STAND ALONE (1985) Charles Durning stars as a well liked old man who decides to take on drug dealers in his neighborhood.

standalone_poster01Theme Song: This movie has, by far, one of the most annoyingly excessive synthesizer tracks ever, and it’s going throughout almost the entire movie. If there’s one thing that can ruin and date the a movie, it’s an annoying synthesizer soundtrack.

Interesting Dated References: There are some good shots of Los Angeles a la 1986, but that’s about it.

Best Line: Any good dialogue is muddled out by bad synth.

Social Context: Something about the obsolescence of the elderly, but it was quickly lost with large machine guns and cocaine cowboys.

Summary: The movie begins with some flashback sequence from the South Pacific in 1942 in which we see some guy (lets assume it’s the main character of the movie) stab some Japanese soldiers. Right off the bat, the action and filming are a little awkward and amateur. The movie then flashes to today, err… 1985, in which we see the fat but lovable old man, Mr. Thibido, playing with his grandson. Thibido is played by an extremely overweight and elderly Charles Durning whom despite having a long career has never really been a person able to carry an entire movie. But the makers of Stand Alone decided to give him a shot. So the lovable old man does lovable old man things like hug kids on the street, get annoyed with fat neighbor ladies, walk his grandson to band practice, and talk to his friend at the local diner. At one point the waitress at the diner offers him “that sports magazine.”

When it comes to action-type movies from the 80s, they can usually be put into 2 categories: pre-Miami Vice and post-Miami Vice. Everything that was pre-Miami Vice looks like it’s from the seventies, with the drug dealers being thugs with switchblades, and they are usually black or white. Think The Warriors, here. This went on for years and years and then along came Miami Vice and drug dealers morphed into cuban or hispanic men dressed in some type of unique way carrying some type of gigantic automatic weapon. It seems this massive shift happened sometime between 1984 and 1985. The movie falls into post-Miami Vice. Durning is reading the paper when in walk the following:

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They proceed to use two gigantic guns to kill one guy who was in the diner causing trouble. Apparently they were “settling a score,” which is something people used to do when things were worth fighting for. Walking into a diner with two gigantic guns to kill a guy and then firing 500 rounds won’t exactly keep the cops or Charles Durning off your ass.

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Durning has his inner vigilante awakened. They are suggesting this fat old man would be capable of taking down a bunch of drug dealers and criminals. It’s like Death Wish meets Cocoon. Durning gets his superficial wound treated, talks to his grandson, tries to identify the shooters for the cops, and continues to waddle around onscreen. While waddling around the police station, he runs into Pam Grier, who plays some type of public defender. She also is apparently good friends with Durning, just like everyone else in this fucking town. While Pam Grier is meeting with one of her cases, she realizes it’s the guy Durning was describing to her. So then she uses buzzwords like “cocaine cowboys” a whole bunch and tries to warn Durning to be careful. Then somehow Durning is driving around L.A., sees a boogie van, and looks inside the open window to see one of the gigantic guns used in the shooting. Right then some of the other guys involved in the shooting come out of the bar and proceed to chase Durning through some industrial park. Now this is where it gets a little ridiculous. Charles Durning probably can’t run more than 5 feet without getting winded, so all the scenes of him running entail him running for about 3 feet to the edge of the frame, then all the guys chasing him running all the way through the frame. He manages to ditch the guys by hiding at the very diner where the shootings took place, imagine that.

Later Durning looks at a police lineup and is about to identify the killer when Grier bursts in demanding he not identify him because he will be brought up on some other charges. Then Durning gets all paranoid at his house, thinking he’s going to be killed, so he starts walking around with a gun. After some guys shoot at the house, Durning’s daughter-in-law character and her son decide they are splitting town. When she asks Durning to leave, he makes a fist and says, “This is my house.”

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So now this man must stand … alone! That’s where they got the title from. Except, Pam Grier shows up and there’s also a cop parked across the street. Stand with Pam Grier and a Cop Parked Across the Street just doesn’t have the same ring as Stand Alone, though. So then Durning gives some annoying speech about World War II and what it meant to be an American.

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He’s really out of shape. He goes to the shitty bar and provokes the other killer guys, then he goes back to his house and gets all Taxi Driver in the mirror, except more 80s and geriatric. He also sets a bunch of booby traps and for some reason puts shoe polish all over his face. Then the three mexi-cuban-hybrid killers show up and he has all kinds of war flashbacks. Then he kills all of them. Pam Grier and the cops show up. Then they end with a freeze frame on his overweight, old, shoe-shine-polished face. Apparently the audience was also supposed to do a bunch of homework and find out that Charles Durning actually was a heavily-decorated WW2 veteran which may be why he was selected for the movie.

Poster and Box Art: Well, I give the poster credit for featuring a painting considering this was fast going out of style by the mid-80s. But I’ve got point out one ridiculous trend going on here:

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The guy standing with a stick thing was HUGE back in the day. One important aspect of the vigilante film was that the protagonist didn’t need fancy guns or weaponry. A simple stick would do.

Availability: Used VHS on Amazon for as low as 38 cents!

4 comments

  • stand alone was a cool movie,and charles durning was cool in it,and in real life,was a hero in ww 2 you fuckin bonehead

  • I liked this movie. And you have to keep in mind that its just that…a movie. It was nice seeing a movie where the lead was not off the Gold’s gym production line. Yes he was obese but forty years later, who isn’t. Pam Grier was decent. Don’t really remember soundtrack, but do remember it was a part of my early thirties and has a place in my minds eye. Would easily have it put in DVD format if still owned tape. Plainly put movie is about standing against bad/wrong.

  • Holy shit, Charles Durning is still alive?! How is that possible, he is apparently on his last leg in this film.

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