The 1980s were a goldmine of comedy movies, and one of the films that helped Bill Murray make his mark was Stripes.
Directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Harold Ramis, Len Blum and Daniel Goldberg, Stripes starred Bill Murray as cab driver John Winger.
Losing his job, his girlfriend and his apartment, Winger decides his only option is to join the US Army.
Dragging his best buddy Russell Ziskey (Harold Ramis) with him, the two go through basic training, causing havoc with the fellow recruits with parties, secretly dating two female MPs and annoying their commander, the very conservative Sergeant First Class Hulka (Warren Oates).
Another recruit, Dewey “Ox” Oxberger (played by John Candy) is encouraged to mud wrestle women at a local bar, causing a riot and putting the troop in trouble, although John and Russell are protected by their MP girlfriends so they aren’t dismissed from the Army.
Other members of the military troop included actors Timothy Busfield, Dave Thomas, Bill Paxton, Judge Reinhold, John Larroquette and Joe Flaherty, many in their first film or early film careers in comedy.
But its the incompetent Captain Stillman (Larroquette) that causes problems – and gets their teacher Sergeant Hulka injured. Demonstrating their unique camraderie and interpretation of Army rules, the troop is recognized on graduation by General Barnicke and sent to Italy to be part of a new military project.
John, Russell, Ox, their MP girlfriends and fellow soldiers cause havoc in Italy and are led by Stillman into Czechoslovakia, but of course in the end, the troop saves the day in the most humorous way possible, despite Stillman’s mistakes.
Released in June 1981, the film was made for US $10 million and filmed in Kentucky and California. Although it wasn’t the number one film initially, it steadily gained fans by the end of 1981 had made US$85 million at the box office.
It was the first major role for Harold Ramis, who had mainly been a comedy writer until this point, and for Bill Murray, was another successful comedy for his film career.