THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS/EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS II: EDDIE LIVES!"
Eddie and the Cruisers is a fascinating case study of cinema in the 1980s. Looking back, most people remember it as being a hit. In fact, it was a massive flop, having earned a little under $5 million total when it was released in 1983. Not until a year later, when the film hit VHS and began popping up on cable, did it achieve popularity. This was one of the earliest cases of a film getting a second life through non-theatrical outlets. The soundtrack of songs performed by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band suddenly started selling, too. The movie's theme, On the Dark Side, remains one of those tunes that pretty much everyone knows. Five years later, Eddie and the Cruisers spawned a too-late sequel, subtitled Eddie Lives!. Both pictures are on a new double feature Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.
Eddie and the Cruisers - The original, directed by Martin Davidson, concerns a beloved rocker named Eddie Wilson (Michael Pare) who drove his car off a bridge at the height of his fame. His body was never found. Ellen Barkin plays a reporter who thinks he might have faked his own death. She sets out to find answers, starting with Eddie's keyboard player/lyricist, played by Tom Berenger. Her questions cause him to flash back to memories of playing in the band and dealing with Eddie's mercurial nature.
Eddie is something of an enigma in his own movie, but that's kind of the point. While it's sometimes melodramatic, with a few stiff performances, Eddie and the Cruisers really understands the mythic pull of rock stars, especially those who die too young. The Is he or isn't he alive? plot offers some fun, and of course the music is great. This isn't a brilliant film by any stretch of the imagination, although it does have a way of sucking you in with its take on rock-and-roll immortality. Why does the Ellen Barkin character recede into the background, though?
Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! - In August of 1989, a sequel was released. Apparently, the Scotti Brothers famous record company execs at the time thought there was still some life left in the premise. They were wrong. Eddie Lives! had a dismal gross of $536,508, and it was pulled from theaters after only a week. Reviews were savage.
The problem is that the mystery is gone in the follow-up. Pare returns as Eddie, who is, in fact, alive and living in Canada under an assumed name. When a record company releases his long-lost album to great acclaim, he finds that it's difficult to resist the pull of the spotlight one more time. He starts up a new band that begins to get attention, but his hard-driving ways threaten to derail all comeback plans.
Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! again features some decent tunes, but the story is heavy-handed and unconvincing. For starters, we're asked to believe that this guy, whose songs were a throwback to the 1950s, is a big deal in the late '80s, a time when Guns N Roses were the top rock act of the day. Pare is okay as Eddie, but he's surrounded by actors who aren't especially well-cast. The dialogue is often laughably clunky. It's no wonder the film was a colossal flop.
Both movies look as good on Blu-ray as possible, given their low budgets. Eddie and the Cruisers has the theatrical trailer as a bonus feature, while Eddie Lives! has a trailer and several vintage interviews with record company people. Even though one movie is clearly better than the other, it's great to have them together on the same disc.
For more information on this title, please visit the Shout! Factory website.
Eddie and the Cruisers - out of four
Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives - 1/2 out of four
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