Sing Do Wah Diddy: 'Stripes' turns 30 years old today
Three decades ago to this very day, '80s fans had a chance to be ... all that they could be. Stripes turns 30 years old today. Choose your own exclamation. That's a fact, Jack! or the traditional Boom-chucka-lucka-lucka bit. Or just channel your inner Sgt. Hulka, our "big toe," and say: "I'm getting too old for this s---."
Years after this movie was released (June 26, 1981 ... look it up), Bill Murray reportedly said: "I'm still a little queasy that I actually made a movie where I carry a machine gun. But I felt if you were rescuing your friends it was okay. It wasn't Reds or anything, but it captured what it was like on an Army base: It was cold, you had to wear the same green clothes, you had to do a lot of physical stuff, you got treated pretty badly, and had bad coffee."
Critics generally enjoyed the movie. Roger Ebert, in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, called it "an anarchic slob movie, a celebration of all that is irreverent, reckless, foolhardy, undisciplined, and occasionally scatological." (I'm not sure what scatological moments where in there, do you?) But more importantly, he argued, it was a king-maker for those involved.
"The movie is not only a triumph for its stars (Bill Murray and Harold Ramis) and its director (Ivan Reitman), but a sort of vindication," Ebert wrote. "To explain: Reitman directed, and Murray starred in, the enormously successful Meatballs, which was an entertaining enough comedy but awfully ragged. No wonder. It was shot on a shoestring with Canadian tax-shelter money. What Murray and Reitman prove this time is that, given a decent budget, they can do superior work -- certainly superior to Meatballs, for starters."
All I knew of, at the age of 14, was that it was perhaps the funniest movie I'd seen in my life. And maybe also the saddest too. (Seriously, at that age, what else are we take make of the sad-sack lives of John and Russell?) It was also an education. Heretofore, I give you
10 THINGS YOU CAN LEARN FROM STRIPES:
10. THE LYRICS TO DA DOO RUN RUN: "I met her on a Monday and my heart stood still ..." Thank you, Russell, for teaching us the lyrics to this 1963 hit by The Crystals. (Also #114 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.)
9. WHAT A LOOFAH IS: Capt. Stillman (John Larroquette) gets the credit here. Oddly enough, loofahs were a punchline in another '80s classic, Caddyshack. "Elihu, will you come loofah my stretch marks?" Reitman actually didn't know what a loofah was at the time; Larroquette improvised the line and had to explain it to the director afterward. (Larroquette also later admitted he was drunk during most of the scenes he filmed.)
8. THAT CHEECH AND CHONG ARE GREEDY STONERS: Stripes was originally going to be called Cheech and Chong Join the Army. But the comedians' managers wanted a 25 percent share on Reitman's next five films. He balked, recast the movie and moved all the pot jokes to the character of Elmo (Judge Reinhold).
7. 19th CENTURY POETRY: Murray's quote "We are the wretched refuse" -- describing how the platoon was made up of men from around the world -- is actually a reference to a poem, "The New Colossus", by American poet Emma Lazarus. The poem describes the Statue of Liberty.
6. DENNIS QUAID AND P.J. SOLES WERE MARRIED: Quaid gets around, and back in 1981, he was married to Soles, who played the female MP. There were married from 1978 to 1982. Quaid actually appears in the crowd during the graduation ceremony, but it takes an eagle eye to point him out.
5. BALLS HURT: The movie's early scene with Murray driving the old woman to the airport has the catchy line, "Oh, my balls." That's an ad-libbed line because Murray actually did hit himself accidentally with the case when putting it in the taxi's trunk.
4. MURRAY IS GREAT AT IMPROV: The meet-and-greet scene in the Army barracks is entirely improvised. Including Murray's lines about 'Lee Harvey' making out with a cow and calling Sgt. Hulka a "big toe."
3. HOW TO TYPE: The last sentence the platoon shouts during their performance at graduation, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," is used to test typewriters (remember those?) because it contains every letter of the alphabet at least once.
2. BOXING HISTORY: When ditching the old lady and his taxi on the airport run, Murray throws the keys to his cab into the Ohio River from the same bridge where boxing great Muhammad Ali claims to have thrown his Olympic gold medal.
1. HOW TO DO A REAL CADENCE: Do Wah Diddy Diddy, which John and Russell decide to use as a marching cadence, was a song by The Exciters in late 1963. After Stripes, it became a popular cadence in the U.S. military.