Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)
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It features solid music by John Cafferty, whose "The Dark Side," is played quite a bit during the movie but is a great song and always enjoyable to hear. The movie also has interesting characters and a somewhat intriguing story. The story features a decent imitation of a Jim Morrison-type lead singer without getting too dramatic.
A very young Ellen Barkin is the female lead here. She looked better when she got a bit older. A young Joe Pantolione also is in here and Michael Pare was effective as the lead singer.
Don't listen to the national film critics who didn't care for the film. The public liked it and most times, they are a better judge.
When Eddie Wilson crashed over a bridge in his car, his body was never found. Could that mean he is still alive? He certainly lives on in the hearts of the Cruisers. And what's more, there are unexpected phone callers that sound like Eddie and there's a car like Eddie's that dips its lights in the same way that Eddie used to do. The belief that he may still be alive is reinforced, even though Eddie died some 18 years ago. An intriguing situation!
Much of the film is in flash-back, jumping to & fro between the band of to-day and the band of years gone by. One adjusts quickly because Eddie it seems always wears a black leather jacket.
In a particular interesting scene Eddie takes his girl friend to an old junk yard one night. He explains that as a kid he used to hang out there. One of the workers at the yard built a castle of steel from bits and pieces selected from the dump. Eddie in a growing mood of despondency explains it is a memorial to nothing. Much like the boys from Jersey, they built up a band from nothing. I liked the analogy. "Long live nothing" he screams below the huge junk heap now illuminated with a million light bulbs.
It is interesting that fans refuse to let their rock stars die. I guess it is true that they really do live on in the songs that they created.
So if you're a musician--or even if you just want to hang out with musicians--you must watch this film, otherwise you'll look like a total n00b.
Even to non-musical audiences, this movie is a work of art. It's a nostalgic and poetic trip back to the early 1960s when America was just emerging from its cocoon of innocence. The entire film is a metaphor for this. Eddie's music, like life itself, dared to venture beyond the bubble gum into a world of complex social and personal issues... literally, the "Dark Side" of American life.
Once you grasp this fundamental theme, you will appreciate the entire film on a deep level. It's not just a rock'n'roll romp. It's a profound commentary on the growing pains our society endured in the 2nd half of the 20th century. Told in flashback, the story takes on a particularly tragic air, as if you were browsing through a dusty old scrapbook of your childhood memories, now gone forever.
The story/mystery is set in the first 5 minutes, and for the remaining 90 mins it unravels concurrently in 2 timelines to a brilliant finale. Acting is absolutely flawless, camera-work is both tense and dreamy, and the clincher is the fantastic music, a retro soundtrack by John Cafferty with songs you'd swear you'd heard from the 50s but were actually written in 1980: "On the Dark Side", "Tender Years" & "Wild Summer Nights" to name some of the best. Check em out on Youtube if you can.
Vivid characters bring this story to life. In "Eddie and the Cruisers", the two lead characters personify the duality of a soul. First there's Eddie (Michael Paré) who is the dark, explosive force yearning to evolve. His counterpart is the naïve kid Ridgeway (played by Tom Berenger showing off his amazing versatility as an actor--just 2 years before his role in "Platoon" as the sadistic Vietnam commander. Can you believe it's the same guy?!). The two characters wrestle with each other, at times best friends, at times worst enemies, but always bound together by the thread of music. I'll leave you to discover the philosophical implications of their conflict and its outcome.
Notable supporting performances are made by young actors Joe Pantoliana ("Risky Business", "The Fugitive", "The Matrix", perhaps best known for "The Sopranos"), Matthew Laurance (tons of 80s-90s TV), Ellen Barkin ("The Big Easy"), and Eddie's girl played by Helen Schneider who surprisingly never did any other feature films.
Some people criticize this film as being "B grade" or "cheezy". Sure, why not. To me, that only added to its charm. The 80s itself was a time of innocence & simplicity relative to today's gritty cinema. Isn't it fitting that we, living in our mega-produced, paranoid, cynical new millennium would enjoy watching an honest 80s flick which itself is taking a look back to the warmth of its prior generation? It's like a window within a window. Don't miss the magic of this experience.
I've seen 20 or 30 rock'n'roll films and this is hands down my favorite. Other faves include, by decade they depict, "Jailhouse Rock" (a surprisingly angsty 50s Elvis flick), of course "Eddie" (early 60s) and "Head" (late 60s trippy Monkees flick), "Spinal Tap" (a 70s metal spoof), "Music & Lyrics" (an 80s pop spoof), "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" (80s thru present day comeback attempt/comedy/documentary) and "Garage Days" (a 90s Aussie rock comedy by the director of "The Crow"). Worthy of note is "Looking for an Echo" (2000) by the same writer/director who did "Eddie", it presents a parallel story of what might've happened to a 50s singer if he slowly faded into obscurity.
Hope this review made sense to you. "I nearly broke my fingers" typing it. Haha. Watch the movie and you'll get it.
P.S. If you see the film, make note that "Wendell" the sax player is actually the one who played sax on the soundtrack. In addition, the writers went to great lengths to ensure that the instruments of the era were used (Wurlitzer 140b piano, old Fender Strat guitar, etc). But notice how the piano isn't plugged in! Doh! Almost perfect. Almost.
It's an interesting film with excellent music and nowadays is deemed a cult movie.Casting is frankly enjoyable,the film results to be the best Michael Pare performance.The magnificent music is by John Chafferty and Beaver Brown Band.The motion picture is well directed by Martin Davidson,he's a director at his beginning realized good movies with known actors : Lord's of Flatbush,Hero at large and of course Eddie of the Cruisers; however today he makes solely for television episodes. The picture got a sequel with the same actors (exception of Tom Berenguer) in which Eddie emerges under a new identity in the city of Montreal and he forms a new musical group and are answered the questions of the previous film .The film will like to rockers and musical cinema devotees. Rating : Above average
"Eddie" was based on the 1980 book, same name, by Paul F. Kluge (avail used Amazon). The basis of the plot is simple: If the lead singer in a #1 rock group dies, how are the lives of others in the group altered? Do they try to keep it going, or let go and move on? Do they ever try to "go back"? Et cetera. Mr. Kluge's inspiration for this was the death of Buddy Holly in 1959. He long wondered what happened to the members of the Crickets after that day, and turned his curiosity into this book.
All this per a personal conversation I had with Mr. Kluge in 1996. At that time, he was a professor at a small Ohio college.
One creepy mystery: aside from a couple of minor TV appearances many years later, Helen Schneider ("Joanne Carlino") never made another film after this one. Whatever happened to her? Did she also "pull a Rimbaud"?
I lived down the street from where they filmed Doc's apartment and spent many summers "Down the Shore". I remember almost all the locations in the film. Anyway, for me this movie is a trip down memory lane. There are really very few goofs and the producers got it right for the 60's in Jersey. I first saw this in 1985 on video. I am currently looking at it 26 years later. Still tugs at the heart strings as it did a quarter of a century ago!
This was one of those movies I watched on cable during the eighties without noticing much. I would only watch it, if I had nothing else to do.
That said, I was amazed how much I remembered from this movie, when I watched it again recently. Probably because this movie has a lot going for it, that I never considered. It is a good story, with some mystery that compels one into the story. The movie has a good sound track and made an interesting point that good musicians feel tortured when trying to express themselves musically.
30 years later the legend of Eddie catapults the band back in the charts. Reporter Maggie (Ellen Barkin) wants to put together a retrospective, and with the help of former band member Frank (Tom Berenger), they set out to uncover the mystery of what really happened to Eddie.
Critique: One time box office bomb whose relegation to cable and VHS have made it a cult film. Its 'what-if' music world combines the likes of legends like Hendrix, Morrison and Elvis. Although they died, the fictional figure of Eddie Cruiser remains elusive and distant. Existing between past and present.
The movie has a superb soundtrack and spirited live performances by the actors. The screenplay by Arlene and Martin Davidson (who directs) richly blends legend and fiction.
This was Michael Pare's explosive debut. His Eddie is charismatic, brash and full of life. His obsession for greatness leads to his own destruction. Sadly, Pare's follow-up films have been total duds, relegating him to 'B' films. The potential he showed here has never been realized. He never had it so good. He would come back and star in Eddie and the Cruisers 2: Eddie Lives (1989).
QUOTE: Eddie: "I want something great. I want something that's never been done before!"
The cast was great and for the most part have gone on to terrific careers. Michael Pare was sensational! In the disposable society that we live in, Eddie and the Cruisers reminds us of how tough the music industry is for newcomers. Eddie...shows the pitfalls of the 'suits', the drug influence and the hard work and even rejection that a new performer must be able to take to make it. It is a good blueprint to go by, but beware, Eddie had a sequel. The real idea is to pursue a dream and make it happen.
The music is still a great sound of rock and roll and a lasting sound that doesn't sound dated. I have the soundtrack and often listen to it. I am familiar with the sequel, but would love to see another rock movie as good as Eddie and the Cruisers.
Nor am I buying that although the cruisers have seemed to move on, as in they are making a living doing something else, that ALL of them seem to be stuck back in 1964, right down to "Eddie's girl", Joann Carlino, who after 19 years still has the outfits she wore back in the day, even more amazingly she fits in them. You'd think at some point her biological clock would start ticking - after 19 years you'd think the alarm on that clock would be ringing like crazy. Actually, Eddie was not very nice to any of the other Cruisers, so I could never really get why they were so stuck in the past.
Joann is so stuck in the past that when it appears that Eddie's car drives up into her driveway, she just dresses the way she would have dressed twenty years before and goes downstairs to find - well, watch and find out.
Yes, "The Dark Side" is good music, but it is obviously 80's music - even more obviously over 30 years later - and Michael Pare as Eddie is obviously lip syncing the vocals.
This was the inspiration for 2009's "The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll" but both movies have their distinctions, as well as pros and cons. "Eddie" is about a band from the early 60s whereas "The Perfect Age" is about a Guns N' Roses-type band whose heyday was in the 80s. Each film starts out shaky as the story is set-up, but they progressively get better. Both films feature charismatic frontmen with diametrically opposed styles, but also very similar when you think about it. Each feature revealing chats amongst the characters with "Eddie" shining in the final act when it unveils Eddie's youthful place of solitude, Palace of Depression (which is an actual place in southern New Jersey, Vineland; a building made of junk built by the eccentric George Daynor, a former Alaskan gold miner who lost his fortune in the Crash of '29). Growing-up, my gang had several hidden spots where we'd meet, each with a name known only to us; I even had a personal "My Place" in the woods behind my parents house on a lake where I'd often go for private reflection. When I was 15 I planned to commit suicide there, but thankfully didn't go through with it. The movie gets points for including such an existential element.
Was Eddie still alive or did he die in 1964? The ending reveals the truth and the way it's done is superlative.
So which movie is better, "Eddie" or "The Perfect Age"? They both shoot for greatness and in some small ways attain it. Disregarding the rockin' performances, "Eddie" is more location-bound and therefore dramatically sedentary whereas "The Perfect Age" is a road movie in disguise and therefore seemingly more eventful. In my opinion the music's better in the latter, but then I prefer the heavier side of rock/metal over the Bruce-Springsteen-in-the-early 60s style of "Eddie" (which is good for what it is, don't get me wrong). "Eddie" stands out for including the Palace of Depression angle and contains superb lines in the final act, but "The Perfect Age" soars in its own way, like Spyder & Eric's brouhaha in the rain and the blues bar sequence (featuring cameos by legends Sugar Blue, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Bob Stroger). Then there's the powerful climatic scene in "Perfect Age" at Spyder's ritzy mansion with Jane's Addiction's "Three Days" playing in the background, which just so happens to rank with the all-time best cinematic scenes utilizing rock songs, like the close of 1998's "Buffalo '66" with Yes' incredible "Heart of the Sunrise."
The songs by the fictitious Eddie and the Cruisers were composed/performed by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. The main song, "On the Dark Side," became a #1 hit for the band and "Tender Years" was a minor one. Most of the cast weren't musicians, although Matthew Laurance (Sal) learned how to play bass for the movie. Only Michael "Tunes" Antunes, the sax player for the Beaver Brown Band, and Helen Schneider (Joann) were professional musicians.
Speaking of whom, I can't close without mentioning how Helen really shines here. No, she's no Meryl Streep, but she's great for her role in "Eddie." You could say she's The Perfect Rage of Rock 'n' Roll (sorry, that was just DUMB). I should also add that it's interesting to see Berenger, Barkin and Paré when they were so young.
The film runs 95 minutes and was shot entirely in New Jersey with the exception of the college sequence, which was filmed just across the Pennsylvania border at Haverford College.
The 1980s, among many other great things in the movie world, were apparently the decade of music films. We really do not see them anymore, but the 80s brought us this film (1983) "La Bamba" (1987) and this film's sequel (1989), just to name a few. Apparently it was also the decade where Joe Pantoliano appeared in music films, because he is both here and in "La Bamba".
Roger Ebert wrote at the time that the film was "so frustrating, so dumb, so unsatisfactory", but he was so wrong. This may not be high art, and it may be odd to hear Springsteen-esque music allegedly being played in 1963, but it is a darn fun film.
Although the film had a strong cult following when it was played repeatedly on HBO, those under 30 today may not remember the movie. Yet, the hit single "On the Dark Side" still receives regular radio play, so it is anything but forgotten. This might be the time to visit (or revisit) the film, especially now that we have had thirty years to reflect on the careers of Michael Pare, Tom Berenger and Joe Pantoliano.
Hats off to Shout Factory for releasing this as a double feature on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, it comes as bare bones release, with only subtitles to speak of. Michael Pare was not asked to do a commentary (though he probably would), and it would have been a really cool thing to include a remastered soundtrack CD. Maybe we have not seen the final release of this film yet.
What makes "Eddie and the Crusiers" work so well is the musical score by John Cafferty, which mostly consists of soft rock songs. The performances by Pare and Berenger are quite good, too. However, the story written by Arlene Davidson and director Martin Davidson doesn't give the film more detail. One must wonder how much detail is too much for a movie like this?
Overall, "Eddie and the Crusiers" is a respectable blend of music and mystery.