Some of us were infants, while others of us were riding skateboards shouting at the top of our lungs that Raiders of the Lost Ark would never be surpassed as the greatest film ever. Some of us weren’t even born yet. But exactly thirty summers ago, it was 1982, and an army of famous genre films hit the movie screens. The Alamo Drafhouse in Austin, TX is celebrating this memorable time by screening all of these films throughout this summer. Below, the Tor.com staff chimes in with our thoughts and memories on each of these (mostly) classic films.
The Drafhouse originally choose 8 movies, but then expanded the list. We’ve included their whole list below, but check out this great trailer they made for the initial 8:
On to the films!
Vice Squad (May 9)
Bridget: I’ve got nothing, either, so here’s a fun fact: Vice Squad star Wings Hauser apparently provided the vocals on the film’s opening and closing theme song, “Neon Slime.” That sentence has the primal stink of the Eighties all over it…
Conan the Barbarian (May 11)
Ryan: My memories of Conan are a little fuzzy. I feel like I saw both back to back on video and/or cable, and I like Conan: The Destroyer way more. I’m sure Conan purists would say I was crazy, but really, there’s a giant snake AND Grace Jones in that one.
Emily: This movie came at me in bits and pieces, but I remember loving the absurdity of it. I agree, though, The Destroyer was better. Grace Jones was terrifying.
Irene: I was 12 in ’82 and I have two older brothers—somehow, we came out of the theatre with my mom proclaiming it to be fantastic. As a kid, two scenes freaked me out and remain clear to me to this day—the boy Conan holding his mother’s lopped off hand and Thulsa Doom’s slave girl jumping off the balcony. The movie’s lasting effect on us, however, was listening to the soundtrack in the car, (on cassette, of course) for months. All in the all, it’s a movie I say I love but I’m a little sacred to watch it again (see: The Suck Fairy). Also, guys, anyone that places Grace above James Earl gets two demerits.
Bridget: Nope, I’m with Ryan and Emily, here: Grace Jones > James Earl Jones, at least when it comes to the Conan movies. It’s a shame there weren’t more sequels—I would pay good money to see Schwarzenegger take on an all-Jones army (George, Davy, Shirley, Tommy Lee, Spike…it could have been epic).
The Road Warrior (May 18)
Ryan: Again, this is a situation where I really preferred the next sequel. If you don’t have Tina Turner, and you don’t have Thunderdome, I don’t understand why I’m watching.
Emily: Small me liked its color palette and ridiculous costumes. And that’s about all I ever recall of it.
Irene: I work with children! Man, I saw this in the theater and loved it. Australia was so exotic to my pre-teen suburban mind. I loved the action, the copter pilot for comedic relief, and the dark ironic ending. And, come to think of it, it may have been the first time I came across a gay character in media. Certainly it was the most matter-of-fact depiction of a gay relationship I had seen at that point. (Also, I remember my brother making the leg-brace and gun as part of a costume. And that was cool.)
Bridget: Again, I’m with Ryan on this…without Aunty Entity and an excuse to chant “Master Blaster,” I’m a little lost, but I remember thinking it would be great to be a badass feral kid, armed with a boomerang. Part of me still does, if we’re being honest.
Rocky III (May 25)
Ryan: God, I’m a broken record here. Rocky III is inferior to Rocky IV in every conceivable way. Yes, he fights Apollo Creed in this one, but Rocky IV has Ivan Drago in it. All of the Rockys (Rockies?) after the first one are awful, awful, awful. But, if you’re going to watch one, it should be the one with the most kitsch appeal, which isn’t Rocky III.
Emily: All the Rocky movies kind of meld into one mega-movie for me. I have a feeling this is better than any of the movies individually.
Irene: Is this the “Eye of the Tiger” one? If so, I hated it if only because you couldn’t escape references to it. Or the song. Sorry, Rambo killed all Stallone movies for me.
Bridget: Yes, this is the “Eye of the Tiger” one. Guys, I’m from Philly. I grew up with that crazy statue of Rocky at the entrance to the art museum; my feelings are complex, and also if I say anything bad I can never go home again, so let’s just go with, “Boo, hiss, Mr. T! RIP, Burgess Meredith.” And of course, the love story between Rocky and Apollo Creed is pretty great, too.
Poltergeist (June 1)
Ryan: Scared me too much as a child. Have never watched it since.
Emily: This was one of my favorites growing up. So scary, but for some reason the kind of scary I could handle. Any time it was on, my parents and I watched it. People disappearing into televisions, evil money-grubbing men messing with graves, and the coolest lady psychic who ever saved a whole family from a host of vengeful spirits. There is nothing about this movie that I would change.
Irene: I so remember watching this through my fingers. Terrifying without being the kind of teen-torture movie so prevalent in horror movies of the time. I wonder how it holds up?
Bridget: I love Poltergeist. Fantastic cast, Spielberg at the absolute height of his creative powers—it manages to be so scary, and so much fun at the same time. I definitely think it holds up, at least for me. And I still hate that horrible, freaky clown doll, after all these years.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (June 3)
Ryan: Obviously this was my favorite movie for a certain period of grade school. As an adult, I think Nicholas Meyer is 100% responsible for saving Star Trek and making it a viable, mainstream concept. That being said, the standards this movie set for Star Trek have been emulated over and over again with mixed results. I’ve said it before; Star Trek needs to get over Khan, or it will be powered by nothing but nostalgia.
Bridget: I will defer to the Trek experts on this one. I’m busy trying to come up with the perfect mashup of “Montalbán” and “Cumberbatch.” It’s…not going well.
Emily: Can’t talk about it, still too busy crying over Spock’s death scene.
Irene: I’ll also leave this to our Trek guys above, but this made up for the Star Trek: The Motion Sickness debacle, and then some.
Escape 2000 (June 6)
Ryan: Always wanted to rent this from the local video store. Awesome movie poster.
Emily: I’m wary of anything with 2000 in the title. Except 2001.
Bridget: Also known as Turkey Shoot, or Blood Camp Thatcher. I actually think this sounds like a lot of weird fun, maybe? Has anyone actually seen it?
E.T. (June 8)
Ryan: A nearly perfect movie. My rage over Spielberg taking out the guns and replacing them with walkie-talkie in the DVD release is even stronger than being upset by the changes in Star Wars by George Lucas. This is probably because this is technically the first movie I ever saw. I was in a car seat while my parents watched it in the drive-in.
Emily: Add this to the list of films that led to my expectation that I should have either a robot or an alien for a best friend. Honestly, I always thought the greatest triumph of this movie was making it so easy for viewers to tap into the emotions of those kids. All I have to do is look at Elliott and I tear up.
Irene: Here’s one that I waited on line for hours to see. We were already big Spielberg fans from CE3K (which, to tell the truth, I liked better than Star Wars, then and now) and from Raiders (the best movie ever.) It did not disappoint. Outsider kid with older, D&D-playing, siblings, this was me! (The full set of E.T. cards I collected as a kid are right behind me in my office.)
Bridget: In E.T., and also Close Encounters, Spielberg does such an amazing job of capturing suburbia—with affectionate familiarity, but also with a sense of what’s really missing, deep down. Even though it’s a mega-blockbuster, E.T. still feels like a deeply personal, sincere film, at least to me.
The Sword and the Sorcerer (June 20)
Ryan: Never seen it. But can it be better than Dungeons and Dragons with Jeremy Irons? Can anything?
Emily: Didn’t see it either. It doesn’t look like many people did….
Bridget: I may have seen this? Or I might be confusing it with an episode of Mystery Science Theater. How about we just watch Willow instead? Willow is awesome.
The Thing (June 22)
Ryan: What a perfect horror film. I will never watch it again, because I will then worry I am the Thing.
Irene: I’d really like to see this again—it would be almost new to me. I can’t remember if I saw it in the theater or on cable. Either way, it was a bit harsh for pre-teen me. I don’t think I really undertood the paranoia it evoked. Funny, I certainly undertood being scared (and loved Alien for it) but I wonder if paranoia is an emotion you pick up later in life? The only thing I truly remember about it is Harlan Ellison at I-CON calling it “attack of the spaghetti people.”
Emily: Yeah, this one got me. Can’t watch it again.
Bridget: Nice. Screening The Thing, in Texas, in the middle of summer, actually sounds like a pretty brilliant move. And since the Alamo serves alcohol, you’ve got the makings of a fantastic drinking game…
The Secret of NIMH (July 1)
Ryan: A no-look, reverse slam-dunk. I’ve read Mrs. Frisby and The Rats of Nimh numerous times, and the subsequent book report in 4th grade achieved near Ulysses status in my mind. The movie is a fine adaptation of a great kid’s book, and considering what it depicts, fairly risky.
Emily: I count this among a special list of films called “They Did What in Animation?” It one of those movies that you love as a kid, then you watch it when you’re older and think… I liked some really twisted stuff. They are the best kinds of movies.
Bridget: I actually have a post coming up about this movie—one of my favorites, and one I try to watch every few years (all the best kids’ movies are pretty twisted, right? See also: The Last Unicorn, below).
Irene: How did I not see this!? I was the perfect age. I’ll rent it after I read Bridget’s essay on it.
Tron (July 6)
Ryan: One of my very best friends watches Tron every year on his birthday. He’s the only person I know who can quote every single line. It’s a terrible movie that makes almost no sense (“pure energy?” What?) but I love it because it’s a terrible movie.
Irene: I remember, even as a kid, wanting to like this movie more than I did. “A” for effort, but it fell flat.
Emily: It’s great and all, but I prefer Jeff Bridges in Starman.
Bridget: Whoa, Emily. Wow. Okay, I love this movie as camp, but that’s as far as I can go. I didn’t see it until I was older, though, so maybe I missed the window where every single thing about it didn’t seem intentionally ridiculous (in a really fun way!).
Pink Floyd’s The Wall (July 9)
Irene: Whatever? Ryan! I saw this at my older brother’s college screening. Meat grinders, animation, no eyebrows! This was so perfect for a “non-conformist” snot teen. I felt so edgy. Also, it was one of the first records I ever bought with my own money.
Emily: It’s Pink Floyd, what more do you want? (Though if I’m perfectly honest, I’d watch The Who’s Tommy first.)
Bridget: Cool. Personally, I would probably just sync up Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz, but only because I prefer Judy Garland to Bob Geldof.
Class of 1984 (July 10)
Ryan: What is this?
Emily: It’s a class you were not in, Ryan. Don’t despair.
Bridget: I have seen the sequel to the sequel of this movie (thanks, Cinemax!): Class of 1999 II: The Substitute. It’s my opinion that we should all despair.
Friday the 13th Part 3 3D (July 13)
Ryan: Proof that 3D movies have sucked for a long, long time.
Emily: Did they think 3D was clever because it was part 3? Ugh.
Bridget: If you’re into the Friday the 13th movies at all, this is arguably one of the “better” ones (and Jason wears a hockey mask for the first time—cinema history in the making, people. Smell the glamour).
Irene: Never saw it, and my memory is extremely dim on Part 1.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (July 17)
Ryan: Isn’t this a movie with Nicholas Cage?
Emily: Is it the Cage movie with the bees in it?
Chris: I think it’s the Cage movie where he loses his hand and marries Cher.
Bridget: In all seriousness, this is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I remember renting it with my brother, because we thought the cover of the VHS looked spooky and awesome—turns out it has nothing to do with Michael Myers and everything to do with total idiocy. This movie makes Nicholas Cage and his bees look like (sweaty) Hepburn and (angry, swarming) Tracy.
Irene: I kinda/sorta rememebr Part 1. And, really, why would you ever need more…parts?
Chris: Parts is parts.
Q: The Winged Serpent (July 24)
Ryan: Something to love about high-concept 80s fantasy films: the posters make a terrible movie look totally sick. I’m sure this movie is unwatchable, but I would put that poster up in my apartment right now.
Emily: Candy Clark and David Carradine are in this?! This movie must be brilliant. (Though the plot sounds the same as that ’98 Godzilla remake.)
Bridget: Also starring Richard Roundtree, as Not-Shaft. I love the tagline: “Its name is Quetzalcoatl… just call it Q, that’s all you’ll have time to say before it tears you apart!” …wait, what? I want to know exactly how much cocaine went into the making of this film.
Irene: Ryan, I was going to say the same about the poster! And amazingly enough, I am now good friends with Boris [Vallejo]. Life is so strange.
The Dark Crystal (July 28)
Ryan: Another film that scared the crap out of me when I was a kid, and is still hard for me to watch now. But, it’s quite brilliant. Also a little unsettling when you find out it’s not a documentary, and these creatures are puppets and not real things.
Emily: I was a little older when I actually saw this film for the first time (a teenager rather than a little kid). It was probably for the best; none of the imagery scarred me for life, and I really appreciated the message. It’s also just plain beautiful to look at. Brian Froud FTW again.
Irene: Bridget wrote so well about this movie during Muppet Week. I’ll just add that despite it not being the best story, it had a tremendous effect on me as a kid. Henson’s dedication to storytelling and craft is undeniable. I drew from the “Art Of ” books for years. The visuals were so ingrained into the story itself—it made me realize the power of collaboration to create a larger, more immersive world.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (August 12)
Ryan: There is a way for me to care less about this movie, but mostly I think I’d rather watch Weird Science.
Emily: Weird Science all the way. Mostly for the Oingo Boingo theme song.
Bridget: I have no idea how this holds up—probably not very well—but I remember really liking Judge Reinhold and Ray Walston and Baby Sean Penn in it when I was little. And sometimes I like to use the word “spicoli” as a verb.
Irene: Checkered sneakers is all I got.
The Last Unicorn (August 25)
Ryan: Read the book when I was very young and wept at a level which was appropriate for my age (21.) Never saw the film. Seeing a unicorn is supposed to be a really big deal, so if I see the last one, then I’m screwed for life, right? I think I’d rather delay this inevitable disappointment for as long as possible.
Emily: Confession time—never seen this movie, never read the book. I know, these are huge gaps if I’m ever going to earn that degree in unicornology.
Bridget: Another post in the works, actually—love the book, but I was straight up obsessed with this movie as a kid. I remember being four or five and demanding to dress up all in white all the time (which I’m sure my mom loved), and I’ve really never stopped watching it, over the years. It’s so strange, and so unlike anything else I liked as a child. Brilliant.
Irene: Emily, me too! Let’s form a support group. Or at least a viewing party.
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