Today in Movie History: March 16

Before Christopher Nolan reinvented Batman and joined the ranks of cinema’s elite filmmakers, he stunned us all with Memento, a unique and confident effort that set the stage for things to come. Guy Pearce gave one of the best performances of his career, and the film’s deceptively assured “reverse narrative” has never quite been matched. Memento opened today in 2001.

The Absent Minded Professor didn’t make quite as deep a mark as Memento did, but it still stands as a high point of Disney’s live-action family comedies of the 60s and 70s. Fred MacMurray stars as the titular wacky scientist who invented the wonderful flying “flubber,” letting his school’s loser basketball team float their way to victory and similar mayhem. It opened today in 1961, and as the unfortunate Robin Williams remake proved, lightning of this sort rarely strikes twice.

Of course both of those efforts pale before the big cinematic event on this date: the Lambada Wars of 1990. Having experienced a fundamental falling out, cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus — the brain trust of Cannon Pictures — each resolved to top the other by capitalizing on the semi-raging lambada dance craze. After months of hand-to-hand fighting and thousands of lives lost, the films — Lambada and The Forbidden Dance — both opened today in 1990. Critics were, um, unkind, but who cares how crappy the movies were if they let us close our eyes and remember a time when dueling lambada movies tried to woo a skeptical public solely to prove which producer-cousin had the biggest stones? Don’t go changing, you crazy bastards!

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