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Thursday, April 9, 2015

New on Video: Paré Aplenty in Eddie and the Cruisers and Its Sequel

Posted By on Thu, Apr 9, 2015 at 2:00 PM


As is so often the case with older movies, "New on Video" is a bit of misnomer for these two Eddies. Not only have they both been on most all of the major video formats of the past few decades, but Jean-Claude Lord's Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! would not exist if not for home video market, as Martin Davidson's original was major flop in the theaters. But its popularity on VHS and cable resulted in a sequel (which also flopped in theaters), so Shout! Factory is releasing both on a single-disc Blu-ray on April 14, looking and sounding far better than they ever did back in the analog days. Heck, probably even better than they did in the theaters, but we'll never know, since nobody ever saw them in the theaters. (Zing!)

1980s hunk Michael Paré is Eddie of the titular cruisers, a rock star who died under mysterious circumstances in 1963. Or did he? (Um, those wishing to avoid spoilers should probably avoid looking at the title of the sequel.) Plucky young television reporter Maggie Foley (Ellen Barkin) decides to get to the truth.

I myself hadn't seen Eddie and the Cruisers since the late 1980s, so I'd forgotten that it has the audacity, the temerity, the chutzpah, the…y'know, I'm not afraid to say it: it as the downright gumption to mimic Citizen Kane in its opening scene. Seriously! Grainy archival footage pulls back to reveal a room full of reporters in the present day , one of whom is assigned to get to the bottom of things. It's practically shot-for-shot. I'd though that Todd Haynes' Velvet Goldmine was the only rock movie to have the chrome-plated backbone to ape Citizen Kane so thoroughly, but damn. Eddie and the Cruisers, of all things, beat it by 15 years.

Side note to Shout! Factory: Velvet Goldmine is one of my most favorite movies, but it's been ill-served on video. Please do a big fancy deluxe edition of it? And if you need a professional film critic to contribute an essay, you know where to find me. Love, Sherilyn.

Speaking of aping things, one of the reasonable criticisms of the movie is that the Cruisers' music (by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band) is clearly modeled on Bruce Springsteen, and thus doesn’t sound at all like it's from 1963. An argument could be made that in Springsteen never tried to hide how strongly he was influenced by Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" production style, which itself reached its apex in '63 — assuming that "Be My Baby" counts as the apex rather than "River Deep, Mountain High" in '66, but that's a whole 'nother discussion. But really, the music in Eddie is anachronistic at best. That doesn't mean that it isn't any good, of course; the highly Springsteen-ian "On the Dark Side" was the big hit from the soundtrack, though the fact the word "SPRING" looms large behind Eddie's head as he sings it doesn't help to disassociate the song from the Boss.

That said, I have great love for Cafferty's "Tender Years," and will have no truck with criticisms of the song.

Shout! Factory has always been great about retaining a given movie's original poster art when possible, and they kept most of the major elements from the Eddie and the Cruisers one-sheet, but space prevented them from including all the text. There are a lot of valid criticisms about modern movie posters, but something I miss most about the old school — and the '70s and '80s in particular — is how much text they crammed in. Case in point:


Boy, those were the days, huh? You couldn't read such tiny print on a Netflix thumbnail if you wanted to, so I get why the style has moved away from such wordiness, but it's still a shame.

Though he's never stopped working, neither of the films did wonders for Paré's career, and the financial failure of the first Eddie was the first of a one-two punch with the similar floppiness of the following year's Streets of Fire, another rock fantasy that audiences didn't know what to do with.

Side note to Shout! Factory: Streets of Fire is far from one of my most favorite movies, but it's been also ill-served on video. Please do a big fancy deluxe edition of Streets after you do Velvet Goldmine? And if you need a professional film critic to contribute an essay about how much Diane Lane in Streets of Fire impacted her burgeoning identity as a preteen, you know where to find me. Love, Sherilyn.
The extras are mostly limited to archival interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from Eddie Lives, including record executives speaking glowingly of John Cafferty's future career prospects vis-à-vis this movie. You can't blame them for being hopeful, I suppose.
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Sherilyn Connelly


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