Technically, I guess my cousin paid for me to see this. But I still saw “Blue Thunder” during its theatrical run, so it counts.
Anyway, I have vivid memories of spending the day with my cousin because the rest of my family went to a wedding and he was asked to babysit me. I remember watching some “Battlestar Galactica” episodes in the morning, and him saying we should go to the movies after lunch. We looked in the paper to see what our movie choices were, and I remember wanting to go see a Mazinger animated movie that was playing for a limited time.
My cousin said he didn’t want to see an animated movie, so instead he chose “Blue Thunder.” The weird thing is that the R rated “Blue Thunder” opened in May of 1983, meaning that I was only a little over five years old when my twenty-something cousin decided to take me to see it. But hey, it was the 1980’s, and back then I was able to watch anything that didn’t have sex.
The film revolved around Los Angeles police officer Frank Murphy (Roy Scheider), who is a helicopter pilot in LAPD’s Astro division. Murphy is a Vietnam veteran, but he’s not well liked in the department, and was always in trouble with his bosses. I’m not sure, but I think he and his rookie partner Lymangood (Daniel Stern), were assigned to test pilot the super helicopter named Blue Thunder as punishment.
Murphy being Murphy, he breaks the rules again and uses the powerful and heavily armed copter to investigate an old case. That’s when he discovers the true use for Blue Thunder, and a scandal that could lead all the way to the top. Murphy wants to do the right things, now all he has to do is stay alive long enough to reveal the truth. But that won’t be easy, because his old Vietnam nemesis military pilot Colonel F.E. Cochrane (Malcolm McDowell) is sent to kill him.
While I remember quite a lot about “Blue Thunder,” and what else I did that day, I can’t say I remember the ending of the movie. I recall Blue Thunder fighting it out with another helicopter piloted by Malcolm McDowell, but after that I can’t remember if the truth came out and whether Murphy’s name was cleared or not.
Still, I’m surprised by how much I still remember after 35 years. All I can think of is that “Blue Thunder” stuck with me maybe because it was the first adult movie that I saw. Then again, maybe I was just captivated by the helicopter itself.
You have to remember this movie came out around the same time tv shows like “Knight Rider” and “Automan” grabbed my attention. And about a year later “Airwolf” came on the air, so toy vehicles were my bread and butter at the time.
I’m not sure that I would recommend “Blue Thunder” today, mostly because I doubt it has aged well. I guess it’s an okay action movie for 1983, with plenty of explosions and action to keep someone entertained, but it probably looks cheesy compared to the action movies of today.
The Blue Thunder helicopter lived on after the movie though, in a tv show that I didn’t even know existed. I don’t know if the tv show featured the same characters or if it was an all new story. But maybe the tv series finally answered my biggest question regarding “Blue Thunder,” which was and still is: Why would a police department need a helicopter with gatling guns?