The movie The Death of Stalin satirises Stalinism in the wake of the death of the Soviet leader in 1953. Back in 1983, there was a similar attempt to poke fun at that era but based during the lead up to Stalin’s death, not the aftermath – called Red Monarch.
It’s good to see the return of political comedy – one of the few good things that can be said about the times we live in now. Here is a trailer for Red Monarch.
In early 1979, I left the ABC cinema in South Woodford thrilled to bits. I’d watched an American movie called The Warriors in which a gang must return to their base in Coney Island having been wrongly framed for a murder. Every other gang in New York is after them. It’s the ultimate chase nightmare and at the time, freaked us out.
In the US, real gangs went to the cinemas cheering on particular fictional gangs on screen they’d decided to root for. There was a real fear that the movie would spark off gang warfare in the country’s already fragile cities. You have to remember that at the time, New York had gone financially bust and large parts of the inner suburbs were a wasteland.
The New Musical Express reported on the ‘year of the gang flick’ in the US and now it’s hard to believe the movie caused such a fuss. But it did. There was some outrage in the UK when our mild mannered film censor James Ferman decided to let the film go to cinema screens uncut. His view was that it was no worse than Clockwork Orange.
The Furies, the High Hats, the Grammercy Riffs, the Boppers and the Warriors. “Can you dig it?”
Strange how some movies get panned when they come out but praised for years after. When Dolly Parton took to the silver screen in 1981 with ‘9 to 5’, a queue of critics formed to stick their poison dipped pens in to the queen of country music.
I’ve got one review in front of me here from Melody Maker in February, 1981. “Poor Dolly Parton’s movie debut will do her as much solid good as a Peter Butterworth western.” It went on to say that it wasn’t all Dolly’s fault because “the more veteran talents of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin also sink without trace in the puddle which is ‘9 to 5′”.
The three ladies embark on their revenge against a sexist boss, sitting opposite “a beserk Xerox machine which may have had a hand in the screenplay”. Far from being tickled by the antics of the three protagonists, this reviewer thought every humiliation wrought on the boss should have been accompanied by a noise from the “Wah-Wah-Wah siren” had the director chosen to use one.
“History may well say that Dolly did as well as can be expected,” the writer in Melody Maker said sniffily. But history has actually been a lot kinder. If you go to the IMDb movie site, the critic and user reviews are almost uniformly positive. In a humorous way, this movie was seen as being quite insightful and having a delicious comic touch. But that’s history for you – sometimes kinder and sometimes crueler on reflection.