While we may be far removed from the glory days of the Hollywood musical, the genre is still alive, with at least one major production getting made each year. But it wasn’t too long ago that the musical genre was all but dead. The 70s and 80s were an especially brutal era for musicals, but there were a few titles from that time that are still worth checking out. Here is your list of fun, but forgotten movie musicals of the 70s and 80s (…and one from the 60s):
The First Nudie Musical (1976)
In a desperate attempt to hold off his studio going bankrupt, a young movie exec hatches a plan to make the world’s first “nudie” musical. The production is plagued by bad casting and a completely novice director, but in the end, they are able to pull together and make a hit. Featuring great, catchy songs such as — and I am not making any of this up — “Dancing Dildos,” “Lesbian Butch Dyke,” and “Let them Eat Cake, and Let Me Eat You,” the movie is a hilarious send up of classic Hollywood musicals.
It is worth noting that the movie co-stars Cindy Williams of Laverne & Shirley fame. She made this movie right before the show became a hit, and the TV show’s production company tried to block the movie’s release, fearing it would tarnish their star’s squeaky clean image (even though she doesn’t actually appear nude in the movie). It was eventually released, and though it wasn’t a big hit, it has found a cult following.
Check out the red band trailer, but be forewarned — it is absolutely not safe for work:
This movie feels like it was destined to be randomly discovered on HBO when you stayed home from school on a sick day. This very weird, very Australian musical comedy follows a young girl named Jackie who is determined to become a star. Her cousin, who is also her manager, is constantly putting her in awkward situations in the hopes of winning her fame. They eventually meet an eccentric producer who guides them into a Battle of the Bands competition.
The location photography of 1982 Sidney, Australia is amazing to watch. And the movie, filled with oddball rock and pop songs, is actually pretty good too. A fantastic 80s time capsule.
The Pirate Movie (1982)
This movie is a goofy, Airplane-style spoof loosely based on the classic Pirates of Penzance story, starring early 80s teen idols Christopher Atkins and Kristy McNichol. McNichol plays Mabel, the unpopular girl who never gets the guy. Then she bonks her head, and the rest of the movie plays out in her dreams as a pirate adventure. The production quality isn’t the greatest, and the two stars aren’t exactly great actors either, but everyone is clearly having fun. The movie is cornball as fuck, but still a lot of fun to watch. It’s helped by the fact that most of the songs are actually pretty great (not to mention loaded with quite a lot of risque, adult humor for a PG movie).
Oh, and you can watch the entire movie on YouTube – so you have nothing to lose.
Shock Treatment (1981)
Forever plagued with the baggage of being the “sequel” to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment is rarely given a fair shake among viewers. Originally planned as a much more ambitious production, the filmmakers ran into a looming writers’ strike and had to make drastic changes to rush the production. The result is a satire of TV programming that is surprisingly relevant today. Shock treatment essentially predicted the rise of reality TV stars.
The movie is strange, but wildly original. The fast-paced story is filled with a huge, star-studded cast of characters that are all game for the bizarro story that unfolds. It doesn’t always make sense, but it is fantastically entertaining and filled with an amazing album of memorable songs. Even the most jaded of Rocky Horror fans tend to agree that the sequel has the superior soundtrack.
You can also find the entire movie on YouTube.
Elephant Parts (1981)
Elephant Parts isn’t technically a musical, but a first-of-its-kind “extended music video” that featured music videos by Michael Nesmith (formerly of The Monkees) mixed with comedy skits. Think Kentucky Fried Movie, but with musical interludes.
If you’ve never seen Elephant Parts, holy cow, track it down right away, because you don’t know what you’ve been missing. It’s like the best collection of early 80s SNL clips you’ve ever seen. If you can get past the late 70s hairstyles and the fact that Mike Nesmith will constantly remind you of your dad when you were six years old, the movie is absolutely hysterical. Skits like “The Pirate Alphabet” and “Neighborhood Nuclear Superiority” are classics. The songs are all over the place in terms of style, but they are quite good, the most memorable being “Cruisin’,” which most people remember as “Lucy and Ramona.”
The DVD is getting scarce. The full movie is no longer posted on YouTube, but it is on Daily Motion, so long as you don’t mind Korean subtitles. And speaking of Mike Nesmith…
If you thought some of the movies on this list were weird, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Head, starring The Monkees, is truly a trip into the bizarre. You’re in for a surprise if you expect an extended version of the TV show, because this is definitely not that.
The movie, co-written by Jack Nicholson (yes, the Jack Nicholson), is pure stream of consciousness. The story — what there is of it — centers on The Monkees literally trying to run away from their fame. What follows is a strange collection of sequences that are often parodies of classic Hollywood cliches, mixed in with music by the band, of course. While there are some funny moments, it is hard to call this a comedy. This is actually avant-garde, experimental 60s cinema that is unlike anything you are used to.
And, of course, the whole movie is on YouTube (in quite good quality, too).
Article by contributor WatershipDownSyndrome.