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Secret Admirer

Olive Films // R // February 16, 2016
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Jesse Skeen | posted February 29, 2016 | E-mail the Author

1985's Secret Admirer was an attempt at combining the raunchy R-rated elements of the decade's popular "teen sex comedy" genre with some of the more substantial humor and intelligence of John Hughes' efforts of that time. Essentially it's a comedy of many misunderstandings that starts with an innocent note (which used to be a big way of communicating with others at school before cell phones and the like came along) that makes its way into the hands of some teens and their parents. We see it being written out by unknown hands (though it won't take long for most viewers to figure out whose they are) proclaiming their attraction to the recipient, and slipped into a school locker which belongs to Michael Ryan (C. Thomas Howell). It's the last day of school and everyone's rushing to clear out their lockers so he doesn't notice it right away, but at least manages to take it with him and he ends up reading it while hanging out with friends later. Of course they all speculate who it might be from, and it's hoped that the writer is Deborah Ann Fimple (Kelly Preston), who Michael has had a crush on but is a bit out of his league.

Michael's sneaky younger brother Jeff (the late Corey Haim, in his second movie appearance) ends up grabbing the note while swiping money out of Michael's bedroom, and after reading it stashes it in their dad George's (Cliff DeYoung) accounting textbook, used at a night class he's been taking. Unfortunately before dad even comes into the room, their mother Connie (Howell's fellow E. T. alum Dee Wallace Stone) discovers the note and immediately suspects the worst! She's afraid to confront her husband about it however and he ends up finding the note while in class and thinks that it's from the instructor Elizabeth (Leigh Taylor-Young) who just happens to be Debbie's mom!

Michael ends up writing a reply for Debbie to the original note, giving it to mutual friend Toni (Lori Loughlin) to deliver it to her as he's too shy to do so himself. This is where things get messy- it's obvious to everyone else that Toni's attracted to Michael in spite of them being "just friends", but she helps him obtain his object of desire. She reads Michael's note to Debbie and figures that it won't get him anywhere, so she writes a better note herself which ends up winning Debbie over. Why she does this is never explained; I couldn't help thinking that if she were going to interfere, she should have made the note worse to make sure the two of them never got together! Meanwhile Dad decides to pursue the affair with his teacher, with Mom already suspicious and watching him from a distance as she soon joins forces with Elizabeth's husband (and Debbie's dad) Lou (Fred Ward), who is a cop and already keeping an eye on his wife even before all this starts- he's probably the most cartoonish character in this movie.

The whole situation is pretty amusing looking at it now, as hand-written notes seem about as antiquated as horse-drawn carriages. If this were made today, it would likely focus on text messages being sent to the wrong recipients and such, but those were still several years away from here. Secret Admirer is a bit unique as it brings the teens' parents into play while those in other movies of this era rarely even had their parents acknowledged. The parents provide most of the "honest" laughs here as they don't quite know what's really going on- when Michael and Debbie go to the local "make-out point" (a place I can never seem to find in the real world!), first Michael's dad pulls up next to them with Debbie's mom where they try to get their own action going and then hurry off after realizing who's next to them, and then Debbie's dad pulls up into the same space with Michael's mom and they also end up bolting after seeing their offspring in the next car. The younger folk still find time to throw a few typical 80s-movie parties with drinking and fighting, and yes, you do get a bit of nudity from Kelly Preston. Michael's group of guy-friends (including Casey Siemaszko and one of my favorite minor stars of the era Courtney Gains) provide a few amusing moments but aren't really given a whole lot to do except cheer him on from the sidelines and add enough profanity to ensure the R rating. There's plenty of 80s styles and colors on display, punctuated with a synth score by Jan Hammer (who had just found fame scoring the TV series "Miami Vice") and a few now-obscure pop songs mainly from the band Autograph.


Olive Films' Blu-Ray gets its hi-def transfer via MGM and it looks great throughout, with no signs of noise reduction or compression artifacts. All the background details are easily visible (including a shelf full of 1980s board games in Michael's bedroom) and the handwritten notes themselves can be read easily, and if you're observant you'll see reflections of the camera crew and equipment in a few shots early on.


The Dolby Stereo sound mix is encoded in 2-channel DTS-HD Master Audio (flagged for PCM output, ensuring receivers won't have problems matrix-surround decoding this properly) mainly using the stereo to show off the music and a few ambient effects with voices in the center- overall quality is very clean.


The movie's theatrical trailer is included in HD, but that's it.

Final Thoughts:

I hadn't thought a whole lot of Secret Admirer having only seen a lightly-edited version on TV years ago, but the top-notch presentation on this Blu-Ray disc is an essential addition to any 1980s movie collection. It's a great trip back to the era and a bit smarter than many other movies of this genre.

Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.

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