A deep dive into 1982 cinema or the movies that helped shape a young mind
As I've done the weekly post on "This year in Horror Films", I've tried to highlight other movies that people may not know about or that had an impact on me - i.e. all my weirdness and love of strange things. When I hit the year 1982, I was shocked to see just how many of my favorite movies premiered during that year. Many of these I saw in the theaters, but a few were seen later on VHS or TMC or cable.
If I'm thankful for one thing from my father - it's his complete lack of censorship in my developmental years. Of course, I'm joking. If something questionable came on he told me to cover my eyes. This stopped a good 15 to 25% of the visuals from getting in.
It did however allow 100% of the audio in so I'm not sure how effective it was in the end.
Okay, so of course many of the highest-grossing films played an important part in helping warp - I mean develop - my personality and love of cinema. While some I didn't get or like in the 80s, I can appreciate them for what they are today - I'm looking at you #2 & 3. And when I was 8ish, I thought Whorehouse was more like horror-house, so you can guess my level of confusion whenever I caught bits and pieces on TMC. That said, you know these films and most likely the others I'm about to share, but maybe not and you just might find a new favorite or a hidden gem in my list of nonsense.
Presented in no specific order - Here we go ...
So take off you hoser, eh. This was my introduction to Canada and its unique outlook on life. A fun mix of SCTV sketch comedy and filled with pop culture references before that was a thing, Strange Brew follows the misadventures of 2 brothers. If you love hockey, beer, or Canadians, eh ... this is the movie for you. It's a rent/buy to stream but I've seen it from time to time on Prime.
Blurb - Canada's most famous hosers, Bob and Doug McKenzie, get jobs at the Elsinore Brewery, only to learn that something is rotten with the state of it.
Airplane II: The Sequel takes a tried and true recipe for success and pummels it into submission. Yes, it's more of the same as Airplane, but it still has some good laughs. Stream it on Starz.
Blurb - A faulty computer causes a passenger space shuttle to head straight for the Sun. Can Ted Striker save the day and get the shuttle back on track - again?
Night Shift offers a lot of firsts. It's Ron Howard's first studio picture. It's Michael Keaton's first starring vehicle after doing some TV work. It's the first time I realized Fonzie wasn't always the Fonz. It's even Shannon Doherty's debut.
You can't tell from the preview, but it's a very funny movie. I think TMC played this every day for years. I seem to remember it as a staple in the background. You can stream it on Starz.
Blurb - A morgue attendant is talked into running a brothel at his workplace after a deceased pimp is sent there. However, the pimp's killers don't look too kindly on this new 'business', nor does the morgue's owner.
2 lessons can be learned from early 80s Hollywood. First, the world is full of prostitutes with hearts of Gold - see Night Shift. And maybe people should have seen the Harvey Weinstein stuff coming. Movies, especially teen to early adult comedies, were awfully "rapey" back then.
Zapped! has Porky's to blame for this as that movie's success made the producers go back and add even more sex and nudity to get the coveted "R" rating. It stars Scott Baio and Willie Aames before they went on to do Charles in Charge on TV and introduced Heather Thomas before she got a co-starring role on The Fall Guy. It would have been interesting to see what the movie was before they added everything to bump the rating up. Not sure where you can see this one, but I've seen it from time to time on Prime.
Blurb - A high school science nerd gains telekinetic powers after a laboratory accident and uses them for revenge upon bullies.
Sure Grease had John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, but it didn't have one of my earliest crushes - Michelle Pfeiffer - so obviously Grease 2 is better. You want to talk about a movie played on a loop, TMC made sure you had a number of chances to watch it every week. I haven't seen it in years, and I just cringed so hard watching the trailer I may need to go see a chiropractor, but when I was 7-10 I watched this movie way too much.
This was my generation's High School Musical if HSM was full of guys trying to score with every ounce of their being. This is funny because after this flopped at the box office, Disney held off plans for the next one until they released it ... as High School Musical. Stream it on Starz and AMC+
Side note - I saw a production of Grease, years later, and Adrian Zmed (Nogerelli) was playing Travolta's role. He was great and I had to rethink my stance on which was a better film.
Blurb - A British student at a 1960s American high school must prove himself to the leader of a girls' gang whose members can only date greasers.
Deathtrap wasn't the kind of movie I would have normally been drawn towards at age 7 or 8. It feels a little too stuffy to catch my attention. But then again, seeing this movie might be the reason I watched such a wide variety of films growing up. This film was another that TMC liked to shove down your throat, and I don't know if that's why I saw it or if my father sat down with me to watch it.
Based on the play by Ira Levin - the writer of Rosemary's Baby, this movie may have given me a love for the "who done it" mystery. It's filled with a series of twists and turns that lead the audience through several trails as they criss-cross over one another. Caine and Reeves are spectacular in the film. Another one you have to rent/buy to watch.
Blurb - A Broadway playwright puts murder in his plan to take credit for a student's play.
Next up I'm combining the 3 amazing animated films that came out in 1982. I'm a big fan of Disney, but they have a reputation for producing feel-good cookie-cutter animated films. Of course, there are exceptions but movies like these 3 are what made me love animation as a story-telling device. Add in Ralph Bakshi and we've got another post altogether ...
If you were a kid in the 80s, you saw these movies ... a lot. I'm not sure about later generations unless you were my kid or a friend of my kid - because he saw them and shared them.
I have a memory of seeing a poster in German for the Secret of Nimh and asking my mother about it. Like she always did when I showed curiosity or interest, she went out and got me the book. Then when the movie was available we saw it in the theater. I just remember how amazing the colors were, how real the characters felt as I watched their struggle, and how terrifying the villains were when they finally revealed themselves. While the story is for children, and it was packaged in a "cartoon", this movie is so much more.
Don Bluth thought so highly of the project, he left Disney animation when they refused to take on the project. They felt it was too dark and mature a subject for commercial success. They may have been right. The rating board gave the film a "G" rating which the creators felt hurt with the older viewers who might have been interested. However, the real issue was releasing the film while E.T. was dominating the Box Offices. While the movie did well in the theaters that carried it, many theaters simply couldn't find room to play it while they were raking in the dough. Remember this was before the big multiplex. Many theaters only played on a handful of screens.
Stream it on Prime.
Blurb - To save her ill son, a field mouse must seek the aid of a colony of rats, with whom she has a deeper link than she ever suspected.
Next up we have The Last Unicorn. This Rankin/Bass Company production is filled with stars before it was the norm to have big named actors' voice animation. Or perhaps they were just big named stars to me at the time because of the films and TV shows I enjoyed watching. Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Christopher Lee, Angela Lansbury, Alan Arkin, Robert Klein, and Rene Auberjonois all offered amazing performances that bring this fantasy world alive.
If you love fantasy stories with knights, magic, and mystical creatures and you haven't seen this movie ... you're doing yourself a disservice. Stream it on tubi and IMDBTV - Amazon's free service. Oh, and make sure you get the PG-13 version. The G version available now has been edited to remove stuff they got away with in 1982.
Blurb - A beautiful unicorn sets out to learn if she truly is the last of her kind in this sparkling animated musical.
Last up we have Plague Dogs, from the creative minds that brought us the 1978 Watership Down. Based on the book by Richard Adams (writer of both Plague Dogs and Watership Down), Martin Rosen's movie is considered another dark piece of animation. This is in part because the film was based on the original manuscript. A manuscript the powers that be convinced Adams to tone down at the end. The movie did not reflect those changes. It was the last movie in the US to get a rating of PG-13 or R until 1999's South Park. Side note - PG-13 didn't exist when the movie was released so it is one of the only films to go from PG to PG-13 when it did come into existence in 1985.
Stream it on tubi and Pluto.
Blurb - Two dogs escape from a laboratory and are hunted as possible carriers of the bubonic plague.
Is Megaforce a terrible movie? Probably, but it's the right kind of terrible in my book. First, we have Barry Bostwick, Brad from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as Ace Hunter. Second ... Ace Hunter, I mean come on, with a name like that how could they go wrong? Third, a lot of this movie was designed by the toy company Mattel. So you can see how that's a win. Fourth, did I mention the guy from Rocky Horror being Ace Hunter?
This movie is the kind of weird, outside-the-box cinema my father gave me a love for early on. I guess that's why it's on the list. That and Ace Hunter. I mean come on!
Fine if that's not enough. Matt Stone and Trey Parker are fans and used this movie as the basis for their puppet movie, Team America. If you can't watch it at their place, you're forced to rent/buy this baby to stream.
Blurb - Story about a rapid deployment defense unit that is called into action whenever freedom is threatened.
I'm a huge Jim Henson fan. So really all you need to do is slap his name on it and I'm gonna check it out. The bonus here is this movie is pretty amazing. Written by David Odell, who did The Muppet Show, Supergirl, and Masters of the Universe, and directed by Henson and Oz, Dark Crystal was a throwback to the dark and scary stories of the Grimm Brothers. Henson felt kids liked being scared and he wanted to embrace that philosophy with this movie.
While it did well in the US, many parents did find it too dark. That said it was the highest-grossing film in France and Japan in 1983. You can stream it on Starz.
Blurb - On another planet in the distant past, a Gelfling embarks on a quest to find the missing shard of a magical crystal, and to restore order to his world.
So the final 3 movies had maybe the largest impact on my tiny little brain. First up is the Ridley Scott classic, Blade Runner. If you are interested now in seeing this movie, there are like 5 versions to choose from. Back in 1982, you got one and you were happy with that ... even though you had to listen to Harrison Ford's voice-over explanation at the beginning. One he didn't believe was necessary so he did a terrible job of it thinking there was no way they'd include it ... which of course, the powers-that-be did.
This was my first introduction to Rutger Hauer, even though he was in Nighthawks a year earlier. I wouldn't see that film for another year or two. All the replicants are amazing, the set designs are fantastic, and the film is just so beautifully shot. This was the movie I compared all science fiction movies against for years. If you don't own it, why not? It's a rent/buy to own to stream. Get the Blu-ray with all the versions. Do a deep dive.
Blurb - A blade runner must pursue and terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space, and have returned to Earth to find their creator.
I think I've established I'm a sucker for a sword and sorcery movie, and Conan the Barbarian might be the best one ever made. Oliver Stone wrote the original script, John Milius - a tremendous writer himself, who rewrote much of Stone's work to get the cost down - directs it, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was made to play this part. Add in the amazing score, the top-notch sets / special effects, and the incredible actors they got to play throughout the movie and you have a must-see action/adventure movie. Stream it on Peacock.
Blurb - A young boy, Conan, becomes a slave after his parents are killed and tribe destroyed by a savage warlord and sorcerer, Thulsa Doom. When he grows up he becomes a fearless, invincible fighter. Set free, he plots revenge against Thulsa Doom.
Another action movie star was starting a new franchise as Sylvester Stallone came out with First Blood. The world got a chance to meet Rambo in a different light than that of the novel released in the 70s. While the story is pretty much the same, Stallone made some changes to both his character and that of the sheriff. It made for a different ending and a chance to continue the character in future projects. You can stream it on amc+.
Author's note - This was one of my favorite movies to reenact as a kid with my G.I. Joes. Video games weren't very advanced at the time, and I was an only child so I spent hours playing and re-imagining action films like this one, Mad Max, and Commando with the help of a pretty large collection of G.I. Joe figures and vehicles. I still remember when I found an 18-wheeler in the same scale as my Joe's - hello Road Warrior.
Blurb - A veteran Green Beret is forced by a cruel Sheriff and his deputies to flee into the mountains and wage an escalating one-man war against his pursuers.
Okay so enough about 1982. Time to look ahead, and see what horror movies dominated 1984 and beyond, am I right?
So wait, did I say I was done? Guess not as I've found 3 more that didn't download to the site. So here we have an action film, a fantasy sword & sorcery movie, and a comedy noir mashup. All three equally great in their own way and all three in heavy rotation in young Eric's movie viewing.
1 - Firefox - A pilot is sent into the Soviet Union on a mission to steal a prototype jet fighter that can be partially controlled by a neuralink. Rent/buy to watch.
2 - The Beastmaster - A sword-and-sorcery fantasy about a young man's search for revenge. Armed with supernatural powers, the handsome hero and his animal allies wage war against marauding forces. You can watch this gem on Prime.
3 - Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid - Film noir parody with a detective uncovering a sinister plot. Characters from real noirs appear as scenes from various films are intercut. Rent/buy to watch.
Okay now I'm done ... really. I've given you enough here to go watch.