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Anchor Bay presents
Midnight Madness (1980)

"Yeah, they make a smaller mo-ped, but there's nothing like having one of these mean machines between your legs."
- Wesley (Eddie Deezen)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: May 02, 2001

Stars: David Naughton, Debra Clinger, Eddie Deezen, Brad Wilkin, Maggie Roswell, Stephen Furst
Other Stars: Michael J. Fox, Paul Reubens
Director: David Wechter, Michael Nankin

MPAA Rating: PG for (drinking and mild sexual content)
Run Time: 01h:52m:09s
Release Date: May 15, 2001
UPC: 013131140491
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C-D+C- D-

DVD Review

Mignight Madness is quite a piece of work. Only in the 1980s could such an outlandish, madcap, incomprehensible comedy be produced. From the disco store to the unflattering clothes, this one is an 80s film for the ages.

On a college campus somewhere in LA, eccentric genius Leon has a plan: bring together five students with varied backgrounds, and involve them all in a crazy game of strategy called "The Great All-Nighter." You'd think an all-nighter would refer to studying for a test, or perhaps attending a party. Nope, it's just a rather juvenile game. Each of the five team leaders rounds up several players, and then together they scour the city, solving a set of clues that lead them closer and closer to the finish line. Tough, intricately-worded stuff, like "Look between the two giant melons." Answer? Give up? Why, breasts of course. And so on.

This movie isn't quite as innovative as the premise might suggest. The director clearly set his sights on "TV movie" and no further because, from the pacing to the humor, this one follows the rules of the overdone sit-com. Even the soundtrack relies far too much on the jovial, jaunty, irritating music from shows like Three's Company, where the score points out the punchlines (so you know for sure when to laugh). The characters are drawn from "The Big Book of TV Clichés", with such clearly defined archetypes as "the nerd," "the rich brat," "the jock", "the sensitive guy," "the nice girl," and "the fat people to be made fun of." Hmmm, I think that covers all the bases. Give the fat guy a horrible personality, and we're set. After all, we can't have our attractive young cast talking with icky fat people, now can we?

Of course, Midnight Madness carries the distinction of being the film that launched the careers of two big stars (Michael J. Fox and Paul "Pee-Wee Herman" Rubens). It was the first film for both, but I think they were cast through chance or dumb luck, rather than any skill on the part of the filmmakers. Fox has an especially whiny role as the little brother of one of the team captains. He just wants to be noticed, to be praised for his skills at miniature golf and video games. It's enough to make you weep, provided you are slicing onions while watching.

Yes, if Midnight Madness were made today, it would rate a solid F, but since it is an 80s film, it is redeemed by camp value. Sure the plot is dumb and cliché, but it is just hokey and elaborate enough to warrant a viewing; the characters are so absurd as to demand a revisiting. Do I smell a cult classic brewing? Or is it the smell of 20-year-old cheese?

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: I'm not sure what the original aspect ratio for this release is (the IMDb's got nuthin'!), but the credit sequence is window-boxed at roughly 1.37:1, with the rest of the film at 1.33:1, so take that as you will. Regardless, the image has more problems that just the questionable screen proportions. First of all, the print used for the master was in terrible shape. There are constant scratches and dirt marks throughout. In the entire opening scene, there is a big black mark that just sits near the bottom of the frame. Other than that, colors tend to waver, with some scenes looking fairly saturated, and other, very washed out. The black level is just this side of VHS quality - it looks pretty terrible. Film grain is a huge problem as well, as it causes the picture to swim with compression artifacts. Overall, the entire film looks very soft and fuzzy. Watchable, but just barely.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The audio isn't much better than the video. This "surround" track is basically a mono affair. Certainly there are no directional or panning effects. The dialogue is clear, but there is a lot of audible hissing emanating from the center speaker. The sound effects and score have been mixed out to the front mains, but they sound very unsupported and harsh.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Production Notes
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: What the disc lacks in film, audio, and video quality is totally redeemed by the awesome supplemental content! You'll spend hours pouring over the production notes printed on the reverse side of the cover sleeve! These things are so good, they make up for the lack of subtitles, a trailer, and a retrospective interview from Michael J. Fox, where he explains how he tried to sue to have this film removed from his resume, but was unsuccessful.

Hey, look! My sarcasm detector just exploded!

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Midnight Madness is vintage 1980s cheese. They don't make them like this anymore. Ah, to venture back to a time when the line was cleanly drawn between the good and the bad, the jock and the nerd. When the fat were to be ridiculed and laughed at, and pelted with Twinkies®! When authority figures were to be mocked and private property indiscriminately damaged! When beer, yes BEER, was to be drunk, followed by a hearty, hilarious burp. Ah yes. Those were the days.


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