Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

St. Elmo’s Fire

Cinema Monolith: 2/10The Monolith
IMDb: 6.4/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: **½ out of 4

Released on June 28, 1985
Rated R
110 minutes

Directed by Joel Schumacher

Written by Joel Schumacher and Carl Kurlander

Cast: Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Mare Winningham, Andie MacDowell, Martin Balsam, Joyce Van Patten, Jenny Wright, Blake Clark, Gina Hecht, Whip Hubley

Years and years ago, back when I’d pay a few bucks to see movies such as this one in theaters, I went out of my way not to see this one, simply because I was not a fan of the Brat Pack…the name give to the collection of young actors and actresses who frequently starred in teen coming-of-age films of the 1980s. Recently, however, I decided to give the film a chance and see what the fuss was all about, if indeed there ever was a fuss. Plus, I’ve been wanting to get caught up on my ‘bucket list’ of missed or bypassed ’80s films, and I found this one in a discount bin months ago and figured, why not? Well, that was my first mistake; my second was watching it—not once but twice—for this review.

Seven friends have just graduated from college and are about to enter the real world as grown-ups (ha!), but find themselves facing adult problems and situations right from the get-go: Emilio Estevez is a law student stuck waiting tables, Andrew McCarthy is a terminally-dour newspaper writer, Judd Nelson is looking to get into politics and is cheating on his girlfriend, Ally Sheedy is an architect and the girlfriend being cheated on, Demi Moore is an international banker (ha!) and full-time screw-up, Mare Winningham is an uptight virgin working at a welfare office, and Rob Lowe is…well, I don’t know what he is, really. A part-time father, a sax player, and a pretentious dick, I guess.

Good lord, this movie was horrible, plain and simple, and I can’t believe I punished myself by sitting through it twice! And what a despicable collection of characters to have headlining your film! Why the filmmakers thought we’d care about these opulent, angst-ridden crybabies boo-hooing their way through life is truly baffling, and having to listen to these clowns talk and talk and cry and gripe this inane dialogue for nearly two hours was just about too much for me to handle, and had me yearning for more entertaining and intelligent coming-of-age offerings such as Porky’s and The Last American Virgin instead.

But do you know what bothered me the most, and to me was the biggest travesty of all? Finding out that Martin Balsam had a small role in this, playing the part of Mare Winningham’s father. He brought a level of class and skill to this film it didn’t deserve, and along with the bouncy title track by John Parr and the infinitely more-mature character played by Andie MacDowell (who still loses points for showing an interest in Emilio Estevez’s bonehead waiter), wound up being the only reasons to even remotely care about this thing. Yes, St. Elmo’s Fire was that bad, and if I did care enough, I’d tell you how sickening the story, the direction, and general attitude of the film were as well.

Okay, okay, but what exactly is St. Elmo’s Fire, you ask? Well, I’ve always understood it was a weather phenomenon experienced on sailing ships, whose masts would glow with blue light during storms, but for this movie, it refers to the Georgetown University bar where our seven characters hang out. For me, however, the most spot-on description comes from Wikipedia, where I was looking up the meaning of the term, and is one which conveys my feelings towards the film perfectly: St. Elmo’s Fire is also referenced in a 1965 episode of ‘Bonanza’, in which religious pilgrims staying on the Cartwright property believe an experience with St. Elmo’s Fire is the work of Satan. Amen, brother!  (2/10)


12 comments on “St. Elmo’s Fire

  1. Aside from thinking Demi Moore was one of the most attractive ladies on film way back when and my being a Martin Balsam fan there is little reason for my ever taking the plunge to see this for the first time and now that I’ve read your take on it that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.


    • Todd B

      Trust me, Mike, I don’t think you’d have any reason to, even for Martin Balsam. And I’d warn anybody who needed to fill an actor’s filmography by watching this to stay away as well…there’s just no point in wasting time with it. But it does have one thing going for it: it’s one of the rare DVDs that’s in my collection and not in yours!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dracula

    Where is the link? I too hate that term the brat pack. Funny not one of them was actually seeking a job, but then they did graduate from Georgetown and not South Eastern Oklahoma State University. Bruce Willis didn’t jump in to rescue Demi Moore from some sort of international banking kidnapping? And the song, I also can’t stand that. So from your review and if I see this being shown on TCM or another movie channel I’ll be sure to change it to some infomercial.


    • Todd B

      Yeah, they’re fresh out of college, and most of them already have top-flight careers…where’s the pathos in that? And I don’t know if Willis’ presence would’ve saved this movie, but his gunfire and explosion tactics might’ve pepped up a few dramatic scenes. And if you EVER see this movie on Turner Classic Movies, it’ll either mean the apocalypse is upon us, or you’re having a nightmare and need to wake up.

      And what link were you referring to? I checked the only one that I’m aware of, and it worked fine for me.


  3. “yearning for more entertaining and intelligent coming-of-age offerings such as Porky’s” LOL

    I’m a little bit younger than you I think Todd so these films hit around my teens and seemed part of the woodwork of growing up. If I was told to name John Hughes films I would of said this was one. Just learnt it wasn’t!

    This 80s generation of Brat Packs were some of my most watched films at 13/14/15 The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Sixteen Candles too but not as much. St Elmo’s Fire felt just a little older for me at the time. In my head I liked it. Maybe tried to like it. Felt like I should. Like I say I thought it was a John Hughes film. Now I know it wasn’t it all kind of makes sense now.

    Yeah Rob Lowe playing Sax and being a dick, Judd Nelson was a dick too. Andie MacDowell seemed so out of place. Actually the more I think about it and am reminded by your write up they were all pretentious and charmless. HAHA! However I’m gonna try and hang on to memories of thinking it was ok. I was growing up, 15 at the time, and thinking maybe this was what it was gonna be like in young adulthood! Thank fuck it wasn’t LOL


    • Todd B

      Oh man, I just killed your good memories of the film! Now I feel like a dick! But I must tell you, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of my favorite comedies of all time (but as far as John Hughes movies go, pray I don’t review The Breakfast Club anytime soon!) So please, keep those good memories alive, in spite of me!

      My sister and I went to see a revival screening of Sixteen Candles last year, and that was my first viewing since it’s release, and I will admit, I liked it much more, and had more fun with it, this time around than before. And I just watched Pretty in Pink for the very first time a few months ago, and I was surprised how much I liked it…and not surprised about one big part of it, which I just couldn’t stand (and apparently, Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy couldn’t stand, either).

      And that Rob Lowe moment at the beginning of St. Elmo’s Fire really set the negative tone for me: his friend’s in the ER after a bad accident he was involved in, and he’s sitting on the back of the EMS truck playing his damn sax, trying to prove to anyone paying attention just how cool he is. Ugh! If I was somehow able to be there in that moment, he would’ve been rushed to that very same ER with a brass musical instrument shoved roughly up his rectal passage!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha no way bro you could never be that! I’m gonna keep those alright memories of it and steer clear of ever watching it again. I should of known it wasn’t a Hughes film because of its depressing nature. Hughes always had a good/nice angle at the end. NO NO you are not allowed to do The Breakfast Club! Now that would truly break my heart.

        Sounds like I should revisit Sixteen Candles myself as that’s the only one I haven’t seen since the 80s. Good to hear it didn’t get the Todd smashing. Same for Pretty In Pink.

        HAHA I wanna see that special directors cut with Rob Lowe’s playing the jazz sax through his rectal passage! LOL


      • Todd B

        I should probably watch The Breakfast Club again and see how I feel about it now. It’s happened quite a few times where I’ve not liked film I’d seen years earlier, then watched it again years later and really liked it (Major League is one example). So maybe I need to give TBC another shot. However, no matter what, I give you my solemn promise that you’ll never see a review of it on this site!

        And I would pay hard-earned cash to see that director’s cut! “And the Oscar for the most horrific sound emitted from a woodwind goes to…Rob Lowe, for St. Elmo’s Fire!”


  4. Dracula

    Just watched it but should have read your review first. All I can say is Will Robinson’s Robot from Lost in Space says it best, “WARNING, WARNING”. Remove it from the Monolith!


    • Todd B

      Rest assured, my friend…it has already been removed, and will soon make its way to Zia’s as trade bait. IF they even accept it in trade. Thank heavens I only paid a buck or two for it when I picked it up a few years ago.


  5. Dracula

    Nooooooooooo, don’t send it back to Zia’s. I’ll give you 5 bucks to destroy it. Bust it up into pieces and then bust it up again. I don’t want anybody to go through the pain and suffering again!


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