Midnight Madness (film)

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Midnight Madness
Poster for Midnight Madness
Directed byMichael Nankin
David Wechter
Produced byRon Miller
Written byMichael Nankin
David Wechter
Music byJulius Wechter
CinematographyFrank V. Phillips
Edited byNorman R. Palmer
Jack Sekely
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • February 8, 1980 (1980-02-08)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.9 million[1]

Midnight Madness is a 1980 American comedy film produced by Walt Disney Productions and starring David Naughton, Stephen Furst and Maggie Roswell.[2][3]

The city of Los Angeles is the game board as five teams of college students attempt to win "The Great All-Nighter," a dusk-to-dawn competition dreamed up by an eccentric graduate student. David Naughton and Stephen Furst are paired with a grab-bag group of fellow students including Michael J. Fox in his first film appearance.[2] The film was directed by Michael Nankin.[2]


Graduate student Leon (Alan Solomon) summons five college students to his apartment and challenges them to participate in his latest game creation: The Great All-Nighter. He tells them about his game and instructs them to form teams. At first, the leaders refuse to play. However, rivalries between them lead all five to change their minds by the game's start time - a scenario Leon has already predicted based on his extensive planning.

Leon, as "game master," keeps track of the teams locations with a giant map, and various radio equipment. The teams are supposed to call and check in at each clue (though many of the teams end up skipping at least one location).

The adventures of the other three teams are subplots, as well as the situation at Leon's apartment ("Game Control"). Here, along with his female assistants Candy and Sunshine (Debi Richter and Kirsten Baker), Leon monitors the progress of the game. Already unpopular with his landlady, Mrs. Grimhaus (Irene Tedrow), for the amount of noise he makes, Leon faces eviction if any of the other tenants complain. Several of them do show up to complain, but as Leon explains the mechanics of the game to them, they become fascinated with it and help run it, much to the annoyance of Grimhaus.

The game culminates in a race-to-the-finish at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel where the yellow team ultimately prevails and wins the game. A huge party consisting of all contestants and game control follows.


Here are the clues and the answers for the next location.

Clue #1: The Sea is reversed. S.S. Itari is mixed up and blind. 38-22-23 / 56-10-11

Answer: "The Sea" reversed, becomes “See the”. “Mixed up” is referring to an anagram. “Blind” means to remove the letter I. The answer is “See the stars”. The next location is Griffith Park Observatory. The numbers are telescope settings/coordinates. After moving the telescope setting, it points towards a bank sign that displays the next clue.

Clue #2: To unlock the next clue, find the 8800 keys!

Answer: 88 keys is referring to a piano. The next location is the Los Angeles Piano Museum, located at 1250 Beverly Boulevard. At the museum, there is a small piano that says “Leon’s Theme” and has sheet music. Once the notes are played, the song is the theme for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. The next location is the Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery. At the brewery, painted on cartons of beer, is the next clue.

Clue #3: Mr. Carson’s obese male child

Answer: This is referring to Johnny’s Fat Boy Burgers. Once at the restaurant, there is a menu that contains the next clue.

Clue #4: Leon’s Special Have a seat and enjoy! Look between the two giant melons!

Answer: This is referring to the necklace worn by one of the waitresses. The well-endowed woman’s necklace reads “Hug Me”. This is another anagram for “Huge M”, referring to Miniature Golf World. Once there, the teams have a message waiting for them, containing the next clue.

Clue #5: Play a round of golf. Somewhere you will find the clue. No cheating. You must play the entire round. Do not go directly to the 18th hole.

Answer: While playing hole 14, after hitting the ball across a drawbridge, it raises to show the next clue.

Clue #6: Look at xylophones initially (530am)

Answer: Initially is referring to the first letters, or initials, for the previous three words. This spells ‘LAX’, referring to the Los Angeles International Airport. 530 is a frequency on the AM radio band, which is the station for airport info. When tuned to that station, it plays the next clue.

Clue #7: Greeting teams, this is Leon. In case I’ve got you running around in circles, you might want to know that the clue can be found in terminal number 3. Upon entering the terminal, the teams are given a pamphlet by fake Hare Krishnas, containing the next clue.

Clue #8: His Holiness says: You’re off your rocker if you don’t look inside the locker.

Answer: This is referring to the airport rental lockers. There are colored lockers, containing a box with the next clue.

Clue #9: The box contains the following items: 1 red ball, 1 large E printed on a card, a polaroid picture of a safety pin, and a polaroid of a man sitting in a chair.

Answer: Pin (picture of safety pin) ball (red ball) city (sit, plus the E). Pinball City. Once there, there is a fortune teller machine where the lady looks like Leon, called Madam Leona. After putting in a quarter/token, it pops out a card with the next clue.

Clue #10: Play the STAR FIRE video game. Beat the machine and you’ll see the next clue.

Answer: After playing the game, the screen shows the next clue.

Clue #11: Greetings, Earth-people. Congratulations! The finish line is somewhere in the Bonaventure Hotel. Once all of the teams have arrived at the hotel, an announcement is made on the hotel PA system for the next clue.

Clue #12: Leon tells all of the teams, through the hotel courtesy phone: Look at the pool area. And I mean this “expressly”.

Answer: Going to the pool doesn’t provide any information. However, by taking the ‘express’ elevator, chairs are arranged to show “RM. 2704”, which is the finish line.



  • David Naughton as Adam Larson - Yellow Team Leader
  • Debra Clinger as Laura - Yellow Team
  • David Damas as Marvin - Yellow Team
  • Joel Kenney as Flynch - Yellow Team (credited as Joel P. Kenney)
  • Michael J. Fox as Scott Larson (credited as Michael Fox)
  • Stephen Furst as Harold - Blue Team Leader
  • Patricia Alice Albrecht as Lucille - Blue Team
  • Andy Tennant as Melio - Blue Team
  • Brian Frishman as Barf - Blue Team
  • Sal Lopez as Blade - Blue Team
  • Maggie Roswell as Donna - Red Team Leader
  • Robyn Petty as Berle - Red Team
  • Betsy Lynn Thompson as Peggy - Red Team
  • Carol Gwynn Thompson as Lulu - Red Team
  • Eddie Deezen as Wesley - White Team Leader
  • Marvin Katzoff as Debater #1 - White Team
  • Christopher Sands as Debater #2 - White Team
  • Michael Gitomer as Debater #3 - White Team
  • Brad Wilkin as Lavitas - Green Team Leader
  • Dirk Blocker as Blaylak - Green Team
  • Curt Ayers as Armpit - Green Team
  • Trevor Henley as Cudzo - Green Team
  • Keny Long as Gerber - Green Team


  • Irene Tedrow as Mrs. Grimhaus
  • Alan Solomon as Leon
  • Deborah Richter as Candy (credited as Debi Richter)
  • Kirsten Baker as Sunshine
  • John Fiedler as Wally Thorpe
  • Ceil Gabot as Mrs. Thorpe
  • Charlie Brill as Jerry - Tenant #1
  • Loretta Tupper as Mr. Thorpe's Mother
  • Eddie Bloom as Game Control Bookie
  • Dave Shelley as Harold's Father
  • Marvin Kaplan as Bonaventure Desk Clerk
  • Bert Williams as Security Captain
  • Arthur Adams as Police Sergeant
  • Thomas Wright as Cop #1 (credited as Tom Wright)
  • Elven Havard as Cop #2
  • Ernie Fuentes as Miniature Golf Dad
  • Pilar Del Rey as Miniature Golf Mom (credited as Pillar Del Rey)
  • Georgia Schmidt as Old Lady in Car
  • J. Brennan Smith as Bratty Kid
  • Don Maxwell as Bratty Kid's Dad
  • Paul Reubens as Pinball City Proprietor
  • John Voldstad as Bellboy
  • Jack Griffin as Tow Truck Driver
  • Dick Winslow as Tourist
  • Emily Greer as Teenage Girl #1
  • Paula Victor as Cashier
  • Tony Salome as Irving
  • Donna Garrett as Busty Waitress

Production notes[edit]

Paul Reubens (better known as Pee-wee Herman) has a small part as the "Pinball City Proprietor." Other cameos include John Fiedler as Wally Thorpe, one of the other tenants, and Marvin Kaplan as the Bonaventure Desk Clerk.

Johnie's Fat Boy was Johnie's Coffee Shop located at the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Fairfax on the western edge of the Miracle Mile. Though it closed in 2000, the building is still used for filming. [4]

Pinball City was Castle Park (later Malibu Castle) Miniature Golf in North Hollywood. Located at 12400 Vanowen St., it closed in 1998.

The Star Fire game in the video arcade that provides the clue to the final destination was an actual arcade game of the period. The game play was real; however a special open cabinet for a standing player had been created for the movie, since the real game cabinet was an enclosed cockpit in which the player was seated.

The movie was novelized in a 1980 paperback, Midnight Madness, by Tom Wright (Ace, 1980) ISBN 0-441-52985-2

This was Michael J. Fox's first motion picture and is credited as Michael Fox.

David Naughton, the main star, is seen drinking a Dr. Pepper. Naughton was Dr. Pepper's pitchman in the 1970's.

Release and reception[edit]

Midnight Madness was rated PG—only the second film from the Disney company to receive anything other than a "G" (the first was The Black Hole). Although produced by Disney, the company's name did not appear on the credits.[citation needed] Early in the film, the white team thought the first clue referred to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As they counted the numbers, they ended up on Mickey Mouse's star. When Wesley asked what it meant, one of his team mates said, "Perhaps, it's in code."

The film only experienced a limited release, and garnered bad reviews. Roger Ebert, in his review, expressed disappointment at the work, as he was already a fan of the early work of Nankin and Wechter.[3] It ultimately grossed $2.9 million in the North American box office.

The film lost Disney a reported $4.5 million.[5]

The film achieved a small cult following after it began airing on the HBO cable network. After a 2001 DVD release from Anchor Bay Entertainment, Midnight Madness was re-released in 2004 by Disney DVD with the "Walt Disney Pictures Presents" logo—the first time that Disney has officially associated itself with the film.


Midnight Madness has inspired many spin-offs and other Alternate Reality Games (ARG). Among some of the more popular recreations are:

  • Midnight Madness (Hot Springs, Arkansas) - Played every December
  • Midnight Madness (Austin, Texas) - The Austin game is played biannually and was created by several Austin transplants including two veterans from the Hot Springs game.
  • Midnight Madness Brevard (Brevard County, Florida) - Played on a regular basis, with multiple games being held each year.
  • Midnight Madness VT (Greater Burlington, VT) - Runs multiple games per year. midnightmadnessvt on Facebook.
  • The Game - a non-stop 24- to 48-hour puzzle solving race that is currently active in the San Francisco Bay area and the Seattle area
  • Mike's Hunt, a 24-hour game played by the members of the Rutgers University Glee Club, has a heavy clue-solving component, with the clues leading to the development of a storyline in which the players become involved.
  • Get-a-Clue (Atlanta, Georgia) - Played annually by members of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Marching Band and friends. Interactive and "nerdy" clues centering on a theme/storyline lead participants around the city and nearby counties.
  • Minnie’s Moonlit Madness (Anaheim, California) - Each year hundreds of Disney cast members raise money for charity by participating in a trivia Q&A and scavenger hunt in Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure after park operating hours.

In popular culture[edit]

  • Rap duo Heltah Skeltah sampled the film's theme for their song of the same name.
  • The stop motion animation program Robot Chicken (shown on Adult Swim) has featured brief homages to Midnight Madness, two in "Episode 1-10: Badunkadunk", and one in "Episode 2-6: 1987". In the first episode, two scenes from the film are reenacted, one where Leon reveals himself to the team leaders, another where Blue Team member Barf assembles the letters of a clue into the nonsense word "Fagabeefe". In the second, the chant of "Meat Machine" is reenacted.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Midnight Madness at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ a b c "Midnight Madness". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Roger Ebert (March 5, 1980). "Midnight Madness". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  4. ^ https://www.laconservancy.org/sites/default/files/files/issues/Johnies%20Coffee%20Shop%20Restaurant%20HCM%20NARRATIVE%20ONLY.pdf
  5. ^ Teen Formula Eludes Disney Movie-Makers By EARL C. GOTTSCHALK JR. Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. Wall Street Journal (1923 - Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]23 June 1980: 25

External links[edit]