Sunday, November 13, 2005

S/F Films in 1981

Second year in the decade and a good year for s/f movies. At least in my humble opinion. Here we go:

The Oscar for Best Picture that year went to Chariots of Fire. Don’t remember much about this movie. It could be good; it could be bad. I don’t remember much about it except that it’s about athletes competing in the Olympics at the turn of the last century. This is what I do remember; it’s an early example of a music video. There’s a slow-motion scene of athletes running along the beach to a tune by Vangelis (and, yeah, I had to look up the composer's name).

These are the movies from 1981 that I do remember. And clearly. (Yes, I wonder about me sometimes, too.)

First is one of my favorite movies of all time – Raiders of the Lost Ark. The advertising tagline was: “The creators of JAWS (Spielberg) and STAR WARS (Lucas) now bring you the ultimate hero in the ultimate adventure.” And it was true. A terrific film. Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones and Karen Allen is Marion (the best of Indy’s leading ladies). And let’s not forget Paul Freeman as Belloq. He’s on my top-ten list of best villains.

Also that year: Superman 2 -- this movie is one of the best of the comic-book/graphic-novel adaptations. The Road Warrior -- the best Mel Gibson as Mad Max films. Both are solid entertainments.

In 1981 there were several good (but not great s/f) movies. The list would include: An American Werewolf in London, John Carpenter’s Escape from New York with Kurt Russell, John Boorman’s Excalibur, Outland with Sean Connery, Scanners with its classic head-exploding scene, Time Bandits, and Wolfen. All have their flaws but are definitely noteworthy.

At the other end of the scale were the sequels to Friday the 13th and Halloween. Freddy and Michael deserved better than these follow-ups. Damien grows up in The Final Conflict: Omen 3. The first movie in the trilogy is terrific, this film ain’t. On the bad scale were also: Clash of the Titans, Little Shop of Horrors (the musical), and Michael Crichton’s Looker.

On most movie guides they have the listing BOMB. I created a new one for the last film of this list – CRAP BOMB. Once I heard an actor (I think it was George Peppard) asked why he made a series of bad films. He called them his “alimony movies.” He said he took the projects so he could make his alimony payments. I bring this up because Richard Harris is in this film and I hope they paid him a lot of alimony money. The film on my CRAP BOMB list is Tarzan, the Ape Man. John and Bo Derek took a beloved character and “crapped” on him. I’ve seen home movies on old 8mm that were better than this. I’m done now.

Coming soon: 1982.

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