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Film / Eddie and the Cruisers

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Eddie and the Cruisers is a 1983 American film directed by Martin Davidson with the screenplay written by Martin and Arlene Davidson, based on the novel by P. F. Kluge.

The movie follows a fictional '60s rock band called Eddie and the Cruisers. The band makes a name for itself while playing regularly at a Somers Point, New Jersey club called Tony Mart's. It is there that they meet Frank Ridgeway (Tom Berenger), whom Eddie Wilson (Michael Pare) hires to be the band's keyboard player and lyricist. Doc Robbins (Joe Pantoliano) and Sal Amato (Matthew Laurance) are skeptical of hiring Frank, who is not a trained musician or experienced song writer, but Eddie believes that Frank is crucial to the band's development. The movie then continues to detail the rise of band to the top of the charts as well as the lives of the band members involved. When the movie begins in the 1980s, the band's music is experiencing a revival, Eddie has been missing (and presumed dead) for 18 years, and a documentary filmmaker (Ellen Barkin) is looking up the old members.

The film was followed by a sequel, Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! in 1989.

Tropes associated with this work:

  • The '50s: Even though the movie's flashbacks take place during the early 1960s, the attitudes, clothes, and Eddie's car show that the culture hasn't shifted yet.
  • Flanderization: Between the two movies this happens to Eddie.
  • Flashback: The book and the film both divide their time between the early 1980s and the heyday of Eddie and the Cruisers in the early years of rock 'n' roll.
  • Is That What He Told You?: Frank believed the story that Wendell's death was a result of a heart attack and not a heroin overdose until Sal set him straight.
  • Jerkass: Eddie has talent, but he can be incredibly insensitive, petty, and dismissive of other people's feelings.
  • Joisey
  • Last Note Nightmare: A Season In Hell. First it's disturbing, then pretty, then the final note hits and it gets really disturbing. Many radio stations edit this part out.
  • Memento MacGuffin: The master tapes for A Season In Hell are sentimental to both Joann and Eddie.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: The flashback scenes include a performance at a small college (unnamed in the book, named Benton in the film) where Frank was briefly a student. The description of the college's location (on a hill near a river in rural Ohio) makes it a clear fictional counterpart of Kenyon College, from which P.F. Kluge graduated in 1964 and at which he taught creative writing for many years.
  • New Sound Album: The never released A Season In Hell album.
  • Popular History: Averted. The flashbacks take place in the early 1960s and avoid portraying the era as a free love fest.
  • Posthumous Character: Averted!
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Doc Robbins suggested this to Frank after hearing that Sal was playing with a new version of The Cruisers.
  • Setting Update: The flashback sections in the book take place in 1957-58, with Eddie portrayed as a doo-wop singer cut from the same cloth as Dion. For the film, the setting is updated to 1964.
  • Shout-Out: As noted in the film, A Season In Hell is a theme album to Arthur Rimbaud's classic work.
  • Short-Lived, Big Impact: In-universe. Eddie and the Cruisers as a band is a fictional example.
  • The '60s: The early version that came before Vietnam, the Hippies, and Woodstock.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Eddie could be accused of this.
  • Softer and Slower Cover: Inverted. "Dark Side" was originally written by Frank as a ballad, but Eddie sped it up into a rocker.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • In the book, Eddie is unambiguously dead by the time of the "present day" story. In the film, he is still alive.
    • An inanimate object example: the tapes that the characters pursue in the book are revealed to include jam sessions with many of the great rock musicians of the era (including Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and Sam Cooke) rather than a New Sound Album; however, Joann finally admits that she erased the tapes after Eddie died. In the film, the tapes haven't been erased and are ultimately edited into a commercial release.
  • Spoiler Title: The sequel. At that point, the 1983 film's Twist Ending was well known.
  • Storefront Television Display: The finale of the film features such a storefront window. And then we're shown the man watching the screen, the supposedly deceased Eddie Wilson.
  • Wham Line: Eddie and Sal to each other, in-universe:
    [after the record company has rejected "Season in Hell"]
    Sal: Eddie, you're wrong! You're wrong! Now listen to me. I love you. I've known you longer than anyone else. But you're wrong. They want "On the Dark Side"! Why are we giving them some damn opera?! I don't even know what you're after!
    Eddie: I want something great! I want something nobody's ever done before!
    Sal: (completely gobsmacked) "Great"?! We ain't "great!" We're just some guys from Jersey!