Welcome to Retro Time. In this blog, I’ll be covering topics related to film and television from past decades. These won’t be reviews, but rather a selection of memories, thoughts, and ideas designed to spark a little nostalgia and maybe inspire a conversation or two. Spoilers will likely come up, so please keep that in mind. Thanks for stopping by, and if you have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to chime in. I’d love to get your feedback. Now, let’s get ready to take a look back…
For some, the mention of 1984 brings up images of George Orwell’s classic dystopian and its bleak look at a totalitarian future where “Big Brother” is always watching. But don’t count out its good name just yet. The true year of 1984 had something going for it that no piece of dark and brooding literature can ever tarnish. Something that will make that particular year sparkle with fond memories and warm thoughts for all time.
1984 was the best year in movie history.
At least in my mind. And here’s why…
I was eight going on nine in the summer of ‘84, old enough to be dragged along to everything the folks and the older sibs wanted to see that didn’t have an R rating. I won’t claim to have seen everything that came out that year, but we did see quite a bit. Remember, this was the era when TV only had four channels and VCRs weren’t yet commonplace. (One wouldn’t grace my family’s living room for another year or two.) In a pre-video renting world, you actually HAD to go see the movies in the theater or you missed out. So we went, and boy did my little eyes feast upon a celluloid buffet the likes of which the world – at least my world – hasn’t seen sense.
Oh what a great time to be an eight-year-old cinephile. For one thing, the idea of PG-13 hadn’t been invented yet. You either had G, PG, or R. Though R rated flicks were still relegated to that mysterious realm where only the grown-up dare roam, everything else was pretty much considered fair game. Two movies from that year – Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – would actually help lead to the creation of the PG-13 rating due to their graphic content. But at the time of their releases, the envelope for what could be acceptable in a PG movie was still being pushed, and a generation of pre-teens like me were front row center for it.
So when Mola Ram ripped that dude’s heart out and set it ablaze before a cult of crazy Kali worshipers, I was there.
And when Ma Peltzer slammed that nasty mutated Mogwai into a microwave and nuked it into a blob of exploding goo, I was there.
But these over the top spectacles of visceral violence paled in comparison to the numerous life lessons that these films imparted to our impressionable little minds. For instance, The Karate Kid taught us that if you washed enough cars and sanded enough decks, you could mimic the movements of a leg-muscle-challenged bird and kick the crap out of the town bully. And Ghostbusters gave us hope that if our dreams of a future in academia didn’t work out, we could always strap a laser blaster on our backs and make a living relieving snooty old hotel managers of their pesky little ghost problems. And don’t forget about Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, which reminded us that Klingons aren’t so tough, as long as you have a big fiery abyss nearby to kick them into.
This was also a time when drive-in theaters were still commonplace. Picture it in your mind. You pull into what is basically a large gravel parking lot, your car bulging with snacks, where you watch your movies on a screen twice as big as anything in the regular theater. Oh the fun to be had while viewing films like Dune and Conan the Destroyer under the stars. Giant underground sandworms? A sword wielding Arnie? All under a vast canopy of wide open skies and countless celestial bodies that twinkled overhead. Could it get any better than that?
1984 was also the year that I saw my first double feature. I remember it like it was yesterday. My dad had a day off of work in the middle of the week and decided to take me to not one but TWO movies that afternoon. We saw The Last Starfighter followed by The Neverending Story. Imagine that. You watch Alex Rogan defend Earth against Xur and the Codan Armada only to be treated to the exploits of Atreyu and Falkor as they race against the devastating might of the Nothing. How can you walk out of the darkened theater after that and not have the experience forever etched into their brain? The answer: you can’t. It’s there to stay. And that’s awesome.
So there you have it. For me at least, the truth is undeniable.
1984 – with all its Thuggee fighting, Gremlin incinerating, crane kicking, ghost zapping, Klingon stomping, Sandworm snaring, sword wielding, Gunstar piloting, and Luck Dragon riding – was the best year for movies ever.
If you haven’t watched one of these classic little gems in a while, I urge you to do so the first chance you get.
Your inner eight year old will thank you.
George Ebey is the author of the recently released sci-fi novella DEBBI as well as a contributor to the anthology Brave New Girls. He is currently working on a full-length series of adventure tales set on Mars. You can connect with him on Facebook at George Ebey-Author and on Twitter @Ebeybooks.