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Friday, March 06, 2015

Some Great SF Movies of the 1980s!

There's a rather delightful post over at

on the subject of fantasy movies of the 1980s, ranking eighteen of them. I must admit, there were some of the list of which I had not heard, probably with good reason, others which I remember with great fondness. This was the era of speculative fiction movies - there was at least one on every school holidays.

My favourites on that list were The Princess Bride, Excalibur, The Neverending Story, Labyrinth and Highlander, though I could understand adding Willow(one of Warwick Davis's first films - he was only 18 at the time, and was the head Ewok in Return Of The Jedi) and Clash Of The Titans, which was not a very good film, but was lucky enough to have the SFX of Ray Harryhausen and deserves to be seen if only for those. It was his last film. I found Conan The Barbarian a disappointment on a re-view. Dull, dull, dull!  Legend : another dull film that had fabulous effects. The unicorn was gorgeous and Tom Curry's make-up as the demon was wonderful, though he didn't have much to do. But go to the web site and check it out for yourself. 

It's a pity the list didn't include SF movies, because one of my favourites would have been The Last Starfighter, which I think may have been Robert Preston's last film; I still watch it occasionally. It's delightfully - intentionally - silly, with Robert Preston as an alien who has set up a computer game called Starfighter on Earth in hopes of recruiting real starfighters, gunners who can fight from spaceships against a real menace somewhere far off in the galaxy. The young hero, who is not quite good enough to get into his university of choice, is a fabulous computer game player and finds himself whisked off to fight the bad guys using those skills. Yes, I know, silly, but probably not much sillier than the premise of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, and that worked out fine, didn't it? And became a classic?

I was delighted to get Tron on DVD. Both this and The Last Starfighter  did some "firsts" in computer animation. But the stories were a delight. Pity someone made a sequel to Tron; it just wasn't as good. In the far superior original, Jeff Bridges was the computer game designer who is pulled into his own computer game, where he encounters Tron, the hero of his game, who helps other computer characters. The title role was played by Bruce Boxleitner, who went on to play the role of Captain John Sheridan, station commander, in Seasons 2-4 of Babylon 5, and in one scene Bridges encounters and has to fight a character played by Peter Jurasik, who, as  Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari, got some of the best lines in Babylon 5.

And there was Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home, still my favourite of all the Trek movies. That's the one with the whales, and that joyous music as the whales romp in the ocean of 23rd century Earth. The one where Kirk doesn't get the girl and Spock experiments with swearing and Chekhov, lying on a hospital trolley and not quite awake, implies he's after Kirk's job. Walter Koenig, by the way, was another Babylon 5 cast member, and made a great villain. And Scotty, in a glass factory, tries to speak to the computer using a mouse, then uses the keyboard with great proficiency.

I watch that to cheer me up when I'm feeling low.

Another one I watch to cheer myself is the 1980 movie of Flash Gordon. It's great fun, played with tongue firmly in cheek. Chaim Topol, best known as Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof, was scientist Dr Zharkov, the delectable Tomothy Dalton, a future James Bond, was Prince Barin, Brian Blessed was Prince Vultan of the Hawk Men- you may have seen him in Blackadder 1 as King Richard IV, or in   I,Claudius as the Emperor Augustus or even in Dr Who as a barbarian chieftain... No, probably not unless you're my age...   and Max Von Sydow, star of many a Swedish movie and Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told, was Ming The Merciless. And that score by Queen is absolutely perfect! You can see the actors are having a ball. I once won a prize at a SF convention masquerade as a lady of the court of Ming The Merciless, back in the days when I was embroidering a lot with sequins and I had the figure to carry it off. 

And who could forget the classic Back To The Future? Michael J Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as the delightful Dr Emmett Brown? Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover, who played as his parents, were actually not much older than the teenagers they played in the 1950s scenes and had to be made up to look middle aged. Lea Thompson said she wore her make up home once to shock her own parents! You couldn't do a remake now, not with the 1950s settings because the 1950s are too far away. 

What about you? Any favourites?

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