With the holidays approaching, I found myself trying to come up with a suitable genre picture of yore to feature in my criminally underappreciated column. I have an ever-growing list of prospects; some that I’ve had in mind for a while (“C.H.U.D”), some which have been suggested to me (er, “TerrorVision”), and some I’m considering for the sheer sadism of it (“Megaforce”), but I couldn’t bring myself to actually deal with any of these flicks just yet. Similarly, there are enough reminders about the Christmas season that I didn’t want to revisit old Yuletide standards like “Silent Night, Deadly Night” or even “Christmas Evil.”
Still, there’s something about the holidays…the ubiquity of fat guys in fake beards, the preponderance of cloyingly sentimental programming on TV, and the relaxed attitude toward holiday drinking all merge to foster a more congenial attitude that warms the heart and lifts the spirits, like that first belt of Robitussin. And so I decided to give myself a gift, just this once, and write about one of my favorite oft-overlooked films of the ‘80s: “Bachelor Party.”
“Chicks, and guns, and fire trucks”
I remember the Reagan Era. Granted, I didn’t see “Bachelor Party” in the theater when it came out in 1984, but well do I recall the flood of teen sex comedies that tenacious young movie buffs like me would stay up late to watch on HBO. All flavors were represented – from the frat stylings of “Animal House” (which is almost prosaic by today’s standards) to the irony-challenged “Hardbodies” – there was something for everyone (“everyone” defined as males between the ages of 13 and 26). Some quality efforts managed to defy their categorization, though. Fast Times at Ridgemont High marked Cameron Crowe’s impressive debut as a writer, while 1983’s Risky Business is as stylish and symbolic a coming-of-age movie as has yet been made. Plus we get to see Rebecca De Mornay naked.
Even if it’s hardly as deserving of detailed examination as “Risky Business,” 1984’s “Bachelor Party” merits some consideration as a cultural case study. On the surface it may be seen as the last gasp of pre-AIDS era hedonism, but the underlying message is one that is far more traditionalist, perhaps presaging the end of the decade and the coming return to relative cinematic celibacy.
As most of you know, “Bachelor Party” starred a young Tom Hanks as the titular bachelor, Rick Gassko. At the time of its release, Hanks was riding high from the critical accolades he was receiving from “Splash,” which had come out a few months earlier. It’s possible that some conniving 20th Century Fox executive, eager to capitalize on the buzz, rushed this booze and breast fueled masterpiece out onto an unsuspecting world. We’ll never know. What we do know is that “Bachelor Party” was one of the last times we’d get to see Hanks in the likeable, goofball role cultivated in TV’s “Bosom Buddies.” “Big” and all its accompanying raves was just around the corner for Hanks, and while “Dragnet” and “The ‘Burbs” were still waiting in the wings, after “Philadelphia” you could bet you’d never see Hanks doing this kind of work again.
And if that means we’ll be spared a “Mazes and Monsters” sequel, so much the better.
Get the rest of the story in part two of FOOTAGE FETISHES: “BACHELOR PARTY”>>>