Wednesday, July 25, 2007

RAD - A Non Review

RAD (1986)

Cru Jones is a small town high school student, obsessed with BMX riding, and spends every waking moment riding, perfecting tricks, and getting into mischief. When a corporate sponsorship decides that Helltrack - the ultimate BMX track - would be perfect for Cru's small town atmosphere, Cru sees his chance to make something of himeslf. The sponsors decide to have a open invite for all the local racers, and the winner will get to ride with the professionals. Cru easily wins the open, but when the vile head of Helltrack realizes that Cru may actually win the race, instead of the star of Team Mongoose who previously was a shoe-in to win, Cru learns what happens when you become a wrench in the cog of a money making machine.

I've stared at a blank word document more times than I remember trying to figure out how to review this obscure gem. I've always wanted to write about it, but I've realized that I can not neatly fit it into what most of my long time readers will no doubt know as my "format" - a spoiler free synopsis followed by input on director, cast, writer, followed by a little bit on the genre said film is in, and then a quaint wrap up. Does anyone really care that Hal Needham directed this? That a pre-Full House Lori Loughlin is the romantic lead? How much blatent product placement is spread through the entire movie? And sadly, since this film is almost impossible to find as the VHS and laserdisc are long out of print and the red tape trying to figure out who the hell owns the now bankrupt Embassy will ensure this never sees DVD, anyone who even wants to see it won't be able to. So instead, you get a passionate and nigh obsessive story about me and my relationship with this movie.

Now, when I was a kid I had a babysitter who lived across the street and had RAD on video. Every time she came over, my brother and I required that she bring this movie and Super Mario Bros 2 for the Nintendo, which she had to beat. I absolutely loved this movie, and as kid it probably ranked higher than STAR WARS, GOONIES or TOP GUN as most frequently watched movie. And that is saying a lot. I loved watching all the riders performing their tricks, especially the opening and closing title sequences featuring silhouetted bikers on a dusk lit road. The characters were clearly defined as good and bad, and it was a blast just waiting for the first shot of the Helltrack race, as twenty bikes drop down and impossibly steep ramp. And I just knew, I just knew, that Cru would win the race in the end. And he always did!

I had a BMX at the time, a low-grade model that specifically had a sticker on it saying it was not meant for ramp use. After seeing RAD for the first time, the following day I took a screwdriver and completely removed the front brakes on the bike, so I could freely spin the handle bars like I saw in the movie. But instead of pulling off the move, all I got was a face full of gravel. Ramps proved just a fruitless, and back then with helmets being mildly "recommended" rather than the requirements they are today, you can guess a few headaches were roundly received. I never did get any BMX skills under my belt. Hell, I never even figured out how to bunny hop. But every time I got on that bike, I was Cru Jones. Real Life's "Send Me An Angel" hummed through my head. I was convinced I would meet a girl also riding her bike. Every ditch and bump, every small downward slope was part of Helltrack.

Cut to 2000. DVD is still in its early growth, and I have had a mission for the past five years - to get a copy of RAD and EWOKS: THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR for my very own. Frustrated that they hadn't been released yet on DVD (why wouldn't they?! I kept asking) I was about to give up hope. Then, as if handed the Holy Grail itself, my friend informed me that a video store was going out of business and he had seen RAD there. The fact that I was at work didn't stop me. And with a "I'll be back in an hour or two" I was off like a shot in my teal green 1993 Chevy Beretta (with matching teal hubcaps no less) to the promised land. Twenty-five minutes and six dollars later, I had not one, but both VHS I had been searching for in my hands! Three dollars a piece and they were all mine! That night I sat down with my roommate and we watched RAD. I was nine years old again, and I loved every minute. My quest was complete.

I sold the RAD tape on for fifty-five bucks later that year, as I school finances to pay. It was a very tough, but sadly necessary decision (BATTLE FOR ENDER, by the way, went for twenty-three). Soon after, I picked up a less-than-reputable laserdisc-to-DVD transfer, which sits on my shelf to this day smiling as happy as a kid whose just taken the training wheels off a bicycle for the first time. There will never be a quality DVD with a widescreen transfer. There will never be a commentary by Hal Needham with the cast and crew. There will never be a lame, photoshopped cover featuring Lori Loughlin's head instead of the awesome original poster. There will never be a "where are they now?" documentary, or a featurette on the BMX fad. And in a way, that is how it should be.


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