Monday, March 8, 2010

TUFF TURF (1985)

It’s been a long time since my eyes have graced the 1985 New World Pictures release, TUFF TURF. You know the one. Jimmy Spader as the ultra-cool Connecticut transplant slumming it up in an L.A. high school, running afoul of Nick (Paul Mones, STREETS OF FIRE), trying to get busy with Frankie (Kim Richards, the WITCH MOUNTAIN series) and hanging out with Jimmy (Robert Downey Jr., THE PICK UP ARTIST), who just happens to play drums for Jim Carroll (musician and author of BASKETBALL DIARIES) even though he’s in high school.

Spader’s character, Morgan, has just moved to L.A. with his Mom (Claudette Nevins, 1961’s THE MASK) and Dad (Matt Clark, WHITE LIGHTNING). Dad apparently was a real estate agent who lost his business and Mom doesn’t seem to be adjusting to the move too well, not to mention she doesn’t approve of Morgan’s tendency to cause trouble where ever he goes and the fact he gets kicked out of prep schools a lot.

Why these people had to leave Connecticut for L.A. so Dad can drive a cab in the shitty parts of town while trying to get his California real estate agent’s license is never really explained. But then again, TUFF TURF didn’t win the 1985 Oscar for best original screenplay.

At his new public high school, Morgan gets the hots for Frankie, who happens to be the girlfriend of gang leader Nick, who heads a local group of ruffians called the Tuffs.


Obviously, this causes a lot of trouble for everybody involved, culminating in a warehouse showdown and a big musical ending. Not to mention a few musical interludes along the way.

Matter of fact, I never remembered TUFF TURF being a fucking musical.

What TUFF TURF really is, is THE POM POM GIRLS meets THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, except nobody’s black and Jennifer Ashley isn’t in it.

TUFF TURF reminds me so much of the Crown International teen flicks of the 70’s, like the aforementioned POM POM GIRLS. In Crown International flicks, teenagers do whatever they want and they were like travelogues of things to do when you’re a teenager. You drive around Beverly Hills and look at houses for a long time. You crash country clubs. You dance badly at concerts in warehouses. You do very visual things only teenagers would do in movies, if only to make it look like there was more money involved in the production and to pad out the running time to feature length.

And every so often, bad, violent things happen. And you throw Kim Richard’s titty in there too (however, it was a body double, but hey, titty’s titty). And you make it all look like an 80’s music video, which in the 80’s, people did.

Suffice to say, I really enjoyed this goofy ass movie.

It’s main fault is that it never knows what the hell it wants to be. A musical? A gang pic? An after school special? Yet 23 years later, that’s what makes it unique. It’s a throw-shit-and-see-if-it-sticks pastiche of teen movie clichés wrapped up in Madonnaville.

The acting is spot-on all the way around and the kinetic energy the film spits out keeps you watching. Director Fritz Kirsch (CHILDREN OF THE CORN) gets the most out of his limited budget and limited script.

Anchor Bay put this out widescreen a few years back but I watched it on a 50 cent video I picked up at the flea market. Shot open matte, everything is framed perfect for a satisfying full screen experience, and you get to see the crew members hand trying to steady a swinging rope after the climatic fight scene. Won’t get to see that in a spiffed up DVD.

Maybe I’m just nostalgic or extremely bored, but I have to recommend TUFF TURF, especially if you haven‘t seen it in a long time.

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