Tag Archives: 1982

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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Throwback Thursday: “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” (1982)

Young people, let me try to explain what it was like for a kid who loved movies in the early 1980’s.

There was no trivia section for the Internet Movie Database.  There was no Internet Movie Database.  There was no goddam Internet.  This meant that information about new movies came mostly from other second-, third- or fourth-graders.  And that was one imperfect grapevine.

Sometimes the information was flat out wrong.  Brad Fisher told me at the beach in the summer of 1980 that Han Solo dies in “The Empire Strikes Back.”  (Yes, “Star Wars” fanatics, I am aware that Harrison Ford wanted the character to die.  Now grow up and watch Ron Moore’s “Battlestar Galactica.”)

Other times, the information was technically accurate, but confusingly articulated.  Such was the account of Jason Huhn, the kid across the street, of Ridley Scott’s “Alien.”  (That was a 1979 movie, but I wasn’t even allowed to watch the bowdlerized version that was on television a few years later.)  “Its head is like a tube.”  Jason told me thoughtfully.  “It has, like, two mouths.  It has a mouth, and then a mouth inside a mouth.”

Finally, the other boys’ reviews were occasionally just too spoiler-heavy.  In 1984, I had the entire rope-bridge scene in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” memorized in detail before I got to see the movie myself.  (Maddeningly, most of Mr. Greiner’s sixth grade class had seen it before I did, and Jason Girnius was particularly exuberant in recounting its climactic fight.)

“Halloween III: Season of the Witch” was something of a different animal.  None of the kids in the neighborhood could figure that one out.

“Michael isn’t in it!”  That was the buzz.  To a boy in the 1982, Michael Myers was an icon on par with “Friday the 13th’s” Jason.  (Leatherface was a bit before our time, and Freddy Krueger and Pinhead hadn’t arrived in theaters just yet.)  Even those of us who weren’t allowed to watch the movies had heard all about him.  It utterly confused us that that a “Halloween” movie could be made in which he was absent.

It … looked pretty scary, at least.  Its poster and tagline suggested that young trick-or-treaters would be victimized instead of teenagers old enough to babysit, so that was more frightening to a young boy.  (As an adult today, I suggest that this movie absolutely did not turn out to be a classic horror film, despite the pretty terrifying basic plot device revealed at the end.)

Today a simple Google search would inform us of John Carpenter’s plans — an anthology series in which every subsequent “Halloween” sequel was a standalone horror story with the holiday as a theme.  (I think I’d question the wisdom of that even as a kid; the studio wisely resurrected the slasher four years later.)

But the gradeschool grapevine was not so informed.  There weren’t even any tentative hypotheses among the kids on my street.  I think we just shrugged it off and returned to talking about “Star Wars.”  We just figured that adults sometimes did some really puzzling, really stupid things.  That’s a belief I still hold today.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that I occasionally engender that belief in others.

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My take on the ambiguous ending for John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” (Major spoilers.)

John Carpenter’s 1982 tour-de-force, “The Thing,” is arguably the best horror movie of the decade.  It paid little attention to the movie it ostensibly remakes, the standard, boilerplate, flying-saucer Saturday-matinee of “The Thing From Another World” (1951). It presumably paid greater attention to its real and far darker source material, “Who Goes There?,” John W. Campbell Jr.’s 1938 horror-sci-fi novella.

One of the things the movie’s fans still debate heatedly is its bleak ending — I think it goes beyond ambiguous to downright mysterious.  Viewers actually are given no certainty whatsoever about who or what are actually pictured onscreen in the film’s Antarctic setting, after a fiery climax for this gory, special-effects-heavy actioner.  (Only people who have seen the film know what I am talking about.)

My own interpretation is a little less popular than the others you hear about.  To conceal spoilers, I’m sharing it after the poster image below.  [IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE, STOP READING NOW!]

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Continue reading My take on the ambiguous ending for John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” (Major spoilers.)

Oh! Just one more Thing tonight!!

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You’re glad I reminded you, aren’t you?

I told Pete Harrison the other night that I watched the 2011 prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece, “The Thing.”

He simply responded, “Why?”

To me and undoubtedly many others, the 80’s classic will always be the paradigmatic horror – science fiction movie.  Because I admire a well made house as much as anyone, but AIN’T NO CARPENTER LIKE JOHN CARPENTER.  (Nobody repeat that, I want to copyright it and sell bumper stickers at horror conventions.)

Yes, the recent prequel inexplicably has the exact same title as the 1982 movie, and I have no frikkin’ idea why.  That just seems … deliberately stupid.  Nor is that the 2011 film’s only flaw … it’s universally maligned.

Does the 2011 outing really deserve all its bad press?  I say no.  Among other things, it delivered some fine goopity-gloppity monster goodness, delivered by an archetypal flying saucer, no less.  That’s something that I find refreshing in a horror movie marketplace that just seems inundated with demons and ghosts.  (I loved “Insidious,” but enough already.)

C’mon, Hollywood.  There are plenty of horror fans out there who grew up loving giant ants, Marine-baiting “Aliens,” werewolves, swarms of spiders troubling William Shatner, and the adversaries of Godzilla.  It’s why I gave a positive review to this year’s “Jurassic World,” despite a script of the same quality as that of “Gilligan’s Island.”  I want to see velociraptors chase a speeding truck.  I will ALWAYS want to see velociraptors chase a speeding truck.

And … I liked the 2011 movie’s protagonist!  Trying to mimic MacReady’s cunning anti-hero would have redundant!  This story featured a smart, young lady scientist who turned out to be tough under pressure.  That kinda worked for me.

I actually have seen 1951’s “The Thing From Another World,” but that was 30 years ago on VHS, with my “Movie Uncle,” John Muth.  I have NOT read “Who Goes There?,” John W. Campbell, Jr.’s 1938 novella upon which all of these films were based.  But I’m planning to.  (Last time I checked, it was floating around online somewhere.)

I’m just waiting for the first big blizzard to hit next winter.  Because ATMOSPHERE.