Tag Archives: 1981

Throwback Thursday: the “100-pc. Toy Soldier Set!”

Okay, I never actually sent away for Lucky Products’s legendary 100-Piece Toy Soldier Set.  (And I’m really not sorry that I missed out on it, as I’ll explain in a moment.)  But the ad that you see below was a pretty common staple (see what I did there?) of comic books in the early 1980’s.

This seemed like an amazing deal to a grade-school boy.  One hundred of anything seemed like a very high number, and I marveled at the idea of recreating that battle scene that you see depicted in the full-page ad.  (And, lord, did I love toy soldiers.)  And I wasn’t sure exactly what a “footlocker” was, but I had a pretty good idea it was a big, sturdy box.  The mere pittance required to pay for these toys, I figured, could only result from … comic book magic.  (Couldn’t most things that seemed unimaginable be found in the pages of comic books?)

Behold the cruel truth, at last made clear by a Google search.  The ad was about as forthright as the ubiquitous advertisements for “Sea-Monkeys” or “X-Ray Glasses.”  That “footlocker” was a cardboard box only six inches long, and the toy soldiers and ships and planes were wafer-thin.  Hey, it was still a reasonable buy for $1.98, even in the 80’s.  It just couldn’t recreate the Normandy landing in your bedroom the way you thought it could.

Anyway, the ad you see below dates from 1981.  The interwebs inform me, however, that Lucky Products had been marketing this set from as early as the 1950’s.

 

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Throwback Thursday: Levi’s science fiction advertising posters

This ought to be an obscure Throwback Thursday — although I’d be thrilled if somebody else remembered these.  For a brief period in the early 1980’s, Levi’s produced some wicked cool in-store posters with science fiction themes.  I had several of them hanging in my room; the one below dates from 1981, and was advertised on eBay for a while for the modest sum of $20.

For decades, Levi’s had relied on endless cowboy imagery to sell its brand.  And that makes sense, given the rugged individualism they wished to associate with their product.  Portraying people wearing their jeans alongside strange aliens on fantastic worlds seems like an odd marketing choice.  (I don’t think it lasted very long.)  I can only guess that the success of “Star Wars” (1977) and “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) had something to do with the marketing strategy.  (You can also sometimes find Levi’s posters from the 1970’s featuring psychedelic imagery.)

The poster appears to feature the name “McClure” as the artist.  If any of you guys know the artist’s full name (or can point me in the direction of other posters like this), I’d be grateful.

 

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Throwback Thursday: 1980’s “Sgt. Rock!”

DC Comics’ “Sgt. Rock” was far harder stuff than the “G.I Joe” comics and toys that are more often associated with the 1980’s.  They were the darkest and most violent comic books I read when I was a young kid, except maybe for the various “Conan” books.  Hasbro relaunched “G.I. Joe” in 1982 concurrently with its toy line, and it was a famously kid-safe (and lucrative) franchise.  “Sgt. Rock,” in contrast, consisted of brutal stories that focused on the horrors of war — it was really more of a cultural holdover from the comics of the prior two decades.  (The title began as “Our Army at War” in 1959.)

I loved these comics — especially the larger “annuals” with lengthier stories.  Nothing was better than “Sgt. Rock” and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  What occasionally puzzled me as a second-grader was that none of the other boys I knew seemed to be reading them — although a lot of other kids certainly hopped on the “G. I. Joe” bandwagon.

The last one pictured below, from 1981, was my favorite.  If memory serves, it was the first one I ever owned.

 

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Throwback Thursday: this theater poster for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)!

I had this poster for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) when I was 11 or so.  It was goddam gigantic.  It took up nearly an entire wall in my room.

It wasn’t store bought; it came from a theater.  My father used to do something that was pretty damned cool for any parent to do — he’d occasionally ask the manager of a movie theater to save their in-house advertising for my favorite movies.  (I don’t know how things are done nowadays, but back then they’d just throw them out after using them.)  Then my Dad would hand the guy $10 or $20 for one of these, or maybe the manager would just give it to him.

Sometimes that meant a truly industrial-size poster, like this one.  Sometimes it meant one of those huge cardboard stand-up advertisments.  (I could only have a couple of these at a time … I had a small room.)

I also had a cardboard stand-up for “Colors,” the 1988 film depicting Los Angeles gangs — but my older brother brought me that one.  It had nearly life-size cutouts of Sean Penn and Robert Duvall, the movie’s police protagonists.  I don’t know why the nerdiest kid in East Coast suburbia was so taken with a movie about inner-city West Coast gangs, but that movie meant a lot to me.

Come to think of it, a lot of people were talking about “Colors” back in the day.  It was a big deal.  It was considered pretty edgy at the time, the critics loved it, and I’m surprised I never heard about it again after the close of the decade.  Its soundtrack had a damned good title track by Ice-T, too.

The poster below was my favorite, though.  To this day, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is probably my favorite film of all time.

 

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“Do you come from the land down under?”

When I reviewed the second season of the outstanding “Wolf Creek” television series (2016) not too long ago, I neglected to mention something — the trippy rendition of Men at Work’s “Land Down Under” in its opening credits.

It’s a beautiful cover by Australia’s Sabrina Schultz, and it’s perfect for the show — it should please both horror fans and anyone who remembers the original song from 1981.  It has a dreamy, melancholy quality that hints at the show’s weird juxtaposition of brutal violence with its gorgeous outback setting.

Check it out below.

 

 

 

 

“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) is actually slow and will leave you feeling low.

“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) is a pop-culture sacred cow that needs to be skewered.  I’d rate it a 2 out of 10 for being a surprisingly inept and poorly scripted 1980’s “classic.”

I just don’t understand the fervent popular reverence for this movie among people in my age bracket.  It was a minor legend when I was growing up.  I was a fourth grader in 1982, and gradeschool boys could be divided into two groups: 1) those who had seen the “Phoebe Cates pool scene” and 2) those who had not, but wished they had.  When I mentioned on social media a couple of months ago this year that I’d never actually gotten around to seeing this movie, my friends were roundly astonished.

Why do they think this film is indispensable viewing?  Maybe there’s something I’m missing.  I’m tempted to group “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” together with other beloved 80’s films that just don’t resonate with me — like the understandably campy “Tron” (1982) or the unexpectedly sleep-inducing “The Big Chill” (1983).  (I couldn’t even finish the latter.)  But I can’t compare, because I know those movies are objectively good in a lot of ways, even if they weren’t to my taste.

Nor am I squeamish about raunchy sex comedies.  (C’mon.)  I pretty fondly remember “Porky’s” (1981), “Porky’s II: The Next Day” (1983), and “Revenge of the Nerds” (1984).  I mentioned “Porky’s” to the friend with whom I watched “Fast Times” — I told her that it wasn’t highbrow entertainment, but I still remember it being crudely, blasphemously funny.

This movie was just a thinly scripted small collection of vignettes, with no overall plot outside of teenagers having sexual encounters that are … awkward and bluntly sad, for the most part.  (Sean Penn’s character does drugs.)  The dialogue is terrible.  None of the characters are likable — even the story’s nerdy, well-meaning protagonist is grating.

I didn’t really laugh once at anything the director intended — I only laughed at the haircuts and the clothes.  I just can’t believe that the screenwriter here was Cameron Crowe, who also wrote what is possibly my favorite movie of all time — the widely but unfairly maligned “Vanilla Sky” (2001).  (Crowe apparently adapted the screenplay from a novel he wrote.)

There is some enjoyment to be had in watching Penn’s stoner character.  It was fun seeing a well known serious actor in an early comedic role.  Penn is a decent character actor, and it looks like he was having fun.  I do get why kids in the 80’s found him funny.

It’s also fun seeing the handful of other young actors who would go on to great careers (Judge Reinhold is always funny) but, again, this is something that the filmmakers can’t take credit for.

Hey, if you want a slice-of-life dramatic comedy about teenagers in the 1980’s, then go rent “The Breakfast Club” (1985).  It wasn’t perfect, but it was damn good movie that tackled many of the same issues as this movie, but with intelligence and effective humor.  Or, try the oddball “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986).  Both movies portray teenagers in the 80’s who are smart, likable and emphathetic, in varying degrees.  I myself went to high school in the 1980’s, and I assure you they were around.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” (1979 – 1981)

When I was in the first grade, I absolutely loved “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.”  It was, technically I guess, a dystopian science fiction story in which a contemporary astronaut is frozen for 500 years, then returns to a post-nuclear earth.  Its feature-length pilot was created by Glen Larson, who also wrote the pilot for “Battlestar Galactica” the preceding year.  (Weird trivia — Wikipedia informs me that this was released theatrically, along with “Battlestar Galactica” in limited theaters.)

Of course I didn’t realize this at the time, but “Buck Rogers” was pretty bad.  It was horribly bad.  Indescribably bad.  It was even bad by cheesy 1970’s TV sci-fi standards.  You can actually find full episodes on Youtube, and I started one, just on a lark.  I could only watch about one minute, maybe less — plus that soul-deadening clip of “Twiki” in the second video below.   Seriously, it’s as though Larson was intentionally giving the worse script he could come up with to NBC as some sort of prank.  (After being told to resuscitate the heroic Buck, one advanced futureperson advises another, “He’s liable to be not too coherent.”)

About Twiki — that little guy fascinated a lot of very young kids in 1979.  For a while, it was all the rage for us to do our “deeby-deeby-deeby” Twiki impressions.