Monday, May 14, 2012

Happy Crom Day to You!

 Interesting tidbit: thirty years ago today (May 14th), Conan the Barbarian opened in theatres (and, I can hope, Drive-Ins) across the country. The Cap'n was a little too young to see Conan the Barbarian (being three years and exactly one month old), so I missed out on that and the rest of the "Class of '82," what has become a semi-legendary year for geek cinema. That's how geeks characterize it now, because I don't remember it being a big point in pop culture during the 80s or 90s, but it's all good. Starting in 2007, when the "Class of '82" turned twenty five, retrospectives kicked in, and now we're at the thirty year mark, which is right around the age of people who pay attention to things like this. Like me.

 Well, that got away from where I wanted it to go. Anyway, so if you aren't in the mood to check it out, here are some of the movies released in 1982:

 The Boogens
 Death Wish II
 Victor / Victoria
 Rocky 3
 Six Pack
 The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
 Yes, Giorgio
 Halloween III: Season of the Witch
 48 Hours
 The Verdict
 The Toy
 Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
 One from the Heart
 Visiting Hours
 Airplane 2: The Sequel

 Wait... what do you mean "that's the wrong list"? What the hell is wrong with that list? I like those movies. Geeks like The Boogens, right? What do you mean "they haven't seen The Boogens?" That's not my problem! They love Rocky 3 and Death Wish II and 48 Hours! Hell, some of them will even defend the indefensible, like Zapped! and the misguided but I guess not unwatchable Halloween III...

 Okay, fine. It's true that the list above is an "alternate" list I compiled while I was trying to get the "canonized" releases right. Honestly, I'm standing by the assertion that about half of them still fit in just fine with the actual "Class of '82" which includes:

 Conan the Barbarian
 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
 Blade Runner
 John Carpenter's The Thing
 First Blood
 Das Boot
 Friday the 13th Part III (in 3D)
 Cat People
 The Sword and the Sorcerer
 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
 The Secret of Nimh
 Pink Floyd: The Wall
 Fast Times at Ridgemont High
 Class of 1984
 The Beastmaster
 Eating Raoul
 Q: The Winged Serpent
 The Last Unicorn
 The Dark Crystal

 I included movies like Das Boot and cult films like Eating Raoul and Q in this list because they're frequently mentioned, but like Halloween III I suppose they could go on either list. It's a shame more of you haven't seen The Boogens though...

 Now, that is an impressive lineup. It comprises the list of movies that many people my age watched on home video along with the likes of Ghostbusters, The Goonies, and Back to the Future all the way through adolescence. I can only imagine what it must have been like to see Conan the Barbarian one week and then to see The Road Warrior the next. To be old enough to really take in a summer filled with that many cherished entries into "geek" cinema is something I can only envy from afar. I wasn't old enough to even be cognizant that Ridley Scott was adapting Philip K. Dick and John Milius would set the bar for "sword and sorcery" films that hasn't ever really been matched in the 80s, 90s, or 21st century. And it was the second of three "sword and sorcery" films just that year!

 To wonder what the guy who made Halloween, The Fog, and Escape from New York was going to do with The Thing from Another World or how Paul Schrader was going to reinvent Cat People. Most of all, to see it with fresh eyes, in a world devoid of the internet and where cable television didn't have the range of coverage it does now. By the time I'd heard of most of these movies, it was through people who had already seen them or through movie guides. By the time I knew what Season of the Witch was, I had been warned that it didn't continue the Laurie Strode / Michael Meyers story and was therefore a "mistake." On the other hand, Blade Runner's failure and stature as something of a "cult" phenomenon allowed me to approach the 1992 "Director's Cut" with intrigue.

So looking back at the way these films were released, it's understandable how Tron, Blade Runner, and The Thing were all swept aside by the "summer of E.T." Steven Spielberg had a massive hit on his hands, and Scott's narrative-ly dense dystopia and Carpenter's misanthropic and nihilistic alien invasion film weren't exactly going to fit in with a friendly extra terrestrial eating Reese's Pieces. Tron? Well, it took twenty eight years for Disney to even consider making a sequel to its "world inside a computer" film, and it fared about as well. I happen to like Tron, partly because of its place in my childhood but also because as I grew up more of it made sense and it's really not a "one sitting" kind of movie. E.T., on the other hand, has a little something for everybody, and in one go-round.

 There are so many different things you could talk about here, like Star Trek II getting everything fans wanted right where The Motion Picture didn't (again, this is based mostly on what I understand, as I was introduced to Star Trek films through Wrath of Khan and not The Motion Picture) or the way that the otherwise formulaic sequel Friday the 13th Part III introduced the iconic image for the series (Jason's hockey mask) while also having just about every "point something at the camera" 3D gimmick you can think of. You had the first John Rambo film, Sylvester Stallone fighting Mr. T, the first Mad Max film most Americans had seen (and without dubbing), the movie that launched Arnold Schwarzenegger as an action star, two legendary comedies, and George Romero and Stephen King's homage to EC Comics.

 Okay, so I poked a little fun at the beginning, but it is clear why 1982 was such a rich year for revisiting. Most of those films were regulars at the Howdy household, at least during age-appropriate periods. Some of them were discoveries in high school and in college because of their release in proximity to the rise of home video. It was hard not to know they existed because whether I'd seen them or not, the box covers were at both video stores in town. Filling in the context came later, and being nostalgic for a period that I lived through but couldn't participate in after that. I get why so many geeks of my generation fixate on this particular year.

  But the real takeaway here - other than wishing Conan the Barbarian a happy 30th birthday / anniversary - is that you should see The Boogens. Seriously - it's a pretty good slasher movie with kinda goofy monsters but you don't see them until the very end. It's one of those under represented horror films that deserves its day. And if you're not the horror type - and honestly, if you're reading this blog I don't know how that's possible - there's always Six Pack. Kenny Rogers, Diane Lane, Anthony Michael Hall, Erin Gray, an RV full of orphans and a grizzled stock car racer. Or something like that. It clearly doesn't suck is what I'm saying here.

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