’80s Fantasy Movies Are Awesomely Cheesy

In the 1980s the fantasy genre achieved unprecedented popularity with the release of films such as Labyrinth, The NeverEnding Story, Ladyhawke, and Time Bandits. Science fiction author Matthew Kressel says he loves watching classic fantasy movies like Krull, in spite of the slow pacing and dated special effects.

“I know it’s really cheesy, and corny at parts, but there’s something about the world of that film that draws me in every time,” Kressel says in Episode 486 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I watched that movie with my cousin, who’s no longer alive, and I have an emotional attachment to it. Every time I watch it, I’m back as a kid in that theater watching it.”

Humor writer Tom Gerencer says that for adults who grew up in the ’80s, nothing can compare to the magic of watching Heavy Metal or Highlander. “You’re kind of imprinted like a bird,” he says. “If they’re around a human when they hatch out, they think they’re a human, and when you’re forming your young self and you watch these movies, they just get into a part of your psyche that closes when you’re older.”

The Princess Bride is the rare example of an ’80s fantasy movie that’s just as fresh and exciting today as when it was released. TV writer Andrea Kail says that many parts of the movie actually resonate more for her as an adult than they did when she was younger. “There’s this one line where Buttercup says, ‘You mock my pain,’ and Westley goes, ‘Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something,’” Kail says. “It’s funny, but it’s also real. Especially as an adult, you’re like, ‘Yup.’”

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley wishes studios would make more movies like Conan the Barbarian or Willow. “I love sword and sorcery so much, and I’m so happy I grew up with it,” he says. “These movies overwhelmingly were not well done, but there’s something so awesome about the whole sword and sorcery thing, and it makes me sad the extent to which it’s passed away. I wish more new movies would take this kind of story and do it better, with modern pacing and modern special effects.”

Listen to the complete interview with Matthew Kressel, Tom Gerencer, and Andrea Kail in Episode 486 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Matthew Kressel on Labyrinth:

“If you notice, when the clock strikes 13—which is really midnight—she’s at the bottom of the stairs, and the scene before that was when they were walking through all those M. C. Escher stairs. So I was like, ‘Oh, they’re basically playing with this idea that the whole thing was just her way of spending time with herself.’ This is, I think, a Gen X and earlier thing, because I think younger generations don’t really have that boredom. But there could be a time, at least when I was growing up, where there was nothing to do. There was nothing on TV. ‘What do I do? I don’t know.’ And then you just play in your imagination—or at least I did.”

Andrea Kail on cinematography:

“A good portion of the reason [that Ladyhawke is so slow] was the DP is Vittorio Storaro, who is one of the most famous DPs of all time—he was the DP on Apocalypse Now, so talk about long beautiful shots. I think they probably indulged him, so that might have had something to do with it. But I can’t tolerate [long shots] either. I just watched a movie called The Leopard, which is based on a classic Sicilian novel. It’s 1963, and it was painful. This is a movie that won awards all over the place in 1963, and it’s all just long, long single shots of people walking. I was clenching my fists. I’m like, ‘What are you doing? Move the freaking story.’ That is how we are. Our attention spans have been cut short at this point.”

Tom Gerencer on The Princess Bride:

“So many of the lines just pop into my head at random times during the day. ‘So long, have fun storming the castle!’ I mean, any time I say goodbye to somebody, that pops into my head. … I’m on this text thread with three of my high school friends, where we message each other all the time—multiple times a day—and a couple of weeks ago I ran across this great meme, which I had seen before, with one of those stickers that you put on when you’re at a conference. It says, ‘Hello, my name is,’ and then there’s a blank, and somebody had written in ‘Inigo Montoya. You kill my father, prepare to die!’ I screenshotted it, and I posted it to that thread, and it launched this lively discussion where they’re like, ‘That’s awesome! That’s so funny!’ And they started talking about other Princess Bride quotes.”

Tom Gerencer on William Goldman:

“After I saw The Princess Bride, I went and read the book and was just blown away, when I found out he wrote the movie script too, by how good of a job he did on his own book, adapting it, which you know, if you’ve looked into other authors who’ve done that, is not an easy thing. … If you read the book, and you see the parts he cut out, and you see what he transitioned from narrative into dialog and action, it’s astounding the job he did. It should almost be taught in film schools—people should have to read the book and then watch this movie and look at the screenplay, and just be like, ‘So that’s how that’s done.’”

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