File this one under “IT WOULD NEVER BE MADE TODAY.” Totally awesome and completely irresponsible, the 1984 children’s fantasy action film Cloak & Dagger was a staple item of my HBO-watching youth, and I can remember literally exhausting the family VHS copy after my mom taped it off the movie channel. Directed by Richard Franklin (Roadgames, Psycho II, Link, FX2: The Deadly Art of Illusion) and written by Tom Holland (Class of 1984, Fright Night, Child’s Play, Thinner, The Temp), this is one of those “could only have been made in the 80’s” flicks where guns are put in the hands of children, who then use them (to the death), and adult-minded seriousness was mixed in with the wide-eyed and innocent charms of a kid-centric cast that features Henry Thomas going up against a ruthless band of assassins, all the while having conversations with his invisible friend played by a terrific Dabney Coleman, who very much resembles his absentee father.
The idea that this film is rated PG makes me very, very happy. The great cinematographer Victor J. Kemper (Cohen & Tate, Slap Shot, Mikey and Nicky, The Jerk, The Final Countdown) brought a very polished look to the film, much of which takes place at night and is rather creepy. There’s loads of child endangerment all throughout this devious film, and I can remember certain bits scaring the crap out of me as a kid when I watched it (that old lady’s hand…!). William Forsythe makes a memorable supporting appearance, while the baddies are led by a ruthless Michael Murphy, who taunts Thomas at one point with threats of shooting him in the kneecaps and letting him die slowly.
Cloak & Dagger was first released as a theatrical double feature with The Last Starfighter (!), and then a month later as a stand-alone option, and despite decent reviews, didn’t do very well at the box office. But I can nearly guarantee that this is a movie that TONS of people love from back in the day, and upon a recent revisit, it really does hold up as a shining example of “the sort of film that they won’t make anymore.” Cloak & Dagger is available on DVD, with one release including it as a twofer with the video-game advertisement posing as a feature film The Wizard.
Review by Nick Clement