Classic Action: Blue Thunder (1983) – He’s Out There

Blue Thunder (1983) Roy Scheider

I had the chance to catch up on this classic action flick this week, so I was able to tick another off my list of ’80s Films that I Inexplicably Missed. (I have confessed to my weakness for cheezy shoot-em-up movies before, but newer readers might not be aware.) It also had Malcolm McDowell as the baddie, and I do so enjoy a film where Malcolm flares his nostrils and bugs his eyes while saying outrageously repulsive things and ends up dying spectacularly (not going to apologise for no spoiler warning there, that was his sole function in 80s American cinema, so it was always going to happen).

I was particularly keen to catch this one, not just because it starred Roy Scheider (with a helicopter that eerily resembled a shark) but also because the screenplay is from Dan O’Bannon, and I like how he structures scenes and characters from the science fiction and horror stories that he has a particular gift for adapting to the big screen. (e.g. Darkstar, the Alien series, Total Recall and the rotting cheese that is Return of the Living Dead).

The social message in Blue Thunder was the combined danger of the surveillance culture and the military-industrial complex planning to officiously (well, even more officiously) control the underclass. The movie was set in LA, and there were lots of references to the disadvantaged Watts Riots of 1965. Establishment elite conspiracies to control the masses are a bit of a fiction staple, because history shows us that all too often the rest of us have no idea what they’re up to and it rarely does us any good. In films and television, the combination of snooping skulduggery with shoot-outs and bombs etc is hard to resist for filmmakers, especially when elite establishment conspirators are so very terribly dastardly that nobody objects to them being terminated with extreme prejudice, so there’s plenty of flicks and telly to choose from, most notably of late the remakes of the Jason Bourne trilogy and the UK’s Spooks (MI5 in the USA).

So what are your own favourite establishment elite conspiracy action film or TV series? Do you too have a lamentable weekness for the cheesier action, or do you prefer the proper high dramas?

Categories: arts & entertainment, technology

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3 replies

  1. Cheese, for sure. The most processed, plastic Kraft sandwich-type available.

    Always liked the Blue Thunder film but preferred the regular hit of the Airwolf TV series where similar helicopter was stolen from the government conspirators by its pilot and used as a force for good instead.

  2. Blue Thunder was pretty neat (I know some vets who assert something similarly quiet was used in Vietnam black ops), but for conspiracy-by-the-elite films, I reckon “Dick” is the best. (A couple of teen girls are “deep throat”, seeing both the watergate burglary, and as Nixon’s dog walkers, find the tapes. Very funny, and until recent revelations, fitted perfectly with the known facts. And the scene where the marijuana biscuits given to Brezhnev and Nixon causes them to make peace and sign “Hello Dolly” badly…. classic!)

  3. On the matter of evil conspiracy my favourites are probably: Capricorn One (faked Mars mission with attempted murder of the astronauts to guarantee coverup who are only saved by irritating reporter Elliot Gould), Three Days of the Condor (Robert Redford is CIA analyst who barely avoids assasination having stumbled on plans to invade the middle east) and the original Manchurian Candidate (Korean War hero is brainwashed by Chinese to kill a prominent politician, causing enough public outrage to result in the election of a pro-communist American government).
    There was also a quite good Australian conspiracy movie I remember from years back that had something to do with the Maralinga nuclear tests and the Royal Commission looking into them. Ground Zero I think it was called.

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