Film and drama

Screen Themes — Everything Old is New Again

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It’s time to take a step back in time, as entertainment editor John Turnbull and new contributor Alex Novak take a look at three classic movies from two very different perspectives.

ONE OF THE pleasures of being a movie buff is introducing people to movies they haven’t seen. Not just good movies, mind you there is definitely a perverse enjoyment to watching someone experience a movie like The Room for the first time.

Aside from being a dapper young man who knows a lot about cars, Alex is an insatiable entertainment buff, and knows more about Australian TV drama than anyone I’ve ever met. With the aim of expanding his film nerd credibility, I recommended three "classic" genre films, then we sat down and discussed them.

Trainspotting (1996) directed by Danny Boyle

Along with Requiem for a Dream and The Man with the Golden Arm, Trainspotting is one of the seminal films about drug addiction. Set in Scotland in the early nineties, the movie tells the story of heroin addict Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), his junkie friends Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Tommy (Kevin McKidd) and Spud (Ewen Bremner), along with the psychopathic Begbie, played by a never-better Robert Carlisle.

Based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting is at times dark, depressing and surreal the scene where Renton dives head first into a toilet to retrieve lost suppositories is as hallucinogenic as any drug trip. Fortunately, it is also engaging and laugh out loud funny and even as the characters go out of their way to mess up their own lives you can understand what they’re going through.

So what did Alex think?

Having never seen Trainspotting before, I had heard numerous people talk about it as a classic, a must-watch, a pretty full-on experience and so on, so I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Nevertheless, it still managed to surprise me. Not in the negative sense, but in the rollercoaster of a ride we’re taken on.

Initially, I was taken with seeing a young and very talented Ewan McGregor in his break-out role. There were the amusing hallucination sequences (eg Mark swimming through the toilet), the Bond references which I lapped up as a Bond-fan, the massive nineties nostalgia trip a window to a different time when junkies still stole car stereos! However, all of that comes crashing to a halt with a very graphic death of an infant about half way through the movie, which was pretty shocking to see and an example of the massive roller-coaster of emotions you’re taken on in this excellent film.

I had also forgotten how young Ewan McGregor was in this role, which was really his second major movie after the Danny Boyle directed (and also excellent) Shallow Grave. Having seen the "dead baby scene" a number of times the impact was reduced but I was struck by the level of hopelessness that pervades the movie, wrapped up by the bleak conclusion that Renton needs to rip off his best friends to escape from the hell that is his life in Edinburgh.

Great movie, hard to watch at times.

The Lost Boys (1987) directed by Joel Schumacher

Throughout his career, director Joel Schumacher has made good films (Tigerland, Falling Down, Flawless), bad films (Batman & Robin, 8MM, Bad Company) and the odd cult classic, including St Elmo’s Fire and this undisputed gem from 1987, The Lost Boys. On balance, he has probably made more bad movies than good but don’t write him off just because he put nipples on the Batsuit.

Starring a young Kiefer Sutherland alongside Jason Patric, Coreys Haim and Feldman, Dianne Wiest and 80’s sex symbol Jami Gertz, The Lost Boys is an enormously fun romp that pits a bunch of dorky teenagers against a clan of super-cool vampires.

Mr Novak?

As a massive 24 fan, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience seeing "Jack Bauer" in action in his much younger pre-24 days, particularly as the bad guy, and a vampire at that!

While the film itself has dated pretty significantly, The Lost Boys was still a great fun 90-minute ride with a nice charm and edge to it that a lot of modern day horror-comedy flicks seem to lack. This isn’t to say it’s a revolutionary film certainly for a modern audience seeing it for the first time (like myself) it has its fair share of predictable plot points and characters (although perhaps it was The Lost Boys that set the standard for these clichés?) but the cast was great.

Notable mention must go to brothers Edgar and Alan Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) who were a treat to watch. The mood and feel is gritty and dangerous and it has a great rock soundtrack. All in all, it’s a pleasure to be swept up in Michael’s rebellion and experimentation with a group of local vampires! 

While I disagree that the film has dated (mullets and dangly earrings on men are still cool, right?), you make a good point that The Lost Boys invented a number of vampire/horror tropes that have been used in more recent movies, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen another film use "death by stereo". If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend checking it out.

The Warriors (1979) directed by Walter Hill

The Warriors tells the story of a New York street gang that are framed for murder, then have to fight their way from the Bronx to their home base of Coney Island, chased by both the police and other gangs.

What makes the movie fun is the gritty 70’s approach and the over-the-top costume design of the gangs while the Warriors wear biker-style leather vests, the Baseball Furies wear face paint, matching baseball uniforms and carry baseball bats, the Turnbull ACs are bald and ride around in an old bus, the punks all wear dungarees (rather than dressing like punks) and the Boppers dress like Bruno Marz. Oh, and the Hi-Hats are mimes, which must be the most embarrassing gang to be in of all.

While most people probably haven’t seen The Warriors, it’s unlikely that that haven’t been touched by its cultural influence, from the tropes of gang life, to the matching gang outfits and the NWA song 100 Miles and Running.


I had never even heard of this movie when I watched it, so I went in to see The Warriors completely cold. Watching the entertaining 90 minute walk/fight/walk/fight/walk/fight through New York, I saw some similarities with the original Mad Max (crazy, anarchic characters all fighting over territory, also coincidentally made in the same year 1979) as well as similarities with a video game I was obsessed with in year nine of High School True Crime, New York City.

More specifically, it wasn’t the whole game but an extension level that you only access at the end which sees you having to make it from one end of New York City to the other while fighting off an entire population of zombies trying to kill you essentially what The Warriors experienced, minus the zombies. When you think about it like that, it’s quite a simple movie but enjoyable at the same time, although perhaps lacking in some depth.

There is no doubt that The Warriors is a simple movie and definitely a product of its time. Casually racist, sexist and homophobic, there is a lot to offend the more sensitive viewer but for fans of stylistic Seventies sleaze, you could do far worse.

Like what you read? John Turnbull''s books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame, action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Check them out!

You can also follow John on Twitter @blackmagicjohn.

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