#7 Cloak & Dagger?
Ever get the feeling you’re being watched? Ever get the feeling that you were always meant for something great, but you just can’t quite put your finger on what that ‘something’ might be? In approximation, how many episodes of “James Bond Jr.” do you normally watch a day?
Instead of those questions, let me ask these: Have you ever wanted the life of a spy? How badly? Would you divulge confidential information for such a life?
Oh, see there? Terrible spy.
Are you wondering what I’m smugly getting at? You don’t understand anything I’m typing, do you? It was the codes, old friend. You didn’t think of the codes, did you? No, I suppose not. I suppose you’ve been feeling sorry for yourself. It was me, you know. It was me who redirected Agent Z71’s coordinates for off that cliff. She was beautiful. Absolutely perfect. Well, except for that whole defecting to your side thing. But nevertheless, I shall miss her. Won’t you? She had such big…perky…microfilm. Too bad I’m not ready to unveil Project Alastor just yet. Well, no need to worry, dear nemesis. You two will be reunited SOON ENOUGH!
Hello. That was a mission I just made possible. But don’t worry! We’re not going to be getting into TOO much tomcruisery today. Nope. Today we have much bigger helicopters to hang from. What I’m smugly getting at is a little movie I like to call Cloak & Dagger. In fact, most everyone likes to call it Cloak & Dagger. Except, of course, for those people that take some sort of pleasure out of retitling movies for seemingly no reason. I don’t know anyone like that. Do those people even exist? There’s no real way of telling, but a good agent always assumes the worst.
Cloak & Dagger is a 1984 movie that includes (but isn’t limited to) foreign agents, Twinkies, the Alamo, terrorism, invisible friends, betrayal, the little girl that takes a photograph of John Lithgow in the Twilight Zone movie, Atari 5200, gunfire, a three-fingered lady, river walks, explosions, and role playing games. I know. That’s a lot of awesome. Now we’ll take a moment for those visiting their Netflix accounts. Just wait one second…and…
Queued up, everyone? Great.
Cloak & Dagger starred Henry Thomas and Dabney Coleman. Henry Thomas was still riding his post-E.T. wave of mega stardom, signing autographs for people sticking their fingers in his face, and phone homed in this oft forgotten classic. He stars as Davey, a young boy who loves an Atari 5200 game called Cloak & Dagger (no relation to the movie) featuring a black operations agent named Jack Flack as its protagonist. Davey also plays a role playing version of the game with his enormous mouthed friend Kim and C&D expert Morris. This version of the game is similar to Dungeons & Dragons, but with Soviet operatives instead of wizard gnomes. Why don’t they make a game with BOTH Soviet operatives AND wizard gnomes? Davey is good-hearted but imaginative-to-the-point-of-irritating and has trouble communicating with his father, played by the somehow always excellent Dabney Coleman. Davey’s penchant for spy-related gaming and make believe allows Dabney Coleman to fill another role as Davey’s imaginary friend and star of his favorite game, Jack Flack, which I’m actually seriously thankful for. Think of it like this: Two Colemen are better than one. It’s double the Dabney, and baby, triple the fun.
We learn that Davey’s mother has recently died and his father is often away from home for his Air Force job. Davey fills his time by playing the two versions of Cloak & Dagger and, out of loneliness and grief, using his imagination to put himself into make believe spy situations. One day, Davey and Kim visit Morris, an oafish gaming authority and somewhat of a computer hacker. Morris is a plump fully grown adult man with a thick beard who works at a game store in a San Antonio mall and often spends his downtime hanging out with children and loftily holding his 15+ years of life (or, I guess, no life) experience over their head.
At one point, Morris sends Davey and Kim on a “mission” to buy him some Twinkies. The two take a bus across town to an office building and split up. Davey takes the stairs, hears some strange voices on his walkie-talkie, and then walks one more floor up. He notices some suspicious activity through a window between floors. Two men pummel another man while a fourth man watches. The man being attacked escapes and the two other men fire their guns at him as he runs away. Moments later, a man who may or may not be the man who was attacked earlier, dressed as a scientist for obvious reasons, busts through the door and limps down to Davey. He hands the boy a cartridge of Cloak & Dagger and tells him to keep it from the three other men. He is then shot to death by two of those three men and falls down the stairway hilariously.
I apologize if that description was a little confusing, but a good operative should always be on his toes. Davey just needs to not get murdered. Tell a grown up, Davey!
Unfortunately, no adult believes Davey Osborne’s story, not even his father, and he is all alone in his mission. Playing the game. Playing for keeps.
Throughout the film, Davey receives all of his spy-related advice from his resourceful, imaginary friend, Jack Flack. Probably my favorite feature of the character Jack Flack, besides looking exactly like Davey’s dad who in turn looks exactly like Dabney Coleman, is that he can sometimes interact with the real world. He can throw things to Davey and move real objects though he is a fictional character and a manifestation of Davey’s imagination. At one point, he even runs and dives to push Davey out of the way of a speeding vehicle. I know what you’re thinking–that’s just bad writing. I submit, however, that Davey just really, really believes with all of his heart. Feel better now?
The film wasn’t a big success at the box office, but it became a home video phenomenon. Kids love movies where other kids live out their fantasies. Had I ever been given superpowers, I wouldn’t’ve minded a few kid-murdering jokers chasing me around for an hour and a half. But I was never given superpowers. And that is my cross to bear.
Atari was in development of a game called Agent X, but when the producers of the film realized this game would go hand in hand with their movie, they struck a deal with the company and thus the game was released under the name Cloak & Dagger. It was only released in arcade form, however. Atari planned to release a 5200 version of the game, but with the video game crash of ’83, Warner Communications sold the company and the game was never made. This means that the Cloak & Dagger cartridges in the movie are other Atari games with C&D labels. I know, pretty crazy. That’s just movie magic for you.
Unfortunately, like The Wizard with Nintendo, a lot of “critics” saw this film as a giant Atari 5200 commercial. I don’t mind seeing an Atari being played, even if it is a 5200, or some footage of the newest Super Mario game in a movie. If they had made a ColecoVision movie starring the kid from D.A.Y.R.L., I would have watched that too. Movies can product place these things. These things are good things. Hell, more commercials should be made into movies. Why not?
Where’s a pen? I’m about to start writing Pine-Sol Lady Begins.
This video will clear up some confusion, but not all of it. Later in the film, Davey actually puts on more bright red camouflage. Good thinking, Davey!