Tag Archives: 1942

Throwback Thursday: “Gremlins” (1984)!

There are few movies more quintessentially 80’s than “Gremlins” (1984).  To this day, I still think it was a strange movie because of its successful juxtaposition of elements.

On the one hand, it was a family film with a sense of wonder and the kind of wholesome sentiments about the American family that you would associate with Steven Spielberg.  (I was surprised to discover that though he was executive producer here, “Gremlins” was written by Chris Columbus and directed by Joe Dante.)  It takes place in a small town on Christmas, and follows a Spielberg-esque, young, good-natured, male protagonist.

On the other hand, the violence and black humor were pretty unexpected for a mainstream blockbuster feature film.  (If you’ve seen the movie, you can vividly remember the titular monsters being dispatched by the blender and the microwave, for example — and the murder of an elderly disabled woman is maybe the film’s biggest sight gag.)  Even the monsters themselves (which were skillfully rendered in this era of pre-CGI practical effects) were a little too scary for younger kids.  It was this movie, along with 1984’s “Indianan Jones and the Temple of Doom,” that led to the MPAA to establish its “PG-13” rating — for films that didn’t quite merit a hard “R,” but were still more intense than a mere “PG rating.”

What’s remarkable to me, though, is that these disparate elements were woven together more or less seamlessly.  “Gremlins” isn’t “Casablanca” (1942), but it’s a fairly decent goofball movie that kinda works.

A little trivia — the department store where the heroic Gizmo finally dispatches the villainous Stripe is a Montgomery Ward, which modern audiences would not recognize.  The chain went out of business in 2001.  (The eponymous online retailer has no relationship to the old brick-and-mortar stores.)  I last remember being at a “Ward’s” at Spotsylvania Mall in Virginia in the 1990’s.



Illustration from “To the Kwai — and Back,” by Ronald Searle, 1942

(Searle, the author, is the artist.)

[“Our battle, or rather our retreat … lasted a whole month. The confusion was unbelievable throughout – at least around us…we lumbered on with our desert warfare equipment – gas masks included.”

A side view of a British soldier in full tropical kit and tin hat. He carries a rifle in his right hand, where a tattoo can be seen on his forearm. He looks into the background towards two other soldiers.] — Wikimedia Commons



Credit: Ronald Searle [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

“We Can Do It!” by J. Howard Miller, 1942

From Wikimedia Commons:  [J. Howard Miller (1918–2004), artist employed by Westinghouse, used by the War Production Co-ordinating Committee.  “We Can Do It!” poster for Westinghouse, closely associated with Rosie the Riveter, although not a depiction of the cultural icon itself.  Model may be Geraldine Doyle (1924-2010) or Naomi Parker.]