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The Golden Years: Fantasy Films of the 70s & 80s

Discussion in 'Archive: SF&F: Films and Television' started by Vortigern99, Jan 15, 2008.

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  1. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    Great post, Koohii! This spins us off in another, very fascinating direction.

    First: No, Sword of the Valiant is an 80s interpretation of the 14th-century poem Gawaine and the Green Knight, with Miles O'Keefe (Tarzan the Ape Man) as Gawaine, and Sean Connery as the Green Knight. Prince Valiant is nowhere to be seen! Please give us a report/review on that doubtlessly stunning piece of entertainment.

    Second: A few corrections just for the sake of corrections. Jurassic Park and Robin Hood: PoT are both 90s films; Black Hole and Star Trek:TMP are both 70s. X-Men came out in 2000.

    Third: A few additions!

    70s: King Kong (John Barry is awesome); Starcrash (did I mention John Barry being great?)

    80s: Legend (both US Tangerine Dream and European Jerry Goldsmith scores are excellent); The Sword and the Sorcerer (for a low-budget piece of schlock, the music is astonishingly good, from epic to spooky to jaunty); Creepshow; John Carpenter's The Thing; Death Wish 2 (don't laugh -- it's Jimmy Page!); and as long as you're listing soundtracks, Shock Treatment, the "sequel" to Rocky Horror, with very weird, very New-Wave songs that play like early MTV videos; and both Indiana Jones sequels.

    90s: Darkman (Danny Elfman); Bram Stoker's Dracula

    2000s: AOTC and ROTS; all three LOTR films; the Harry Potter films; anything directed by Anthony Minghella (Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain)

    I hope others will add their musical favorites, with an emphasis on the 70s and 80s as the subject of our thread....
  2. Koohii

    Koohii Jedi Master star 5

    May 30, 2003
    One of the things I think I need to highlight and clarify:
    I wanted to emphasize that the music should be unique to that movie. Even it it is a sequel/part of the same trilogy. There's not much to separate the Back to the Future movies' soundtracks from each other, for example, whereas each of the StarWars movies, while working from the basis of the previous movies, added and expended. Trek1 was very different from 2,3,&4, but 5 was virtually identical. Trek2&3 feel like parts of the same whole, but those parts are very different.

    Now, on the side I don't like: with a few exceptions (Batman, the March of the Dead from Army of Darkness, the Simpsons theme) I find it very difficult to tell one Danny Elfman theme from another. They all feel and sound the same: Spider-Man, Mars Attacks, Men in Black, Sleepy Hollow... can't tell the difference.

    Williams' themes are starting to sound a lot alike too. Guess the glory days when he was inventive for Jaws, SW, JPark, Raiders, and so on are gone.

    John Barry, though limited repetoir, was usually inventive.

    James Horner came up with several strong, unique, and inventive themes. One major short-coming: Krull had only one good piece, and Aliens and Trek 2 have several pieces that are virtually identical and were later rehashed again in a movie about snipers on the eastern front of WWII. Guess he burned up fast and fell to hack-status.

    Jerry Goldsmith was masterful at coming up with new and distinct themes and motifs. Lionheart has about 8 or 9 running throughout. Gremlins & Sequel were similar, but distinctly different. While I haven't always liked the movies he worked on, I usually couldn't complain about the music. (OK, Planet of the Apes--original was a little hard to listen to.)
  3. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    I've just watched Dragonslayer (1982) in widescreen, and I must say it's an excellent film. Of course I've seen it many times -- I saw it four times in the theater in '82, and a jillion-and-a-half on cable -- but it's been awhile since I absorbed its intricacies, and revelled in its varied depictions of dragons in all their mythic states: as devourers of chained maidens, as violent forces locked in the earth, as soaring flame-spitters, as fiery water-demons, as begetters of vile young, as symbolically linked to solar eclispses.

    This kind of movie, with its high degree of realism, convincing performances, and dark tonalities, is the immediate predecessor of the new batch of fine fantasy films, such as Potter and Prince Caspian.
  4. BobaFrank

    BobaFrank Jedi Youngling star 5

    Jul 17, 2001
    Dragonslayer is great. I own it on dvd. I just watched Monsters and Mazes. Very dissappointed. It was one of Tom Hanks first movies. Chris Makepeace was in it too.(Meatballs and My Bodyguard) Anyway, it ended up being a slam on the ill effects of too much Dungeons & Dragons and playing video games. I was 13 when D&D first arrived on the scene and all our parents were worried it would corrupt us. If they only knew how tame it really was.
  5. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    Re: Dragonslayer, I understand that the writer/director, M. Robbins, had planned a much more sprawling story about the conflict between faith and magic, Christianity and paganism. There are hints of it in the film as is: In the arrival of the priest (Ian McDiarmid!) concurrent with the rockslide burial of the dragons; in the sudden pastorship of the farmer character; in Valerian's father giving her the crucifix. It would be fascinating to see some kind of extended cut, but likely none of that footage even exists anymore, as tends to be the case with films made before a certain year.

    Re: D&D, I've been playing it since 1982, the year Dragonslayer came out! My love of fantasy films developed concurrently (that's the second time I've used that word) with my involvement with D&D. My mother knew all that stuff about Satanism and losing your mind was hooey. She didn't like us playing on weekend mornings whilen she was trying to sleep in is all. She'd come out and yell at us to go somewhere else, ***dammit. I believe I referred to her at least once in those days as "Vermithrax Pejorative" (= the name of the female dragon in D'slayer). Good times.
  6. Koohii

    Koohii Jedi Master star 5

    May 30, 2003
    By the by, I don't see the ewok adventure movies in the list.
    Granted, they were awful beyond words, and barely if at all fit into the SW universe, but they were 80s fantasy...
  7. BobaFrank

    BobaFrank Jedi Youngling star 5

    Jul 17, 2001
    I agree the Ewok Adventure was less than desirable, but I did like Battle for Endor.
  8. Koohii

    Koohii Jedi Master star 5

    May 30, 2003
    Star Wars: The Ewok Adventure---
    2 obnoxious children crashland on Endor. They are immediately adopted by the ewoks. Ewoks have purchased ferrets and ponies from the New Republic, but haven't learned basic/english. For some reason--probablly the fireworks displays and radiation from the death-star's explosion, ewoks now have huge eyes like animatronic owls.
    The narrarator speaks like he's reading a 70's "feel the plight of the native americans" feel-good script and doesn't like it.
    The story has magic, not related to the Force, and not in keeping with the rest of the StarWars universe.
    The whole movie is like a bad 70s made-for-tv movie. Clearly the writers didn't know what they were doing or understand how badly they were executing their orders.
    I don't know what parent sold his/her soul to have the little girl get this role, but said parent should be damned to the 3rd plane of tartarus for eternity, to be the recipient of unspeakable tortures at the pleasure of whatever demons may lurk there. The child should be made to watch. Is it any coincidence that she hasn't been in anything else before or since?

    --The Battle for Endor--
    The obnoxious brats are back, joined now by a hermit who becomes a reluctant grandfather figure in another tv-movie troupe. Wicket and some of the other ewoks now speak basic/english. Now there's an evil sorceress witch woman using magic. Again, this magic is counter to anything seen previously in the StarWars universe, is in no way consistant with The Force, and doesn't have even the level of sophistication associated with a 1970s TV movie plot.

    Considering that both of these movies were products of the mid/late 80s, there's really no excuse for the lackluster execution, utter failure to maintain consistancy, or shoddy FX. Really, everyone associated with these should hang their heads in shame and accept their black-listing from the movie industry as entirely justified.
  9. RX_Sith

    RX_Sith C&G Game Host star 5 VIP - Game Host

    Mar 13, 2006
    Well, Gremlins (1984) isn't on this list either and it is maybe a little bit of a fantasy film.
  10. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    A page or two ago, we had a discussion about what should and should not be on the List which at that time I was pasting into every new page of this thread. The end result of that discussion was that, even though I as the thread creator was imagining sword&sorcery and fairy tale-type films, generally not set in the modern world, as qualified for inclusion on the List, other contributors to this thread felt that a much broader definition of "fantasy" was in order.

    Therefore anyone can discuss any film they feel has fantasy elements, and there is no more List as such.

    The Ewok Adventures movies? I've never seen them, and I'm not sure I want to after Koohii's horrifying review, above! Gremlins? Great little horror-lite movie with fantasy elements and spectacular puppetry. Gremlins 2 is even better, IMO, because it is a satire of the original film made by the same filmmakers and, unlike other satirical sequels such as Esape from LA, is actually genuinely funny.
  11. vong333

    vong333 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Oct 18, 2003
    Koohi-I'm going to disagree with you on the special effects of both Ewok movies. Both of them won Emmy awards for the stuff they put out. I wasn't much of a fan of them back then because I thought they were first of all hokey, and second of all carbon cheap movies of star wars. To me it was GL way to cop out of actually doing more real star wars movies, and coming out with ewok/care bear crap. The special effects for the second movie though was not bad. This in my opinion, is were GL went completely wrong. Maybe making more movies at the time was not the priorty, but why make those ewok movies in the first place? The second one had way more action in it. I guess he thought that his fan base was pissed off at him for the first movie. That and those Ewok and Driods cartoon. They could have opted for a more star wars type approach. Okay, they couldn't before, then wait for when they could. Did they do that? Nope, they went ahead and waited until the 2003 season to decide to do animation. As far as the concept of magic and the force, I'm afraid it's really in line with the star wars movie (AOTC) all the EU stuff. The changleing witch from the second ewok movie was really no different than that bounty hunter from AOTC. Just better CGI effects and less colorful stuff. Also, barring any ridiculous ret-cons that only serious die hards listen to, we have a plethora of star wars eu material that borders on the magic side of things. Remember the Courtship of Princess Leia novel?

    Dragonslayer was a very good movie and for its time, really pushed the envelope for its special effects

  12. Obey Wann

    Obey Wann Former RMFF CR & SW Region RSA star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jan 14, 2000
    The Courtship of Princess Leia novel is why I stopped reading any of the EU altogether. For years. [face_plain] The Republic Commando series is the only one I have read since the dark times. //shudder//
  13. Koohii

    Koohii Jedi Master star 5

    May 30, 2003
    AotC Bounty hunter Zam Wessel (I think that's the name) was a chameleonic life form.
    Sorceress from BfE was a witch.

    Witches of Dathomir used incantations to concentrate and focus their minds to contact the force. All of what they did was otherwise the same as regular Jedi powers. Blowing up Han Solo's teeth: TK Injure/Kill. Levitation, TeleKenisis, Force Lightning--all the same. But it was all the same Force. All writers of the Novels were using the WEG RPG books as a bible for consistancy (required by contract for every writer after Brian Daley's Han Solo Trilogy and the Lando Calrissian Trilogy up until the prequels RetConned the backstories).

    Supposedly, the BfE character was a Dathomir Nightsister who somehow made it offworld and got stuck on Endor. <cough> Sounds to me like Kevin J Anderson desperately trying to twist the universe to fit his own perceptions.

    I don't care if they won awards, the effects were still bad, even for that era. Any award would have to have been the result of Industry Politicing rather than merit. Just like most other Hollywood awards.

    Yes, most of the novels do, indeed, suck and cause tremendous pain. Even Timothy Zahn, who did so well with Heir to the Empire, wrote a serious stinker with Visions of the Future (not entirely his fault--he had to include all the excrement written by Kevin J Anderson and the other 2-credit hacks in a capstone). Still, that's bordering on belonging to the Literature forum. I'll be happy to PM the list of good books (it's short) if you like.

    Gremlins was great fun. Joe Dante's sense of humor took Chris "Home Alone" Columbus' script and made it come alive into something quirky and imaginative. Lots of cute details (the old nasty woman's office hours last about 30 minutes). The sequel was better from a technical standpoint (improved technology), and had more outlandishness, but doesn't stand up on it's own. If it hadn't been for the first movie, the second wouldn't make as much sense. Then again, having Hulk Hogan and Jerry Goldsmith (composer) make cameo (along with several other 80s action stars) appearances sets the whole thing up to not be taken seriously.
  14. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    Let's talk Red Sonja (1985). While it does not outright suck the way Conan the Destroyer (1984, from the same director) does, it is not exactly a good movie. The premise of the Talisman is silly, the homophobia on display is objectionable, and the performances -- including Sandahl Bergman's, who was excellent in Conan the Barbarian (1982) -- are sometimes laughably over-the-top. Schwarzenegger calls it "The worst film I ever made" and jokes that he disciplines his kids by making them watch it ten times in a row! However, for all its flaws, I find it an entertaining romp, and decidedly superior to Conan the D. The swordfights in particular have a savage edge to them that the 1984 Conan movie totally lacks. The cinematography is also rather lush and aesthetic.

    Anyone else caree to chime in on this flawed gemstone?
  15. Mastadge

    Mastadge Manager Emeritus star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jun 4, 1999
    Ennio Morricone's finest epic fantasy score (The choir chanting "Soooonnnya!" is almost as awesome as the choir belting out "Robocop" in the Robocop 2 score!). The swordfights, as you say, are quite good -- and the swordslingers actually get tired and slow down, which happens all too rarely in these movies. It was very silly. It was also, as you say, superior to the first Conan sequel. And it had a very early appearance from important actor Ernie Reyes Jr.
  16. Koohii

    Koohii Jedi Master star 5

    May 30, 2003
    Unfortunately, Ernie Reyes Jr has decided to franchise his dojo into a belt factory. McDojo. There are at least 5 in the greater San Jose area. The whole thing is set to marketing rather than true teaching. This is exactly why many asian cultures did not want to teach westerners in the first place.

    As to the movie... Um... The score is decent. As for swordfighters getting tired... well, yes, eventually. However, for people whose entire lives are spent training and fighting, they show remarkablly little stamina. Oh well. Not Bob Anderson quality, but at least not horrible.
  17. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    Most remarkable is that Sandahl Bergman (Valeria in Conan the B) was offered the role of Sonja, but she turned it down! Perhaps she was afraid of being typecast? Or maybe she realized she wasn't quiiiite pretty enough to play her (don't get me wrong, I think she's beautiful, but in an unusual, non-Hollywood kind of way). Either way, she took the villainess role instead, and effectively ended her career (although that is probably an oversimplification of events). For a non-actress she was surprisingly good and naturalistic in Conan, but good heavens is she awful in Sonja.
  18. Koohii

    Koohii Jedi Master star 5

    May 30, 2003
    Don't blame her: blame the script and DeLaurentis.
    Script, Director, Actors. A deficiency in any one can be compensated for by the others, but if you have mediocre in two, or crap in one and mediocre in another, the production is toast. You can have internationally recognized and lauded Shakespearean actors, but saddle them with a script by Mammet, or a director like Lucas and the production is going to be horrible. Good actors can compensate for a lousy director. On the other hand, a really good director will find a way to get the performance he wants from the worst actor--hey, Sam Raimi managed to get Keanu Reeves to act! And Shatner can to Shakespeare (just not well).
  19. Chancellor_Ewok

    Chancellor_Ewok Force Ghost star 7

    Nov 8, 2004
    I disagree with the idea that the 70s and 80s represent the golden age of Fantasy. Compare the number of fantasy films made in the 70s and 80s with the number made between 2000 and 2008.

    1.Donkey Skin
    2.The Phantom Tollbooth
    3.When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth
    4.A Christmas Carol
    5.Bedknobs & Broomsticks
    6.Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
    7.Charlotte's Web
    8.Fantastic Planet
    9.The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
    10.The Land That Time Forgot
    11.Freaky Friday Gary Nelson
    12Pete's Dragon Don Chaffey
    14.Oh, God!
    16.Heaven Can Wait
    17.The Lord of the Rings
    19.The Water Babies
    20.The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh


    1.Hawk the Slayer
    3.Blind Chance
    4.Clash of the Titans
    7.Heavy Metal
    8.Raiders of the Lost Ark
    9.Time Bandits
    10.Ator the Fighting Eagle
    11.The Beastmaster
    12.Conan the Barbarian
    13.The Dark Crystal
    14.The Flight of Dragons The Last Unicorn
    15.The Secret of NIMH
    16.The Sword and the Sorcerer
    19.The Man Who Wasn't There
    20.Thor the Conqueror
    21.Zu Warriors
    22.All of Me
    23.The Company of Wolves
    24.Conan the Destroyer
    26.Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
    27.Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
    28.The Neverending Story
    32.The Warrior and the Sorceress
    33.The Black Cauldron
    36.The Peanut Butter Solution
    37.The Purple Rose of Cairo
    38.Return to Oz
    39.Red Sonja
    40.Santa Claus: The Movie
    41.Big Trouble in Little China
    42.Castle in the Sky
    43.Dream Lovers
    44.The Golden Child
    47.Peggy Sue Got Married
    48.A Chinese Ghost Story
    49.The Barbarians
    50.Date with an Angel
    51.Masters of the Universe
    52.Mio in the Land of Faraway
    53. The Princess Bride Rouge
    54.Wings of Desire
    55.The Witches of Eastwick
    56.The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
    59.Big Penny Marshall
    60.The Land Before Time
    61.My Neighbor Totoro
    62.Peacock King
    63.Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller
    64.Vice Versa
    66.Who Framed Roger Rabbit Always
    68.Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
    69.Chances Are
    70.Dream a Little Dream
    71.Erik the Viking
    72.Ghostbusters 2
    73.Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
    74.Kiki's Delivery Service
    75.The Little Mermaid
    76.Little Monsters
    77.Santa Sangre


    1.Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    2.Digimon: The Movie
    3.Dungeons & Dragons
    4.The Emperor's New Groove
    5.Il Mare
    6.Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
    7.Shaolin Soccer
    9.Black Knight
    11.Donnie Darko
    12.Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
    14.Kate and Leopold
    15.Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
    16.The Legend of Zu
    17.The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
    19.Monsters, Inc.
    20.Pokémon 3: The Movie
    21.Spirited Away
    22.Voyage of the Unicorn
    23.The Cat Returns
    24.Dracula, Pages From a Virgin's Diary
    25.Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
    26.The Hot Chick
    27.The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
    29.Pokémon 4Ever
    30.Reign of Fire
    31.The Santa Clause 2
    33.The Scorpion King
    35.Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat In Space
    36.Tuck Everlasting
    37.Big Fish
    38.Bruce Almighty
    40.Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat
    42.Freaky Friday
    43.The Haunted Mansion
    44.Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
    45.The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
    46.The Medallion
    48.Peter Pan
    49.Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
    50.Pokémon Heroes
    51.Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
    53.Ella Enchanted
    54.Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    55.Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
    57.Howl's Moving Castle
    58.Night Watch
    59.Planet Earth: Dreams
    60.The Polar Express
    61.Red Riding Hood
  20. Koohii

    Koohii Jedi Master star 5

    May 30, 2003
    Well, first off, WOW! That's quite a list. Good job. I did something similar last night with comic-book movies, so I know how much work it is.
    However, several of the movies on your list are SciFi rather than fantasy. I think we're also staying off anime.
    Peggy Sue got Married is fantasy? Maybe from a chick-flick perspective? Don't know--I never saw it, but that doesn't seem right. And I think your 1990s films got merged into the neighboring decades.
    No, "Fantasy Films" is intended as more of the hard-core, sword&ILM wannabes more than just any movie with a fantasy aspect. (Let's face it: all movies have at least some element of fantasy aspect by their very nature.)
    Still, I would say that the 70s and 80 represent the golden age. What we have now is more of a Silver Age.
  21. Vortigern99

    Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 12, 2000
    The golden age of cinematic fantasy is now, not 25 years ago.

    Just FYI, when I created this thread a few months ago, my intent with the term "fantasy" was magical fantasy/sword & sorcery type of films only, generally set in the ancient world or medieval times. In that sense of the term "fantasy", the 70s and 80s were indeed a Golden Age. In the 2000s we have the LOTR films, the Narnia films, Harry Potter (which is close enough to count, methinks) and the odd Scorpion King or Kull movie. In the 70s and 80s we had Sinbad, Clash of the Titans, Dragonslayer, Conan, Sword & Sorcerer, Krull, Willow, Legend, Dark Crystal, etc. There may be more "genre" (sci-fi AND fantasy, including superhero) movies in total today, but back in the day a greater portion of such movies were pure "fantasy" -- in the sense of magical sword and sorcery. That was the original intent with which I created this thread.

    Since then, by popular request the term has expanded to include any movie with fantastical elements, including superhero movies movies such as Superman or sci-fi adventures such as Ice Pirates (which I argued long and hard against) and, oh, The Peanut Butter Solution. So now that the term includes superhero movies and other such "fantastical" fare, the Golden Age does indeed seem to be the 2000s: hence my creation of this thread's sister thread, "Hollywood is Finally Doing SFF Films Right!", which see.
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