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1983 Movie Reviews – Heat and Dust, Revenge of the Ninja, Strange Invaders, and Vigilante

by Sean P. Aune | September 16, 2023September 16, 2023 10:30 am EDT

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 September 16th, 1983, and we’re off to see Heat and Dust, Revenge of the Ninja, Strange Invaders, and Vigilante.

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.


Heat and Dust

Merchant-Ivory movies immediately bring about mental images of films such as Remains of the Day. As I was going through the list of 1983 films came across Heat and Dust, a movie I have literally never even heard the name of, and discovered it was an earlier work by the duo.

As with just about every Merchant-Ivory film, there is a lot of British people having whispered conversations, and people having torrid love affairs that may cost them dearly. The difference here is that this particular film takes place in both 1923 and 1982, and a similar story plays out in both. A woman of the 80s wants to learn more about the great-aunt that the family never speaks of, and what exactly happened to her in India. She travels there for research after interviewing an elderly gentleman that knew her. Once there, she embarks on a very similar journey of her own.

The film spends far more time in 1923 than it does in the ‘present-day,’ and it’s a good call. James Ivor’s directing is better suited to lavish scenes of the early 20th-century decadence than it is to the modern day.

As films go, it’s entertaining, but infuriating all at the same time. From the way Indians are treated by the British, to the way women are treated by everyone, it’s all a bit much. But at the end of the day I was still glad I had checked it out and added it to the list of films I had seen by the filmmaking duo.

Revenge of the Ninja

Ah yes, the early 80s obsession with Ninjas. If it wasn’t slasher films or action movies, it probably had a ninja in it.

As per usual, the ninja is forced into picking up his sword once again and must take down another ninja, but that is not the least believable part of this film.

No, that would be the dolls.

A lot of the early part of this movie focuses on an American business man trying to convince his Japanese friend – the ninja who wants to do the revenge – to move to the U.S. so that they can open a high-end doll gallery. Yes, so many customers are going to pay big bucks for these Japanese dolls. Why, as a matter of fact, we only need 12 to open the gallery!

There’s more to the dolls than the audience knows, but the absurdity of the gallery is a pretty big hurdle to get over.

If you were a young male in the 80s, you watched ninja movies. You then purchased a throwing star from somewhere, convinced you could be the next great ninja.

None of us were.

If you want to really take a journey through 1980s cinema, you have to watch at least one ninja movie, and it might as well be this one.

Strange Invaders

You would think being a sci-fi obsessed 12-year-old at this point in 1983, I would at least have heard of Strange Invaders, but I have no memory of this movie whatsoever.

The movie kicks off with an alien craft appearing over Centerville, Illinois in 1958, and then the aliens clearly interact with the residents of the town. We then jump ahead to 1983 when Columbia University lecturer Charles Bigelow (Paul Le Mat) suddenly finds his ex-wife dropping off their daughter and saying she has to go home to Centerville for a funeral. When she doesn’t come home or call for several days, he heads there to find her and what happened.

I don’t want to give too much away, because I went in knowing nothing about the story and found it enjoyable. (I’ll save everyone the worry I had: The dog doesn’t die.)

The biggest issue with this film – and it’s really not an ‘issue’ per se – is it can’t seem to make up its mind between being a comedic parody of these types of films or trying to tell an actual sci-fi alien invasion story. It hovers between the two, and it would have been better served if it had simply made up its mind at some point.

All that being said, Stange Invaders is a fun little romp of an 80s sci-fi film that would have been very at home being rented on a weekend from the local video store. It’s worth checking out and and being entertained for 94 minutes.


I wouldn’t want to call Vigilante forgettable, but… wait… what movie am I talking about again?

Eddie Marino (Robert Forster) is a factory worker who is perfectly happy just going through his day and then going home to his wife and daughter. He knows some of his co-workers have started a vigilante group to clean up the city, but that’s not his cup of tea. And then, when his wife stands up to some gang members, they come calling and put her in the hospital and kill their son. Now it’s time for Eddie to get some justice, and he quickly extracts some revenge.

As one might imagine, the volume of films I’m watching for this project means I’m keeping up a pretty quick pace to see them all. I usually watch one a day, and then when I get to the appropriate day I write them up. My recall of the films is pretty good, and has never really been an issue.

And then I got to Vigilante.

It took me so long to recall what happened in this movie, I may have just as well watched the movie again. I normally enjoy Forster in films, and he’s fine here, but this film is such a ripoff of Death Wish and other vigilante films that it is just completely unremarkable. And when it does do anything new with the story, it just makes Eddie more unlikable.

There was a real wave of these “I must seek revenge” style films in this time period, and if you want to try one, this one is serviceable, but you’ll see why this trope went away.

1983 Movie Reviews will return on Sept. 23, 2023 with Pieces!

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Sean P. Aune

Sean Aune has been a pop culture aficionado since before there was even a term for pop culture. From the time his father brought home Amazing