Streets of Fire
|Streets of Fire|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Walter Hill|
|Produced by||Lawrence Gordon
|Written by||Walter Hill
|Music by||Ry Cooder|
|Editing by||James Coblentz
Freeman A. Davies
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release dates||June 1, 1984|
|Running time||93 minutes|
Streets of Fire is a 1984 film directed by Walter Hill and co-written by Hill and Larry Gross. It was described in previews, trailers, and posters as "A Rock & Roll Fable". It is an unusual mix of musical, action, drama, and comedy with elements both of retro-1950s and 1980s. The film stars Michael Paré as a soldier of fortune who returns home to rescue his ex-girlfriend (Diane Lane) who has been kidnapped by Raven (Willem Dafoe). Some of the film was shot on the backlot of Universal Studios in California on two large, elaborate sets covered in a tarp 1,240 feet long by 220 feet wide so that night scenes could be filmed during the day.
The film was promoted as a summer blockbuster but failed critically and commercially, grossing only US$8 million in North America, compared to a production budget of $14.5 million. However, its dynamic musical score by Jim Steinman, Ry Cooder, and others, as well as the hit Dan Hartman song "I Can Dream About You", has helped it attain a cult following.
In an unnamed city, Ellen Aim (Lane), lead singer of Ellen Aim and The Attackers, has returned home to give a concert. The Bombers, a biker gang, led by Raven Shaddock (Dafoe), enter the auditorium and kidnap her.
Witnessing all of this is Reva Cody (Van Valkenburgh), who wires her brother Tom Cody (Paré), an ex-soldier and Ellen's ex-boyfriend, to rescue her. Tom returns and, after taking Reva home, checks out the local tavern, the Blackhawk, where Clyde (Paxton) tends bar. He is annoyed by a tomboyish ex-soldier named McCoy (Madigan), a mechanic who "could drive anything" and who is good with her fists, as evidenced when she knocks out Clyde. They leave the bar and McCoy asks Tom for a place to stay for the night. That night, Tom and Reva plan to rescue Ellen; Reva is to contact Billy Fish (Moranis), Ellen's manager and current boyfriend, to meet at the diner in the morning.
While Reva and McCoy go to the diner to wait for Billy, Tom acquires a cache of weapons, including a pump action shotgun, a revolver, and a lever action rifle. Tom and Billy meet at the diner and Tom agrees to the rescue for $10,000, and that Billy goes with Tom back into "the Battery" to get Ellen. Tom hires McCoy to drive.
In the Battery, they visit Torchie's, where Billy used to book bands. They wait until nightfall under an overpass, watching bikers come and go. Raven has Ellen tied up in an upstairs bedroom. As Tom, Billy, and McCoy approach, Tom directs Billy to get the car and be out front in fifteen minutes.
McCoy enters and is stopped by one of the Bombers. McCoy, pretending to like him, follows him to his special "party room," close to where Raven is playing poker. McCoy knocks out the biker. Tom finds a window in the building across from the bar directly across from Ellen's window and, for a distraction, starts shooting the gas tanks on the motorcycles; he then reaches Ellen's room, cuts her free and, with McCoy's help, escapes just as Billy arrives at the front door.
As the others jump into the convertible, Tom sends them off to meet at the Grant Street Overpass, then blows up the gas pumps outside the bar. Raven appears out of the flames and chaos to confront Tom. After learning who he is, Raven warns he will be back for Ellen and for him, too. Tom escapes on the one intact motorcycle. Billy is persuading Ellen the only reason her ex-boyfriend rescued her was for money. Tom returns as McCoy explains to Billy that Tom used to be Ellen's boyfriend.
Ditching the street rod in a parking garage, Ellen follows Tom up the stairs while Billy and McCoy take the elevator. Ellen and Tom fight as Billy and McCoy go back and forth once again about Tom and Ellen's love affair. When they all meet up on the street, they are in the Battery. They return Ellen safely home where she initially rejects her home town as well as Tom. Later, he goes to the hotel where Ellen and Billy are staying to collect his reward. He only takes McCoy's cut and throws the rest in Billy's face. He then tells Ellen that there was a time he would've done anything for her but no more. As Tom storms out, Ellen follows and the two embrace in the rain.
Meanwhile, Raven informs Officer Ed Price (Lawson), the head of the police department, that he wants Tom to meet him alone. If he agrees he will leave the Richmond alone. Price tells Tom to get out of town. Tom, Ellen, and McCoy leave on a train. He knocks out Ellen and returns to town for a climactic battle with Raven. Tom defeats Raven and the defeated gang carries their leader away. Later that night, Tom says a final goodbye to Ellen and rides off with McCoy.
- Michael Paré as Tom Cody
- Diane Lane as Ellen Aim
- Rick Moranis as Billy Fish
- Amy Madigan as McCoy
- Willem Dafoe as Raven Shaddock
- Elizabeth Daily as Baby Doll
- Deborah Van Valkenburgh as Reva Cody
- Richard Lawson as Officer Ed Price
- Rick Rossovich as Officer Cooley
- Bill Paxton as Clyde the Bartender
- Lee Ving as Greer
- Stoney Jackson as Bird, of The Sorels
- Grand L. Bush as Reggie, of The Sorels
- Robert Townsend as Lester, of The Sorels
- Mykelti Williamson as B.J., of The Sorels
- Lynne Thigpen as a Subway Motorwoman
- Marine Jahan as a Dancer at Torchie's
- Ed Begley, Jr. as Ben Gunn
- John Dennis Johnston as Pete the Mechanic
- Peter Jason as Ardmore Cop #1
- Matthew Laurance as Ardmore Cop #2
The concept for Streets of Fire came together during the making of 48 Hrs. and reunited director Walter Hill with producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver, and screenwriter Larry Gross, all of whom worked together on that production.1 According to Hill, the film's origins came out of a desire to make what he thought was a perfect film when he was a teenager and put in all of the things that he thought were "great then and which I still have great affection for: custom cars, kissing in the rain, neon, trains in the night, high-speed pursuit, rumbles, rock stars, motorcycles, jokes in tough situations, leather jackets and questions of honor".2
The four men began planning Streets of Fire while completing 48 Hrs. Afterwards, Gross and Hill worked on the screenplay, writing ten pages a day. When they were finished, they submitted the script to Universal executive Bob Rehme on a Friday (in January 1983) and by the end of the weekend, the studio had given them the go-ahead to make the film.23
The film's title came from a song written and recorded by Bruce Springsteen on his 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town.45 Negotiations with Springsteen for rights to the song delayed production several times.1 Originally, plans were made for the song to be featured on the film's soundtrack, to be sung by Ellen Aim at the end of the film, but when he was told that the song would be re-recorded by other vocalists, he withdrew permission for the song to be used.4 Jim Steinman was brought in to write the opening and closing songs and "Streets of Fire" was replaced by "Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young".1 The studio claimed that they replaced Springsteen's song because it was a "downer".4
When it came to casting the movie, Hill wanted to go with a young group of relative unknowns. He heard about Michael Paré from the same agent who recommended Eddie Murphy to him for 48 Hrs.2 At the time he was cast, in March 1983, the actor had appeared in two films, Eddie and the Cruisers and Undercover, which hadn’t even been released.6 For Hill, Paré "had the right quality. He was the only actor I found who was right for the part ...a striking combination of toughness and innocence."2 Paré said of his character, "He's someone who can come in and straighten everything out."2
The character of Ellen Aim was written as a 28-year-old woman and Diane Lane read for the part when she was 18.1 Hill was reluctant to cast her because he felt that she was too young for the role. Hill met Lane in New York City and she auditioned for him in black leather pants, a black mesh top and high-heeled boots. He was surprised with her "total commitment to selling herself as a rock 'n' roll star".1 The actress had been in more than 10 films by the time she did Streets of Fire. She described her character as "the first glamorous role I've had".2 Hill was so impressed with her work on the film that he wrote additional scenes for her during the shoot.2 Amy Madigan originally read for Reva, Cody's sister, and told Hill and Silver that she wanted to play the role of McCoy which, she remembers, "was written to be played by an overweight male who was a good soldier and really needed a job. It could still be tough and strong and have a woman do it without rewriting the part."23 Hill liked the idea and cast her.2
Production began on location in Chicago in April 1983, then moved to Los Angeles for 45 days and finally two weeks at a soap factory in Wilmington, California, with additional filming taking place at Universal Studios. Shooting wrapped on August 18, 1983.2 All ten days of filming in Chicago were exteriors at night on locations that included platforms of elevated subway lines and the depths of Lower Wacker Drive. For Hill, the subways and their look was crucial to the world of the film and represented one of three modes of transportation—the other two being cars and motorcycles.2 While shooting in Chicago, the production was plagued by inclement weather that included rain, hail, snow, and a combination of all three. The subway scenes were filmed on location in Chicago at many locations, including: LaSalle Street (Blue line), Lake Street (Green line), Sheridan Road (Red, Purple lines), and Belmont Avenue (Red, Brown, and Purple lines). The Damen Avenue stop (Blue Line, at Damen, North, and Milwaukee Avenues) was also used.2
Production designer John Vallone and his team constructed an elevated train line on the backlot of Universal Studios that perfectly matched the ones in Chicago.1 The film crew tarped-in the New Street and Brownstone street sets to double for the Richmond District setting, completely covering them so that night scenes could be filmed during the day. This tarp measured 1,240 feet long by 220 feet wide over both sets and cost $1.2 million to construct.1 However, this presented unusual problems. The sound of the tarp flapping in the wind interfered with the actors’ dialogue. Birds who had nested in the tarp provided their own noisy interruptions.2
The exterior of the Richmond Theater where Ellen Aim sings at the beginning of the film was shot on the backlot with the interior done in the Wiltern Theater in L.A. for two weeks.2 The factory scenes that take place in the Battery were filmed at a rotting soap factory in Wilmington, California, for ten nights. The Ardmore Police roadblock was filmed near 6th street in East Los Angeles near the flood basin. Though only three districts are seen, the city has a total of five districts: the Richmond, the Strip, the Battery, the Cliffside, and the Bayside.2
The production employed 500 extras to play the citizens of the Richmond District.2 Cinematographer Andrew Laszlo shot the film with very low light, giving the images a stark, "low-tech" quality. The choreography for the two songs Ellen Aim sings and the one by the Sorels was done by Jeffrey Hornaday.2 The lighting for these concert scenes were done by Mark Brickman, who also lit concerts for Bruce Springsteen and Pink Floyd. The car that Cody drives in the movie is a 1951 Mercury that was chopped, channeled, nosed, and decked.clarification needed In addition, 12 1950 and 1951 model Studebakers were used as police cars.2 More than 50 motorcycles and their drivers were featured as the Bombers and were chosen from 200 members of real L.A.-based clubs like The Crusaders and The Heathens.1
According to cinematographer Andrew Laszlo, the film's style was dictated by the story.1 The Richmond's look was very soft and the colors did not call attention to themselves. The light in The Battery was contrasting and harsh, with vivid colors. Argyle prints and plaids are used in the Parkside District, and neon lights color the Strip.1
Willem and I shot that for two weeks, and then Walter shot it for another two week with the stunt guys. That whole scene was a Walter thing. He had to do something like that, especially after what he had done in Hard Times (1975).7
Michael Pare later recalled:
You gotta realize that, out of the whole cast, nobody was over thirty. Diane Lane was, I think, eighteen. It was an enormous Hollywood production. My manager had me hire a limousine to pick me up at home and take me to work. I was like, "Jesus, this is incredible. This is... Hollywood. The real Hollywood. The Hollywood they make movies about."... It was scary. And Walter isn't the kind of guy who works well with kids. He's a cowboy. He's like John Ford. "Don't ask me how to act! I'm a director!" (Laughs)8
Pare also said he had troubles with Rick Moranis:
Rick Moranis drove me out of my mind. There's this whole wave of insult comedy. In the real world, if someone insults you a couple of times, you can smack them. Or punch them. You can't do that on a movie set. And these comedians walk around, and they can say whatever they want. I'm just not that handy with that. Comedians are a special breed. They can antagonize you and say whatever they... want, and you can't do anything to stop them... He's this weird looking little guy who couldn't get laid in a whore house with a fistful of fifties. He would imitate me. The first thing he says to me is, "Do you just act cool, or are you really cool?" That was the first sentence out of his mouth to me in Joel Silver's office. And I was like, "Oh... this is not going to go well." But he was one of Joel's dear friends, and he ended up making a bunch of movies for Disney. I just wasn't that sharp. I wasn't ready for that kind of crap.8
Pare said that the original draft of the script had Tom Cody kill Raven with a knife. "Walter really liked the idea, because it had Tom Cody winning at all costs." However this was changed to a fair fight in order to get a PG rating.7
Pare did not always work well with Walter Hill:
I think Walter is a writer at heart. Writers aren't always that good at communicating in person. He's also a tough son-of-a-bitch. He's like a cowboy. His director's chair was made out of leather and on the back of it read "Lone Wolf". He used to frequent gun clubs and he wasn't a very delicate guy.... We were doing a love scene. When they said, "We need to ADR the love scene." I really freaked out. I had never done a love scene before... I really needed help to get through it. I panicked, and the Producer... Joel Silver, called Walter and somehow persuaded him to come over and direct me through the ADR. Streets of Fire was a big picture for me, and I was overwhelmed. I think that bothered Walter. I think he thought that I was a needy guy. He was used to working with actors who had experience like Nick Nolte or David Carradine. I've always wondered why Walter has never wanted to work with me again. I think he was too much of gentlemen to tell me that I was too needy at the time.7
|Streets of Fire|
|Soundtrack album by Various artists|
|Released||May 29, 1984|
Jimmy Iovine produced five of the songs for the film and the soundtrack album.2 For Ellen Aim's singing voice, he combined the voices of Laurie Sargent and Holly Sherwood, billing them as "Fire Incorporated." The Attackers were the real-life (Face to Face) bandmates of Sargent, who provided the lead vocals on Ellen Aim's songs "Never Be You" and "Sorcerer" and supporting vocals on "Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young."2 The version of "Sorcerer," written and composed by Stevie Nicks, that was featured on the actual soundtrack album was performed by Marilyn Martin.
Two Wagnerian rock songs written by Jim Steinman were part of the soundtrack: "Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young" and "Nowhere Fast," both performed by "Fire Incorporated" with Holly Sherwood as lead vocal. The title of the former was used as the tagline on some promotional materials for the film.2 Daniel Earl "Dan" Hartman's selection "I Can Dream About You" is the most successful song from this movie and became a Billboard top 10 hit in 1984 (also from his studio album of the same name). In the movie, the song is performed on stage, at the end of the film, by "The Sorels," a fictional doo-wop style group consisting of actors Stoney Jackson, Grand L. Bush, Mykelti Williamson, and Robert Townsend.2 However, the song was actually sung for the film by Winston Ford, whose vocals were convincingly lip-synchronized by Jackson in the movie. There are thus two versions of the song, but the most popular was sung by Dan Hartman for commercial release. Ford's full version had not been released commercially as of the middle of November 2013.
Steinman later recalled as thinking the script was "terrible" but he thought the film was going to be a big hit, in part because of the enthusiasm of Joel Silver:
[He said] this movie is about visuals. It's about excitement, it's about thrills. Don't worry about the script... I remember mentioning it to six or seven people that the script was trashy and I always got the same answer... The script doesn't matter. This movie is about visuals... Then we go to the first edit, the first cut of the movie in the screening room and it's [Jimmy] Iovine and me and Joel Silver... And about 20 minutes into the movie Jimmy turns to me and he goes... this movie is really shitty isn't it? It's really bad. I said, yeah, it's a really bad script. Why didn't anyone notice that the script was bad? It stinks. I can't even watch it... Joel's on the other side going, what am I gonna do next? There's gotta be a next project, and they're sitting there and there's so many lessons I learned during that movie. It went $14 million over budget, I think and I kept saying to Joel, how are they allowing this? 'Cause they kept screaming at us, it's over the budget. I said, how, and they, you've gotta understand, they built all, Walter Hill didn't want to go to Chicago. The story took place in Chicago, so they built Chicago in LA.9
Steinman says the filmmakers were convinced they would have the Bruce Springsteen song Streets of Fire and filmed an ending using it. However when they realised they would not get it in time they asked Steinman for a song which he wrote in two days.
So I wrote this song that I loved and I sent it to them and he and Joel, I remember, left me a great message saying, I hate you, you bastard, I love this song. We're gonna have to do it. We're gonna have to re-build the Wiltern Theater, which they had taken down, it was a million dollars to re-do the ending... and I felt all his hostility for Universal. A guy named Sean Daniels, who was head of production, one day said to me, well there is hostility because we understand you waited about eight months to come up with that final song and you never did it. I said, where'd you hear that? I did it in two days. He said, Jimmy Iovine. So I went to Jimmy Iovine and I said all that to his, yeah it's true, I know. I blamed you but you can't be upset with me. I'm not like a writer. I've gotta make my way with these people. I had to have a scapegoat.9
- Fire Incorporated – "Nowhere Fast" 6:02
- Marilyn Martin – "Sorcerer" 5:06
- The Fixx – "Deeper and Deeper" 3:45
- Greg Phillinganes – "Countdown to Love" 3:00
- The Blasters – "One Bad Stud" 2:28
- Fire Incorporated – "Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young" 6:58
- Maria McKee – "Never Be You" 4:06
- Dan Hartman – "I Can Dream About You" 4:07
- Ry Cooder – "Hold That Snake" 2:36
- The Blasters – "Blue Shadows" 3:17
Streets of Fire fared poorly at the box office, opening in 1,150 theaters on June 1, 1984, and grossing US$2.4 million.10 After ten days it made $4.5 million while Star Trek III: The Search for Spock grossed $34.8 million in the same time.4 The film went on to make $8 million in North America, compared to a production budget of $14.5 million.10 It retains a cult following today, in part due to its Wagnerian rock soundtrack.
The film received mostly negative reviews from critics when it was first released. It had a 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of the middle of November 2013.
Gary Arnold wrote, in the Washington Post, that as "romantic leads, Paré and Lane are pretty much a washout," and that "most of the action climaxes are treated as such throwaways that you begin to wonder if they bored the director."13
Jay Scott wrote, in The Globe and Mail newspaper, that "when Streets of Fire is speeding by like Mercury on methedrine, the rush left in its wake cancels out questions of content. But the minute the momentum slows, it's another story—a story about a movie with no story at all."14
In a lengthy essay for Film Comment, David Chute wrote, "It's probably impossible not to enjoy the movie. No director holds a candle to Hill for sheer visceral expertise. But the moods didn't linger. It's such a hard-shelled picture that it barely has moods."4
However, Roger Ebert, in his Chicago Sun-Times review, praised the film's dialogue. He wrote that "the language is strange, too: It's tough, but not with 1984 toughness. It sounds like the way really mean guys would have talked in the late 1950s, only with a few words different--as if this world evolved a slightly different language."15
- Best Foreign Language Film—Readers' choice: 1985citation needed
- Best Actress: Amy Madigan (1984)16
- Worst Supporting Actress: Diane Lane (1984)17
Streets of Fire was intended to be the first in a projected trilogy called "The Adventures of Tom Cody" with Hill tentatively titling the two sequels The Far City and Cody's Return.1
Pare later recalled:
They told me that it was going to be a trilogy. What happened was that all of the people that made Streets of Fire left Universal Studios and went to 20th Century Fox. It was made at Universal, so they owned the rights to the story. So it was left behind. I was told by Joel Silver that the sequel was going to be set in the snow, and the following film would be set in the desert.7
However, the film's eventual failure at the box office put an end to the project.10 In an interview, shortly after the film's release, Paré said, "Everyone liked it, and then all of a sudden they didn't like it. I was already worried about whether I should do the sequel or not."18
- Gentry, Ric (July–August 1984). "Streets of Fire". Prevue.
- "Streets of Fire Production Notes". MGM Press Kit. 1984.
- Crawley, Tony (February 1984). "Shooting on the Streets". Starburst.
- Chute, David (August 1984). "Dead End Streets". Film Comment.
- POP EYE: RICK SPRINGFIELD: A HOT LINE TO HYPE Goldstein, Patrick. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 24 Apr 1983: s84.
- Michael Pare Stars in Walter Hill's Streets of Fire Seay, Davin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 08 Mar 1984: aa8.
- "Tom Cody, Pleased To Meet Ya! INTERVIEW: Michael Paré talks with TV STORE ONLINE about the cult classic STREETS OF FIRE", TV Store Online October 30, 2013 accessed 23 March 2014
- "Mr. Beaks Talks THE LINCOLN LAWYER, EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS and STREETS OF FIRE With Michael Paré!", Aint it Cool News, 21 March 2011 accessed 23 March 2014
- Interview with Jim Steinman accessed 23 March 2014
- "Streets of Fire". Box Office Mojo. May 17, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-17.
- Streets of Fire at AllMusic
- Maslin, Janet (June 1, 1984). "SCREEN: 'STREETS OF FIRE'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-17.
- Arnold, Gary (June 1, 1984). "Dead-End Streets of Fire". the Washington Post.
- Scott, Jay (June 1, 1984). "They hybrid streets of mire". The Globe and Mail (Toronto).
- Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1984). "Streets of Fire". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-05-24.
- Sitges 1984
- Razzie 1984
- "Streets of Fire". Los Angeles Times. August 7, 1984.
- Streets of Fire at the Internet Movie Database
- Streets of Fire at AllMovie
- Streets of Fire at Rotten Tomatoes