It’s hard to imagine Beverly Hills Cop being a vehicle for anyone but Eddie Murphy, but he was a last minute replacement after Sylvester Stallone dropped out and before him Mickey Rourke bailed, as well (for more trivia see what we learned from the DVD commentary). This week marks the 30th anniversary of the action comedy, which propelled Murphy to certain movie stardom while maintaining the #1 spot at the box office through March of 1985 (it’s still one of the three longest-running box office champs of all time). We all fell in love with Axel Foley, his laugh and his theme song by Harold Faltermeyer (who else taught themselves to play it on a piano despite no other skill with the keys?). Never mind if the two sequels that followed are a mess, the original is still an ’80s movie classic.
To celebrate the movie on its birthday (it opened on Wednesday, December 5, 1984, but premiered in L.A. on December 1st), we’ve selected some favorite scenes starring Axel, Rosewood, Taggart and of course Serge.
It was his early years, but with the name Jerry Bruckheimer (and partner Don Simpson) in the credits we had to get a pointless action sequence, preferably a chase scene, to open the movie. Even with the shootout at the climax, this opening is really the most action-packed part, and other than barely setting up Murphy’s character as an undercover cop, it’s just meaningless destruction of cars and the token fruit stand (here it’s technically a vegetable truck). The scene would be nothing, of course, without the Pointer Sisters song on the soundtrack. Oh, what a great soundtrack. One of the first tapes I ever wore out.
Yes, I’m already 1/3 of the way through this list and haven’t even made it to Beverly Hills. Who needed that place, anyway, other than to show a typical ’80s class-contrast fish out of water story set in that hub of wealth in sunny California? I’d have been fine with a whole movie set in gritty Detroit so long as you still had the same Axel, who is already an outsider in his own waters, plus Paul Reiser as a goofy sidekick and Gil Hill as Inspector Todd. Did you know that Hill was actually a Detroit cop and later president of the city council and mayoral candidate? No wonder he’s the best tough and angry boss-cop in all of the movies. He and Reiser had extended presences in the sequel, but they should have just made Beverly Hills Cop II completely set in Motor City and maybe brought Taggart and Rosewood out there for a change of pace.
Serge and a Little Lemon Twist
It’s a shame that Bronson Pinchot is still mostly remembered for playing Balki on Perfect Strangers and little else (not that he was bad on the show, but the show itself was weak), because I always like to associate him most with his parts in True Romance and this movie, where he is quite memorable in a very brief appearance as another character with a silly accent. I can’t think of many roles like this, a rare back-and-forth blend of snobbishness and friendliness. The bit about the lemon twist in the espresso has always made me curious if that’s really a thing because especially now that I’ve had espresso (unlike the 7-year-old who first saw the movie), that sounds gross.
Taggart Assaults Foley
Normally this scene introducing John Ashton and Judge Reinhold as Taggart and Rosewood – and Lt. Bogomill (Ronny Cox) – wouldn’t be something thought of as a favorite, but three decades later it plays differently, more ironically, in the context of various beatings and shootings that have given the nearby LAPD and other police forces, such as Ferguson. Is it still okay to kinda like Taggart, knowing that his punching Axel with little thought was probably just a tip of the iceberg with his abuses of power, maybe even some level of racism? Another thing, 30 years later, having a protagonist whose personality is so defined by the fact that he swears so much seems pretty simple and tame. Yet Murphy still pulls it off.
Bananas in the Tailpipe
Another brief and memorable character with a “funny” accent is the fruit peddler played by a young Damon Wayans. The gag of the banana in the tailpipe (did any kids try it and get in trouble?) is only complete when you include Axel’s meeting with “the first team” of McCabe and Foster (Joel Bailey and Art Kimbro) and the line “we’re not going to fall for a banana in the tailpipe.” Again, there’s comedy in character voices, as Axel makes fun of McCabe for sounding too stiff (and white?).
Die Hard in a Strip Club
Among the movies you could retroactively label one of the Die Hard in a… titles is Beverly Hills Cop. Well, one, isolated part of the movie, anyway. This strip club scene, which doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the plot, involves a hold up thwarted by the coincidental happenstance of there being a tough cop from out of town on site. Pretend Taggart and Rosewood aren’t there, extend the scene to feature length and you’ve got the makings of another John McClane vehicle.