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The Eighties: The Musical

December 29, 2011

Growing up in the 1980s meant growing up with a style of Hollywood filmmaking more expensive, violent and culturally hollow than had ever been seen. It was, in many ways, completely amazing. And also, as most of us began to recognise as we hit adulthood, completely stupid.

This amazing stupidity has been celebrated in a series of condensed musical versions of ’80s action movies, featuring Sondheim-esque vocal arrangements, brilliant plot-condensing lyrics and excellently terrible impersonations, created by composers Jon and Al Kaplan.

The quality of the music and the editing in these videos is exceptional. These guys are really good. And there’s also something perfect about the mesh of emotionally overwrought melodrama with the macho excesses of a Hollywood which had gone into a peculiar ideological overdrive. Their version of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commando lays bare the anabolic madness of a superman special forces killer with a caring daddy side, while their version of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky IV rinses the original’s overblown propaganda for laughs.

While the ’80s ubermensch action hero is ripe for parody, they also do some great work with the decade’s less conventional films. Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop smuggles a dark satire of corporate America into a big-budget action movie, but that doesn’t stop this operatic ballad of regret being hilarious. And John Carpenter’s The Thing is both chillingly atmospheric and a landmark for horror effects work, but this musical version is sung from the perspective of the Thing itself in the style of Frank Sinatra, and is so amazing I’ve embedded it below.

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