Streets of Fire

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It's funny how memory works. I distinctly remember the circumstances around my first viewing of Streets of Fire. It was part of our Sunday night movie club and we were meeting at my friend Billy's house. At the time Billy's mom was visiting Portland, and she was gung ho to watch a movie, but she had to be sold on Streets of Fire. We told her that we had just seen The Warriors and that there was a good chance that director Walter Hill had made another B-movie that was going to be super fun; she countered that something about Willem Dafoe's face really unnerved her and she didn't want to watch a movie with him in it. I remember her squeals of disgust every time Dafoe showed up on screen, and I remember everyone feeling like the movie was a letdown. In terms of the movie's actual content, the only thing I remembered is the image of Willem Dafoe wearing latex overalls with no shirt. That was such an inexplicable sight that it lodged into my mind, but the rest of the movie not so much.

What an injustice I did to this movie! Yes, Dafoe does wear a sexy gay construction worker get up, but he only does so in the beginning of the movie, but he never stops wearing Eddie Munster's haircut. How could I forget his bizarre pompadour? Giving your villain a cowlick that's trying to high five his forehead is such an incredible decision that it deserves to be stamped indelibly in a viewer's mind.

I can understand forgetting huge chunks of this movie. The plot isn't worth thinking about - Dafoe's biker gang kidnaps a popular singer on stage at one of her concerts and the police make no effort to get her back (even though there are plenty of them around), so our hero has to be summoned to rescue her. Michael Paré is pretty bland as the hero - he's aiming for mysterious and stoic, but he doesn't really have enough charisma to pull it off. The style choices made for his character are weird, but unlike the ones that were made for Dafoe's character they aren't weird enough to be cool: he favors old timey shirts and suspenders that make him look less like the military bad-ass he's supposed to be and more like the doofus you'd get to guard the still during Prohibition. But forgetting the peculiarity of Dafoe's Goth Flock of Seagulls haircut is unforgiveable.

When you watch as many movies as I do you're always on the lookout for that specific detail that will stand out in your mind. There are a lot of movies that I remember seeing and I can recall how I felt about them, but the details are a little bit vague; if I can remember even one nice touch about a movie that sets it apart. Being able to say "Oh, that's the movie where Willem Dafoe wears fetish overalls" is good because that's more than I can say about a lot of movies, but being able to say "Oh, that's the movie where Willem Dafoe has the haircut of a child vampire and he wears fetish overalls" is even better, because that's twice as much to remember. I can't quite commit to saying that I liked this movie, but I can say that I'm not going to forget it, and that's not nothing.

Winner: Me

Streets of Fire on IMDB