Blu-ray Review: Joysticks (Collector’s Edition)

Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story

The Video Arcade business exploded in the early ’80s. The upright consoles took up a lot less space than pinball machines and air hockey tables. All that was needed to create a video arcade was a store space with plenty of power outlets, a change machine and a guy who dressed up as a pseudo security guard to make it seem like a safe place. Video arcades popped up all over the place including shopping malls and airport concourses. Plug in and let the quarters roll through the door. Joysticks is a movie that celebrates the video arcade from the height of the era when people lived to stand in front of Pac-Man, Defender and Berzerk and get their three initials on the high score list.

Nerdy Eugene Groebe (Grease 2‘s Leif Green) is heading over to start his new job at the video arcade. He quickly learns that this place has power when two women pull up in a car and ask him to make out with them. They strip off his pants and take a Polaroid. Turns out they are joining a sorority. He was a notch on the scavenger list. Eugene arrives at the arcade and meets his new boss Jefferson Bailey (Secret Admirer‘s Scott McGinnis). He’s turned the joint into a swinging place. The hot teenager girls are everywhere playing games, eating hotdogs and watching others get high scores. The wannabe sorority girls that stole his pants are even there. Those ladies end up in Jefferson’s backroom office that’s a seduction pad for a game of strip video games. Amongst the colorful characters is fellow assistant manager McDorfus (Toy Soldiers‘ Jim Greenleaf) who went from senior class president to a videogame addicted slob. There’s also the extra punky King Vidiot (White Lotus‘ Jon Gries) and four punked out girls that are his harem. Patsy Rutter (Surf II & Veronica Mars‘ Corinne Bohrer) is a rich girl who loves hanging out where all the action is. Trouble is her father Joe Rutter (Walking Tall, Goldeneye & Mitchell‘s Joe Don Baker) wants his daughter away from that den of video sin. But she won’t back down. He decides to shut it down with the help of his two toadie nephews Arnie (Miami Vice‘s John Diehl) and Max (Newhart‘s John Volstad). The duo proves to be incredibly inept such as their plot to steal all the video games. But Joe Rutter won’t back down in his crusade to run Ms. Pac-Man and her friends out of town.

Joysticks is a goofy slice of ’80s teen fun. We get all the outrageousness a kid in 1983 would want from a 1983 R-rated film. There’s as much gross out comedy as topless cast member moments. You’ll thrill to the sight of a van with an interior hot tub surround by carpeted walls. There’s weirdness involving Eugene, Joe Rutter’s wife and sleeping pills. There are video game duels on giant screens. There’s even a Benny Hill level of humor with a flying hot dog at the concession stand sticking the landing. It’s all at the video arcade.

What makes the movie extra fun is that three supporting actors went on to become icons in future roles. John Diehl would swap his Angels cap for a Hawaiian shirt as Larry Zito on Miami Vice. John Voldstad would go quiet and become Larry’s other brother Darryl on Newhart. Diehl and Volstad had previously appeared in Stripes with Bill Murray. Jon Gries would give up the punk life and become ex-football star Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite. It’s a rather amazing trio of talent that conspire at one point to shut down the arcade.

 Joysticks gives a sense of what kids expected when they hung out at the arcades in the ’80s. The rush that their next quarter was going to last for hours on Donkey Kong. The desire to hook up with someone out of your league because they saw your three initials on the top score. Joysticks make you ready to hit the mall and hum the symphony of videogame machines songs of your youth.


The Video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the being in an early ’80s arcade. You can see the logos and screens. Director of Photography Nicholas von Sternberg had also shot the legendary Dolemite and comes through again with a visually fun film. The Audio is LPCM 2.0 mono. The sounds of Pac-Man comes though clearly along with the soundtrack songs that are arcade oriented.

Audio Commentary with Director Greydon Clark has him point out that the budget was $250,000 and shot over two weeks in Los Angeles. Because of the tight budget, they only took one or two takes. He attributes the success of the film being full of laughs and appealing to its intended audience. Kids who hung out at video arcades liked the idea of hot ladies hanging out by Ms. Pacman.

Audio Commentary with MVD Rewind Collection’s Eric D. Wilkinson, Cereal at Midnight host Heath Holland and Diabolik DVD’s Jesse Nelson has the get into the joy of the soundtrack. Two of the guys had snuck into the theater underaged to see the movie. They couldn’t resist “Porky’s at the Arcade.” They discuss sneaking into R rated movies. Good times. They get into how this is a film that wouldn’t get made today. They discuss if Jim Greenleaf (McDorfus) is alive or not since his acting career came to a sudden stop in 1986 after a Fall Guy episode.

Interview with Director Greydon Clark (17:44) has him explain how while testing his film Wacko, he saw a line of kids playing video games in the theater lobby. He thought there had to be a movie in this cultural phenomenon. He made Joysticks. The film opened in 1983 at number one with $8,000 a screen which was great since a movie ticket was $2. His film distributor went bankrupt. He got enough money back to make another movie with Joe Don Baker called Final Justice. He tells how Joe Don Baker was a generous actor. Clark talks about making Lambada: The Forbidden Dance.

“Coin Slots” (2:49) is a fake trailer for a remake of Joysticks. Horror host Mr. Lobo plays the Joe Don Baker role. The spoof is on point including a bikini car wash scene.

Joysticks Theatrical Trailer (2:09) promises us all the excitement of working at the video arcade and how Joe Don Baker wants to shut it down.

Trailer Gallery includes Ski Patrol, Hardware Wars, Dirty Laundry and Hail Caesar. Ski Patrol has the same ’80s vibe as Joysticks.

2-Sided Collectible Mini-Poster that’s suitable for framing in your video game room.

Limited Edition Slipcover (First Pressing Only) looks like the packaging for an Atari 2600 game.

MVD Rewind Collection presents Joysticks. Directed by Greydon Clark. Screenplay by Al Gomez, Mickey Epps & Curtis Burch. Starring Joe Don Baker, Leif Green, Jim Greenleaf, Scott McGinnis, Jonathan Gries, Corinne Bohrer, John Diehl, John Voldstad, Reid Cruickshanks, Morgan Lofting, Kym Malin, Kim G. Michel, Jacqulin Cole and Logan Ramsey. Running Time: 87 minutes. Rating: Rated R. Release Date: May 7, 2024.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.