Welcome to an exciting year-long project here at The Nerdy. 1983 was an exciting year for films giving us a lot of films that would go on to be beloved favorites and cult classics. It was also the start to a major shift in cultural and societal norms, and some of those still reverberate to this day.
We’re going to pick and choose which movies we hit, but right now the list stands at nearly four dozen.
Yes, we’re insane, but 1983 was that great of a year for film.
The articles will come out – in most cases – on the same day the films hit theaters in 1983 so that it is their true 40th anniversary. All films are also watched again for the purposes of these reviews and are not being done from memory. In some cases, it truly will be the first time we’ve seen them.
This time around, it’s November 18th, 1983, and we’re off to see A Christmas Story, Nate and Hayes, and Sleepaway Camp.
Quick side note: Since we launched this series this year, we’ve discovered that Vintage Video Podcast is doing the exact same project with two differences: First, it’s audio (naturally), and second, they are doing every major film. We’ve listened to numerous episodes and it’s fun checking off their thoughts against my own. Check them out over at Vintage Video Podcast.
A Christmas Story
When I try to do these reviews, I try partially to put myself in the mindset of the time. Seeing as I saw this film multiple times in the theater – a common act in the early 1980s – I’m going with I was pretty positive about the film then, and even more so now.
On the off chance you aren’t familiar with this film, it’s based on the fictional tales of Jean Shepherd. Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) wants nothing more for Christmas than a Red Ryder BB gun. The problem is that he runs into constant roadblocks of everyone from his teacher to Santa himself telling him that he’ll shoot his eye out.
While the story is simplistic, it’s the populated 1940s world that Ralphie lives in that really endears you to the film. In particular, Ralphie’s parents, Mrs. Parker (Melinda Dillon) and The Old Man (Darren McGavin) are a magical screen couple that makes you believe they could indeed be a couple, but you do wonder what their courtship must have been like.
There is an argument to made that it is perhaps a bit too cookie-cutter, and plays easily to the nostalgia. As we move further and further away from the 1940s, however, one would ask are you being nostalgic for the time period, or just a simpler Christmas like those you had as a child?
Endlessly quotable, never-not-amusing, it’s a Christmas classic at this stage in its life, and is sure to be for many years to come. You can’t help but to like this film. And to imagine that it was directed by Bob Clark, the man who also directed Porky’s is a bit mind-boggling.
Nate and Hayes
Lets face it, when a successful movie happens, everyone tries to find a way to make their own version of it. Everyone and their brother loved Raiders of the Lost Ark, and then you had many other filmmakers trying to copy that success. Yes, we all remember High Road to China from earlier ‘this year.’ You could smell the desperation on that film and how they wanted to set up a film series with Tom Selleck, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
Nate and Hayes had a similar stench to it, but there was something slightly more endearing to it for some reason.
Bully Hayes (Tommy Lee Jones) is a former pirate that takes Nathaniel Williamson (Michael O’Keefe) and his fiance Sophie (Jenny Seagrove) – whom BUlly has taken a liking to – to an island where he will work as a missionary and they are to be married. Ben Pease (Max Phipps) arrives and raids the island, and he has a grudge against BUlly he leaves Bully’s old symbol at the crime scene so he will be blamed. Once that is cleared up, Bully and Nate team-up to get Sophie back and take down Max who is working with a German count.
Nate and Hayes is most definitely not high entertainment, but it’s fun. It reeks of ‘please like us so we can make another one,’ but there is nothing about the story that makes you crave more adventures from these people. It’s an innocuous distraction that is fine for a lazy afternoon around the house, but definitely not anything you have to worry about should you decide to skip it. Unless, that is, you just want to collect Raiders of the Lost Ark ripoffs.
Sleepaway Camp had been on my list for years as one I needed to get around to. Now that I finally did, I really wish I hadn’t known about the ending. And for that reason, I definitely will not spoil this 40-year-old movie for you.
In 1975, a father and his two children are in the water in a lake when a motorboat from a nearby summer camp runs them over. The father and one of the children are killed. Eight years later, its 1983 and Angela (Felissa Rose) is revealed to be the surviving child. She and her cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) are heading off to that same summer camp, and, needless to say, some people end up dead. It is a slasher film afterall.
That’s really about all I want to say about the plot, because the less you know, the better. I will say that one employee of the camp is very clearly shown to be a pedophile, and for the time period this was a rather daring thing to show. It was something that just wasn’t discussed, and I kind of applaud the film for being willing to even allude to it, let alone directly reference it.
And then there are the kills. There are some truly original kills in this film, and the one shown merely in silhouette and implications is a wonderful example of how powerful what you don’t show can be.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a great movie, but in the slasher genre this definitely ranks up there for the very surprising plot twist, the manners of the kills, and the willingness to address real world issues no was discussing at the time.
This is a must watch if you’re exploring the slasher genre, and probably one to watch even if you’re just exploring the 1980s.
1983 Movie Reviews will return on Nov. 25, 2023 with A Night in Heaven, Of Unknown Origin, and The Big Score!