When my big sister and I were growing up the 80s, I was pretty much at her mercy when it came to … everything. And without a doubt, her biggest rule was: no cartoons. At least, not when she was around the TV. Because when she was around the TV, it either mean that Video One was on (all you old school L.A. kids must remember Richard Blade’s Video One) or MTV, and you can bet that my sister, a hard core Duran Duran fan, was not about to miss a chance to see the Fab Five on the small screen. I didn’t know it at the age of 6, but I was a “Durannie” too. Yeah, I threw a fuss if it meant missing Thundercats, but watching Duran Duran videos with her was so much more entertaining than pretty much anything else imaginable.
In the world of music videos, what Duran Duran created underneath the wing of director Russell Mulcahy, were more than mere videos. They were films in their own right, short as they were, and in some instances? Came damn near close to art. (See “Save a Prayer”.) Who needed to even go to the movies when you had a mini blockbuster movie right there on our TV set? Indiana Jones? Meet “Hungry Like the Wolf”. Mad Max? Meet “Wild Boys”. And James Bond? Meet, well, James Bond. (“A View to a Kill”, obviously.)
Because if there’s one thing Duran Duran did better than anyone else, it was music videos. The band shot on 35 mm. They filmed in exotic locations. They brought music videos into a whole new world where anything was possible.
And, really, how could they not be cinematic? Simon, John, Nick, Roger and Andy (aka, The Fab Five) took their name from a sci-fi cult classic, Barbarella, and were Technicolor wizards of the decadently flamboyant New Romantic movement. It was in their blood.
So grab a can of Tab and break out the leg warmers, because for no reason at all (and in no particular order), here are eight of the ’80s most outrageously cinematic band with their most outrageously cinematic music videos:
#1: Wild Boys
If it looks a helluva lot like Mad Max, that’s because … it’s supposed to. There’s no denying the visual influence from Mad Max, but actually, the song was inspired by the William S. Borroughs’ book “The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead.” Duran Duran’s director Russell Mulcahy wanted to direct a full-length feature of the book, and wanted the video for “Wild Boys” to be a part of the film’s soundtrack. Well, the movie never happened (although Mulcahy did go on to helm Highlander), but at least Mulcahy’s vision is persevered in this video. What’s actually happening here? Ummm … well, there’s lots of fire, water torture, monster fish, and god knows why the hell John Taylor is chained to the roof of a car. But who cares? It’s fun. (Also, if those “wild boys” look familiar, it means you must have seen Mad Max: Fury Road.)
“The Flame” (1985).
OK, this is cheating because this is actually a side project of Duran Duran’s, called Arcadia. (I’ll spare you the Tiger Beat drama behind it.) The soft-pornish erotica of “Election Day“, Arcadia’s epic single, also gave way to a delightful, whimsical homage to ’40s screwball whodunnits. Their music video “The Flame” is a gem hidden beneath Duran Duran’s glossier, bigger budget big-brothers. Murder on the Orient Express, The Thin Man, House of Horrors and even a splash of Bringing Up Baby are lovingly sampled– Simon LeBon channels a convincingly slapstick Cary Grant, while Nick Rhodes is, as ever, the elegant omniscient puppeteer.
#3 Hungry Like the Wolf
Probably their most well-known music video, “Hungry Like the Wolf” absolutely deserves its popularity. Not only is it one of the band’s most likable songs, the video is an adventurous romp through the jungle shot in the spirit of an Indiana Jones movie. (Note Simon’s brown fedora. Not a coincidence.) It was shot in Sri Lanka on a $200,000 budget, and the story line, if it has one, is best put by band member Andy Taylor who later said: “Indiana Jones is horny and wants to get laid.” This Dr. Jones, however, has Jungle Fever. Hellzyeah. (One more movie reference for you: note the moment that Simon Le Bon’s head rises from the river water. Apocalypse Now, anyone?)
#4: The Chauffeur (warning: NSFW)
What is this, a David Lynch movie? Or maybe, a Helmut Newton photo shoot? Whatever it is, it’s an erotic dream of a thing, shot in decadent black and white and absolutely stifling in its glorious homoeroticism. The black lace, the corsets, the garters, the dark shadows against platinum blonde hair … um … I better stop now. By the way, there’s another movie salute to be found: if you’ve ever seen Charlotte Rampling in The Night Porter, you’ll get it.
#5: A View to a Kill
This needs no introduction. “A View to a Kill” is absolutely one of the best theme songs to come from the James Bond franchise. The late, great John Barry did the score for A View to a Kill, and this theme song was written by Barry, along with Duran Duran. For some, the music video even better than the film. (Which is a bit unfair, if you ask me. Because Christopher Walken.) But it is tons of fun. What exactly are the lads spying on? Not a bloody clue. (And if you haven’t guessed, that’s part of the fun of Duran Duran music videos.) Take a watch, and I defy you not to smile when Simon LeBon looks into the camera and says “Bon. Simon Le Bon.” *sloooooow clap* (Also. Nick’s hair and makeup here is really at its zenith.)
#6 New Moon on Monday
So, the band itself hates this one, for personal reasons, but as an observer? It’s waaaaaay up there on the cinematic scale. The storyline centers on an underground political resistance called “La Luna”, plotting against what, assumedly, is a militaristic regime. But the reason for its making this list? It clocks in at 17 MINUTES LONG. That’s a bona fide short film, complete with spoken dialogue, and you can bet MTV was not keen on the idea. The shorter 5 minute version is what’s most known today, but here’s the full 17 minutes in all its big-budget glory.
#7 Save a Prayer
This one makes the list simply on the merit of its gorgeous scenery. (Also, one of their best songs bar none.) Shot in Sri Lanka in 1982, the locations here are absolutely majestic. The ancient fortress of Sigiriya and a Buddhest temple on the south coast are shot beautifully, and even though there isn’t a storyline here, the result is simply lovely. C’mon, elephants, ancient ruins, villagers, romance– what’s not to love?
Five solid minutes of eighties excess at its most glamours, its most lurid…it’s most delicious. The entire premise revolves around beautiful people in their twenties sailing around the Caribbean, drinking expensive champagne, having wild sex, and enjoying the hell out of it. It really is as ’80s as it gets, but Russell Mulcahy’s direction is what really makes this so damn memorable. For all the wantonness, Rio is fun, energetic and surprisingly clever with its surprising cuts and and camera angles.
SIGH. Just now getting around to reading this thanks to a packed weekend. But I could not love this any more!! This article rekindles that fire in me from my Duranie obsessed days of high school. Duran Duran was my religion, my cult. I breathed, slept & ate the Fab Five. What a sex-starved teen I must have been and these deliciously sensuous videos didn’t help matters, I’m sure.
“Duran Duran was my religion; my cult”! Possibly THE best description of fan obsession ever. Thanks so much for reading, Kellee, and this getting YOUR stamp of approval means a lot!! (And yeah, um … these videos are, like, waaaaaay more sensuous than any of the gratuitous stuff out there today.)
What about the zombie inspired Night Boat?
Oooh!! NIGHT BOAT, of course! Major #FacePalm for forgetting about that! (Maybe I’ll add it in as an honorable mention…)
Too bad that many Sri Lankans do not know that some of their music videos were filmed in their country. I only got to know these facts at the age of 18 years…
It is perfectly ok to include the Flame as John Taylor made a cameo in it: not in period hair and fashions but looking very much like his Power Station self, holding a quill and a contract: perhaps foreshadowing that Duran Duran were making another record….as per their contract lol? And they did: Notorious had song titles that we’re an homage to Hitchcock like Vertigo and the title track. it’s all Nicks doing of course, like in the video! Lol Durannie forever!