Best Decade for Films โ€“ The 80s โ€“ Great Scott! – Part I

So, we are in 1985 a date which is directly linked with one, if not the best time travel film of all time. Back to the Future.

Around the middle of the 80s, denim was still a thing. After my fondness with my denim jacket and my fondness for the Six Million Dollar Man add the body warmer and you’ve got Marty Mcfly.

Strange fact is that I am the same age as Marty McFly, the character, not Michael J Fox, who was 7 years older than Marty. After watching Back to the Future Part 2 I was so worried about a fat receding hairline, grey hair and loss of the ability to play the guitar. Thankfully only one of those things occurred… plus I could never play the guitar, so that’s okay. I’m referring to the grey flecks, not the apparent need to wear a fake forehead.

Considered by many to be the perfect movie due to it’s universal appeal, easy to follow plot, great scenes throughout, brilliantly played characters, lots of action and tension with the big payoff at the end and possible sequel.

If you haven’t seen it, it concerns a 17 year old Marty Mcfly that accidentally gets sent back in time, disrupts the first meeting of his parents and has to come up with a plan with the younger version of his friend Doctor Emmett Brown to bring them back together and return back to the future. Hence the name.

It was a summer movie in America released on July 3rd 1985, directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Zemeckis (l) and Bob Gale(r), and presented by Steven Spielberg like the previous years Gremlins.

In the first week of opening in July it hit number one in the US box office for that Independence Day weekend. Other notable films at the time included Clint Eastwood in Pal Rider at number 2, Cocoon at number 3, followed by Rambo II, The Goonies, Return to Oz and A View to a Kill the latest James Bond movie with Roger Moore, which was Roger’s last Bond Role.

If anyone is asking why Goonies wasn’t in my favourite 80s movies, I missed it at the cinema and when I eventually saw it, it just didn’t feel relevant to me. Sorry Goonies fans.

In the UK, we didn’t get it until December 4th 1985, so at least it stayed in the right year.

For me it was a cold December night and I headed out alone to see the movie. It was amazing. I related to the main character and having a weird old professor as a friend seemed cool, plus one subject I will always love is time travel. Since Doctor Who, George Pal’s Time Machine, Planet of the Apes, Time After Time, Time Bandits, The Terminator and The Philadelphia Experiment and a tonne more I love the idea of traveling through the fourth dimension to the past, future, alternative realities and the whole idea of What If!

One of my most favourite sequences from a film has to be from the 1960 George Pal, The Time Machine. It features animation, time-lapse photography and lots of George Pal effects. Plus the time machine itself designed my MGM Art Director Bill Ferrari is amazing work. If there is one couch I’d love in my living room with a spinning disk in the back, I’d have this one.

The time machine itself was featured in Gremlins from the previous year. Plus if you watch the sequence above in 1966 some of the guards were wearing very familiar costumes. The same outfits worn by the crew of C-57D on their way to Altair IV in Forbidden Planet from 1956, only four years before this film was made.

Anyway, back to the future… ehem. The night of the great storm, erm… the night I saw the movie it was my regular Blyth cinema, The Wallaw. Home to many a cinema visits over the years.

I started with a curiosity of the clocks in the Doc’s garage through to the apparrent death of the Doc!! Travelling back, meeting his mom, finding the Doc, getting his parents back together and after a tense literal edge of your seat sequence on the clock tower a cheer when Marty got back and a flying fricking Delorean. Woah! That’s heavy!

There are not many films I remember the exact feelings whilst watching any film at a cinema from that far back but I distinctly remember the butt clenching tension of Marty driving towards the wire with Doc struggling with the disconnected cable. That moment was a sharp intake of breath and was perfectly timed. Then those wires don’t reach, the slide down the cable, the cable snagged on trousers. Every single beat perfectly timed. That first ending is brilliant.

Brilliant. Absolutely perfect.

This scene topped off more if you’ve seen the subsequent movies and realise another Marty ends up coming from the end of town to make the Doc faint.

It’s been mentioned before that the Hill Valley set has been used in a few other movies. It was also the same location for Kingston Falls from Gremlins. The Hill Valley Square and town hall is known as Courthouse Square and is actually on the Universal Studios backlot. It was also used in another film, To Kill a Mockingbird from 1962 and as mentioned by one of my readers the Ghost Whisperer from 2005 to 2010 with Jennifer Love Hewitt. This also featured appearances by Biff Tannen himself, actor, Tom Wilson. I love connections.

Speaking of actors, this film also had the most amazing cast.

Let’s start with Doctor Emmett Brown played by Christopher Lloyd.

Up to this point Christopher Lloyd was the only actor in the film I was familiar with. I wasn’t familiar with Family Ties, as it wasn’t a big thing on TV in the UK. But Christopher Lloyd, oh boy, he was one of my favourite comedy actors.

During the early 80s, the UK’s BBC deemed it suitable to show a strange American half hour TV show with a diverse cast that would go on to do many things. Danny Devito, Tony Danza, Andy Kaufman, Carol Kane, Jeff Conaway, and Christopher Lloyd as the drug addled Reverend Jim.

It’s interesting to see what the Reverend Jim looks like before his drug problem. Featuring another famous face…. Tom Hanks.

Along with Andy Kaufman as Latka, Jim and Latka were the funniest things on TV. Danny Devito didn’t do so badly either.

Christopher Lloyd has a habit of creating off the wall goofballs, from Rev Jim, and Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, that guy from Clue, Uncle Fester from the Addams Family films, John Bigboote from Buckaroo Banzai and even killing Captain Kirk’s son in Star Trek III : The Search for Spock and he will always be remembered as the excellent and timeless Doc Brown.

I distinctly remember him appearing on the UK TV chat show Wogan with the most bizarre interview ever.

If you want to see the awkward interview check it out below from when they were promoting Back to the Future 3. He’s opened up a lot since this interview and seems less reticent.

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Looking at his iMDB profile he might be well known for a few main characters but as a character actor he’s brought many live action, cartoon and video game charactars to life across the multi media universe.

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000502/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Gregory Pace/Shutterstock (10454909ac) Michael J Fox ‘Very Ralph’ film premiere, Arrivals, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA – 23 Oct 2019

As Family Ties was not as widely known in the UK we, or at least I, wasn’t really aware of Michael J Fox. I’d seem adverts for Teen Wolf, another of his films around that time, but I didn’t catch that until I rented it on video.

During his 80s films he tended to play younger characters than his own age and maintained that teen look for some years, in such films as The Secret of My Success (1987), Bright Lights Big City (1988) and still returning to teen Marty in Back to the Future Parts II and III even though by the end of the back to back filming of part III he was 28.

Turning 60 next year he’s still looks a lot younger than a lot of 60 year olds.

At age 29 in 1991 Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and partly retired from acting in 2000. Though he has voiced characters like Stuart Little from 1999 and Disney’s Altlantis The Lost Empire. Since then he’s made numerous appearances in films and TV shows including Boston Legal, Scrubs, Rescue Me and Designated Survivor and has also to date written four books about his life experiences.

He is also the co-founder of the Michael J Fox Foundation as stated on their website to

The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through an aggressively funded research agenda and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today.

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Thomas F. Wilson plays the bully Biff Tannen in all three of the BTTF films. From 1950’s Tannen, 80’s car detailing Tannen, to Western, Trump like and old Tannen.

As well as an all of that he’s been doing a lot of voice over work, films and lots of TV.

In his spare time he’s also got his Youtube channel where he will quite happily show you his painting skills and regularly pop in to sing a song whilst playing the guitar. Quite a talent.

A couple of my favourite songs are dealing with his experiences attending conventions and all of the same questions that are asked by fans about him, MJF and the BTTF trilogy.

Plus his Sci-fi convention. Great fun. Like and Subscribe.

I’m sure he doesn’t really mean it. ๐Ÿ™‚

And yes, Biff Tannen from BTTF II was modelled on Trump.

There was a recent Reunited whilst during lockdown. Fun to see great things that can come out of this zombie invasion.

We will be Back in the Future with Part II of this film coming soon.

Best Decade 80s – Indiana Who?

I’m afraid to say that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was the first Indy film I saw at the cinema. The shame, the shame.

In the 80s I was working my way through my teens and I was gently easing out of my pure Sci-fi and space stuff, but obviously not cutting them out completely, so a silly film about an archaeologist seemed a bit dull. It even sounds dull.

A decade later and Spielberg would be introducing us to more ‘ologists in Jurassic Park. In that case, we all went to see the ‘real’ dinosaurs.

My first real encounter prior to Raiders was flicking through a friends copy of the the movie adaption, probably the annual from 1982. I distinctly remember flicking through it and seeing the Alfred Molina character impaled on spikes. What kind of film was this? It’s horrifying… I need to see it.

The first time I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark it was on traditional TV hired from a VHS rental shop somewhere in the north east of England. Video rental shops were quite popular in the 80’s. Most of them had hand crafted white emulsioned shelves on the wall and were probably a converted hairdresser. Or you popped to your newsagent to see their limited stock. You have to shop around to see what each of them had in as they mostly likely only had one copy of the film and you’d have to wait for it to come back in. I rented quite a few of my favourites in those early days, such pure marvels like Police Academy, Mannequin, Ferris Bueller and Ice Pirates. More of my VHS days in another future post.

That Raiders film, seemed to be a popular film and it was directed by “that guy” who directed that oh-so popular film about that Alien. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. See my other blog post. You know the one with the toys and the Phone Home.

Plus it was produced by the guy who directed the first Star Wars film… which wasn’t as good as the second one which was better than Return of the Jedi from the previous year. Oh, and Star Wars was finished so I needed to get back into some Sci-fi with my old favourite Star Trek with the middle film of another favourite movie series Star Trek III The Search for Spock. Oh, and it was starring Han Solo.

I may as well give it a go and rent it. So we did. Those were my early 80’s thoughts. Steven Speilberg directed and George Lucas and Philip Kaufman came up with the story. Laurence Kasden, the same scriptwriter for The Empire Strikes Back wrote the screenplay.

In those days we didn’t have widescreen TVs, in the UK we had to put up with a 625 line, 4:3 ratio TV set with a huge clunky VHS player under it. The US had it even worse with NTSC with 525 lines so there was about a fifth of the pictures detail missing in the US compared to the UK. I do remember getting my own VHS player for my 21st birthday as I had started to amass quick a selection of CIC videos that I would have on constant rotation.

So the VHS tapes at that time, were produced using Pan and Scan. In this method you only see a small part of the full widescreen picture and lose the grandiose look of the cinema screen which was the treat when you went to the cinema. They had a tendency to crop off the side of the original or focus on important aspects of the shot when transferring from film to tape. Hard to do if your characters are standing at either side of the shot. I remember western films where there would be this jarring scan across the frame missing out on the desert vistas of Arizona just to fit the bad guy about the shoot the good guy.

It kind of fit for the saturday morning hero but Spielberg didn’t like pan and scan in 1990 when the last of the original Indy trilogy was released. Check out Siskel and Ebert talking about Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade from 1990.

Big screen and a big bucket of popcorn was the way to be but for home we had to put up with a near square TV.

The other option was to wait several years and catch the big movie being shown over Christmas.

The first UK showing of Raiders was on Christmas Day in 1984 which was the same year Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released. So if you hadn’t seen the second one, you could at least catch the first one on TV whilst tucking in to your After Eights, washing the pots and then finishing off the three or four Cadbury’s Selection boxes.

I would have watched it with everyone else and if I didn’t already own the VHS tape, which at that time were rather expensive, so I probably would have recorded it off the TV. It’s unfortunate that it was being shown on ITV as the action would be sometimes randomly intercut with adverts.

The BBC had Mary Poppins, Miss Marple, Keith Harris and Noel Edmonds.

Those were my general thoughts during Christmas in 1984. I was sixteen at that time, so I would be ridding myself of toys and stick to my computer games primarily Elite and new computer, my BBC Model B which would help me during my college days.

This just happened to be the year where He-Man and Transformers were the choice for Christmas. But I was too occupied programming in BASIC and teaching myself 6502 assembler.

Anyway back to Indy. Where were we?

Oh yeah. Raiders of the Lost Ark on VHS somewhere around 1983. It was great, action, adventure a wonderful John Williams score (that guy behind the Star Wars music) which I eventually owned and a sequel was due to come out next year.

For a PG film which was recommended as parental guidance, there was an awful lot of gory things in it. Melting and exploding heads, people impaled on spikes, spooky ghosts, people getting shot in the head, burn victims. All great fun.

Raiders has become one of my all time favourite films. Otherwise I wouldn’t have mentioned it in these page/blog things.

It was the Summer of 1984 I had finished School and was prepping myself for 6th form. This was considered cooler than the main school, as you didn’t need to wear a uniform and you were all the oldest on the school grounds. It was a newish building compared to the main school building and it had a common room and a record player to play your soundtracks on…. Okay, I might have been the only one to play soundtracks on it.

Temple became one of my regular jaunts up the coast to the Monkseaton Cannon cinema as they had it on.

Having been produced under the Paramount Studio the opening logo was integrated into the the first scene of the first in one way or another. This continued through all of the Indy films through to the Crystal Skull.

With Temple, we start on a dance number in Club Obi-wan with a Chinese version of Cole Porter’s ‘Anything Goes’ sung by Willie Scott played by Kate Capshaw.

It’s a full on, over the top 50s style dance number.

It’s a fun unexpected opening to the film, which eventually we find ourselves in the middle of an existing adventure with Indy delivering the remains of Emperor Nurhaci, in a Manchu Dynasty jade funeral urn. Unfortunately Indy gets poisoned and a chase around the club for the antidote ends up with Indy, Willie and Short Round waiting in the car outside as the getaway driver. They end up at an airport and eventually when the pilot jumps out of the plane is left to escape in a raft down the side of a mountain, ending up in the village of Mayapore where the real adventure starts.

Indy discovers that an ancient stone has been stolen from their shrine and all the children have been taken as slaves to be used in the mines to try to find two more of the five stones so that the leader Kali Mah would be able to rule the world. As usual.

It is filled with a bunch of fun sequences that stand out. The Mine cart chase which was like a roller coaster ride and definitely a neat idea for a roller coaster which ended up being a roller coaster ride at Disneyland Paris and included in various video game versions of Temple.

It is a chunky, clunky coaster ride and great fun in the summer months. In winter it’s cold.

Food in Pankot palace was great fun, although I don’t ever want chilled monkey brains, and eyeball soup. There was also snake suprise and fresh beetles on the menu. But the chance of a local Mcdonalds or Pizza Hut wasn’t likely at that time.

There was sequence with lots of real bugs, lots of screaming from Willie Scott and Indy nearly gets squashed. Very icky particularly if you don’t like bugs and spiders.

Raiders had snakes, Temple had bugs and Last Crusade had rats.

There was one sequence that caused a ruckus with the BBFC involving Mola Ram pulling the live beating heart out of a victim who was going to be burned alive in a deep pit.

The scene above was not seen in the UK until 2011 as it would have given the film a 15 rating. In the UK a number of cuts were made to ensure the film gained the same rating as the previous film, a PG. As well as the heart ripping and the burning man, these cuts included a head being cracked against a rock and Indy drinking blood and being whipped.

In the US the rating system was changed two months after the film release and a PG-13 rating was introduced meaning that children 13 and under could not see the film without being accompanied by an adult.

When I watched the film I do remember some weird cutting decisions in that scene with the chanting and shots being a bit disjointed plus character reactions to things we didn’t see. Thanks to the internet we see the sequences in full. How that guy survived without his heart before burning up in the pit is anyone’s guess.

Another significant scene was the bridge sequence. Indy is caught in the middle of the bridge with the stones so he decides to cut the bridge. It leads to the stones falling into the river along with the bad guy. Indy returns the children to the village and all is well.

It wasn’t until after I saw the film that I found out that Temple of Doom was a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark. So what happened to Short Round after the Temple film?

Short Round was a great sidekick to Indy essentially explaining most of Indy’s actions and plot to the dirt-phobe Willie Scott. In the films Short Round just disappears from the film series but in the excellent “The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones” there is a small note that suggests that Short Round had gone off on his own adventures and was close to finding the Peacock’s Eye which was the diamond that Indy was going to exchange for the ashes at Club Obi-Wan at the beginning of the movie.

Indy had been chasing this diamond since his teenage years and was featured in the TV movie Young Indiana Jones and the Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye. Indy was played by Sean Patrick Flannery.

The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones was released in 2008 upon the release of the Crystal Skull film and covers the life story of Indy from the time when his father gave him the journal, though his childhood, the TV movies and the big screen movies.

The edition I have is hardback with a fake stitched leather cover with an cloth elastic band to keep it closed. The pages a yellowed and printed with images throughout. The edges of the pages are uneven and there are even pages that seen to have been ripped out to hide something between 1933 and 1935.

It’s filled with sketches, hand written notes, maps, newspaper clippings, notes and research. If you are an Indy fan you need this book.

Also released in 2008 is the Complete Making of Indiana Jones also covering all four films. It’s a huge coffee table book in the same format as the previously released Making of Star Wars/Empire/Jedi also written by J. W. Rinzler.

It’s filled with amazing and unexpected photos from the archives and details the step by step process of initial production through to the releases of the movies. You should definitely attempt to get it. This one has at least doubled it’s price since it’s initial release. It’s better than reading some blog that spends it’s time mixing personal memories with facts from various sources. ๐Ÿ˜‰

There is a lot of cool merchandise for Indy, or at least there was back in the day. When the Crystal Skull movie out, merch came back with a vengeance, figures, toys, hats, whips that played the tune and made a whip cracking sound. Here’s a few of the pieces we have.

In 2007 we managed to get a Sideshow Toys Indiana Jones. To us there is something special about this figure as a good friend of ours based in California sculpted the head. Its a perfect likeness.

I’ve known Trevor since ’99 when he helped out with Star Park and we got to know each other due to our love for Star Wars. I’ve seen his work flourish over that last twenty years and have a few of his pieces in our collection, this includes his first Sideshow Sarah Connor head sculpt, and Sideshow Obi-wan.

One of his more famous work is the Mythos Obi-wan sculpture.

Its a truly unique blend of Ewan Mcgregor and Alec Guinness.

Some of his more recently recognisable work are from Back to the Future, Blade Runner 2049, Karate Kid, IT, Halloween, TMNT and even Guillermo Del Toro and something a little different, the 1962 Godzilla. He keeps himself busy.

It was fun to watch the last few action figure preview videos on YouTube and spot all of the NECA figures sculpted by Trevor.

If you want to see Trevor Grove’s sculptures and the work he has done for Sideshow and current work for NECA and Tweeterhead. Check here….

https://www.deviantart.com/trevorgrove

And also follow him on Facebook under “Trevor Grove Sculpture” you can’t miss it. Keep an eye on the wax and resin preproduction photos of all of his work.

Sometimes 5 inch action figures aren’t enough, so its good to be able to get the best version we can afford.

As well as the head, the detailing in the jacket and all the props and clothing are spectacular. The thickness of the clothing itself feels scaled and not like your plastic action man style thick jackets. The whip is wired and fully articulated. I did manage to roll it together and hang on his belt but it still looks great if he’s holding it ready to whip the weapon out of a bad guys hand.

It even comes with the fertility idol and the bag of sand, plus multiple hands giving you the choice of pose and head without the hat.

When Crystal Skull was set loose on the public I also managed to pick up a couple of figures. One of the 3 3/4 inch figures, same scale as the original Star Wars, came with the Ark of the Covenant.

It’s a tiny little thing and comes with a removable lid. Handy for keeping small screws in. It originally came with Indiana Jones in his disguise. I also picked up the Monkey Man figure, but I think he’s ran off somewhere.

One other pieces the wife bought as she likes to collect fans. This was bought in Disneyland Paris in 1997. I’m not too sure what it is supposed to represent as it’s quite difficult to research stuff when you are using terms like “Indiana Jones fan”… hmmm…

It’s still cool though…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

In the US, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom became the third highest grossing film of 1984 behind Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop and in front of Gremlins. Both Gremlins and Ghostbusters opened at the end of 1983 so they led into 1984.

In the UK this was a different story, Ghostbusters was top at number 1 and Temple of Doom was at number 2.

In Ghostbusters they have the iconic proton packs, Star Wars they have… everything and in Indiana Jones we have the iconic hat and the whip.

I always wanted an authentic Indiana Jones hat. I love my hats. I have a few hats. Top hats, bowler, trilby, fedora, western, stockman and trapper.

The style of the Indy hat is known as “The Poet” and is produced by a British hat maker in Old Burlington Street in London known as Herbert Johnson. If you want to buy your own poet it will set you back a hand made price of ยฃ385. Click here if you want to buy one! Made from rabbit fur felt it states it has the screen accurate Raiders bow style. It started when Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford popped in the shot whilst preparing Raiders and needed a hat for the character. They made 45 hats in various sizes for Ford and the stunt guys. The rest is history.

Well is it? What’s the real story? Even the simple story of the hat origins can change.

Recently one of the screen used hats sold for $520,000. It was used “extensively” by Harrison Ford during the making of Raiders. I wonder which of the 30/45 that actually was….. Hmmm….. Do you think they know there were a few made?

It seems the Herbert Johnson story is the truth… as to who stepped into the shop. Maybe more research is needed.

Herbert Johnson themselves did some mythbusting.

https://herbertjohnson.co.uk/blogs/journal/mythbusting-the-indiana-jones-hero-poet

So, the hat is a little confusing. So, what about the whip?

The bullwhips were the property of Glenn Randall Jnr. credited as Glenn Randall as stunt coordinator on both Raiders and Temple.

Glenn was also stunt coordinator on Return of the Jedi and donned the Boba Fett costume when he disappeared into the mouth of the Sarlacc.

Traditionally the whips were made of Kangaroo hide but in Raiders the whip was made from Kip hide or young calf. There were some import restrictions from December 1974 when a ban on the importation of Kangaroo hide was implemented at the time of making Raiders. On Temple and Crusade they switched back to Kangaroo hide.

There were 30 whips made by David Morgan a whip maker from Washington in the US.

Our own production bullwhip, used in the Indiana Jones movies, is a moderately heavy whip with the weight carried out well into the thong. The butt foundation is about 8 inches long. The whip is well balanced, and has a 12 plait kangaroo overlay. The length is measured from the butt to the end of the braid, not including the fall.

450 Series Bullwhips by David Morgan

For Temple and Crusade the whips were Kangeroo hide and dyed a darker colour than the original Raiders kip whip.

The 450 series ranges from 6 feet to 12 feet in length and during the making of the films they ranged in length depending on the use. It is said that the one that Indy wore on his belt was the 8 foot version.

If you want to buy yourself a whip and you have a large bank balance click here

https://www.davidmorgan.com/shop/product/409/bullwhip-10-ft-natural-tan/

I’m sure it’s cheaper than buying a screen used version though. One of the screen used whips sold for $140,000 in 2014.

Also check out the excellent IndyGear.com website if you want to get yourself fully suited up and delve deeper into the world of the Indy costumes.

Let’s talk about the iconic movie posters of Drew Struzan

One of my favourite film poster artists is Drew Struzan. In these days of photoshopped photos, Drew paints perfect representations of the heroic characters and villains from some of our favourite movies.

Early in his career Drew Struzan painted album covers for among others The Bee Gees, Alice Cooper, Roy Orbison and The Beach Boys.

Struzan first worked with Lucas and Speilberg with an infamous Star Wars Re-release poster known as the style D “circus” poster. It started a a base poster produced with Charlie White but they discovered they couldn’t fit the credits of the artists. They didn’t want it to go to waste so they expanded on the original and added Obi-Wan and made it look like it had been torn and stuck on a wooden wall like a circus poster. It was a classic.

Richard Amsel produced the poster art for Raiders of the Lost Ark and Struzan came on board after his work on Back to the Future, The Thing, Blade Runner and Cannonball Run. So Temple of Doom was the first of his classic Indy posters.

In the 1990s, Struzan worked on the Harry Potter and the Philosopher/Sorcerers Stone. By the end of the 90’s he had created the new posters for the Special Edition releases of the Star Wars Trilogy and then went on to create the posters for Episode I, II and III.

He announced his first retirement in 2008, then came out of retirement to do more projects including Star Wars The Force Awakens.

As a post note and the recent passing of Sean Connery let’s not forget the influence Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade had in the film series which was released in 1989.

Crusade introduced us to Indy’s father played by the late great Sean Connery and featured the quest to find the Holy Grail and also Indy’s father himself who had been kidnapped by the Nazis. So we return to the traditional Raiders bad guys.

It starts by introducing us to a young Indy played by River Pheonix in a thrilling sequence that explains a lot of Indy’s iconic future. We find out about the whip, the scar on his chip and getting the hat.

This also set up the idea that Indy had many adventures during his early years and the “Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” or “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones” depending on how they were packaged, was born and was released in 1992. It ultimately lead to three seasons and 4 movies up through to 1996 before being cancelled due to high costs and low ratings.

In the UK TV schedules made it difficult to see this programme at that time and I managed to get a bunch of the VHS cassettes from our local Woolworths in 2000.

In a couple of occasions we also saw older versions of Indy with a saxophone playing Harrison Ford making an appearance as a 50 year old Indy and George Hall playing a one eyed 93 year old version.

Back to Crusade the stand out performance was from Sean Connery playing Indy’s dad. It poked fun at some of the Indy tropes on how he seemed to always be getting chased and we found out that Indy’s name was Henry Jones Jnr. and that they named the dog Indiana.

Even though Connery and Ford played off other other well as father and son, between each them there was only a 12 year age gap.

Connery played well as the serious father figure and the bumbling dad with excellent comic timing when it was required.

It was more fun than the dark Temple and we still had a load of chases and incidence throughout including a tank chase, a boat chase, a dogfight leading to a car chase and the inevitable animal sequence, in this it was a tomb full of rats.

The story leads us to the temple where the Holy Grail is kept.

I still find the temple location they used in Petra, Jordon as it is a temple entrance carved out of the stone rock face. Fascinating.

The grail was protected by a Grail Knight, an ancient crusader who protected in from the forces of evil.

This is probably one reason I own a Templar knight costume. It’s a bit different and I can hide in the helmet. Which over the years has changed and I’ve ditched the shield.

The Grail in the film suggests that if you drink from it, it will grant you eternal life. Donovan, the bad guy of the Crusade was played by Julian Glover who I met a few years back at a Screen-Con event in May 2014.

Julian also played General Veers from The Empire Strikes Back a couple of years earlier.

Problem was that there were lots of cups to choose from choose the wrong one an you die. Choose the right one and you have eternal life, but only in the walls of the temple. I always wondered why the grail knight looked so old. No matter.

All in all Crusade looked back at the other films, lightened things up a little, introduced new history for Indy, developed ideas for future adventures and introduced the start of the Jones family tree which would continue into the next film.

Overall out of the original three 80s films, unfortunately Temple is possibly a smidge my least favourite but it was still a great film, possibly due to it’s more dark tone. Raiders started the Indy journey and Crusade finished the 80s trilogy with a smile. I raise the correct grail to combined efforts of Ford, Spielberg and Lucas and the rest of the crew.

We haven’t even touched on the video games. So watch this….

The fourth film in the Indy series didn’t happen until 2008 and we are currently talking about the 80s so we will leave that for another time.

Let’s hope when the next Indiana Jones movie eventually comes out, it will be keeping it’s Logan director, James Mangold and written by the original Raiders script writer Laurence Kasden and maybe hoping Struzan will produce just one or two more posters?!

We will be returning to Drew Struzan in the next blog when we will be going Back To The Future. Great Scott.

Take care and throw me the idol, I’ll throw you the whip.

Best Decade for Films Ever – The 80s – Don’t Feed them After Midnight!

With Ghostbusters being released in UK cinemas on the 7th December 1984. Gremlins, another fun 80’s film was released on the very same day.

Christmas in 84 was a busy cinema time, especially for monsters and ghosts.

In the UK this film caused a bit of a controversy.

Gremlins was submitted to the BBFC in June 1984, and the issues it raised for examiners were similar to those discussed during the classification of Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom only one month earlier (see the examiner reports for Temple of Doom here). The film’s distributor – Columbia-EMI-Warner – wanted a PG certificate for Gremlins, and it had already been rated PG in the U.S. Reflecting a complex mix of horror, adventure and comedy in an age rating that caters for family audiences is a careful balancing act for BBFC examiners, especially in this case as the examiners saw the film as a clear 15.  Without the benefit of 12 and 12A categories in 1984 the BBFC had a much more stark choice to make between the PG and 15 certificates.

https://www.bbfc.co.uk/case-studies/gremlins

Basically it had too much violence for under 15s as we didn’t have the 12A certificate at the time. This was mainly due to the kitchen scene in which a Gremlin is blown up in a microwave, plus the attacks on family members which could scare young kids whose parents might take to a PG rated film. This one ended up with a 15 rating in 1984 which did reduce the box office but did get to number 2 in the top ten movies behind Ghostbusters which had a PG rating and was suitable for a broader audience. Thankfully I was just old enough to go see it.

Closely following my visit to see Ghostbusters I was back to the Wallaw cinema to see Gremlins. There was one significant thing about the Wallaw is that at the end of the row there was a motor bike shop, with the long queue you’d start at the end looking in at the bikes until you got further down the wall towards the entrance. I was never into bikes and at that time you didn’t have mobile phones to stare into. Along the wall were upcoming or current movie posters which you could peruse until you got in.

This film introduced me to my first encounter with Joe Dante. I hadn’t seen Piranha or The Twilight Zone movie from the previous year at that point, but the following years included some great films which I eagerly went to see. Innerspace; I saw this at the ABC in Newcastle, Small Soldiers, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and Matinee. I caught up with Amazon Women of the Moon and The ‘Burbs further down the line. With Steven Spielberg/Kathleen Kennedy presenting/executive producing and written by Chris Columbus it became a great production team combination. Chris Columbus also wrote The Goonies and went on to direct Adventures in Babysitting, Home Alone, Bicentennial Man, and two Harry Potter films.

The story, if you really need to know, involves Billy Peltzer’s father, an amateur inventor, who made things that eventually broke down. He was played by Hoyt Axton, who at that time was mainly known as a folk singer songwriter, he brought home a unique pet from a Chinatown shop as a Christmas present for his son. He was given three simple rules that must be adhered to.

  1. Don’t expose it to light.
  2. Don’t get it wet
  3. Don’t feed it after midnight

Simple rules you’d think would be easy to follow. It wasn’t until the less darker sequel when these rules were questioned. It’s midnight somewhere on the planet, right? Also I would presume that drinking beer is fine but water is bad. What percentage of alcohol to water would produce a reaction? And the biggy, SNOW!!! It’s Christmas, surely the snow would melt and they’d get wet….. enough plot holes. What about an iced whiskey?

Speaking of Gremlins and drinking, did you know there is a website that contains drinking games called drinking cinema? This one is for Gremlins….. http://drinkingcinema.com/game/Gremlins

The word mogwai is the transliteration of the Cantonese word ้ญ”้ฌผ (Jyutping: mo1 gwai2; Standard Mandarin: ้ญ”้ฌผ; pinyin: mรณguว) meaning “monster”, “evil spirit”, “devil” or “demon”.

According to Chinese tradition, mogwai are certain demons, which often inflict harm on humans. They are said to reproduce sexually during mating seasons triggered by the coming of rain. Supposedly, they take care to breed at these times because rain signifies rich and full times ahead.

Gizmo is the cutest furriest little fuzzball you could ever meet. When he sings and makes cute vocal noises it’s the 80’s equivalent to the Mandalorian’s Child aka Baby Yoda.

Who is the cutest? I wouldn’t cuddle the Child. He might look cute but he’d be like cuddling a hairless cat. Not that I’ve cuddled any hairless cats but I get the idea.

In fact the voice of Gizmo was provided by none other than Howie Mandel, better known recently as one of the Judges on America’s Got Talent.

Watching poor Gizmo writhe in agony after the first droplet of water is spilled on him is heart-breaking. He looked so upset afterwards. This incident in Billy’s loft creates five more Mogwai including Stripe, another cute furry mohawked Mogwai with an evil streak.

They don’t treat poor Gizmo well at all.

Through further mishaps involving feeding the bunch of furry meanies chicken after midnight, Stripe and his buddies end up transforming into the Gremlins of the title after spending the night in hideous looking like sticky pods. Lovely. Following a smokey light show whilst poor Gizmo looked on Gremlins were ready to get out of the house after Stripe attacked poor Billy’s mom. That was after she managed to take out two Gremlins in the microwave and blender and Billy decapitates another. Very messy.

With the film set at Christmas, the town of Kingston Falls has a very familiar setting and was actually based on the “It’s a Wonderful Life”‘s town of Bedford Falls. A small town where everyone knows everyone else. In one kitchen scene “It’s a Wonderful Life”‘ is playing on the TV.

This just happens to be another of my favourite films of all times.

To Kill a Mockingbird

The set used for Kingston Falls is also familiar to fans of Back to the Future released one year later. It’s the Hill Valley Square and town hall. This is known as Courthouse Square and is actually on the Universal Studios backlot. It was also used in another film, To Kill a Mockingbird from 1962.

Obviously when you got one evil Gremlin it doesn’t take long before Stripe throws himself into a YMCA pool and creates hundreds more which take over the town of Kingston Falls. This is where the fun begins.

The town is filled with interesting characters most of them encountering the green beasts or meeting their ends.

Mrs Deagle, the Scrooge like cat lady hates Christmas and hates everyone in the town. It’s strange to feel happy that she ultimately gets offed on a super charged stairlift courtesy of the carol singing Gremlins.

Dick Miller plays Murray Futterman, a guy who has hates everything not made in USA and also tells us bout the Gremlins from World War II. He gets his comeuppence when his American made snow plow runs him through his house driven by the Gremlins he knew from the war.

Dick Miller is Joe Dante’s lucky charm and appeared in the majority of his films from Hollywood Boulevard in 1976 to Burying the Ex in 2014.

Dick Miller is one of those actors you’d see in a bunch of TV and films and recognise his face but not know his name. I’ve seen him in tonnes of things. He was a great actor.

We presume he was crushed but thankfully Murray was back for Gremlins 2 and he gets his own back with a gargoyle/gremlin joke. Dick Miller also appeared in many Roger Corman films.

One unlucky victim of the early attacks made by the Gremlins is on the poor science teacher who stays in school until 2:30am in the morning taking blood samples on a caged Mogwai. The teacher is played by Glynn Turman, a seasoned actor more recently seen in TV shows like Suits, Black-ish, Fargo, American Gods and How to Get Away with Murder. I’m sure there are rules on carrying out experiments on live unknown animals in school.

Billy is played by Zach Galligan and his girlfriend to be Kate Beringer, is played by Phoebe Cates, actress and teen magazine model.

In the heat of action there is a bizarre sidestep as she tells a dark and sad tale on why she doesn’t celebrate Christmas and how she discovered Santa Claus didn’t exist. This was visited again in the sequel in an excellent comedic moment.

Another reason kids under 12 shouldn’t see the film. The whole Santa thing.

Corey Feldman 80s teen star plays Pete. This was before his appearance in Goonies and rise ro 80s fame and after his appearance in Friday the 13th.

Last year in 2019 I saw Corey at Horrorcon UK. He was dressed in a gold jacket, slicked hair and mainly talked about his appearances in the Friday the 13th films. He looked quite the Hollywood star. His first Friday was also released the same year as Gremlins, from then he went on to other iconic roles in The Goonies, Stand By Me, The Lost Boys and also did some voice work like Donatello in the TMNT movies.

Horrorcon was a great event… it’s not every day someone brings out a live snake during the cosplay competition.

Judge Reinhold plays Gerald, a work mate who also has an eye on Phoebe Cate’s character. It was the same year in which he appeared in Beverly Hills Cop and a few years prior to his leading stint in body swap film Vice Versa. A well known face in the movies of that time and still works today.

There are lots of fun nods and cameos throughout the film including appearances by Chuck Jones the voice of Bugs Bunny in a bar scene, Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet, and the appearance and apparent disappearance of the classic Time Machine from George Pal’s The Time Machine. In attendance at the inventors convention were exec producer Steven Spielberg and composer Jerry Goldsmith. More on my love of the music later.

Looney Tunes : Back in Action

One of Joe Dante’s other films, Looney Tunes Back in Action features Daleks. Maybe he just likes robots and borrowing stuff from his other favourite films.

There is a Frank Capra, IAWL’s director’s instructional film being shown in the classroom. With Steven Spielberg executive producing a Gremlin is heard saying “Phone home” before pulling telephone cables out of the wall. Singing Gremlins in the movie theatre watching Disney’s Snow White. They also get to play the Star Wars arcade game in Dorry’s Tavern and there are lots of fun Gremlins vignettes throughout. Particularly when the gremlins take over the town.

The puppets were all practical effects in this film and were created by Chris Walas who worked on Return of the Jedi, E.T. and both Jeff Goldblum Fly movies. The pods and Stripes ultimate demise are very gooey effects and are reminiscent of the icky goo and puss sequences in The Fly.

Its extremely rewatchable on so many levels and I have watched this movie so many times. I originally had the VHS copy of the film until I upgraded to DVD. I presume I got it close to Christmas as this is the cover I ended up with.

My original VHS had the excellent John Alvin poster art with Stripe ripping through the cover and spoiling it. John Alvin also worked on the poster art for E.T.

At least the novelisation retained the soft and subtle artwork. I guess the audiences needed to know that the film contained green monsters and not just a mysterious box.

There is one particular cool idea that runs throughout the film. Rockin Rickie is the local DJ and we hear his radio show on occasion throughout the run time. It starts normally until he mentions the “Orson Welles crap” which refers to Orson Welles’ War of the World radio broadcast in which he was supposed to have reported from the site of a martian invasion. It was a play in which parts of it sounded like a real report. If you just happened to turn over after the intro, you might find yourself in what appears to be a real report of real Martians. Have a listen.

In Gremlins we hear but never see the invasion into the radio station and he tries to keep broadcasting. In the end TV media reports that the whole Gremlin invasion was due to mass hysteria. The New York Reporter reported a similar story connected to the Orson Welles play. Fortunately there was no connected mass hysteria in the mid West. Either way never trust the media.

Don’t forget to listen after the credits.

As usual I bought the poster magazine which were quite popular at the time and a few trinkets.

A couple of pieces were rubber figurines I spotted in a shop in Spain.

I also picked up a cheap Mogwai plushy with really scraggly fur and a mean look. I’d imagine at 12 inches tall it’s probably about the same time as the real thing. The colours aren’t quite right and the ears are a bit too small.

All I need now is one of those full size Gremlins, but they are a little out of my price range.

Let’s talk about something that happened in the late 90s with Toy crazes.

It was the electronic boom and virtual pets were the in-thing over several Christmases. In 1997 Tamagotchi’s were the thing to get banned in schools around the world.

In the UK these didn’t really catch on until later in 1998 with official versions and a slew of knock off virtual pets, Christmas 97 we were too busy trying to get all of the Teletubbies and finding our Argos and Toys R Us shops selling out in the frenzy to get the missing one.

I did get my Spice Girls merchandise. Sporty is currently sitting with my Britney Spears doll. ๐Ÿ˜€

In 1998 Tiger Electronics introduced a very familiar looking toy…

It’s not like they look anything like Mogwai is it? Who doesn’t want to take their own electronic furry pet home with them? Actually, everyone wanted them and they spent Christmas 98 on their present lists. They were supposed to listen to you and learn from you and over time if you treated them right they would love you. Or constantly say “Nay Nay” over and over again.

Thankfully in 1999 before Star Wars Episode I hysteria hit they released a licenced Gizmo Furby. Slightly bigger ears and the cute recognisable voice.

Gremlins is a great piece of horror comedy and a classic film. The sequel is brilliant too. We may visit that in the future.

One last thing before we scoot off into the snow bound winter. Gremlins wouldn’t be Gremlins without another 80s soundtrack.

Jerry Goldsmith was an amazing composer with some classics behind him in 1984 and many more years to come up until his death in 2004. Prior to Gremlins you will most definitely have heard his scores for Patton, Doctor Kildare, The Man from Uncle, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Our Man Flint, Planet of the Apes, Papillon, Logan’s Run, The Omen, Alien, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Poltergeist, and Rambo: First Blood. This is only a small selection of film and TV soundtracks he composed. Following Gremlins he went on to produce more Rambo, Star Trek the Next Generation (which was essentially the Motion Picture theme), Innerspace, Star Trek V (The score is excellent!), Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Star Treks Voyager, First Contact and Nemesis and Looney Tunes : Back in Action and soooo many more.

The Gremlins ragtime track had a very unique sound moving away from his usual full orchestra and moving into a very eerie electronic synth sound even adding strange Gremlin like wailing.

To offset this strange Gremlin sound a more gentler theme was found for Gizmo. Some orchestra and still a mix of synthesizer to add the gremlin edge to the theme. After all Gizmo is really a nice gremlin, who thankfully never eats after midnight. It’s also cute to hear Gizmo actually hum his own theme when we first see him in the Peltzer household.

Mrs Deagles theme is again heavy on the synths. Contrasting the gentle orchestra with the sharp sounds of electronic elephant footsteps.

I could go on, but the full main score wasn’t on the original mini album as it was taken up with some pop music tracks which were heard in the film. Very similar to the Ghostbusters album, a couple of orchestral/synth tracks mixed with pop music.

For Gremlins, the tracks on the mini album were :-

  1. Gremlins…Mega Madness โ€“ Michael Sembello (3:50) – Played in Dorry’s Tavern.
  2. Make It Shine โ€“ Quarterflash (4:10)
  3. Out/Out โ€“ Peter Gabriel – Played in Dorry’s Tavern when Kate is serving Gremlins drinks
  4. The Gift (4:51) – Jerry Goldsmith
  5. Gizmo (4:09)- Jerry Goldsmith
  6. Mrs. Deagle (2:50)- Jerry Goldsmith
  7. The Gremlin Rag (4:03)- Jerry Goldsmith

I still have this album on cassette.

On the full orchestral score album, available where you can download MP3s, but quite difficult to get in physical form, you get the full score plus additional tracks like Gizmo’s Trumpet… a rendition of Gizmo’s theme on kazoo. All in all a well deserved award winning soundtrack.

Jerry Goldsmith is one of my all time favourite composers alongside John Williams, John Barry, Alan Silvestri, James Horner, Henry Mancini, Ennio Morricone and a current rising star Daniel Pemberton. More on these in another blog.

See you next time, don’t get eaten.