“Take Off to Summer Fun”: “The Goonies” was an extraordinary adventure for a gang of ordinary outcast kids in 1985

By on August 3, 2016

“Summer is movie time, a bonanza of escapist fare for America’s filmgoing audiences,” says Pat Prescott about halfway into“Night Flight”‘s “Take Off to Summer Fun“, which originally aired on August 3rd, 1985, and is now streaming over on Night Flight Plus.

She continues: “What would summer films be without a movie from Steven Spielberg… Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and, this summer, Spielberg has produced The Goonies, a child’s fairytale of adventure, to make us laugh and cry.”

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We then see the baseball-capped producer himself, in a short interview piece filmed while the movie was apparently still in production. Spielberg, somewhat amazingly, begins to downplay the movie, at first, telling us:

“We’re just making an ordinary adventure here, ordinary fantasy. Nothing extraordinary happens in this picture at all. These kids are all kinda like friends, they’re all sorta outcasts. They meet eachother because the more popular kids don’t wanna have anything to do with them, and they get bored one day and have the most extraordinary adventure that any adult can possibly imagine.”

The Goonies movie was titled for a “gang name” self-applied by a group of neighborhood friends hailing from “The Goon Docks,” in the town of Astoria, Oregon, located on the south shore of the Columbia River.

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The movie’s plot concerns how the kids band together after learning that their homes are likely to be razed to the ground in order for a bunch of rich assholes to build a golf course on the property… unless their parents come up with enough money to make it worthwhile for them to stop the demolition.

The story — co-written by Spielberg — then proceeds to follows the pre-teens on a treasure hunt. Led by Mikey Walsh (Sean Astin), the Goonies use an ancient map belonging to “One-Eyed Willie” (borrowed from Mikey’s father, it belongs to his museum) and head off together on what they believe will be one last adventure before their neighborhood changes forever.

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The Goonies — who, in addition to Mikey Walsh also include Lawrence “Chunk” Cohen (Jeff Cohen), Clark “Mouth” Devereaux (Corey Feldman), Richard “Data” Wang (Ke Huy Quan), Mikey’s older brother Brandon (Josh Brolin, in his official screen debut, age 17), Brandon’s girlfriend Andrea “Andy” Carmichael (Kerri Green) and her friend Stefanie “Stef” Steinbrenner (Martha Plimpton) — are guided by following the map from a cave entrance, located beneath the house of Mama Fratelli (Anne Ramsey) and her criminally-minded sons — Jake Fratelli (Robert Davi), Francis Fratelli (Joe Pantoliano), and the severely disfigured Lotney “Sloth” Fratelli (John Matuszak) — through a series of twisting passages, some of them booby-trapped, until they find One-Eyed Willie’s long-lost pirate ship, full of gold doubloons.

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The story was developed from a script written by Spielberg and his Gremlins protégé, writer Chris Columbus, but by this point in his career, Spielberg had already had much success and wanted to produce films. He let another director helm the project, director Richard Donner, although truth be told, Spielberg also ended up shooting a lot of the second-unit scenes himself (including the scene where they bang on underground pipes and also the “wishing well” scene), and by all accounts, was very “hands on” and ultimately many have said he co-directed the film with Donner.

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Donner — who had mentored Spielberg early in his career when he was still directing TV movies — was apparently not the most relaxed director when it came to working with a cast of young actors, many of them acting like unsupervised pranksters who ended up getting on his last nerve.

Principal photography got underway on October 22, 1984, and lasted for five months, with much of shooting primarily taking place in and around Astoria, Oregon.

The Walsh home, located at 368 38th Street, went on to become a tourist destination visited by as many as 1200-1500 visitors each day until the city took steps in 2015 to limit access to the home.

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There were other Oregon locations in the movie, too, such as Ecola State Park (located 26 miles south of Astoria, which is quite a bike ride!) as well as the famous Haystack Rock, located near Cannon Beach on the North coast of Oregon (although the movie’s final scene was lensed at Goat Rock State Beach in Sonoma County, California).

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Interior sets, including the tunnels and caves and a full mock-up of One-Eyed Willy’s pirate ship, were created on huge soundstages on the Warner Bros. film lot, in Burbank, California. The waterslide the Goonies ride to get to the cave where the pirate ship was awaiting them was actually built by the Langford Surf Coasted Corporation on one of the largest soundstages in the U.S., Stage 16.

Initially, Richard Donner had barred access to the massive soundstage in order to capture the child actors actual response to seeing the ship for the first time. It reportedly took two months to build, and was supposed to look like Errol Flynn’s sailing ship from the film The Sea Hawk (however, the pirate movie that Sloth watches while chained in the basement is the 1935 Errol Flynn swashbuckler Captain Blood). Amazingly, no one wanted the impressive pirate ship set after shooting was finished and it was destroyed.

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The 6 ft. 8-inch, 280-lb. John Matuszak — who played Sloth — had an interesting career leading up to his acting in films, having been a defensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders pro football team, known to his many fans by his nickname, The Tooz. He was the first overall pick in the 1973 NFL draft, and had played on two winning Super Bowl teams for the Raiders.

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During the film he can be seen wearing a Raiders t-shirt, and also — as an inside joke about Donner — can also be seen wearing a Superman shirt (Donner, of course, had directed the 1978 film Superman).

Matuszak — who had mostly appeared on TV shows, like “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “The A-Team,”, as well as having had a few film roles, including the excellent Caveman — reportedly spent five hours every morning in the makeup chair as makeup artists transformed him into Sloth (he also had an eye that was operated by remote control).

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One scene — involving the Goonies fighting off a giant octopus as they wade through an underground tunnel — was later deleted from the final cut of the film, which produced a confusing result, since there is a scene in which Data tells his mother about killing off the 8-armed beast by throwing a Sony Walkman into its mouth… which makes no sense since we don’t see it happen on-screen.

The deleted scene also provided a problem for Cyndi Lauper, who was asked by Spielberg to be the Musical Director for the film’s soundtrack album — she also makes a cameo appearance, performing a song called “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” — because the excised song playing on the tape recorder was the Arthur Baker-produced dance hit “Eight Arms To Love You,” credited to “The Goon Squad” (vocalists Will Downing, Craig Derry, Bobby Coleman, Tina B., and Cindy Mizell) and it was scripted for the film and both Lauper and Baker thought it was going to be a big song (it was, later charting at #1 on Billboard‘s Hot Dance Club Songs chart).

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Lauper’s “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” — the only official music video released in conjunction with the movie and its soundtrack, directed by Donner and clocking in at an epic 12-minutes, so epic it had to be split into two parts — featured appearances from the film’s cast, as well as the Bangles (who appear on the soundtrack), Spielberg, and a selection of wacky 80s-era wrestlers, including Captain Lou Albano, Freddie Blassie, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, The Iron Sheik and André the Giant, among others.


The Goonies: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, which peaked at #73 on the Billboard 200, featured the aforementioned tracks plus new recordings by the Bangles, Philip Bailey, REO Speedwagon, Luther Vandross, Teena Marie and others.

Towards the end of the film’s production, Spielberg joined the child actors in a kind of prank by asking them to act distant towards the film’s director, Richard Donner, during the film’s final week of shooting.

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This turned out to be an elaborate ruse cooked up by Spielberg, because after shooting was wrapped, Donner flew to his beach home in Maui, Hawaii, to find that Spielberg had secretly flown the entire cast in to surprise Donner with a celebratory beach BBQ cookout. That wrap-party is pretty famous within the industry as one of the truly great wrap parties of all time.

The idea for the party, by the way, has actually been credited to actor Jeff Cohen, who played “Chunk,” the kid who does the “Truffle Shuffle.”

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When Warner Brothers Pictures released The Goonies into U.S. theaters on June 7, 1985, it earned $9 million during its opening weekend (it came in second to Rambo: First Blood, Part II, another film featured in “Night Flight”‘s “Take Off to Summer Fun,”) and went on to gross more than $61 million in 1985, placing it in the top ten highest-grossing films of the year.

The movie’s overall impact on an entire generation, however, cannot be underestimated, as it has become a beloved fan favorite for those who were just the right age in the mid-80s to appreciate The Goonies for being what it was, an adventurous romp aimed at pre-teens lookin’ for a whole lotta summer fun at the movies.

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Over the years, The Goonies has had an unpredictably huge cultural impact, inspiring video games and cartoons, parodies and homages, a rumored musical adaptation and there’s been talk of a planned movie sequel in the works for decades (Goonies II is still in the planning stages, as far as we can tell).

Recently, the Netflix network recently released a new supernatural sci-fi series online, called “Stranger Things” (on July 15, 2016), which many claim is obviously directly inspired by the 70s and 80s films of Steven Spielberg (among others) and the new show pays tribute in not-so-subtle ways to The Goonies.

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The “Stranger Things” series — created, written and directed by twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, aka The Duffer Brothers, born in 1984 — is set in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, and set in 1983, and involves a group of misfit kids who discover a treasure map and… well, stop us if you’ve heard this one before. Read more here.

Other films highlighted in this “Take Off” episode which is only partly-devoted to a spate of the summer blockbuster films from the summer of 1985 include: Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider, Chevy Chase’s Fletch, the latest Bond franchise offering, A View To A Kill, Prizzi’s Honor, St. Elmo’s Fire, and an extended look at two films with the added bonus of their rarely-seen music videos, including Frank Stallone’s “Peace In Our Life” from Rambo, and an excellent soundtrack music video with instrumental music performed by Junior Homrich from John Boorman’s Emerald Forest.

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Our “Take Off to Summer Fun” also offered up a bunch of fun, summery mix of summer-y music videos too, by Randy Newman (“I Love L.A.), Huey Lewis & The News (“If This Is It”), The Beach Boys (“Getcha Back”), The Go-Go’s (“Vacation”), The Fat Boys, Wham! (“Club Tropicana”), Elton John (“I’m Still Standing”), Dire Straits (“Twisting By The Pool”), David Lee Roth (“California Girls”), Shooting Star (“Summer Fun”), plus a look at sexy swimsuits by Sassafras Swimwear, a four and a half-minute video featuring models skating, skateboarding and surfing at Venice Beach, to a tune by CBS Records’ Four-In-Legion (the video reportedly cost the swimsuit company $40,000 to produce and was released to shows like “Night Flight,” as well as MTV and other outlets).

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Watch the entire 50-minute “Take Off to Summer Fun” on our Night Flight Plus channel by going here.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.