Throwback Thursday: America Meets ‘Mannequin’

Nick Nunziata

On Feb. 19, 1987 the battle had been won. Though many expected Sylvester Stallone’s arm wrestling opus Over the Top to be the box office champ for the weekend, the victor was the little engine that could. Mannequin, a movie about an ancient Egyptian woman who is teleported into the form of a storefront mannequin and falls in love with the man arranging the displays was the champion at the turnstiles, allowing Brat Pack heartthrob Andrew McCarthy to extend his career and introducing a young Kim Cattrall to the world.


The ’80s were a time of excess in every possible way. Horror movies pushed the envelope. Clothing was an outrageous contrast to the hippie and disco-centric ’70s. And movies about people falling in love with mermaids, computers, and mannequins were the norm. Mannequin was the right film at the right time, an unpretentious goof of an idea that was released in a time of ridiculous concepts, eccentric supporting characters, and escapism being the order of the day. The film was a big hit and ended up pulling in over five times its budget.

Mannequin‘s time in history is a microcosm of the ’80s. It was tied to a now-cringeworthy hit song (Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”), James Spader was the heavy, and it featured the hairstyles and clothing that make the period so very special. There’s an oblivious innocence to Mannequin that flies in the face of the modern cynicism that permeates much of today’s comedies.

The sequel, Mannequin 2: On the Move, did not replicate the success of the original. Instead it is more known for combining William Ragsdale of Fright Night fame with Deadly Friend‘s Kristy Swanson, who would later go on to play the original version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The film’s director Michael Gottlieb, who has since passed away, had a side career in the video game industry. He produced several Mortal Kombat games as well as NBA Hangtime. The Gottlieb name should be familiar to old timers as they were one of the quintessential pinball machine producers and the name carries on to this day.

Elsewhere in February 1987:

  • Miles Teller hatches: The outspoken Miles Teller arrived on Planet Earth on February 20th of 1987 and a mere twenty-odd years later is headlining features like Whiplash and the recent Fantastic Four reboot. He’s also on the short list to play the young Han Solo in the upcoming Star Wars Anthology film devoted to the smuggler.
  • “At This Moment” tops the charts: The one big hit for Billy Vera and the Beaters took six years to find its way and only did so after becoming the love theme on TV’s Family Ties for offscreen duo Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollen. It become a high school dance and wedding favorite because of it and the only reason anyone knows who Billy Vera and the Beaters are.


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Nick Nunziata
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