Blue Thunder (1983) – John Badham

I remember seeing Blue Thunder when it was released on home video. Or perhaps it was on a free weekend of Super Channel or First Choice. I remember enjoying it as a kid, loved the helicopter, the nude girl doing yoga, Roy Scheider, and the helicopter.

It’s been decades since I watched it, and I was eager to see how much I enjoyed it almost forty years since its initial release. Scheider as always is amazing, and apparently took the film so he couldn’t be courted for Jaws 3D, and his co-stars include a baby-faced Daniel Stern as his Observer of JAFO, Warren Oates, Candy Clark, Joe Santos, Jason Bernard, the always threatening looking Anthony James, and as the lead villain, Malcolm McDowell.

Scheider plays LAPD chopper pilot Frank Murphy,who is haunted by his time in Vietnam, and haunted by the assault and attempted rape of a prominent city politician, that resulted in her death. It seems she was very adamant about banning the use of an offensively armed helicopter to patrol the city streets (police helicopters aren’t allowed armaments), and she was in the way of a possible rollout, with the test program taking place in the City of Angels, with a top of the line chopper nicknamed Blue Thunder.

Murphy draws the assignment, much to the chagrin of those running the program, including Murphy’s former CO, Cochrane (McDowell). Murphy, while finding the gizmos and the whizz bang nature of Blue Thunder fascinating, also sees it as a threat to public safety – something demonstrated during Cochrane’s test flight.

Soon, Murphy finds himself neck deep in a conspiracy at the highest levels as they push for urban pacification with this outfitted chopper, and they’ll do what they have to to make sure Murphy doesn’t ruin everything. Including eliminate him.

But Murphy has the tech of Blue Thunder (all based on real world possibilities) in his hands, and he will use it to prove his point, and his innocence when he’s wanted for murder.

I remember thinking the chopper (a Gazelle,with some attachments) looked cool as a kid, but looking at it now, while I love the pilot’s space and the windows, it looks a little clunky, and not quite imposing, but definitely unlikable.

That might explain why as a television show, AirWolf (the cooler looking of the pair) had a more successful television run, than the spin-off Blue Thunder series that featured James Farentino and Dana Carvey which was cancelled after eleven episodes.

I do like the aerial photography featured in the film, and honestly I like the plot at work as well, and the themes of control, oppression, and technology incorrectly used for the people. And I know why I didn’t see those things when I was younger, but watching it now, I found it incredibly relevant.

So for me, Blue Thunder soars!

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