Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I bloggitty blog about a movie I own and have recently re-watchity watched. My mother once pointed out that the 1980s seemed to be all about the super-vehicles, so we get to the famous super-helicopter movie, Blue Thunder. I originally watched this and jotted down my notes on October 17, 2015.
Well, I picked up Blue Thunder for $5 out of the bargain bin at Red Apple about a month ago, but then I started on my Disney trip, then got pulled away from my TV for Thanksgiving vacation and such, but tonight -- TONIGHT! -- I finally set aside the time to watch this famous 1980s film about a super-helicopter.
Blue Thunder was popular enough back in the 1980s to spawn a short-lived TV series, which I have more memories of than the movie. Blue Thunder struck just enough nerve in the public consciousness to spark a debate over who'd win in a fight between it and the other famous super-helicopter of the 1980s, Airwolf.
And it's no question: Airwolf would win. As the movie makes abundantly clear, Blue Thunder was primarily designed for surveillance, with super-sensitive shotgun mics, high resolution video cameras, and a supercomputer that can tap into any crime database you need. Airwolf, on the other hand, was always primarily designed as an attack helicopter. Faster, more maneuverable, and more heavily armed, Airwolf would win hands-down.
On the other hand, Blue Thunder seems more timely than ever. With such a powerful surveillance helicopter flying over us, many allusions can be made to the post 9/11 surveillance in our lives. I saw that John Oliver bit from a few months ago about how small town US police forces are able to buy tanks and urban assault vehicles in the name of fighting domestic terrorism. So while the idea of a big city police force acquiring a heavily armed attack helicopter primarily for aerial surveillance seemed like a far-fetched idea back in the 1980s, I could see it happening today. No wonder there's starting to be talk of a remake.
Aside from that o-so-memorable super-helicopter, Blue Thunder is actually a pretty run-of-the-mill police thriller. Roy Scheider is Frank Murphy, a helicopter pilot for the LAPD. He's a Vietnam vet, and suffers from the occasional PTSD flashback. However, he is the best pilot on the force, which is why he's selected to be the pilot for the new joint military/police project. The LAPD is to break in a special new prototype helicopter designed for police surveillance and aerial crowd control. The nickname this prototype helicopter picked up: Blue Thunder. Using Blue Thunder's advanced surveillance equipment, Murphy begins an investigation into the recent assassination of a city councilor, and uncovers a conspiracy within the military and the LAPD to stir up trouble and create support for the Blue Thunder program. And then, Murphy is one man alone, taking on a corrupt police department, with nothing but his wits...and an armed-to-the nuts attack helicopter.
I do find it kind of silly that the architects of the conspiracy wind up choosing as their pilot the one guy who holds a grudge against the boss of this conspiracy, and give him all the tools needed to take down the conspiracy. Well, to be fair, they realize early on that Murphy isn't their guy, and in fact, Murphy busts up the conspiracy when he uses Blue Thunder to spy on the evildoers plotting to kill him. And, as a show of Blue Thunder's surveillance prowess, just 10 minutes of snooping with the helicopter's advanced equipment gives Murphy everything he needs. A typical cop movie would require a good half-hour of investigating.
But the movie is memorable for that helicopter, and the entire final half-hour is a massive dogfight, as Murphy steals Blue Thunder to deliver the evidence to the media. Fighter jets are called in, and Murphy's rival and the villain of our story takes to the air in another attack helicopter, and it all boasts some of the finest special effects that 1983 had to offer. Still very exciting stuff.
It's funny...watching it, as the movie started, I started wondering, "I wonder why this movie is rated R?" And then our intrepid helicopter pilots use their advanced surveillance equipment to watch a woman doing naked yoga. So...way to earn that R rating!
But yeah. It's fun stuff.