Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again, 1990

For Overlooked Films at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom, this Tuesday, a very hazy recollection of a film that was best left inside the comic.

I have only the vaguest of memories of Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again, 1990, based on the popular teenage icon Archie and his friends. They return to good old Riverdale High for a grand reunion. Unlike in the comics, Archie and the gang—Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and Reggie—are all grown up, their teenage angst replaced by adult troubles. There is much talk among the old friends. But, as in the comics, the freckle-faced Archie must still choose between the dewy-eyed blonde and the spoiled-rich brunette. The weirdest bit in the movie, if I recall correctly, is that woman-hater Jughead has a young son. There is no sign of a wife, or Big Ethel, around. In short, I remember not liking it much.

The film is directed by Dick Lowry, known for television films and serials, and has Christopher Rich as Archie Andrews, Lauren Holly as Betty Cooper, Karen Kopins as Veronica Lodge, Sam Whipple as Jughead Jones, and Gary Kroeger as Reggie Mantle. Fran Ryan plays Miss Grundy, David Doyle impersonates Mr. Weatherbee, and Mike Nussbaum is Pop Tate.

Going only by names, I don’t know who Dick Lowry is or who any of these actors are, though I might have seen them elsewhere.

I have found that there were at least two other films, Archie (1964) and Archie's Weird Mysteries (1999), a television series.

Impersonations
It’s not easy to recreate a comic book hero on screen. For those who demand exactness, like me, it’s also more difficult to accept them. They seldom live up to my expectations. Christopher Rich and Sam Whipple did not seem like Arch and Juggie to me. They could’ve been in any film.

But then, neither did Michael Keaton, George Clooney and Christian Bale as Batman, Brandon Routh as Superman, Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man, Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man, Billy Zane as The Phantom, Macaulay Culkin as Richie Rich, or Christian Clavier as Astérix and Gérard Depardieu as Obélix.

As far as Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk is concerned, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to Eric Bana, Edward Norton, and Mark Ruffalo.

The only actors who have looked the part of the comic book heroes they have played are Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman, Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock/Daredevil.

Steven Spielberg did a wise thing by deciding to recapture Belgian cartoonist Georges ‘Hergé’ Remi’s famous hero, Tintin, only in animated form. The first of the series, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) was a big success mainly because the young reporter stayed inside his comic book.

Archie lives
Coming back to John L. Goldwater’s creation, Archie comics are still around, though the drawings and storyboards have gone through significant changes. The Riverdale gang is almost unrecognisable. They’re more snazzy and colourful. Some years ago, Archie Comics released a six-part series about Archie’s marriage (to either Betty or Veronica) that wasn’t entirely convincing. Today, the Archies look as if they are caught in a time warp, somewhere between Little Archie and Teenage Archie. Obviously, Archie Comics is catering to a new and young readership.

A couple of days ago, the family picked up some old Archie double digests (classified as magazines) and it felt nice to read the original adventures of freckle face and his friends. When was the last time you read an Archie comic?

15 comments:

  1. A new one on me here, Prashant as I can't remember this in any format. Did I miss out on much.......I don't think so!

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    1. Col, I don't think you missed out on anything. An Archie movie today would probably be hyped up more and marketed better than it was over two decades ago. The comics are no longer as popular in India as they were in the past. I don't know what the Archie scene is like in the West.

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  2. I never even knew this movie existed. I probably wouldn't have watched it since I never read the comics.

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    1. Charles, not much of a movie really; could have been better, though. I grew up reading and collecting American comics like DC and Marvel, Dell and Gold Key, Disney and Harvey, and Archie and Classics Illustrated. I read most of these even now.

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  3. I have DEFINITELY not seen this one and I can't blame my failing memory for an inability to recollect it - phew! The one example of this that I found surprisingly effective (well, I was surprised anyway) was the GARFIELD movie where he was the only animated charcter - I quite liked that one but was less keen on the SCOOBY-DO approach to the same thing, but then that was always animated I suppose, so depends ... Thanks (and apologies) for the slightly surprising recollections Prashant!

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    1. Sergio, no cause for apologies. I'm glad you cited two more examples. I never really cared for the SCOOBY-DO comics and movies. GARFIELD was spot-on, I agree. He, along with CALVIN AND HOBBES and FRED BASSET, are some of my favourite cartoons (or cartoon strips). THE ADDAMS FAMILY is another good example of a successful adaptation. But those are rare and few in between. There's Spielberg's TINTIN in recent years.

      I have only written about ARCHIE the film without recollecting anything substantial about it. One for the record, so to speak. It sort of reminds me of the biopic, ABBA THE MOVIE, that came and went like lightning. I haven't been able to trace it since I saw it in the late seventies.

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  4. I don't remember this movie, Prashant, but I did see it. My husband told me about this post and that we had seen the movie.

    I can imagine that it was not very good but I would love to see Lauren Holly as Betty. Holly was on NCIS for several years.

    I have read many, many Archie comics. Mostly when my son was younger, but I probably still have some. Will have to look.

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    1. Tracy, this is one of several movies that usually remain just beyond the ken of my memory. As a result, I remember very little. I'm not at all familiar with any of the actors, including Lauren Holly. Incidentally, the Archies theme, including the triangular romance, has been adapted repeatedly by the Indian film industry, notably in Hindi films made by Bollywood. Sometimes I leaf through Archie Comics but they no longer hold up as well as they did in the past. Fortunately, that's not the case with other comic books, like DC and Marvel.

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  5. Thanks for a trip back in memory, Prashant. :) I haven't read an Archie comic book since I was a kid, but back then I loved them to pieces. Read them every chance I got and (growing up in Manhattan) bemoaned the fact that I didn't live in Riverdale. Ha! Those were the days.

    I never did see any of the Archie films, I don't think. At least not that I remember. They could never do them justice because the people putting the films together didn't 'get' the humor or the world of Archie.

    P.S. I hated the Spielberg interpretation of Tintin. Simply hated it. SO boring. I would have much preferred a regular cartoon version using the original drawings in some way.

    I didn't mind Brandon Routh as Superman so much. I thought that the usually capable Kevin Spacey ruined the film by over-playing Lex Luthor in a very badly written part. Not a great film at all, but surely not as bad as people say. I still haven't seen the new Superman though I hear that's awful - but I won't judge until I've seen it. Maybe Superman as a film concept is done. The memory of Christopher Reeve in the part just can't be overcome.

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    1. Yvette, you're welcome! I have Archie digests near me even as I write this though I no longer read them. I don't like the new art, the stories or the humour. They cater to a new readership. The old numbers are still available which is what comes into our house. I used to read Archie alongside Dell, Gold Key, Charlton, Harvey, Disney, EC, and Classics Illustrated, some of which I still read as and when I can find them.

      I thought Gene Hackman, in spite of not being bald, was far better as Lex Luthor than Kevin Spacey. I remember well, Christopher Reeve's first SUPERMAN film opposite Margot Kidder, as Lois Lane, was ridiculed because in the end the Man of Steel turns back the earth, and thereby time, just so that Miss Lane lives again. I don't think Superman ever did anything of the sort in his comics. But then, he is an alien and capable of anything. On the whole it was a very good film.

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  7. Grew up reading Archie comics but this movie must have gone straight to video. I don't believe I ever heard of it. The closest example of replicating comic book characters I can think of at the moment is Robert Altman's Popeye and Olive Oil.

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    1. Ron, I think the film was made for the video or television circuit for I saw it only on video. I don't recall it coming to the theatres. Not many know of its existence either. I prefer the Popeye cartoons to Popeye films.

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  8. They're still publishing stories about Archie married to Veronica and Betty. "Life With Archie" is now magazine-sized and publishes two stories, each based in a different alternate world. Somewhat diverting to see the differences -- in one timeline, Moose is the school janitor; in the other, he's Riverdale's mayor! On one earth, Jughead is just about to have his first child with Moose's old girlfriend Midge; in the other he's just proposed to Ethel (no longer Big). The stories deal with more adult concerns than the rest of the comics. There's also the continuing fascination with Archie Comic's history -- LWA has brought back Sam Hill, a Peter Gunn-ish PI.

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