the best double feature ever.

No. That would be They Live and The Last Starfighter.
posted by jonmc at 6:02 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


directed by Walter Hill (48 HRS, The Warriors)

And the pilot episode of Deadwood.
posted by homunculus at 6:03 PM on September 7, 2011


This was on heavy rotation on HBO back in the mid-80s. Seems like every six months or so, they'd bring it back. I must've watched this movie 10 times. The music is great, a weird 80s interpretation of 50s music. And Diane Lane was smokin', smokin', smokin' hot. She still is now, but then...wow.
posted by zardoz at 6:04 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this. I was just browsing Netflix, thinking I'd never find anything to watch. I love this movie and it just fits for what I need to see now.
posted by buggzzee23 at 6:13 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lee Ving was in Get Crazy a far more ridiculous but still entertaining rock and roll movie that featured Lou Reed, Half of Flo & Eddie and the guy who played Arvid on Head of The Class.

Dan Frischman...

There's a whole FPP to be done about "Get Crazy" ( one of my all-time-favourite films... )

Malcolm McDowell; Daniel Stern; Gail Edwards; Ed Begley Jr.; You mentioned Howard Kaylan ( who went on to score music for The World of Strawberry Shortcake, Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City, AND Strawberry Shortcake: Pets on Parade, btw )....Bill Henderson ( who was also in Buckaroo Banzai... ) I hear Lori Eastside is big in casting... YOu mentioned Lee Ving's outrageous performance... Robert Picardo's performance deserves mention, as does the casting of Fabian and Bobby Sherman ( kids, you can google them... )

Did I mention Paul Bartel and Clint Howard?
posted by mikelieman at 6:22 PM on September 7, 2011


Here's a Raven Shaddock visual guide.
posted by homunculus at 6:27 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think I should have probably also mentioned that the movie (Get Crazy) is dedicated to the Fillmore East, so um... You know....
posted by mikelieman at 6:28 PM on September 7, 2011


From homonculus's link: "I also remember the poster to this film was really stupid and made me vow never to watch it."

WTF??!? That poster is awesome! It's iconic, it's lush and gorgeous. If you don't want to see the movie that poster's promising, something is wrong with you.

Damn kids, I swear to hell.
posted by Naberius at 6:42 PM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I imagine Diane Lane got this role due to her sullen, coltish performance in Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, the film that invented Riot Grrrl a full decade before it actually existed.

I found this film to be too much when I first saw it. Now I can't think of anything better than too much. I think I shall watch it tonight.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:42 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


OMG Bunny.... how is this my first knowledge of this film? Must see.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:48 PM on September 7, 2011


Lane in that Stains trailer at about the 2:06 mark looks just like pop-era Alanis!!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:56 PM on September 7, 2011


I finally saw this at a screening of a local cult movie night, and people were laughing and the hosts thought it was pretty bad? Maybe its a cultural thing.... I just find it really easy to embrace the over the top no-irony Jim Steinman thing.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:05 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I paid money to see this movie first-run in a theater.

It was a true mixed-bag response from the group I went with. Some loved it, some hated it, most of us were kind of meh about it.

It's a shame, it has so many elements which should have added up to truly awesome, but it never quite got there.

Also, Lee Ving played Mr. Boddy in Clue.
posted by hippybear at 7:16 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Haven't seen The Fabulous Stains, but the trailer reminds me of my other favorite period "punk/new wave musical in the form of struggling, idealistic young band hitting it big with the new sound for Reagan and Thatcher's 80s, only to become disillusioned by success" movie, Breaking Glass.
posted by Naberius at 7:28 PM on September 7, 2011


I always thought that Willem Dafoe looked like a human/shark hybrid. When he came onscreen and smiled, I thought " Just like vintage Lauren Bacall, he's gonna be famous for looking transhuman." Who knew he'd be such an great actor as well.

Love this film.
posted by djrock3k at 7:38 PM on September 7, 2011


Also, Lee Ving played Mr. Boddy in Clue.

I reflexively favorite any mention of Clue.
posted by codswallop at 7:58 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw this, first run, in 1984, in the Uptown in Toronto, with my then boyfriend -- who hated it. I LOVED it which was rather embarrassing, as it's not at all intellectually defensible. I had a huge crush on Pare's persona in this thing.

Moranis despises this movie: I saw an interview with him in the late 80's/early 90's where he described it as the only picture that he's actually ashamed of doing. He called it a horrible, violent, sexist, exploitative piece of crap.
posted by jrochest at 8:04 PM on September 7, 2011


I love this movie so hard. Come on, it has a SLEDGEHAMMER DUEL. It doesn't get better than that. Wait, it does, because it also has Amy Madigan looking deliciously dykey. And a rockin soundtrack.

I almost always end up referring to this movie as "Streets of Violence".
posted by rmd1023 at 8:10 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Inside Streets of Fire
posted by Brian B. at 8:14 PM on September 7, 2011


I almost always end up referring to this movie as "Streets of Violence".

The title is an artifact from when it was going to be based on Springsteen songs.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:22 PM on September 7, 2011


I love this movie so hard. Come on, it has a SLEDGEHAMMER DUEL.

THIS!
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:53 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wish the outro to Nowhere Fast didn't suck so bad, because otherwise it'd be GOD'S OWN karaoke song. Same for Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young. Just KILLER songs that end... badly.

Jim Steinman, King of the Left-Hand Piano Octave.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:58 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's the problem with all Steinman tunes at karaoke. They're all at least five minutes long, and that's just the radio edits.

Not that this stops me from doing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" every time I do karaoke.
posted by asperity at 9:02 PM on September 7, 2011


I love this movie so hard. Come on, it has a SLEDGEHAMMER DUEL.

It's even more badass. They're spike mauls.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:06 PM on September 7, 2011


That's the problem with all Steinman tunes at karaoke. They're all at least five minutes long, and that's just the radio edits.

I hate the spoken word intro bit to 'You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth'.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:08 PM on September 7, 2011


I love The Warriors, and in general give props to Hill and his various production company stuff, but this movie is soooo terrible there are not words to describe it. It makes Zardoz look well-considered.
posted by mwhybark at 9:38 PM on September 7, 2011


[T]his movie is soooo terrible there are not words to describe it. It makes Zardoz look well-considered.

I will (figuratively) cut you.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:46 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love The Warriors, and in general give props to Hill and his various production company stuff, but this movie is soooo terrible there are not words to describe it. It makes Zardoz look well-considered.

Yeah that's the thing I really don't think its a good movie. Its badly plotted and not much happens in it. But my love for the aesthetics just completely outweighs all that.

Walter Hill should have been a videogame designer. Streets of Fires and The Warriors had the perfect game plots (and they did inspire some amazing games).
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:47 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love "I Can Dream About You" and I always have. I love the sloppily-synchronized moves of the backup singers. Plus, four-man moonwalk? Awesome.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:57 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to let everyone know it is available on netflix instant
posted by Ad hominem at 10:32 PM on September 7, 2011


Oh lord, now I will have to inflict this movie on my family.

My father loves this movie and so do I. Maybe it's the cast. Maybe it's the soundtrack. Maybe it's the sledgehammer fight.

Don't care... we're all watching it on Netflix if it is there on Thursday.

Woohoo!
posted by lilywing13 at 1:18 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw this movie about six months ago, and it's now as big a part of my '80s fetish brain as Bubblegum Crisis and Tron.

The '80s must live forever.
posted by ELF Radio at 4:05 AM on September 8, 2011


I've been watching this movie since it first came out, and I maintain that the reason it worked and continues to work without looking incredibly dated is the attention to detail in making the world timeless from the moment they shot it.

It looked weird in 1984, with the old cars, sets, and mostly non-'80s clothing and hair, but that's exactly what makes it still look so good today; it doesn't feel like a movie from almost 30 years ago; it feels like a movie that was made 60 years ago, or last week. Like I said, timeless.

And, the cast! Paré is perfect, Defoe is perfect, Lane is beautiful and cool, and Madigan is completely awesome, hell even Moranis and Paxton steal some scenes.

It really is a great film.

As a testament to my love for this film, and the formative influence it had on my early life, over the years, I'm happy to say, I've been able to collect and own close variants on all the custom guns Paré uses to stage the rescue. Sadly I sold the lever action, and I still regret it to this day.

Also: Sledgehammer duel!!

posted by quin at 7:52 AM on September 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Streets of Fire is definitely in the so-bad-it's-good category in my head. It's not a movie I would seek out, but if I see it on a cable channel, I will say, "Hey, I will just stay on this channel until I find something else to watch." Then I watch the whole thing.

Feel that burn? It's a good burn.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:02 AM on September 8, 2011


Man, that sledgehammer fight is probably the only fight scene in cinema that makes me cringe in sympathetic agony before it even starts. There's something...approachable about how much it would hurt about getting smacked by a sledgehammer wielded by a man in PVC coveralls. For that alone, this movie is worth it.
posted by gofargogo at 8:15 AM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


This movie was instrumental in my decision at 13 that I must have a trench coat, a somewhat disastrous fashion choice that I stuck with for a ridiculously long time. Needless to say, I had a crush on Diane Lane and I wanted to be Michael Pare. I still pull out the sound track and make people listen to it from time to time. Now I will have to make them watch the movie, too.
posted by sparkatito at 11:54 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any recounting of this movie is incomplete without the information that the movie was originally based on Bruce Springsteen's song of the same title off of Darkness on the Edge of Town, but Springsteen declined to give permission; one way to look at Streets of Fire is that it's Walter Hill's feature-length video for Jim Steinman's attempt at writing a Springsteen song. My own impression of the movie at the time was that Hill was just trying too damn hard to do A Big Damn Mythic Rock 'n' Roll Movie, and it always amused me that the big hit record from it turned out to be the throwaway number by Dan Hartman. (Also amusing is that it's Michael Pare's second movie where he's connected to some faux-Boss number; Eddie and the Cruisers had Pare lip-syncing to a Springsteen imitator.)

Speaking of Springsteen and movies, another mostly-forgotten rock 'n' roll movie from the eighties was Light of Day, which features an actual Springsteen song that Bruce wrote for Paul Schrader after he stole Schrader's original title for the movie: Born in the USA. It wasn't that good, either--it got overpromoted as Michael J. Fox Can Be Edgy and Shit When He Wants To Be--but it's completely justified by featuring Joan Motherfucking Jett Motherfucker, talking about your proto-riot grrrls.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:30 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


one way to look at Streets of Fire is that it's Walter Hill's feature-length video for Jim Steinman's attempt at writing a Springsteen song

I only realized this year that Bat Out Of Hell is pretty much Born To Run: The Blockbuster Movie. Or Born To Run: The Videogame. Made me like it even more.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:35 PM on September 8, 2011


Brian B., thanks for posting the link to that behind-the-scenes short! I had never seen that before and loved all the background info.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:32 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Holy crap, in that short Hill says he'd never shot musical performances before and worried he had no experience in that area. They're the best part of the movie! Dude missed his second calling as a music video director.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:35 PM on September 8, 2011


I only realized this year that Bat Out Of Hell is pretty much Born To Run: The Blockbuster Movie. Or Born To Run: The Videogame. Made me like it even more.


Do you think Michael Bay really wishes he was Jim Steinman?
posted by mikelieman at 6:05 PM on September 8, 2011


Do you think Michael Bay really wishes he was Jim Steinman?

Bay's videos for Meat Loaf are probably his best work:

Objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are

I'd Lie For You

I Would Do Anything For Love
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:19 PM on September 8, 2011


All that neon. The streets are perpetually wet.
posted by Sailormom at 6:31 PM on September 8, 2011


And people fly through glass all the time. It's a trope of Hill's that eventually blossomed into a full-on obsession. Nobody dies in Another 48 Hours without going through glass first, and the glass just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and there's more and more of it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:47 PM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Never heard of this flick until I read this post. What a fun movie! Certainly not one of the greatest, no, but it has all these memorable moments and one hardly minds how goofy it is at times.

Definitely under-appreciated, too. This should be another one of those entertaining little movies you always seem to run into once a year at odd times when flipping channels.
posted by millions at 11:13 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


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