Before he became known as Alex P. Keaton on , a young Michael J. Fox had a supporting role in , an odd little comedy about an all-night scavenger hunt. This 1980 film was inspired by some creative, real-life scavenger hunts that still attract participants today.
An eccentric genius named Leon (Alan Solomon) comes up with a competition that he calls “The Great All-Nighter,” a scavenger hunt involving five teams of college students. Each team has to solve clues that Leon plants across the city of Los Angeles, and the first team to cross the finish line is declared the winner of the game. Without the benefit of cell phones or GPS tracking, the students had to use both their brains and brawn to win.
David Naughton, who would later star in An American Werewolf in London, plays Adam Larson, the leader of the Yellow Team. Adam and his teammates try to play fair, but they are going up against frat boys and science geeks who will do anything to win the game. Adam also has to deal with his rebellious little brother Scott, who is played by Fox.
Before it was released on VHS, Midnight Madness aired quite frequently late at night on cable stations in the early 1980’s. In what appears to be his first movie credit, Michael J. Fox gives an interesting performance as the troubled teenage Scott. He gets to prove that he’s valuable to his brother’s team, though, when they have to find a clue hidden inside an arcade game.
The whole concept of a city-wide scavenger hunt has some real-life equivalents. Road rallies, for instance, take place on some out-of-the-way roads, but teams have to decipher clues to navigate the course properly. A company in San Francisco also stages “The Go Game,” which can be used as a corporate team-building event or just as a way to have some fun with a group of friends.
If you can find it on a scavenger hunt through your television channels, Midnight Madness is a fun, goofy movie that, like the real-life version, is oddly addictive.