I recently picked up Scream Factory’s 2015 blu-ray release of Nightmares (1983), a low-budget urban legends/horror omnibus in the vein of Creepshow (1982) and Cat’s Eye (1985)—the latter of which my brother loved. I’ve been watching and re-watching “The Bishop of Battle” episode of Nightmares because it is not only the best of the four chapters by a long shot, but also because it has some vintage footage of early 80s arcades—not to mention a prolonged sequence highlighting the gameplay of Pleiades to the soundtrack of Fear’s “Let’s have a War.”
It’s a lot of fun to watch this 25 minute episode and try to identify the various games of the era in the arcades. In fact, there was a pretty big surprise for me in my recent close watchings, but I’ll save that revelation for my next post. Like and subscribe!
Here I want to highlight something I stumbled upon that provides an interesting link, at least for me, between the “The Bishop of Battle” episode another childhood favorite: Repo Man (1984). To set the stage, in “Bishop of Battle” young punk JJ Cooney (Emilio Estevez) hustles some kids in a downtown LA arcade to raise money for his video game addiction. He and his accomplice just barely escape on the bus after being found out and pursued. In the above scene, immediately following their getaway, you see them exiting the bus and heading to their local arcade in the Valley which is like totally in a mall.
In this companion scene from Repo Man you also have a young 80s punk, Otto, played again by Emilio Estevez just a year later who also listens to the same LA punk bands he did in “Bishop of Battle.” And it’s almost an identical shot of Otto returning from LA, but this time not to an arcade but his parents house to get some promised college money. Otto is ultimately frustrated when he hears his hippie parents have given his college money to a TV evangelist who is supplying bibles to El Salvador.
What’s wild about these scenes is almost as if JJ and Otto are the same character walking out of one film into another at different, yet chronologically aligned, moments in their young adult life. In “Bishop of Battle” JJ admits stealing quarters to his concerned parents but promises it’s all about to end once he beats the Bishop.
In Repo Man, you find Otto a year later having graduated high school in a dead-end job at a super market looking for a way out.
After Otto loses his job and his parents can’t help him he resigns to becoming a repo man. And after working with Bud (the great Harry Dean Stanton!) for a while you find him wearing the shirt and tie rejecting his punk past as he jokes about ever liking the Circle Jerks. So good!
I don’t know why it hit me so hard—like a diamond through the forehead— but after seeing the bus scene in “Bishop of Battle” and an almost identical Emilio Estevez, if only a bit younger, it got me wondering if Alex Cox had scene Nightmares and said, “That’s my Otto!” And, on top of that, used his Edge City bus scenes as a subtle homage to Joseph Sargent’s episode in Nightmares, which is really the template from which Otto seems to be built. Probably not, but I like to think the lattice of coincidence is alive and well in these films 🙂