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Tag Archive: 1982 movies


It’s a member of the exclusive clubhouse of the greatest year of movies–1982.  In a summer that gave us E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner, Poltergeist, and John Carpenter’s The Thing, Disney’s groundbreaking Tron is a great movie, and it stands the test of time as a unique science fiction classic.  For a movie fan, if you were stuck in a time warp you could hardly find a better place to be than 1982.  Getting noticed in a year of movies like Conan the Barbarian, Rocky III, First Blood, Tootsie, The Secret of NIMH, The Last Unicorn, Night Shift, The Man from Snowy River, Tex, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, was no small feat.  Tron sees the 35th anniversary of its release this week.  A cinematic milestone?  Of course.  A must-see classic?  Absolutely.  Better still, you can view Tron in a more vibrant and detailed clarity than how you may have viewed it in a local 1982 movie theater thanks to an updated 2011 Blu-ray release.

For those not involved in the computing world in the early 1980s, Tron first introduced audiences to programming terms like the Master Control Program (MCP), random access memory (RAM), and the idea of avatars.   It introduced us to light cycles, an early CG home run–even decades before quality 3D or IMAX–viewers were ducking and dodging in their seats as opponents exploded into the walls of the Grid.  Identity discs brought to life what were only blips on the screen in the “real” world, and we cringed as Flynn took a step too close and almost fell off the game rings.  No other film since looks like Tron, not even its big budget 2010 sequel Tron: Legacy or its 2012 animated series Tron: Uprising.  Its backlight animation worked amazingly well for our first entry into a world we hadn’t seen before.  Video games were just beyond the stage of blip games like Pong.  It was a time before the Atari 2600.  It was in this world that director Steven Lisberger was able to film Bruce Boxleitner as Alan Bradley aka Tron and Jeff Bridges as programmer/hacker/high scorer Flynn in a complex blue-black and white costume and fill in the details in post-production and place them in a brilliantly colored, infinitely tiny, futuristic universe.  The look was both retro to an almost 1940s vision of the future and yet also it pushed ahead, way ahead, to some future we will never really meet.  Just look at this futuristic, visionary image from early in the film where Bridges plays an avatar of his real world character–well before anyone knew what an avatar was:

And the story works.  Tron offers a one-of-a-kind and unreal world where, in the classic sci-fi style of The Fly, you can be teleported to someplace not outside but deep within this world, where Flynn tries to understand his new world of the Users, to fight to survive with identity disk battles and light cycle races, and to get home.  Boxleitner, who would get far less screen time than Jeff Bridges, provided an understated hero for a generation of kids.  David Warner (Time After Time, Star Trek V, VI, Star Trek: The Next Generation), the best actor to play a villain in any franchise, also played a dual role as Dillinger and the MCP, giving movies one of its all-time best villains, and adding yet another perfect genre performance to Warner’s portfolio.  Caddyshack’s Cindy Morgan as Lora/Yori, Dan Shor as the ill-fated RAM, and Barnard Hughes as Dumont all created memorable supporting characters (plus master stuntman Vince Deadrick, Jr. (Iron Man, True Grit, Star Trek Enterprise, Fletch, Romancing the Stone) to boot).

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e-t-clip

E.T. phone home.

It seems like such a long time ago, but also just yesterday.  1982.  As a ten-year-old kid, life was about waiting for next Star Wars movie.  But in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, we saw this incredible, powerhouse year of movies.  Movies like Tron, Blade Runner, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Rocky III, 48 Hrs., First Blood, Poltergeist, Conan the Barbarian, The Dark Crystal, The Thing, Night Shift, The Man from Snowy River, The Secret of NIMH, Tex, The Last Unicorn.  Then there were the re-issues in theaters that included Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Bambi, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Peter Pan.  Somehow I managed to get to almost all of these in the theater that year.  What a year of movies to formulate your world view.

But then there was one movie that blew even these memorable films completely out of the water.  We saw cryptic trailers that didn’t quite give us the full picture of what we’d see, but the names of Steven Spielberg and John Williams were all we needed to hear to put our money down (actually my parents’) in faith that we were going to see something good.  And this awesome new Halloween candy called Reese’s Pieces were part of the marketing for the thing.  E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, one of the all-time biggest box office successes and fourth most successful film of all time, doubling the returns from the next in line movie Tootsie that year.

gertie-and-e-t

I’ll be right here.

A heart-warming, exciting, fun combination of science fiction with the feel of a fantasy movie, all bundled in a coming of age movie.  Today–November 2–is the anniversary of the day Elliott and friends were finally successful in getting E.T., the first interplanetary botanist, the help he needed to take his spaceship back to his home full of what we could only imagine was a world of spectacular plant life.  Thirty-four years later Funko toy company’s ReAction Kenner-style retro action figure line is finally creating a set of 3 3/4-inch action figures in the same scale as all those other classic Star Wars figures and figures Funko has released in the past three years.  And you can order them now exclusively from Entertainment Earth.

But you better hurry because they will be a limited number release set.

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Drive-in Screen SE 14th ST

I was 11 in the Summer of ’82.  And yet I remember that summer vividly.  Rare has there been a year since that I saw so many awesome movies in the theater.  Many have commented on what was the best year in movies over the years, with the classic answer from critics usually being 1939 because of stellar films like The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Little Princess, Young Mr. Lincoln, and Drums Along the Mohawk.

So what do you think is the best year of movies?  If you whittle it down to the best summer of movies, I’ve got a real contender here.

I remember standing in line at a new theater on my side of town, with my mom and sister, getting a sticker advertising a new brown and orange candy somehow tied to one of the movies.  I saw an unexpectedly powerful sci-fi franchise entry with my brother at the S.E. 14th Street Drive-In Theater (pictured above before they tore it down a decade later) on a really hot day one Friday night.  And he and his RadioShack computer tinkering friends took me to see a new Disney film that had its setting inside a computer at a Saturday matinée.  The preview for one of the movies gave me nightmares.  Two of the movies I wouldn’t truly appreciate for another 20 years.  It all happened during the summer 33 years ago.

ET Reeses sticker from theater giveaway 1982

Check out this summer movie sneak preview from the YouTube archives and recall where you were during the Summer of ’82:

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