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This Month In Retro: February 1980

February saw the release of two movies that have been panned for years that have nonetheless maintained something resembling a cult status. Don't Answer the Phone is a movie about an amateur body-building adult photographer (stop me if you've heard this before) who sexually assaults and

This Month In Retro is a monthly article where we look back on the current month as it happened during the 1980’s.  Learn, reminisce, and stay retro.

In film:

February saw the release of two movies that have been panned for years that have nonetheless maintained something resembling a cult status. Don’t Answer the Phone is a movie about an amateur body-building adult photographer (stop me if you’ve heard this before) who sexually assaults and murders young women. Yep, one of those movies.  Unlike a number of exploitation films from the 1970’s and 1980’s that I personally love, I can’t find much in the way of redeeming qualities here.

There was also the much more famous film Caligula. There isn’t much that I can say about this film, particularly since the best thing that could possibly said was written by Roger Ebert at the time of its release:

Caligula is sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash. If it is not the worst film I have ever seen, that makes it all the more shameful: People with talent allowed themselves to participate in this travesty. Disgusted and unspeakably depressed, I walked out of the film after two hours of its 170-minute length. That was on Saturday night, as a line of hundreds of people stretched down Lincoln Ave., waiting to pay $7.50 apiece to become eyewitnesses to shame.

I wanted to tell them … what did I want to tell them? What I’m telling you now. That this film is not only garbage on an artistic level, but that it is also garbage on the crude and base level where it no doubt hopes to find its audience. Caligula is not good art, it is not good cinema, and it is not good porn.”

 On the plus side, one good movie and one great movie were also released during this month. Paul Schrader’s American Gigalo, while not being as strong as his work for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Cat People, it is still a very good film. I guess Schrader really likes two-word titles. Also released this month was John Carpenter’s The Fog. It’s no secret that John Carpenter absolutely slayed the 80’s, and watching The Fog it’s easy to see why. He is just extremely good at what he does.

In music:

Bon Scott, the original lead singer of AC/DC died in England. Everybody and their mother says he choked on his own vomit, though the official cause of death is “Death by Misadventure“, which just sounds insane.

Both the Cure and the Psychedelic Furs have their US debut albums with Boys Don’t Cry and the Psychedelic Furs. I’d tell you which band released which album, but I really hope you can figure that out on your own at this point.  Both of these bands evolved significantly throughout their careers and are more known and respected for their later new wave oriented material than the less mature post-punk sound exhibited on the debuts. I actually have a copy of the UK vinyl of the Cure’s album, known as Three Imaginary Boys and released a year earlier with some different songs. In my opinion the 1980 track listing is much better.


In literature:

The Bourne Identity was published in February of 1980. The novel would go on to inspire the movies that convinced you that Will Hunting was an action star, as well as a completely forgotten TV movie in 1988.  One interesting thing about the novel that a lot of people don’t know is the fact that it was inspired by author Robert Ludlum’s own experiences with amnesia and a missing twelve hour stretch of time from his own life.


In television:

Long running TV series Mystery! premiered on PBS. The show lasted a number of years, and though the first host included the very talented Gene Shalit, the majority of its success came from the years when Vincent Price hosted. The very successful British political-satirical Yes Minister premiered in this month as well.

Gene Shalit and his moustache.

Gene Shalit and his moustache.


In sports:

Chris Cavanaugh sets a world record for swimming in the 50m freestyle. The Winter Olympics were held at Lake Placid, USA, which still seems like an odd choice to me. Finally, one of my personal favorite moments in sporting history, the Miracle on Ice, happened Friday, February 22, 1980. For the young, uninformed, or in-denial, this was when the relatively inexperienced United States national team defeated the six-time gold medal Soviet Union national team in hockey and won 4-3. I’m wondering if this event receives any sort of recognition outside of the US. Here it’s something that will pretty much universally give us chills, particularly Al Michaels reporting on the final seconds of the game:


“11 seconds, you’ve got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles?! YES!!!”

I’m not trying to only write about American sport-related events. USA just killed it in February.



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