Wednesday, 2 February 2011

80s Movies: The Secret of My Success (1987)

Let's be clear about this - I love The Secret of My Success. It's one of the truly great unsung heroes of the 80s. For a start, it stars not only Michael J Fox (Back to the Future, Doc Hollywood) but also Helen Slater (Ruthless People, Supergirl). For a committed child of the 80s, you don't get many better lead pairings than that.

On top of that, it's good clean fun. Not childish - not all vampires and wizards - but grown-up, clean humour with a smattering of smut. Notable in this respect is the scene with Yello's Oh Yeah as its backing track, in which Fox's Brantley Foster tries to extricate himself from a particularly delicate situation.

The Plot

This really is the kind of movie you could only make in the 80s - or, if it was made any other time, it would still have been set then. Fox's Brantley is a mail clerk - albeit a graduate mail clerk - looking for his break in the world of business. That comes when he is mistaken for new executive Carlton Whitfield, with hilarious consequences.

The thing is, all too often the consequences wouldn't be hilarious, but Fox's charm, Slater's vulnerability and a reasonable amount of 80s slapstick make sure that you can actually buy into the characters and storyline of this movie - even though you might hope it would be impossible in the real world.

The Soundtrack

Bizarrely, the CD release of the soundtrack - something of a rarity these days - missed out a couple of landmark tracks. One of them is among my absolute favourite 80s tracks, while the other is an abomination.

The lesser of the two, in my opinion, is Katrina & The Waves' Walking on Sunshine. I have never known such a cynical, deliberately upbeat piece of whimsy steal the public's collective consciousness to the same extent that this three minutes of nonsense managed to do. But, apparently, it's an anthem that we all must endure for decades more to come.

Contrast that with the pure genius of Yello's Oh Yeah, meanwhile, and you can see where I'm coming from. This is a song that sounds as relevant today as it ever did - and people will still ask if you know its name, if they hear as much as a single line of it. Don't be one of those people - know this track and love it. It's what it deserves.

The CD might be out of print, but you can still get at least some of the soundtrack via iTunes:

The Secret of My Success - Night Ranger
Sometimes the Good Guys Finish First - Pat Benatar
Riskin' a Romance - Bananarama
Water Fountain - David Foster

80s Movies

In February, POPSICULTURE are dedicating the month to a look back at the iconic films of the 1980s - a decade whose films continue to draw massive audiences when they are shown on TV. To follow posts in this series, check the 80s Movies label or sign up to the dedicated RSS feed.

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