The 1980’s – What a great time for movies. So many classics were released throughout the decade that gave us New Coke, Donkey Kong and high hair.
E.T, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies, Aliens, Robocop, I could go on.
While perusing Amazon Prime Video I came across a section of 80’s teen movies and noticed one called ‘Tuff Turf’. I’d never even heard of this movie before so I thought I’d give it a chance. I love 80s teen movies and was expecting this to be great. What could go wrong?
What’s it about?
Right from the start, I was unsure what to expect from this movie when the title sounded like a rather shit beat-em-up video game and the word ‘tough’ in the title is spelt as ‘tuff’, but hey it was the 80s and lots of words were intentionally spelt incorrectly like ‘Skool’ and ‘Carz’ to give them more buzz!
Released in 1985 and directed by Fritz Kiersch (who also made Children of the Corn) the film follows our hero Morgan Hiller played by James Spader who is described as an intelligent but bullied teenager. Morgan and his family relocate from Connecticut to Los Angeles when his fathers business goes under. Maybe Connecticut hates bankrupts as we are unsure why they relocate all the way to Bumsville, LA, and Morgan’s poor dad has to now become a taxi driver!
The film describes Morgan has struggling to make new friends at his new school, although the whole film seems to only stretch over a week!
Anyway, the movies starts off with our protagonist’s potential teenage love interest Frankie Croyden (Played by Kim Richards), who straight-up lures a poor unsuspecting old guy to be mugged at knifepoint by her sociopath and psychotic boyfriend Nick and his gang of street assholes. Scumbag!
We’re not saying Frankie has bad taste in men, well, actually we are saying that because she has the shittest taste in men. She is going out with a guy who clearly looks like he is in his 30s, who is a thief and mugs defenceless people in alleyways, and also tries to kill people for kicks!
We then cut to Morgan who is still in bed and staring at a poster of Albert Einstein on his wall with a quote because we have to remember that Morgan is a misunderstood genius!
On the poster, there are two beetles crawling on it. Morgan then jumps up and shoots them both with his BB guns. Has this film got you hooked yet?
Queue Morgan cycling to school looking all cool and remember it’s the 80s so you know he’s wearing a leather jacket and dark sunglasses! When he arrives at school the security guard moans at him for riding his bike on school property but seems oblivious to Nick and his gang of muscle car driving douche bags who aren’t even students that are drag racing around the school car park. This security guy needs to get his priorities right and his house in order!
While Morgan parks up his bicycle Nick just happens to spot it and take a fancy. Nick is like a magpie and likes to steal nice shiny things!
We cut to Morgan waiting to see the Principal. He’s in the shit before he’s even started day one and this is where we first meet Jimmy played by Robert Downey Jnr (Billed as just ‘Robert Downey’ in this one) who his hanging around and begging his female classmate ‘Feather’ (Catya Sassoon) to borrow her flick knife. She gives in and utters “You never use it”, which seems like an odd and totally mental thing to say!
While in class Jimmy and Morgan instantly become friends after Jimmy accidentally nearly cuts Morgan’s ear off when he opens the flick knife while sitting behind him. Then he has a joke about knives and then gives the knife to Morgan saying “he’ll need it” which seems like a dark welcome present on your first day of school! He then invites Morgan to see his band performing at a disused warehouse that evening.
We then cut to this crazy scene…
Morgan notices his bicycle has been stolen by Nick and his gang. He then also notices Frankie and instantly falls head over heels in love. In reality, he should not in any way pursue this girl! He tries to retrieve his bike but one of the gang members straight-up tries to murder him by attempting to run him down in his car. All the school students who have now gathered to watch this just laugh this off, like it’s funny! Morgan doesn’t give up but then gets sprayed in the face with red paint and once again the students just laugh.
Morgan finally gets hold of his bike but the crazy asshole who try to run him down earlier has another go, but this time smashes into his bike which goes flying into the air in slow-mo for way too long! That’s attempted murder twice in a row in broad daylight with like fifty witnesses and it’s just shrugged off like it’s just a normal day of school! Where are you now Mr. Security Man?
Morgan then picks up his broken bike and Nick actually says “Sorry”, which Morgan ignores. Frankie then shouts at Morgan because he didn’t accept his apology which is unbelievable like he should accept it and move on! You try to kill him twice and nearly blinded him you assholes. F**k your apology!
He gets home and tries to repair his bike and his mother walks in and moans that he’s broken the bike and it cost a lot of money. She isn’t curious has to how this has happened. He then decides to get out of the house by going to see Jimmy playing with his band. On the way, by sure luck (unbelievably f**king good luck), he notices a brand new Porsche with the roof down and with the keys left in the ignition and decides to steal it. I swear this movie was written by a 10-year old kid!
We cut to a disused warehouse where Jimmy and his band are playing and now the movie seems to have become some kind of musical!
The lead singer of the band is Jim Carroll who was actually a singer, poet and author in real life. From his acting skills though, he definitely wasn’t an actor!
Morgan notices Frankie in the crowd and grabs her and forces her to dance with him but she is reluctant at first. Remember this is the 80s and #MeToo didn’t exist back then. Good old Nasty Nick arrives and they beat Morgan up outside and steal his already stolen Porsche. Later we see them get pulled over and arrested for driving the stolen car.
Now we get crazier!
The next morning Morgan’s brother comes to visit and this guy couldn’t look any more 80s yuppie if he tried. Morgan asks if he can borrow his car but he says no and Morgan goes and sulks on a bench on the high street. He notices Nick’s car come squealing past and skids to a stop. Morgan runs off and the car chases after him. Morgan becomes cornered down an alleyway and tries to get over a metal gate but fails and drops to the floor. The car stops just before it runs him over. To Morgans relief, Jimmy gets out the car and says he stole it earlier from Nick’s house and was just pranking by pretending to nearly kill him. I told you – written by a 10-year old!
They drive Nick’s stolen car and Frankie and Feather get in thinking it is Nick. Yes, really! Frankie is surprised to see Morgan and Jimmy but go along with it anyway! They do what all 80s rebel kids dream of doing by visiting a golf and country club.
Here they blag their way in by pretending to be members of the club and then have lunch. Who the hell is paying for this? We are treated to yet another music scene with a band and then Morgan jumps on the piano and serenades Frankie. Yes, this really happens…. Really….. I’m serious!
It’s hard to know what this film wants to be because every other scene involves a band and a dance-off. It’s like a reverse Grease. This time it’s a posh guy who falls in love with the bad girl but instead of ‘summer loving’, she was ‘summer mugging!’
The next day Morgan is ambushed in the school changing rooms by Nick and his gang of dickheads and this time is nearly beaten to death with metal chains. The security at this school should be fired!
Later that evening Morgan’s dad sees he’s covered in bruises and bandages from his beatings and gives him a really depressing speech and tells him to take it easy and stop being so hard on yourself. Your youngest son has been beaten to a pulp but f**k it we don’t need the police he should just take it easy from now on. Life will work it’s way out!
Morgan then goes over to Frankie’s house and breaks in through her bedroom window. She notices the bruises but he shrugs it off and refers to them as ‘love wounds’.
Later when she is alone Frankie’s dad barges into her room with champagne and says congratulations because Nick has proposed without even asking her and now they are engaged! I can’t believe her dad is over the moon that a jobless thug who’s fashion includes leather waistcoats and fingerless gloves is going to be his son-in-law.
Frankie instead of celebrating goes to have dinner at Morgans house with his parents. While eating Morgan’s mom asks Frankie about her mom but then Frankie and Morgan have a go at her like she should have known her mom was dead. Aren’t you psychic woman?
Frankie storms out of the house and then jumps in a car with Nick who had been spying through the window the whole time!
They then drive around town until they see Morgan’s dad and tell Frankie to lure him so they can mug him. She is resistant but still goes ahead with it. They then attack him but he kicks all their so-called hard asses but then they retaliate and shoot him.
Morgan doesn’t seem that phased and while his dad is in ICU Morgan and Frankie turn the situation into being all about them and make out at his home.
The next day Nick visits Frankie at her dad’s shop and beats her and her dad up and then smashes up the shop.
Morgan finds out that Nick has kidnapped Frankie and calmly goes to rescue her on a pushbike with his two BB guns.
Oh finally it’s over
Nick is holding Frankie hostage in a secret location. When we say secret we mean the disused warehouse that all the towns kids know and go partying in and is no way secret at all!
Here we have a few of the shittest fight scenes you will ever see and include Morgan flying in like Tarzan at one point.
Just as we think that Nick may have the upper hand in the fight Jimmy comes to the rescue and walks in and now somehow seems to have two Doberman dogs with him which he unleashes and chases some of the bad guys away (rolls eyes).
Frankie then gets hold of Nick’s gun but instead gets beaten and knocked out by Nick again.
Then there is another real awful fight scene. Involving more bad choreography and this time featuring an axe.
Eventually, it ends with Nick falling to his death in tri-repeat. Straightaway we then we cut to yet another live band and our heroes all sing and dance and then it cuts to credits! WTF
Okay…. It’s not the worst 80s teen movie ever made I admit, but it sure is the be of the craziest!
Don’t ever change Tuff Turf… Don’t ever change!