Tag Archives: 1981

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 worst 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.

 

 

Throwback Thursday: MPC’s “AT-AT” model kit!

Every kid in America in 1981 wanted that huge “AT-AT” imperial walker toy that Kenner produced for their “Star Wars” figures.  (And, hey, if you still want one — they’re fetching around $300 on eBay.)  Well, I didn’t get they AT-AT toy, but I did receive the below model kit from MPC, which was pretty damned cool.  Its legs and feet were movable; this made it a little more complicated to assemble, but more fun to play with.  It was detailed and looked good.  And it came with a pair of rebel cannon turrets and a pair of the snow speeders we saw in 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Just about any photos you’ll find of this model online will be misleading — trust me, it was very small.  (The snow speeders, for example, were about the width of a quarter.)

Models were a much bigger thing in the 1980’s.  Most of them weren’t sci-fi models, like this one — there were far more real-world military tanks, ships, and aircraft, along with a lot of cars.  They simplified grade-school-age birthday parties — a model was always a decent gift to give, and there was always a row or two of them for sale at your local mom-and-pop drugstore.  (I can’t remember seeing any models for sale at a CVS or Rite-Aid.)  Most boys in my neighborhood had at least a couple, although only the older kids who were serious hobbyists would go so far as to paint them.  They were the toys you had to pay attention not to break.

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Throwback Thursday: “The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones” comic books

No, I’m not talking about the Marvel Comics adaptation of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981); I’ve written about that separately here at the blog.  This was a regular ongoing comic book title between January 1983 and March 1986.

And every issue of it was a mind-boggling pleasure for a fourth grader whose favorite hero was Indiana Jones.  I remember issues one and two waiting for me after school one day, displayed upright on the kitchen table.  My Dad had picked them up for me.  (He was constantly trying to help me with a problem that had plagued my childhood — I simply never owned enough comic books.)  These were a departure from the “Sgt. Rock” comics that my father usually bought for me, but damn if they weren’t a thousand times better.  I was stunned by the very concept of them.  “Raiders” was a … COMIC BOOK now!?

Of course the plots were derivative of the film.  Ninety percent of the places Indy went, an ancient artifact or temple held a terrifying secret, often unleashing a power that could control or destroy the world.  And only Indy’s superior knowledge of archeology — or just his sheer pluck — would allow him to employ it to vanquish the bad guys.  [Spoiler warning for “Raiders,” by the way.]  The writing was damn good, as far as I can remember.  And we got to see Marion, Sallah, Marcus Brody and even Captain Katanga again.

You see that cover where Indy is on the wing of a plane?  That bad guy just might be one of the Hovitos … I can’t remember well enough to be sure.  At one point this adversary steals Indy’s whip and tries to use it against him.  (It doesn’t turn out well for him.)  In fact …I think it was the scene you see on the cover.  I’m not sure why the artist depicted a grappling hook instead.  I remember the villain’s line being, “It would be fitting for such a man to die by the sting of his own weapon.”  I have no idea why I remember that dialogue after 35 years (and little else about the issue).  The mind is a funny thing.

All of the covers were damn cool.  I happen to love that final one  you see at the bottom.  That was Indy’s adventure at Stonehenge.  But the first two covers you see are the ones that I would eventually like to get framed, someday after fame brings me opulence — those were the ones waiting for me on the kitchen table that day in 1981.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “The Dukes of Hazzard” action figures

Tonight’s Throwback Thursday is another little 80’s Ghost of Christmas past.  The General Lee arrived under my Christmas tree in 1980 or 1981.  Yeeeeeee-HAH.

What was especially cool about the Mego toy company is that they so generously included Bo and Luke Duke, as you see below — the weird, lower-budget packaging makes them look like they’ve already been tied up by one of the TV show’s easily defeated bad guys.  The Dukes Included” feature was a happy surprise — if you were a kid collecting Star Wars toys in the 80’s, you were already well acquainted with the common disappointing disclaimer, “action figures sold separately.”

I remember that Christmas a little more vividly then others … the tree was in a different corner of our family living room, for some reason.  And it was the very same year my older brother received AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” on LP.

Man, did I love The Duke boys.  So, too, did my fellow enthusiast, Mikey Wagner, on the next block.  We loved the two good ol’ boys; we loved Roscoe’s laugh, and his dog, Flash; we loved puzzling over why Enos was a good guy, kind of; we loved Waylon Jennings as the viewer-surrogate narrator; and we loved “THE JUMPS,” trying our best to emulate them with our bikes, along with that “Yeeeeeeee-HAH.”  Hell … we even watched through the strange, troubling “Coy and Vance” pseudo-Dukes days.  (Fans who remember the show will know what I mean.)

Hey — if you are a true 80’s scholar, you might recall that Enos even got his own spin-off TV show in 1980.  It was called, unremarkably, “Enos.”  And it was weird.  It was a … drama in which Enos moved to California and joined the LAPD.  You can’t make this stuff up.

My zeal for all things Dukes led to one faux pas with my family.  We had a gigantic late-70’s-era green Oldsmobile, and it had vinyl seats that got HOT when you parked it in the sun.  You could mitigate that problem by leaving the windows rolled down.  (Yes, I really am old enough to remember these things; the first “electric window opener” I ever saw was on a babysitter’s car, and, at the time, it seemed high-tech and weirdly opulent to me.)

Anyway, my older sister and I were returning from somewhere (it might have been church, or maybe the supermarket).  I dove feet-first into the passenger seat, instead of opening the door, hopping in just as the Dukes jumped into the General Lee.  That … really pissed my sister off, for some reason.  My mom too.  She told me, slowly, gravely and in a low voice in the kitchen that afternoon, “This is real life.  That is a TV show.”

Mikey liked Daisy Duke considerably more than I did; his occasional admiring mention of her puzzled me.  I hadn’t quite discovered girls yet in 1981, and I couldn’t appreciate the nature of her unique aesthetic value on that TV show.  (I’m pretty sure the show’s creators did.)  I thought Daisy was superfluous, even though I didn’t know what the word “superfluous” meant.  Her presence seemed to be a weird, obligatory public service reminder that, yes, girls could also drive, and were also known to live in the country sometimes.

Is the term “Daisy Duke shorts” still even employed today?  Do kids even know that it is derived from a TV show?

 

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A late Throwback Thursday: “Clash of the Titans” action figures

One of the things the Internet has taught me is that a hell of a lot of people my age loved “The Neverending Story” (1984).  They seem to recall it with nostalgia bordering on open reverence, as though it was the seminal film for defining the power of fantasy and imagination for children.

That movie just never took with me.  Maybe, at 12, I was too old to enjoy it?  The … dog-dragon, to me, seemed silly.  And maybe I was old enough to get the sense that it was preachy and saccharine, with a heavy-handed parent-approved message.

Or maybe I was just into the harder stuff.   The movies that defined fantasy and imagination for me were Ralph Bakshi’s “The Lord of the Rings” (1978) , “Beastmaster” (1982) and “Clash of the Titans” (1981).

Which brings us to a fun little ghost of Christmas past — “Clash of the Titans” action figures.  They showed up unrequested under my Christmas tree one year, but I didn’t complain, because I’d be damned if my parents didn’t pick cool toys for me even if I hadn’t asked for them.  I became the quite happy owner of Perseus, Charon, Pegasus and … (drum roll, please) … THE KRAKEN.

Don’t let that snazzy catalog layout below fool you — these weren’t especially well made toys.  Good luck getting Perseus to hang on to that sword or shield for very long.  Pegasus was fun, but … it was really a just a cheap plastic molded horse with soft plastic wings.

The mighty Kraken paradoxically just couldn’t hold himself together.  His arms detached just a bit to easily.  And if you turned him, those flipper feet were likely to collapse under him and he’d just sort of keel over.  Perseus (or my G.I. Joes, with whom he’d had a longstanding mutual acrimony) could just sort of yell, “HEY!  What’s over there?!”  And if he were gullible enough, he’d turn, lose a leg-flipper and teeter over to an embarrassed defeat.  (He was much more badass in the movie.)

I still have the Kraken in my storage unit.  I’m pretty sure he’s missing an arm.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “Tales of The Gold Monkey” and “Bring ‘Em Back Alive”

I was chatting the other day with author and blogger “Porter Girl,” about what I call the “80’s ‘Raiders’ TV ripoffs.”  And that’s … probably an unjustly harsh term coming from me, because I absolutely loved both shows in question when they were on the air in 1982.

I’m talking about “Tales of the Gold Monkey” and “Bring ‘Em Back Alive,” which both aired for only a single season.  (“Bring ‘Em Back Alive” had the misfortune of airing opposite “The A-Team,” a show I never liked but which was a LITTLE popular among my peer group of 10-year-olds.)

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” had hit theaters a year prior.  Countless adults will tell you today that the “Star Wars” movies were part of their childhood, and that’s true for me too.  But “Raiders” was a far larger part, and today it is still tied with “Vanilla Sky” (2001) for my favorite movie of all time.  And if you’ve ever read this blog before, then you know that I watch a lot of movies.

So I was thrilled when two shows appeared that were so much LIKE “Raiders.”  Both were sort of … “Raiders” Lite.  (I think what a lot of people fail to realize is that the sometimes grim inaugural 1981 movie was unambiguously aimed at adults, while the sequels were geared toward the younger set.)

And, to be fair, each show stood on its own.  “Tales” was set in the Pacific in 1938, and followed cargo plane pilot Jake Cutter (played by Stephen Collins).  He and his near-sentient, one-eyed dog, “Jack,” adventured among all manner of period players: Nazi spies, American spies, Imperial Japanese officers, et alia.  (I think that both “Tales” and “Raiders” misled an entire generation about the degree of gunfights and swordplay connected with certain careers.)

The show’s title derives from the adventure in its pilot episode; Jake and company face a mysterious island in which giant, vicious were-monkey cryptids protect a golden monkey statue.  (Think of the evil primates in “Congo” (1995).)  I explained to my friend that I thought this was maybe inspired by the Hovitos’ gold idol in the opening of “Raiders.”  Quite honestly?  I remember that pilot episode being pretty scary for a kid, and it was unusually dark for early 80’s primetime show.

“Bring ‘Em Back Alive,” while also developed to capitalize on “Raiders'” popularity, was actually based on a real person.  Bruce Boxleitner’s “Frank Buck” was based on the very real Frank Buck, a famous big game trapper in the 1930’s.  He wrote a book entitled “Bring ‘Em Back Alive,” and the film treatment followed in 1932.

I’m surprised that anyone even remembers “Tales” or “Bring ‘Em.”  I don’t ever remember meeting another fourth grader who talked about either show.  It was always about “The A-Team” in the lunch room, and the “DID YOU SEE WHEN THAT GUY SHOT THAT GUY?!”  But Blog Correspondent Pete Harrison chimed in immediately when I posted about “Tales” on Facebook, and there are people in the blogosphere who fondly remember them too.

If you do recall them with a smile, as I do, I think they’re both available on DVD.

 

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