January 11, 2013

Cloak and Dagger (1984)
Starring Henry Thomas and Dabney Coleman

Comments:  Cloak and Dagger is my favorite type of movie to put on this list.  It is one of those movies that anyone who was a kid in the 80's will read the title and immediately think, "Oh wow, Cloak and Dagger.  Henry Thomas.  I haven't seen that in years."  And anyone who wasn't a kid in the 80's will read the title and simply think, "What the f is Cloak and Dagger?"  It is one of the ultimate litmus tests to identify if you are a true child of the 80's or not.

Before I get into the plot of the movie, I have to give you a little backstory first.  Because I have always had a very personal connection to Cloak and Dagger.  You will see why when you hear this story.

In 1985, on the last day of school (I was in fifth grade), the principal at my elementary school made a promise to all of the kids.  He said that since we had had such a good school year, on the last day of the school he would open up the multipurpose room in the afternoon and we could all watch a movie.  And, well, if you have even been a student at an elementary school, you will know that this was a very big deal.  Watch a movie instead of being in class?  And we could watch any movie we wanted to?  Where do we sign up for that?

Remember, this was the year 1985.  Not everybody owned a VCR.  The concept of watching your favorite movie at home any time you wanted to was still an insanely big deal.  Especially if you were 11 years old like I was.

Well the student body got to vote on what movie we wanted to watch, and in the end it came down to two very close choices.  It came down to either The Karate Kid or Cloak and Dagger.  In June of 1985, those were deemed the two most popular movies in America by the kids of Bennett Elementary.

Yeah I know.  This will surprise anyone who didn't grow up in the 80's and has never heard of Cloak and Dagger before.

Well anyone who knows me in real life will be able to tell you that my favorite movie of all time is The Karate Kid.  This really isn't even up for debate.  Anyone who knows me can tell you off the top of their head that "Mario Lanza" = "Loves the Karate Kid."  Asking if there is any movie in the 80's that I loved more is like asking if Bill S. Preston, esq., and Ted "Theodore" Logan were interested in putting together some sort of a rock band.

So anyway, it is June of 1985, and the students of Bennett Elementary were presented with a choice.  Which movie do you want to watch on the last day of school?  You can go to the music room and watch Cloak and Dagger.  Or you can go to the multipurpose room and watch The Karate Kid.  This was the mid 80's children's equivalent of Sophie's Choice.  In which direction do your loyalties lie?

Well of course you know which movie I chose.  The Karate Kid is my favorite movie of all time.  There will never be a movie from the 80's that I will love more than The Karate Kid.

However, whenever I was ten years old, that was simply not the case at all.

In June of 1985 I went to the music room and I chose Cloak and Dagger.

Cloak and Dagger is the story of a kid named Davey Osborne.  Who, well let's face it, was a lot like me at that age.  He loves video games.  He loves roleplaying games.  He particularly loves playing a roleplaying game called "Cloak and Dagger."  He also doesn't do well in school.  Probably because he spends every waking hour of his day thinking about playing roleplaying games.  Oh yeah, and also his father doesn't get him.  His father (Dabney Coleman) doesn't understand what roleplaying games or videogames are, and he thinks that his son has emotional problems.


Well Davey is just going about his business one day, which involves going around to different computer game companies and trying to get a copy of their latest games, when he accidentally witnesses a murder.  He sees a man being shot by two assassins.  But before the murder victim dies, he hands Davey a copy of a video game and tells him not to let the assassins gets their hands on it.

And from this point on, the rest of the movie is can Davey outsmart the assassins and escape being murdered by them?

Oh yeah, and since his dad already thinks that Davey is nuts, no one believes him when he says that people are trying to kill him.

The assassins

Pretty dark for a kids movie, isn't it?  Three men try to murder Davey and Davey must try to escape them.  That is basically the plot of the movie.  In fact when I went back to watch Cloak and Dagger recently I was amazed and how grown up and dark it was.  Because remember, this is a movie that was marketed as a family movie!  There is one scene in Cloak and Dagger where one of the assassins tells Davey in graphic detail how is going to use a gun to blow Davey's kneecaps off.  Not because he wants Davey to die, of course, but because Davey "has been a real pain in the butt" and because he wants him to suffer.  I watched that scene recently and I was like woah.  No WAY would that scene ever make it into a family movie nowadays.

The head assassin (Michael Murphy) threatening to shred Davey's kneecaps

Cloak and Dagger is Exhibit A in the case of how kids movies have changed over the past thirty years.  Because like I said before, this movie was a huge hit in 1984.  Every little kid loved it.  And we saw nothing dark or scary or offensive about it, this was just what PG movies were like back then.  PG movies were simply movies that weren't baby enough to be rated G, and weren't adult enough to be rated R.  Everything else was in the middle and was PG.  And you would happily watch any PG movie with your parents because they were basically all "family movies."  Which I know nowadays sounds ridiculous because everyone thinks that kids are babies and that they need to be shielded from this stuff.  But in 1984?  Our principal happily showed us Cloak and Dagger in school and there was nothing wrong with it.  It was simply a badass kickass PG movie for 10 year olds.

Cloak and Dagger was a huge movie for its time.  And it starred one of the best child actors of the time (Henry Thomas from E.T.).  It also starred one of the most underrated actors of his era, Dabney Coleman.  In fact I could write an entire essay about how Dabney Coleman was the most underrated actor of the 80's, people forget that he owned just about every movie he was ever in between 1980-1985.  And then in Cloak and Dagger he actually got to play a double role.  He played Davey's father, and he also played Davey's imaginary playmate Jack Flack.  And in both roles he is absolutely perfect.

Cloak and Dagger also has one of the more distinct locations of any movie from the 80's.  It was set in San Antonio, Texas, and the whole movie is just one famous San Antonio location after another.  Davey goes to the Riverwalk.  Davey goes to the Alamo.  Davey goes to the Japanese Gardens.  In fact when I was a kid, this movie alone made me want to visit San Antonio one day.  I wish more movies were set in random cities that don't get used a lot in movies like Cloak and Dagger was.

Davey causing trouble at the Alamo

In summary, Cloak and Dagger was an exceptional kids movie for its time, and it was also an exceptional family movie.  Okay sure, it was a family movie that involved assassins, murder, abductions, and kids having their kneecaps blown off, but still, it was an 80's family movie nonetheless.  I loved it as a kid-- when I was ten years old I thought it was totally badass-- and even though it has been largely forgotten by time I still love it even today.   I showed it to my own kids a couple of months ago and they enjoyed it too.  Even though my daughter said to me, "Wow, little kids could just get on a bus and ride around a city all on their own back in the 80's?"

Why yes, my little child of the 2010's.  Yes they could.

They also made PG movies that were actually pretty awesome back then.

Davey and Kim just riding around on a city bus all day with their bus pass

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Cloak and Dagger

Jack Flack always escapes! - 30 September 2002
It's movies like this one that are the reason I love movies. One of the greatest forgotten gems of the 80s, "Cloak & Dagger" is the exciting tale of deadly spies, imaginary superheroes, and ATARI. Henry Thomas ("E.T.") plays Davey Osborne, a lonely boy who has escaped into the fantasy world of his favorite video game hero - Jack Flack. Dabney Coleman gives the greatest performance of his career in the dual roles of Jack Flack and Davey's father. Sporting the coolest-looking leather bomber jacket and beret ever seen, Flack guides young Davey through the treacherous world of real spies, real secrets, and real bullets. Davey must keep an ATARI game cartridge containing plans for an invisible bomber plane encoded inside of it out of traitorous spies' hands, but no adult believes him, and he gets little help from the only person who does - his even younger friend Kim. A young William Forsythe co-stars as the gaming genius who unlocks the code within the cartridge. And Louie Anderson also has a short cameo towards the end.

"Cloak & Dagger" is an excellent movie about a boy who must face the dangers of the world all by himself following the death of his mother and his father's preoccupation with work. Dabney Coleman's character of Jack Flack is the best imaginary mentor ever featured in a film, preceding the likes of Tyler Durden and Frank the Bunny by over 15 years. The ending is truly touching and inspiring. This movie also has a heartwarming message to it - that at some point, you must learn to handle life's challenges all by yourself. And also that the greatest heroes exist in real life, not in fantasy. "Cloak & Dagger" is a film suitable for the whole family whose time has finally come to get the recognition it deserves. 10/10

 How kids movies have changed.. - 9 March 2008
I fondly remember this movie and watch it to this day. Its amazing how, as kids, we saw this movie in the 80s where a child is being chased, shot at, almost stabbed, threaten to have his knee caps blown off and shot in the gut, kill 3 guys (2 not by him but caused by him) and be held hostage...and it was a family film rated PG! Still this movie didn't dumb down the dangers of real violence, international terrorism, espionage, and dangerous people. A movie made like this today would make the kid a genius and the bad guys clumsy and stupid. I do miss serious films like this for kids. They never dumbed it down and took the audience seriously. Movies like Poltergeist, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Dark Crystal (Which scared me to death), The Neverending Story, and more always played to the intelligence of the audience. Now all we have is fart jokes and one-note slapstick. When my kids get old enough I do want them to watch these 80s film and learned to appreciate good film-making, something lacking in the 21st century, and by box-office results, the audience notices it too.

A Little Seen Gem - 21 June 2003
CLOAK & DAGGER is a wonderful film from the '80s, a touching story about a boy who has an overdeveloped imagination, largely due to his mother being dead and his father being a career military man who often seems too busy for his son. The boy, Davey, has an imaginary friend by the name of Jack Flack who looks just like his dad. His imaginary spy games and tall tales tend to get on his father's nerves, and there is talk of sending him to a psychiatrist. When Davey actually does witness a horrible murder and is given a video game cartridge with top secret plans encoded inside, he tells his father about it and of course he doesn't believe him. He thinks it's just another one of his son's tall tales. Davey soon realizes that it's up to him and Jack Flack to get out of this alive, and a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues with the spies who are after the game cartridge. This film is great in large part due to the gifts of Dabney Coleman. In a duel performance here, he's equally perfect as both Col. Osborne, buttoned up military guy, and as Jack Flack, the idealized, slicker version of the same man. It's really a great father-son movie, with plenty of action to entertain even the dimmest of children. Obviously inspired by the Bobby Driscoll classic THE WINDOW, CLOAK & DAGGER is a timeless classic for the whole family to enjoy.

Dabney Coleman's five years of dominance - 5 July 2005
Cloak and Dagger was one of my favorite films as a child and continues to hold up well as time passes by. A reminder, in many ways, how much Dabney Coleman's performances marked the years 1980-1985. Henry Thomas remains in many ways one of a scant few child actors to make their mark in multiple films (something Disney has struggled with in recent years, even with the attempts to market mediocre talents like Hilary Duff and Lindsey Lohan). And in an era where role playing games of any nature were looked down on, this portrayed them in a heroic light-"Jack Flack always escapes".

There are a number of skilled character actors who make up the supporting cast for this film, and the script continues to hold up to today's standards. In many ways, this film should act as a template for movie studios looking to craft a story for young audiences, as opposed to "Shark Boy and Lava Girl".

Come in Lady Ace... -  5 April 2004
I first saw Cloak and Dagger when a substitute teacher showed it to our 6th grade class. It was the coolest movie I'd ever seen because it was an action movie about kids who solve a mystery and save the day.

Henry Thomas is Davey Osbourne. His entire life is an imaginary world of secret spies. And to aid in his games of eluding spies and dodging secret plans of assasination, Davey defers to his wartime hero, Jack Flack, an action hero that he has turned into an imaginary playmate as well as a father figure guidance to make up for an absentee father.

But Davey soon finds himself in trouble as the imaginary world becomes a reality when he witnesses a shooting in a stairwell. But, before the victim draws his last breath, he hands Davey a Cloak & Dagger video cartridge that contains top secret plans. And, while the adults think he is just playing another game, Davey and his sassy friend Kim and Jack Flack all try to solve the crime.

It is a great movie in part because you get a peak at the imagination of a twelve-year-old-boy and, once again, because a few clever kids get to save the day. It definitely looked like a fun movie to make.

A film that will be fondly remembered... - 31 July 2000
A lot of people love E.T., my self included. I cannot recall whether I saw it in the theaters, but Henry Thomas became a household name after that movie came out. The truth is when I think of Henry Thomas, I don't immediately think of E.T., but of CLOAK & DAGGER, which was one of my favorite films as a kid and will forever be one of my favorites. And yet there is something truly bizarre that always comes to me while watching it. I've never been a fan of video games. In fact, I think most of them are stupid, a waste of time and money. CLOAK & DAGGER was a video game I believe (well, it is in the movie). Henry Thomas stars as Davy Osbourne, an imaginitive 11-year-old who loves his favorite superhero Jack Flack, who he likes to view as his make-believe hero. Set in San Antonio during the summer, the film has Thomas going to run an errand for a friend, and owner of a computer store, and gets involved in something he never dreamed of: a real-life game involving spies and a video game. No one will believe him after he reports of a man being shot and murdered in front of his own eyes, including his own father an Air Force sergeant, played just wonderfully by Dabney Coleman, who I've enjoyed in everything from 9 to 5 to Tootsie. The movie soon becomes a roller coaster ride as Thomas is attempting to get away from the spies before they kill him. The plot is riveting and believable, which is the real reason why this pulled me in at such a young age. I can't imagine an actor better than Thomas in this lead role. Coleman is equally memorable as his father, who also plays Jack Flack. Michael Murphy, a great character actor, is chilling as the head spy. I recommend this film for anyone and everyone.

* My favorite trivia about Cloak and Dagger

This isn't really trivia about the movie, just more about the first time I saw it.  The first time I saw Cloak and Dagger was at a drive in theater in 1984.  My mom drove my brother and me there as part of a double feature.  It was Cloak and Dagger followed by Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.  Well, my mom was always late any time she went anywhere, and when we saw Cloak and Dagger it was certainly no exception.  We arrived at the theater nearly an hour late.  We got to the movie right when Davey was being attacked on a boat at the Riverwalk.  It wasn't until the second time I saw the movie that I actually got to see the first forty five minutes.

* My favorite scene in Cloak and Dagger:

It is tough to pick out a favorite scene, so I will just say I like the last half hour of the movie.  The minute Jack Flack tells Davey that he isn't playing the game right, and Davey goes to Riverwalk to have the showdown with Rice, it is just one big suspense scene after another until the end.  The ending is pretty good too.  By the way, remind me again why this movie was forgotten after the 80's?

Cloak and Dagger at the IMDB

Cloak and Dagger at Wikipedia

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