THERE'S ALWAYS THE DINER. OR THE WHOREHOUSE.
1982 was a very special year in movie history. Never before had we as moviegoing audiences been treated to such magical, special pieces of motion picture entertainment. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial spoke to the kid in us all, Poltergeist scared the crap out of the kid in us all, and we all paused briefly to glance inwardly at ourselves -- as officers and gentlemen. But apart from all that, apart from all that, a pair of films did more than just entertain. They captured our imagination in a way few films have since, with humorous, often bittersweet period pieces all about growing up, growing out, and growing apart. The 1970s had American Graffiti -- but the 80s had Diner. And Porky's.
It is a common mistake to confuse the two movies, but one that's easily and quite understandably made. Both films take place on the cusp of the 1960s, both feature ensemble casts of good-looking young men ready to strike out on their own, and both were released about a month apart. But after careful contrast and comparison, you, too, can learn to discern which is which. Here, then, are just a few of the subtle differences between the two, so that you won't sound like such a fool the next time you're discussing early 1980s nostalgia pieces with your artsy-fartsy film student friends.
DINER: Released in April of 1982, set in Baltimore at the end of the Eisenhower administration.
PORKY'S: Released in March of 1982, set in Florida during the Eisenhower administration.
DINER: Directed by Barry Levinson, acclaimed auteur whose body of work includes Avalon, Rain Man, The Natural, and the award-winning television series Homicide: Life On The Street.
PORKY'S: Directed by Bob Clark whose other films, according to the Internet Movie Database, include Porky's II: The Next Day and both Baby Geniuses films.
DINER: Contains a cast of then-unknowns who would go on to achieve respectable amounts of stardom, including Tim Daly, Kevin Bacon, Daniel Stern, and Paul Reiser.
PORKY'S: Most of the young principals in the cast would go on to reach the height of their careers in Porky's II and Porky's Revenge and then never be heard from again.
DINER: Features high school-aged young men on the verge of graduation looking forward, hesitantly, at the challenges of the future and deeper relationships and just what to do with their lives.
PORKY'S: Features high school-aged young men who are, in their own words, "trying to get laid."
DINER: Womankind is represented by Ellen Barkin, who plays newlywed with Daniel Stern's character Shrevie. Ellen is confused and possibly upset about the life choice she's made when it becomes clear Shrevie may not be ready to grow up and devote as much attention to her, his lifelong wedded companion, as he does his lifelong diner pals or his record collection.
PORKY'S: Womankind is represented by nude girls frolicking in the gym shower, a heavyset mannish girl's gym coach, and Kim Cattrall, who gets turned on by the smell of a locker room and howls like a dog when she has sex.
DINER: An interesting supporting character is Bagel, played by Michael Tucker. Tucker would go on to star in the hit NBC-TV program LA Law.
PORKY'S: An interesting supporting character is Cherry Forever, the stripper with a mouth like a sailor, played by Susan Clark. Clark would go on to star as Katherine "Ma'am" Papadapolous in ABC-TV's Webster. (Additionally, Alex Karras -- George Papadapolous -- also features in the film, playing a backwater sheriff with a mouth like a sailor. Emmanuel Lewis and Ben Vereen are, sadly enough, nowhere to be seen.)
DINER: To win a bet, Mickey Rourke's character sticks his penis into a box of popcorn and is fondled by a gorgeous blonde girl.
PORKY'S: One of the characters sticks his into a shower stall and is grabbed by the aforementioned heavyset, mannish girl's gym coach.
DINER: A nostalgic, touching coming-of-age story with an all-night diner as its focal point.
PORKY'S: A coming-of-age story with a strip club/whorehouse as its focal point. And Kim Cattrall howling like a dog when she has sex.
DINER: Grossed about $14 million in the United States.
PORKY'S: At $103 million, the highest-grossing film ever to come out of Canada.