Splendidly bad action thriller Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins is to get a long-deserved reissue on Blu-Ray this July. The story of a former NYPD cop, operating outside the law and mentored by a mysterious master of martial arts, it is an almost ideal 1980s B-movie. Imagine the offpsring of a union between Jackie Chan and David Hasselhoff, and you are half-way to understanding what makes Remo great. The most fascinating thing about this, though, is how the new cover art takes its cues not from the movie's own VHS-era poster…
….but from the original books, published in the 70s as The Destroyer
A clever and well-crafted tribute! The thing is, the movie Remo isn't a 70s deal, the way the books are. It's an 80s affair. It's not even spectacularly 80s, the way Orion Pictures stablemates like Robocop and Terminator are. It's just competently bland in all sorts of ways that are distinctively 80s (see the trailer, below), like a final-season episode of Airwolf. So the new cover art is a semiotic scam. A swizz!
Something is nearly missing from the realm of modern pastiche: that sedimentary layer of culture threaded between the end of the martial arts boom (mined thoroughly by everyone from Tarantino to Oedekirk) and whichever movie counts as Schwarzenegger's first genuine A-list outing (probably Twins).
There have been some good efforts–consider Grindhouse and its feature-length derivatives–but they typically occupy a strange grimy zone between the 70s and 80s (a magic place in itself) rather than the solid neon-hued mid-80s vibe in question. Beyond the Black Rainbow is close, too, but its strength comes from a meditative, psychedelic quality that is pure 70s. If anything, its VHS-slasher moments come as an abrupt change of tone, and are the weakest part of it.
The tragedy at hand is illustrated by the fact that MacGruber is perhaps the closest thing out there. And even its center of gravity tilts nineties.