Monday, June 4, 2012

A LOOK BACK AT THE SUMMER OF 1982



I don't typically interrupt my list of movie blogs unless I feel I have a justifiable reason. While I won't claim this post is justifiable, it does represent nostolgic memories that have just recently been on my mind and it's my pleasure, if not my purpose, to share them with all who have blessed me with their time in reading my blog. So, kindly indulge me again with your attention and your memories.

You know, anniversaries are a funny thing when you're a film lover. Truth be told, they tend to bring out the DORK in you because you're sometimes overwhelmed with this uncontrollable need to shout out to the world that it was on this day, or this week, or this month that one of your favorite films was released in movie theaters. If you search the web, you're likely to find that on May 25th of this year, legions of STAR WARS fans posted some sort of message acknowledging the release of the very first film thirty-five years ago in 1977, and I was no exception. So you see? I'm guilty of the very "dorkiness" I speak of.

So all of this mind, let me propose the big question to those of you would acknowledge its relevance...Was the Summer of 1982 quite possibly the greatest summer blockbuster season of all time? Clearly, I believe so or I wouldn't be here right now. But why? It's not as though the summer blockbuster was anything very new in American movie pop culture. Previous summers had already given us two JAWS films, two STAR WARS films, three James Bond films and other assorted gems like GREASE, ROCKY II, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and SUPERMAN II. For myself, though, and possibly for many others who were there to see it, the Summer of 1982 brought blockbusters in great succession and most of them seemed to have something fresh and new to offer the happy moviegoer. Let me take a little of you time now and just do a quick review of what I'm talking about here. Perhaps you just might agree with me. We'll start with the month of May and work our way though...

CONAN THE BARBARIAN - this was the film that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a star and also the first time the legendary comic book hero was hitting the screen. It was R-rated, which made it a darker film and a gorier film...in other words, a better film from the same man who'd written the great APOCALYPSE NOW (1979).

ROCKY III - not a film I enjoy anymore (badly acted!), but back in the day this was Rocky Balboa's high point and a chance to introduce the world to a scary looking man with a mohawk haircut named Mr. T. On the plus side, the death of trainer Mickey was impressively sad and I still think Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" is a great song.

POLTERGEIST - as if E.T. weren't enough that summer, Steven Spielberg showed us all he could scare the living crap out of us beyond the great white shark with this very modern, 1980's haunted house film. It may be credited as a Tobe Hooper film, but any fan of Spielberg knows who the real brains behind it was. This film still chills the spine of my back to this day. And of course, Hollywood intends to fuck up its legacy by remaking it!

STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN - the first real Star Trek reboot. Although a financial success, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (l979) left too many fans with a taste of sheer boredom. We wanted action, we wanted juice, we wanted speed and we wanted just a little blood. We got it beautifully and we also got the pleasure of Ricardo Montalban reprising his great role of Khan Noonien Singh. And who can forget the rage in William Shatner's face when he yelled, "K-H-A-A-A-A-N-N-N!!!" at the top of his lungs? Arguably the best STAR TREK film to date.

E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL - come on, do I really need to talk about THIS film?? Amazing how an alien with a large, squishy head could create such a pop culture phenomenon and make Reece's Pieces look so damn good!

FIREFOX - not the best film in the world, even by the standards of Clint Eastwood. However, at the time, it generated a lot of interest because of its air battle sequences and the design of the fighter aircraft itself. In my opinion, though, these scenes of battle were surpassed just a year later with the giant helicopter film known as BLUE THUNDER (1983).

BLADE RUNNER - knowing full well what a classic piece of intelligent science fiction this is now, it's hard to imagine that thirty years ago this film was basically a critical and financial dud (just goes to show you that nothing is kinder to a film than TIME). However, I was there in the movie theater during it's initial run and I still maintain that the original 1982 theatrical version with Harrison Ford's narration is STILL the best version!

THE THING - again, time is kind to a film. Very underated and very underappreciated at the time. John Carpenter took an old RKO black and white movie he loved as a kid and turned it into quite possibly one of the best monster movie remakes of all time. It also shows just how effective and gross gore can be without the use of computers. Bravo, Stan Winston!

TRON - by today's computer standards, very unimpressive, indeed. But when you consider this film was made in 1981 when the personal computer was finally available to families at a somewhat reasonable price, it's relevance is clearer. It may not be the most exciting action film ever made, but it introduces us to the fantasy of the computer and it's (possible) dominance over our lives. It was also a celebration of the amazement of video games, BEFORE they looked like nothing more than computer generated cartoons. Long live Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man!!!

THE ROAD WARRIOR - I'm not entirely sure when this was relased in the U.S., but who cares. This was a sequel to MAD MAX (1979) but how many of us really knew that at the time? How many of us had actually seen MAD MAX in the theaters? This frightening look at an apocalyptic future where lack of gasoline has made animals of us all (most of us) still remains the best of its kind.

PINK FLOYD THE WALL - this was the film that turned me on to not only the great rock album, THE WALL, but also to Pink Floyd themselves, making them my favorite rock band even to this day. It was very low on dialogue, virtually plotless, frequently confusing, and the best damn 90 minute rock video that I'd ever seen on the big screen. After it's initial run, it became a very popular film on the midnight movie scene. Damn, I miss those days!

So, I think you've gotten the basic idea of what I'm talking about here, yes? Some of these films were great, some were not. Some raked in a ton of money, some did not. But I think even the duds like FIREFOX and TRON still proved that Hollywood (at the time) was willing to try something new during a season which was already clearly showing evidence of repetition and franchise. We simply got a really good eclectic mix of everything. I remember even as the Summer of 1982 drew to a close and I went back to high school, new films like FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH and AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMEN still had something to offer the moviegoer who didn't want to see something with a roman numeral attached to its title. I also remember, at that time, yet another re-release of the original STAR WARS, before George Lucas fucked it all up. But that's another matter of argument entirely!

By the way, here's a photo that inspired that final memory...



Both photographs shown are courtesy of American Classic Images.

And so, to the great summer that was 1982, I say...like the movie dork that I clearly am...Happy 30th Anniversary!





2 comments:

  1. All the dorks need to share stories or else they would not be able to be called dorks. It's just that not all the stories are worth listening to, that makes them dorks. So you have an exceptional list of films from the summer of 1982. Conan, Lead to Trek, which was followed by Blade Runner and E.T.. The two films from your list other than Trek, that I saw the most that Summer were Poltergeist and Road Warrior. Poltergeist is creepy as hell and it was state of the art spooky. Tobe Hooper had Spielberg looking over his shoulder but the movie was terrific. The Road warrior is everything I ever wanted a Science Fiction adventure film to be. Not a lot of Special Effects, but a special idea. It was an idea that was punctuated by the best chase scenes and the coolest character to come down the pike in forever. We had an over the Air cable channel that was playing Mad Max and I had skipped it a dozen times. When we saw Road Warrior we found it and now we fear the Toe Cutter.

    There are so many great movie memories from 1982 that I may have to do a segment on Movie A Day. A couple of small summer films that I would add to the list "The World According to Garp" which did a credible job of bringing my favorite book to the screen and gave Robin Williams a chance to act instead of being a living cartoon. The other was Night Shift, it starred the newly out of work Henry Winkler, the soon to be starring in Cheers Shelly Long, and it introduced the amazing Michael Keaton in his best comedic role outside of Beetlejuice. Oh, it was also directed by that kid that Winler worked with on the TV show, Ronnie something.

    You have inspired me to go back and blog on some of these films. Any preferences that you might like to read about?

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  2. I'll always go with the original version of BLADE RUNNER with narration, happy mountain ending and all.

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