THE BEST OF TIMES (1980 - 1982)

It was definitely the best of times. If you're a thirtysomethinger like me or maybe a late twentysomethinger, then the odds are you were about 12 or 13 years old when the 1980s began. (Do your own calculations if you don't fall in any of these age brackets!)

And if you're reading these pages, then it means that you probably saw these movies below like I did - with wondrous awe and exhilaration. Like me you probably saw this at some old independent cinema (not today's multiplexes) or a drive-in.

The early-1980s were to give us some of the best science fiction movies around - and I'm just not saying that because I'm tripping on nostalgia. The movies below were hugely influential and were often copied - but never equalled. It was a mini-golden age of its own for modern science fiction cinema. 

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It didn't as well at the box office as its studio had expected. In fact, it was a commercial failure. The critics, while applauding the stunning visual effects masterminded by legend in his field Douglas (2001) Trumbull, detested the movie. But some of us who did see it knew that Blade Runner was special and amazing were happening. After that first jaw dropping viewing of the film I was hooked and took every opportunity to see the film again and again and again: first in the cinemas, later in the drive-in, then on video, then on TV. Fans had to wait until the early-Nineties until the film's cult status was cemented when the so-called Blade Runner - the Director's Cut hit the big screens - and we made the effort to see it again. And again. It remains hauntingly beautiful and melancholy with every viewing - even when I added it to my small video collection and could view it at my leisure.

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It was the movie everybody wanted to see - and in the end did get to see! The biggest blockbuster of them all I saw it on a Saturday matinee show in a theatre packed to the brim with all the other kids. It was a hot African summer day and the air conditioning had conked out long before the show. But despite the heat and humidity and the people sitting in the aisles, everybody was cheering crazily when Elliott and E.T. managed to escape their pursuers on their "flying" BMX bikes. Magic stuff - and watching the movie again a few years ago on pay TV, I realized just how good the film actually was and still is . . .

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For me The Empire Strikes back was probably the film I most eagerly awaited -   ever! Nothing can describe the wonder of having seen Star Wars a few years before and being converted to the sci-fi cause. Heck, what does a ten-year-old know? Thus, when Empire finally struck the big screen it was an agonizingly long wait till I got to see the film for the first time in a drive-in (this was all due to a set of circumstances - which mostly involved my parents moving to a new town). But the wait was all worth it - and while we all today know that Darth Vader was Luke's father, nothing can get to the shock of actually seeing and realizing it for the first time! To my mind still the best film in the Holy Trilogy . . .

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My nephew and I weren't supposed to see it. After all, we were both below the legal age restriction for Escape from New York, but somehow we did manage to slip in. Despite the forbidden fruit argument, the film simply kicked ass and along with Mad Max remains one of my favorite underage movie experiences of my youth. Seeing the film again recently on telly I had a good time again, but couldn't help but notice how the violence in this movie were actually tame compared to more recent movies. Also, movie pacing had grown more delirious since then and Escape seemed almost lethargic compared to the likes of The Rock and Armageddon. Still, when it comes to the coolness stakes few can equal Snake Plissken destroying the tape cassette that could bring world peace . . .

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There was something about Flash Gordon I quite didn't quite get and although I eagerly awaited the movie as only a small boy in his early teens can, it was a major disappointment. Perhaps what I didn't "get" were the words "self-conscious" and "postmodern". The film didn't take itself serious and tried to imitate the look and feel of those early Flash Gordon serials - even down to the very visible wires that kept all the models afloat in mid-air! Later on, this type of visual flair became de rigeur with other comic book adaptations such as Batman and Dick Tracy. All I saw was shoddy special effects . . .

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An elder cousin who had just bought a new car - a souped-up Datsun in only the way they were made in the early-1980s took me to see this at the drive-in. We were both fans of the original Mad Max movie - and judging from the way he drove it should come as no surprise really! And - wonder of wonders! This sequel was actually better than the original, being more suspenseful with bigger and better stunts. Later on the videoshelfs would be stacked to the brim with second-rate Road Warrior imitations such as Stryker, Steel Dawn and, more than a decade later, Kevin Costner would try his own hand at it with the ridiculously expensive Waterworld. But none of these movies - not even the third Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome movie in 1985 - came near to the sheer adrenaline-injected final chase in The Road Warrior . . .

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A disappointment. Trekkies would probably kill me for this, but this film although highly regarded by many was simply disappointing after the visual splendor of Star Trek - the Motion Picture. (No kidding - really . . .)

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After Superman - the Movie a few years before that and the mania of all things Superman, there was no way that I was going to miss the sequel. And no - it didn't disappoint at at all. Besides, how could the sight of two Kryptonian superbaddies hurling a huge bus at Superman be disappointing?

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Yet another film I weren't supposed to have seen - considering my age and all that. But there was no way I could miss this movie by my then favorite director, John Carpenter. And who could ever forget seeing this movie at the drive-in in the winter time and closing all the windows shut out of pure fright and then have the windows fog all over and then quickly opening them again, and . . .




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