Audio Commentary Commentation: The Goonies
*With the rise of DVD’s in the late 1990’s, one feature many promised with the addition of Special Features, was audio commentaries. These would often contain dialogue from the film’s crew, or even film historians. In this category, I’ll discuss some of the audio commentary tracks that I feel are rather compelling, and end up being entertaining, in regards to the information provided, and what is being said.*
Though his name had become synonymous with the words “Director” and “Genius,” Steven Spielberg slowly moved into a new arena of filmmaking in the mid-1980’s, when he adopted the “Executive Producer” moniker.
Under his production company Amblin Entertainment (named for the short film that got him his job at Universal Studios), Steven’s name soon headlined a number of pictures, with the tagline, “Steven Spielberg Presents.” Though the average person would assume that he had somehow directed another picture, in truth, he would moreso be there as a shepherd to the picture, throwing in a few ideas, and having a hand in the creative process.
1985 would be a big year for Amblin, when Back to the Future took the Summer by storm, becoming the biggest film of the year. However, a month before Marty McFly went back in time, another Amblin production had hit theaters: a family film by the name of The Goonies.
Based on a story by Spielberg, and directed by Richard Donner (Superman, Lethal Weapon), a misfit group of friends find a map that seems to promise pirate treasure right in their own backyard (aka Astoria, Oregon). With their stomping grounds threatened to be bulldozed for a new golf course, the friends set out to save their way of life, but soon find a couple of escaped fugitive and their tough-as-nails Mother, also wanting to get at the loot.
Though it didn’t take in as much as Back to the Future, The Goonies became the 9th highest-grossing film of 1985, with $61 million, which was quite good in those days, considering its budget was ‘only’ $19 million.
Over the years, Goonies gained quite a fan-following, and when it came time to convert it to DVD in 2001, some higher-ups at Warner Brothers actually had a great idea!
The studio had already reunited the former child actors from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to record an audio commentary for that film’s DVD release, and decided to apply the same TLC to The Goonies!.
Director Richard Donner was brought in, along with Sean Astin (Mikey), Josh Brolin (Brand), Corey Feldman (Mouth), Ke Huy Quan (Data), Jeff Cohen (Chunk), Kerri Green (Andy), and Martha Plimpton (Stef).
The commentary track would be a little different than the Wonka one, as an alternate version of the film could be accessed, where the film at times would phase into a corner of the screen, to see the cast and director at the microphones in the studio, talking over the scene.
Of course, with over 8 people in the studio talking about a film, there’s bound to be a lot of stuff flying around. Though Corey Feldman seems to overpower so much of the conversation, there’s plenty of ‘rich stuff’ to be gleaned from the film.
Below are a few ‘choice comments’ that I thought I’d bring up. Don’t be afraid that I’ve spoiled everything. There’s plenty to discover on your own.
During the course of the commentary, little asides are made to an alternate cut of the film that was never released. Some additional scenes included some gorillas, and even an octopus (which was mentioned by Data in the final cut near the end!), though noone has really deciphered what that much longer version would have been.
During the opening chase of the film, Sean Astin makes mention of a scene that was filmed, but not included in the final film.
Sean Astin: Do you guys remember the stunt we all got to go and watch, where they flipped the cop car on top of the boat?
Corey Feldman: No.
Martha Plimpton: Yes, I remember that.
Sean Astin: They drove the cop car off-they had a rig where the cop car goes-and it flips upside-down, and the guy gets out and he looks-you didn’t use that.
Richard Donner: No, we didn’t use that.
The scene would have taken place during the Fratelli’s car chase in the beginning, though surprisingly, footage of the stunt did make it into a Making-Of special produced at the time, as seen below.
Jeff Cohen is one of the most entertaining persons on the commentary. He gives a few insights into his career as ‘a little fat kid’ in Hollywood, but also provides some interesting remembrances from the set, including the ever-famous ‘Truffle Shuffle.’
It was hard to choose something that wouldn’t give away some of the best stuff. One that came to mind, was the scene where Chunk is locked in a storage closet with a dead federal agent (played by stuntman Teddy Grossman).
Jeff Cohen: Now when we were doing some of the takes where the dead guy’s in the um, like this-
Richard Donner: Yeah.
Jeff Cohen: -Dick (Donner) said-you know, we’d improvise. He’d be like, “Smack him in the face, kid. Make sure he’s dead. Make sure he’s dead.”
So I’d be smacking him and smacking him and smacking him, and after 8 takes of smacking Teddy in the face, he finally- he-the dead body yelled, “Cut! The kid’s beating the crap out of me!”
Though getting whacked around by a little fat kid like Chunk probably wasn’t as bad as Teddy’s role as another victim, in Spielberg’s 1975 film Jaws. In that film, the shark overturns his character’s boat, and drags him under the water to his death!
Also as an aside, when he was a student at The University of California-Berkeley, Jeff Cohen ran for Class President, using the campaign slogan, “Chunk for President.” Naturally, he won.
Of course, not all ‘war stories’ from the trenches of filmmaking are great. Some leave deep scars that last for years. Carrie Henn who played Newt in Aliens had a memorable line (“They mostly come out at night…mostly.”) that her friends would often alter in a jokey sort of way. The same thing happened to Kerri Green, during a sequence where Andy freaks out in the caves and starts babbling:
Kerri Green: This is my big dramatic moment. I got made fun of this for 15 years.
*Andy in the movie is babbling, “Don’t I have a beautiful body? Don’t I have a beautiful body?”*
Corey Feldman (mimicking Brand on-screen): You have a great body.
Kerri Green (referring to her character’s babbling): That one. That was the line.
Sean Astin: You were really worked up when you were doing that.
Kerri Green: 15 years, people are like, “Don’t I have a beautiful body? Don’t I have a beautiful body?”
Sometimes it’s fun when actors or actresses confess little things like that. Though this was recorded in 2000/2001, so one wonders if after Kerri aired her grievances, some people backed off from the mockery of her teenage cheerleader’s worryings.
As the commentary continues, one can’t help but almost want to throttle Corey Feldman as he gives his two cents on every other moment in the film.
Though it seems in truth, he hasn’t changed all that much from when he was younger. During a scene in the wishing well where Stef and Mouth start to argue, Martha Plimpton shares a memory of an encounter with Feldman one day.
Martha Plimpton: Actually, what people don’t realize, is that at one point actually, Corey came to me in the school trailer, and I turned to him and I said, “What?”
And he said, “What?”
And proceeded to copy everything I said, for half an hour, until I became so enraged, that I jumped on top of him, and grabbed his head, and started smashing it against the floor. Meanwhile, he sat-lay there, laughing maniacally the entire time, making me even more infuriated, with Rhoda Fine (the on-set studio teacher) standing over us going: “You kids stop it! Don’t fight!”
Martha has a few interesting remembrances regarding the production, though this one, she really got the chance to just lay it all out on the table. It’s one of the few bits on the commentary, where no one interrupted her daring tale of Feldman-related Fury.
The Goonies is definitely an entertaining product of the 1980’s, and I’m sure would rank in the Top 10 of many of the films with Spielberg’s Executive Producer credit on it. The film has had popularity in the last decade, with a couple different action figure lines, and yearly events in Astoria, Oregon for the film. These events have even brought forth some of the cast and crew to join in on the festivities.
When I first started collecting DVD’s, this film’s release was one of my favorites. Though not as chock-full of what I would hope for (no word on that original cut that had gorillas involved!), it gave us plenty of extra features, including Cyndi Lauper’s The Goonies R Good Enough music video, and some promotional materials made for the film. Though of all the materials, this commentary is one of the highlights. It definitely makes me wish some other films could have such an entertaining group commentary.
Currently, the special commentary presentation has been in each version of the DVD and Blu-Ray releases, so you won’t have to shell out $35 for some super-special-edition.
I feel every fan of The Goonies should sit down and watch this commentary. Sadly, we can’t do much about Corey Feldman’s constant mouthing off, but in the end, I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what the majority of the cast and Richard Donner have to say.