Surviving 80s Sci-Fi/Fantasy Week

As we entered the Christmas season, the “one-for-someone-else, one-for-me” buying protocol took effect. I was startled at how much streaming media and Blu-Ray have driven down the price of new mere DVDs. Under ten dollars for most, and like five bucks for many. Suddenly, I had Amazon-Primed myself a collection of remembered films to watch. And I did this last week, one at a time.

Monday. The Last Starfighter
Hey, you already can guess what I think about this.
Tuesday. Krull
I had never seen this film before, but it was a recommended purchase for The Last Starfighter, and I’d seen the pinball game at the National in Fenton, Missouri, in the era in question, and who could forget the Glaive? It was the Chinese star (a staple of 80s films) smart bomb.

Well, it’s got a science fiction vibe, as the invaders have bladed weapons that shoot lasers out of the butts and whenever the good guys strike with their bladed weapons, red electricity tingles. But.

I thought the film might be trying to capture some of the surreality of Legend, but Krull precedes it. I dunno. There’s a poorly seen Beast ruling the aliens who come down to defile the planet Krull and a damsel captured by it who wanders its surreal castle. Strange that Legend got this right, but this film did not.

At any rate, the film has a lot of similar tropes from 80s films that just sort of miss. It also features an early appearance by Liam Neeson and a scene where the protagonists who have to capture some firemounts, horses that can travel 1000 leagues in a day, and they do so by driving them into a canyon–much like in the Western book I’m currently reading. So I appreciated that.

If I had watched this film over and over in the 1980s on Showtime, I would have a greater affection for it, I think; however, even in this late date in the next century, I’m happy to know I have watched it. But it won’t be in regular, semi-decadical rotation.

Wednesday. Conan the Barbarian

On a recent time-killing trip to Barnes and Noble, I saw a volume of the Complete Chronicles of Conan by Robert E. Howard, so I took a look at the films on Amazon, and I saw they proffered as a recommendation Red Sonja, so I told my wife she was lucky I didn’t order the films. She said something along the lines of that it would be okay, I hope, because I did. Which explains the latter bit of my week.

I’d never seen Conan the Barbarian except for bits, and I’ve quoted parts of it, so I watched it (finally) to restore my credibility. And, wow.

Where Krull had a story, it lacked the framework of epic. Conan the Barbarian has that, from the frame story to the score to the scenes of riding horses. Oh, yeah, it has James Earl Jones as the bad guy, and a lot of bastard swords being swung.

I understand the remake is just gore poured into a template. I have to wonder if, as our culture becomes less literate in the sense of books and only whatever in the terms of films (a la Quentin Tarantino) we lose a depth that makes the splatter relevant.

Thursday. Conan the Destroyer

This film picks another Conan adventure, wherein he goes out to… Erm…. Excuse me, I’ve written this after the whole week, so it’s a bit swirled. Conan is promised by a queen that she’ll resurrect his love, Valeria, if he accompanies a virgin on a quest to get a mystical horn. Conan agrees and gathers his band together, and they retrieve the horn which the queen then uses to reanimate an evil god.

It’s a pretty good piece of epic filmmaking.

Friday. Red Sonja

This film features Brigitte Nielsen as Red Sonja, a woman whose family are killed by an evil warrior queen. A priestess sister tasks Sonja with finding and destroying a talisman that might be powerful enough to destroy the world.

The film was produced by Dino De Laurentiis, the guy behind the Conan films, so it stars a number of the same people (Schwarzeneggar and Sandahl Bergman) and hits a lot of the same themes. Still, I liked it a lot, although it gets a lot of negative reviews on the Internet. Perhaps it’s because this was one of the films I watched over and over on Showtime.

The film also features Ernie Reyes, Jr., the karate kid from the Gil Gerard television program Sidekicks. It seems like I’ve seen a number of things with him in it, but maybe I just saw commercials for Sidekicks and this film over and over to make him seem more ubiquitous in the 1980s than he really was. Also, he’s older than I am. That didn’t seem the way back in the day, but Ralph Macchio is 50, so I guess the time warp of older actors playing younger characters explains it.

So that’s how I spent my week: immersed in old timey films, and enjoying them for the most part. I’ve promised my wife this won’t become a regular occurrence, though: she loses me enough to football on Sundays.

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4 thoughts on “Surviving 80s Sci-Fi/Fantasy Week

  1. You picked four of my favorites.

    I really liked Krull. When I was 17, I watched it so many times that I could recite the entire script, and did so on a long car trip.

    Red Sonya has some delicious bits of dialogue. Sometimes when people ask my wife and I how we met, I start telling the story of Red Sonya and see how long it takes them to figure out that I’m not being entirely truthful.

  2. As I might have said, if I had seen Krull in those formative years, I bet I’d have more affection for it, too. Kind of like I think of Sandahl Bergman as that woman from Hell Comes To Frogtown or watched 9 1/2 Ninjas over and over again.

    Affection built up in late adolescence is very strong. You can’t really experience it on new material when you’re older.

  3. That is an astute observation.

    My own fondness for the comic book series Ninja High School is probably rooted more in the time of my life during which I first encountered it than its own merits.

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