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14 Blockbuster Facts About the Summer Movies of 1985

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Despite the onslaught of automatic weapons, grenades, and political corruption, Rambo’s biggest problem in 1985 turned out to be a scrawny kid in a DeLorean.

Back to the Future was that summer’s biggest hit, earning $210.6 million and knocking Sylvester Stallone’s well-oiled deltoids off of his predicted perch at the box office. Few expected Back to the Future to perform so well, but Marty McFly’s success was just one of several surprises coming out of that year's summer movie season. Check out these 14 facts about a failed return to Oz, a geriatric Bond, and why a bunch of high school kids had such a problem with The Goonies.

1. Movies Stuck Around All Summer.

In today’s rush to have a major opening weekend before the next big movie rolls up, it’s hard to imagine any one film dominating theaters for long. But that’s exactly what Back to the Future did, arriving in cinemas on July 3, 1985 and taking the number one spot for a total of 11 weeks. Only the late July debut of National Lampoon’s European Vacation kept McFly from 12 straight weekends of victory.

2. There Were Plenty of Reruns.

Sequel fatigue has been setting in for years, with critics complaining that there are too many derivative works and not enough original material. But there was a time when studios would literally—not figuratively—rehash old titles by reissuing them. The summer months of 1985 saw the re-releases of Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, with the latter earning roughly $40 million in additional revenue—more than many first-run movies that year.

3. Disney Was Battered By the Care Bears.

Walt Disney

After five years of production and a reported $40 million price tag—at the time, the most expensive animated movie ever—The Black Cauldron was expected to reverse the course of underperforming Disney releases. Instead, it was a huge flop, earning less than half of its budget back and even getting out-hustled by the substantially less expensive The Care Bears Movie.   

4. They Also Paid Out the Nose for the Ruby Slippers.

Disney’s Return to Oz was expected to cash in on the brand equity of L. Frank Baum’s book series, which was last seen onscreen in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz. That film, however, made such an impression with its Technicolor portrayal of Dorothy and her travels that the more faithful adaptation turned out to be too intense for kids. The film bombed: The New York Times declared it a “catastrophe,” and Disney had to pay for the privilege. Even though Baum’s books were in the public domain, the Ruby Slippers were not. They had to be licensed from MGM in order to be used.

5. Explorers Was Supposed To Be the Breakout Hit.

When has Entertainment Tonight ever lied to us? In their summer movie preview, prognosticators figured that Paramount’s Explorers, about kids that build their own spaceship, would rake in the dough. Why? Mostly because shooting children into orbit seemed like a can’t-miss proposition, and because director Joe Dante was also responsible for 1984’s Gremlins. But Explorers, which starred River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke, was rushed to meet its July release date, frustrating Dante and resulting in an uneven film that didn’t get much attention.

6. Michael J. Fox Bumped Himself Off.

Prior to shooting Back to the Future, Fox had finished Teen Wolf, an amiable if not-quite-classic comedy about a basketball-playing werewolf. Had it not been for Back to the Future’s massive success, it’s hard to know what audiences would have made of the film. But when it premiered in August, Fox had generated so much goodwill that it opened in second place, giving the actor both top slots. (Doing press for Teen Wolf, Fox told Starlog he disliked the title and was “chagrined” when the studio insisted on it.)   

7. Arnold Schwarzenegger Starred As a Non-Conan Conan.

Schwarzenegger agreed to shoot a cameo role in Red Sonja, producer Dino De Laurentiis’s attempt to feminize the sword-and-sorcery genre the two men had popularized with the Conan movies. Owing to legal reasons, Arnold’s character could not be named Conan, and the actor was assured that the role would be a surprise for viewers. But filming dragged on and Schwarzenegger’s part kept growing; when Red Sonja began its marketing efforts, Arnold was featured prominently on the poster and in advertising. He was so incensed at De Laurentiis for tricking him into a script he felt was “trash” that he refused to promote the film.

8. Weird Science Won the Three-Way Kid Genius Stakes.

In a seven-day span, three movies were released that featured teenagers using their considerable intellects to get themselves into and out of trouble: Weird Science, My Science Project, and Real Genius. Critics thought the studios were sabotaging themselves and creating consumer confusion. In the end, Weird Science—a John Hughes-scripted film about two nerds who create their ideal woman with a computer program—was weird enough to stand out, earning a respectable $23.8 million.

9. Bond Became the Butt of Jokes.

MGM

A View to a Kill marked the seventh time Roger Moore portrayed suave super-spy James Bond, but the fact that Moore was nearly 60 at the time did not go unnoticed. Moore himself was disturbed to find out he was older than his co-star’s mother, and former Bond Sean Connery chimed in to say that the character should be no older than 35. Moore resigned his post later that year.

10. The Goonies Lacked “Realism.”

The Los Angeles Times had the novel idea of gathering eight high school journalism students to quiz them on their interest in the upcoming summer film slate. Among their criticisms: The Goonies looked to be “fairly unrealistic,” with one concerned the title might be confused with Ghoulies or Gremlins; Clint Eastwood’s Western Pale Rider was a no-go since Eastwood is “not good-looking”; Chevy Chase, set to star in Fletch, reminded one of a “white Eddie Murphy.” The crew voted Explorers as the film they’d most like to see. Right on the money, kids.

11. It Was a John Candy Kind of Summer.

Candy was in four films between Memorial Day and Labor Day: Summer Rental, Volunteers, Brewster’s Millions, and a cameo in Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird. All of them performed well, except for Jim Henson’s effort: despite getting positive reviews, no one particularly cared to pay to see Big Bird when he was on television for free.

12. A Drive-In Theater Got the Twister Treatment.

On May 31, 1985, the Spotlight 88 Drive-In Theater in Beaver County, Pennsylvania was pulverized by an F-4 tornado. With business already in decline, the owners decided to convert it into a flea market. While it was being repaired, someone spray-painted a sign on the marquee: “Now Playing: Gone with the Wind.”

13. Siskel and Ebert Were Pretty Disappointed.

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were so peeved at the year’s offerings that the duo assembled an entire show about the worst of the worst. Siskel called it “one of the dullest, most juvenile, most homogenized summer movie seasons in recent memory.” Among their targets: The Bride, with Sting and Jennifer Beals as the bride of Frankenstein; the spy satire The Man With One Red Shoe, starring Tom Hanks; and Return to Oz, which Ebert declared “so depressing ... it was some kind of torture for me to sit through it.”

14. The Average Ticket Only Cost $3.55.

... leaving moviegoers with enough money to grab a New Coke at the concession stand. (Until it was discontinued on July 11th.)

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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

1. PANGANGALULUWA // THE PHILIPPINES

Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.
Suman

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.

2. PÃO-POR-DEUS // PORTUGAL

Raw dough.
iStock

Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.

3. HALLOWEEN APPLES // WESTERN CANADA

Kids trick-or-treating.
iStock

If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.

4. ST. MARTIN'S DAY // THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.

5. A PENNY FOR THE GUY // THE UK

Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.

6. TRICKS FOR TREATS // ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Kids knocking on a door in costume.
iStock

If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.

7. ME DA PARA MI CALAVERITA // MEXICO

Sugar skulls with decoration.
iStock

While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.

8. HALLOWEEN! // QUEBEC, CANADA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
iStock

Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.

9. SWEET OR SOUR // GERMANY

Little girl trick-or-treating.
iStock

Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.

10. TRIQUI, TRIQUI HALLOWEEN // COLOMBIA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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11 Thrilling Facts About Dial M for Murder
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In 1953 Alfred Hitchcock was looking for a new project after a film he’d been developing fell through. Sensing a need to go back to his safe space of murderous thrillers, he opted to adapt a stage play that had already proved to be a hit on British television. Though he had no particular attachment to the project, Dial M for Murder would ultimately become one of Hitchcock’s best-known—and best-loved—classics.

From the film’s use of 3D to the debut of Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s filmography to a pivotal murder sequence that made the director lose weight from stress, here are 11 facts about Dial M for Murder.

1. IT’S BASED ON A STAGE PLAY.

Dial M for Murder is, in terms of locations and number of characters, a relatively sparse film that barely leaves its primary set. This is because it was based on a stage play by Frederick Knott, which premiered as a BBC TV special in 1952 and later opened at London’s Westminster Theater and, eventually, Broadway. After seeing the BBC production, producer Sir Alexander Korda purchased the rights to make the film version, and later sold them to Warner Bros. for $75,000.

2. ALFRED HITCHCOCK THOUGHT HE WAS “COASTING” WHEN HE MADE THE FILM.

By 1953, when Dial M for Murder arrived at Warner Bros., Hitchcock was developing a project called The Bramble Bush, the story of a man who steals another man’s passport, only to find out that the original owner is wanted for murder. Hitchcock wrestled with the story for a while, but was never satisfied with it. When Dial M for Murder landed at the studio, Hitchcock knew the play had been a hit, and opted to direct it. As he later told fellow director François Truffaut, he found the film to be “coasting, playing it safe,” as he was already known as a thriller filmmaker.

3. IT’S HITCHCOCK’S ONLY 3D FILM.

In the early 1950s, the 3D movie craze was raging, and Warner Bros. was eager to pair it with the fame of Hitchcock. So, the director was ordered to use the process on Dial M for Murder. This meant Hitchcock had to work with the giant cameras necessary for the process, but there was also a trade-off that makes the film fascinating—even in 2D. In order to make the film look appropriately interesting in 3D, Hitchcock added a pit into the floor of the set, so the camera could move at lower angles and captures objects like lamps in the foreground. As a result, the film looks like no other Hitchcock ever shot, particularly for the infamous scissors murder that’s the film's thrilling centerpiece. Unfortunately, by the time Dial M for Murder was released in 1954, the 3D fad was dying out, so the film was shown in 2D at most screenings.

4. IT WAS HITCHCOCK’S FIRST FILM WITH GRACE KELLY.

Of all of the iconic blonde stars Hitchcock cast in his films, the most famous is almost undoubtedly Grace Kelly, the actress-turned-princess who first joined him for this film. Hitchcock once described Kelly as a "rare thing in movies ... fit for any leading-lady part,” and it was said he had the easiest working relationship with her of any star. They worked so well together that they went on to make two more films, Rear Window in 1954 and To Catch a Thief in 1955.

5. IT TAKES PLACE ALMOST ENTIRELY INDOORS.

Because Dial M for Murder is based on a stage play, the original script had very little in the way of outdoor set pieces. Hitchcock wanted to keep it that way, as he later explained to Truffaut:

“I’ve got a theory on the way they make pictures based on stage plays; they did it with silent pictures, too. Many filmmakers would take a stage play and say, ‘I’m going to make this into a film.’ Then they would begin to ‘open it up.’ In other words, on the stage it was all confined to one set, and the idea was to do something that would take it away from the confined stage setting.”

Hitchcock wanted to keep the confinement intact, so almost all of the action in the film takes place indoors, largely in the Wendices' apartment. This adds to the intimacy and tension.

6. HITCHCOCK PERSONALLY CHOSE EVERY PROP.

Hitchcock was always known as a meticulous director obsessed with detail, but on Dial M for Murder he was particularly detail-oriented, in part because the 3D cameras were going to capture objects in a way his other films hadn’t. As a result, he selected all of the objects in the Wendice apartment himself, and even had a giant false telephone dial made for the famous “M” close-up in the title sequence.

7. KELLY’S WARDROBE GROWS DARKER ON PURPOSE.

Grace Kelly in 'Dial M for Murder' (1954)
Warner Home Video

Hitchcock’s exacting eye also led to an elaborate “color experiment” to portray the psychological condition of Kelly’s character. As the film begins, the colors she wears are all very bright, suggesting a happy life in which she doesn’t suspect anything is wrong. As the film grows darker for her, to the point that she’s framed for murder, the wardrobe grows darker and “more somber,” as Hitchcock put it.

8. KELLY WON A PARTICULAR WARDROBE ARGUMENT.

For the scene in which Swann (Anthony Dawson) attempts to murder Margot (Kelly) by strangling her (until she manages to stab him with a pair of scissors), Hitchcock had another exacting wardrobe request. He had an elegant velvet robe made for Kelly, hoping to create interesting textural effects as the lights and shadows played off the fabric while she fought for her life. Kelly reasoned that, since Margot was alone in the apartment (as far as she knew) and was only getting out of bed to answer the phone, she wouldn’t bother to put on a robe.

“I said I wouldn't put on anything at all, that I'd just get up and go to the phone in my nightgown. And [Hitchcock] admitted that was better, and that's the way it was done,” Kelly later recalled.

9. HITCHCOCK WAS SO NERVOUS ABOUT THE PIVOTAL SCENE THAT HE LOST WEIGHT.

Dial M for Murder was shot in just 36 days, but the director took special care with one scene in particular: the murder sequence in which Margot stabs Swann with the scissors. Not only was it a key scene in the film, but it was also a moment that required particular care to make the 3D effects work. Hitchcock agonized over the scene to such a degree that he apparently lost 20 pounds during filming.

"This is nicely done but there wasn't enough gleam to the scissors, and a murder without gleaming scissors is like asparagus without the hollandaise sauce—tasteless,” he reportedly said after one take.

10. HITCHCOCK MAKES HIS CAMEO IN A PHOTOGRAPH.

Hitchcock became known throughout his career for making cameos in his films, ranging from the very subtle (you can see his silhouette in neon outside the window in Rope) to the more elaborate (missing the bus in the opening sequence of North by Northwest). In Dial M for Murder, his cameo falls somewhere in between. He appears in a class reunion photo in the Wendice apartment, seated at a banquet table among other men.

11. IT’S BEEN REMADE FOUR TIMES.

Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in 'A Perfect Murder' (1998)
Warner Bros.

Dial M for Murder was a film adaptation of a stage play that had also already been adapted for television in Britain, and it proved popular enough that four more adaptations followed. In 1958, NBC broadcast a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, in which both Anthony Dawson and John Williams returned to play Swann and Chief Inspector Hubbard, respectively. A 1967 ABC television production of the play co-starred Laurence Harvey and Diane Cilento. A television movie starring Angie Dickinson and Christopher Plummer was produced in 1981, and in 1998 the play served as the inspiration for the film A Perfect Murder, starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow.

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