So I’m driving toward Longport on Tilton Road for my family’s annual pilgrimage to my childhood beach community down the shore, and we pass the Shore Mall movie theater. I was instantly transported back to my adolescence, and in particular, one jaunt to that theater occupied my thoughts on this passing. After all, it had been pretty much 30 years to the day when two of my favorite guilty pleasure movies were released. Because I was 14 and did not have my license yet, getting a ride off the island to one of the two Cineplexes (Cineplexi?) in the vicinity happened pretty infrequently (i.e., when my friends’ or my parents wanted quiet, or when any of them were headed to the movies themselves due to rain). We were otherwise confined to the limited selection at the Margate and Ventnor Twin theaters, but more often than not, had seen all four of the movies offered in pretty short order.
Summer School and The Lost Boys came out the very same weekend during the summer of 1987. At the time, I wasn’t entirely over my childhood fear of horror movies (I went to see Poltergeist with an older cousin when I was 9 years old and had nightmares for a full year). So despite the fact that pretty much everyone I knew was talking about TLB…especially the girls…and I was at an age where I definitely preferred to go places where girls might be present…I made the difficult choice to see Summer School, a movie I knew little about and which proffered a B-list cast (other than one of the stars of my then-favorite television show Cheers). As an aside, I had no idea who Mark Harmon was at the time, and would see the movie Stealing Home later that summer for the first time. Melrose Place wouldn’t put Courtney Thorne Smith onto the map for a few more years.
To this day, I am not disappointed in my decision. Summer School was great. Mr. Shoop, roller skates, Wondermutt and all, saved the day, against all odds. Ana Maria was great (and would go on to play Alotta Fagina in Austin Powers). And the dude who spent the entire summer in the bathroom was, put plainly, my favorite character in the movie. Summer School did highlight a great deal about why America’s education system is so horrific…from the emphasis on standardized testing, the tenure system, the lack of resources in the public school system and of course the complete neglect of those students, whom for whatever reason (and this particular film highlighted a multitude), failed to grasp the basic skills to move forward in their education, as determined by a Scantron test. But nevertheless, it was a fun summer movie chock full of classic quotable lines and characters, and is a movie I will seldom turn off if I happen upon it flipping through the channels.
It wasn’t until The Lost Boys made it to the premium cable channels the following year that I finally found the courage to watch it. And watch it again and again and again. This movie featured a cast of mostly male youngish actors who were heartthrobs. This was not the reason it resonated with me. I did not subscribe to Seventeen, Tiger Beat nor Teen Magazine. I did not find any male member of the cast dreamy, not the Coreys nor Jason Patrick nor Jack Bauer nor William “Bill” S. Preston, Esquire, for that matter (I did have a thing for Jamie Gertz for a hot minute, but it wasn’t a love that was pursued after the credits rolled). The movie won me over because its script was well written, its plot was intriguing and suspenseful and its soundtrack…all I can type is wow. In the opinion of IDROS, whatever that is worth, TLB has a Mount Rushmore level soundtrack for movies not about music or musicians (this idea alone is worthy of another post sometime in the near future, so stay tuned).
TLB is one of those movies that is sneaky good in so many ways. Among the many reasons it is nearly impossible to turn off whenever I happen upon it are the fact that its themes are timeless (brotherhood, being the new kids in a strange town, family dynamics, the dangers of love and how clueless we can be when falling under its spell, etc.) The movie also offers plenty of comic relief throughout, be it from the Frog brothers or Grandpa, to cut the horrifying tension and counteract the overarching evil that lurks beneath the seemingly innocuous teen romp the movie often appears to be. And finally, at the base of it all, TLB is a Vampire movie. Before True Blood, the Vampire Diaries, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blade, and a generation before the Twilight saga, one could argue that TLB was one of the first (no, IDROS did not forget Anne Rice) to successfully expand upon Bram Stoker’s themes and package them for teens and young adults thirsting for a blood-sucking Brady Bunch story…or at least a more modern twist on Vampiric lore.
Anyway, during a recent viewing of TLB, which spawned the idea for this post, IDROS began to see Max’s family of undead in a new way. My epiphany occurred during the most unpleasant scene in the entire movie, IMHO, which is when David and his Lost Boy brothers take Michael out to “hunt” for the first time, and they horrifically feed on a group of partying young adults around a bonfire. As I watched the awful scene unfold for the umpteenth time, I realized that Vampires, particularly those in this movie, are a terrorist organization not unlike ISIS, or Al Qaeda. Think about it…they kill innocent people in gruesome ways; they recruit others by promising eternal youth (a trip to heaven surrounded by virgins); they blend into society, even having jobs such as the friendly town video store proprietor; they use caves as a hideout/lair/home; they are vengeful; and the greatest connection of all – Kiefer Sutherland who plays David, arguably the most fearsome terrorist, I mean vampire, in TLB, would basically reinvent himself more than a decade later playing the foil to terrorists worldwide as Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) superman, Jack Bauer.
If you want to know how this post came to be…the truth is it was on a dare. Someone who reads IDROS gave your author four themes, and threw down the gauntlet. “You seem to be posting less and less frequently. Here’s some motivation. Combine the themes ‘Summer,’ ‘Education,’ ‘Terrorism,’ and ‘Tina Turner’ in your next post and I will bestow upon you my own version of a Pulitzer” (when pressed for details on said prize, IDROS was told that it involved a ticket to an upcoming concert).
Oh, and as for Ike’s ex-wife: The shirtless, long-haired saxophone dude who plays on the amusement pier in TLB (“I Still Believe”) is none other than Ms. Turner’s chief of brass on tour. Check him out here basically pleasuring the venerable pop star with his horn in an amazing version of Private Dancer.
Happy Summer all.
Did you know that TLB was originally written to be an updated take on Peter Pan, in which Peter (which was David’s original character name) was a vampire? It’s true. There are a multitude of Easter eggs from that storyline that remain in the movie, including the title itself, that point to that original theme. IDROS is glad Joel Schumacher, who directed, insisted on removing the overt Peter Pan references.
There is one actor/actress who appeared in both movies referenced above. Can you name him or her?
4 responses to “Summer School”
The gal who bargained for driving lessons (in Summer School).
Nice JK. KJM was a busy gal circa 1987. Not so much these days.
Lost Boys was a favorite movie of my best friend, we watched it *all the time* at her house, when we were 13. She has a cat now named Jack Bauer and I haven’t eaten lomein since 1988. When you mention the Ventnor theater, I can smell the stale popcorn. So, thanks.
favorite line from summer school that I still say today…..after said girl above puts the car in park on top of the curb….chainsaw and his bestie look at each other and rejoice “we live”….still rock that line in any car where I feel like my life was just in danger….and still have the urge to write Cool Dude Shades 😉