OK, so Tuff Turf was released in 1985, nearly 30 years ago. And as everyone knows, James Spader did gain notoriety and now has a myriad of admirable film, stage and television roles under his belt (most notably on NBC's The Blacklist.) But it's interesting to note that it wasn't Tuff Turf that got him noticed (even though it was his first starring role in a film) but Pretty in Pink, which came out in a year later. I confess that up until recently, I had never heard of the movie Tuff Turf and I certainly do not remember seeing any publicity for it in the 1980s. Despite that, for a forgotten teen exploitation film it seems to have a cult following--with many fans considering it to be one of the best films of the 80s era. I would have to disagree--much of it is awful by today's standards--but I will say if you're looking for a film that looks the part of the 80s in regards to big hair, fashion, and background music (and not always in a good way) then this one certainly nails it.
|Things I learned from watching this movie: James Spader actually has a tattoo of a spade on his shoulder (a tattoo done the right way, like this, is hot.)|
|Her forehead band drives me nuts in this movie|
|Proof that Robert Downey Jr. loves ESPRIT clothing|
The thugs eventually run over Morgan's bicycle (which flies through the air in that overly done, classic slow motion sequence.) Morgan's parents are furious when they discover him trying to repair his mangled bike, as if it was his fault. Dejected, Morgan leaves his house to go watch Jimmy's band play at a local warehouse. (Downey is the drummer and a sight to see, wearing nothing but a bowtie and pants that look like they came from a sex shop.)
At the dance, Morgan grabs Frankie and starts twirling her around on the floor (this is one of the most enjoyable sequences in the movie) much to her protests and the chagrin of her gang, who eventually chase him off and threaten him outside the warehouse. They also steal his Porsche and take it for a joyride. Oh, it really isn't Morgan's Porsche--he just drove it to the dance because he spotted the keys just dangling there in the ignition when no one would bite at his hitchhiking attempts. Who leaves the keys in their unlocked Porsche in a skanky neighborhood? No one with a brain, but apparently this plot detail was necessary, because it conveniently lands the head thug Nick (who is Frankie's boyfriend) in the pokey.
With Nick out of the way for the time being, Morgan soon gets his chance to woo Frankie when he and Jimmy pick her and her friend up while cruising around the neighborhood. The quartet end up at a Beverly Hills country club (Morgan's idea) and crash a private party there for some free food. This was my favorite part of the movie, because I saw Spader slip suddenly into his future Raymond Reddington character from The Blacklist (fellow Blacklisters will know what I'm talking about), turning on the charm to canoodle his way into the party and schmooze with the guests. When the band takes a break, Morgan takes the stage and serenades Frankie with a lame ballad that sounds like it was whipped up on a whim for the film, something called "I Walk the Night":
What follows this scene may be one of the most ridiculous dance sequences ever conceived, even by 80s' movie standards. Morgan and Frankie go to what is obviously an adult bar/club (how two underage teens would be granted access to this place is beyond me.) At this point, Jimmy and Frankie's girlfriend have disappeared. A Tower of Power-like band credited as Jack Mack and the Heart Attack starts to play, and Frankie starts dancing seductively on every square foot of the place--twirling, bending, strutting and even cartwheeling across tables, the bar, and the go-go dancer's poles--her long, crimped hair flowing closely behind. This goes on for what seems like an eternity, finally culminating in Morgan and Frankie's first passionate kiss.
Despite now having feelings for Morgan, Frankie for some unknown reason continues to see Nick (who has now, we assume, been released from jail without explanation.) Shortly afterwards, Nick asks Frankie's father for her hand in marriage--and Frankie doesn't protest. Despite all this, Frankie accepts Morgan's invitation to dinner to meet his parents...which ends with Frankie acting like a rude child and storming out of the house after Morgan's mother makes a comment about Frankie's mother, not realizing she is dead.
The last half hour of the movie reminded me of the old saying about stepping in s*it and smelling like it, as Morgan's involvement with Frankie leads to his father landing in the hospital. As to be expected, there's a huge showdown between Morgan and the thugs in the warehouse, and Jimmy appears with a pair of Dobermans to help save the day. The ending credits are the icing on the cake and not to be missed. They come at us from left field and feature another performance by Jack Mack and his band, singing "T! U! F! F! You're so TUFF!" No, really.
|T! U! F! F! You're so TUFF!|
Despite its flaws, Tuff Turf is still worth viewing if you want to see Spader and Downey looking like kids very early in their careers, or if you need a dose of 1980s' cheesiness. As for me, I was left with a serious craving to watch Pretty in Pink again, to see all the elements of a teen movie done right.
|Note to self: this is the perfect photo for Photoshopping my head over Kim's...|