Magic Hour: Five Years Of Experimental Blockbusters,  Part 1 (1978-1980) Magic Hour: Five Years Of Experimental Blockbusters,  Part 1 (1978-1980)
The birth and the Golden Years of the "High Concept" movie, after "Star Wars" had changed Hollywood: Part 1 of 3, covering the years... Magic Hour: Five Years Of Experimental Blockbusters,  Part 1 (1978-1980)

In 1975, Jaws was released to an unsuspecting public and a delighted Universal Studios. It marked the beginning of something that had begun to evolve out of arguably, the most experimental decade cinema has ever seen: The 1970’s.

It was a time when filmmakers took advantage of a changing Hollywood, uncertain in what the public wanted in the wake of a powerful counter-culture movement, loss of faith in political structures after the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War and the rise of a new competitor who was finally beginning to flex its muscle in the form of decreasing attendance: Television.

The old studio system was collapsing and most of them, by the end of the decade; would be bought by multi-national conglomerates which would begin cementing the system we have today. In this uncertainty, the studios turned to the new generation of filmmakers, which would become known as “The Movie Brats”. Young guys out of film schools and Roger Corman’s “anything goes” boot camp of filmmaking at AIP.

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This was all prompted by the success of Arthur Penn’s Bonnie And Clyde at the end of the previous decade. Indeed, Jaws itself wasn’t really the beginning but a further evolution that had started with Planet of the Apes, 2001 and then The Godfather only three years prior. But there was something different about this one. In a decade where irony, deep, meaningful character studies and the reflected paranoia of the day were redefining cinema using new storytelling techniques inspired by the European New Wave Movement, Jaws evolved cinema yet again but like most things in transition; it still carried the DNA of what came before. As it turned out, it was only the first part of a radical shift in what became known as “high concept”. The second part of this evolution would appear in the summer of 1977 with Star Wars.

At the time, many lamented what they saw as less meaningful fare then films like All The President’s Men, McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Five Easy Pieces. However, if you look at what was happening at these studios; I contend this was going to happen sooner or later. Jaws and Star Wars just gave it DIRECTION. In fact, looking back almost 40 years and comparing these first blockbusters with what they have become today; we see that a lot of these early “high concept” films that appeared in the wake of the summer of 1977 were really, really good.

Why was that? Well, the studios knew they had hit on something new and very lucrative but just like with Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider; they didn’t exactly know why. What they did know was that things like giant sharks, spaceships, robots and other fanciful fare were what people wanted to see and so, in the wake of Star Wars; the race was on to see what would stick and what wouldn’t. The studios would eventually figure this out in the coming years and settle into a formula where films were less made than micromanaged but before then, that same experimental and rebellious spirit of the Movie Brats would not yet die but find new expression in this game of high concept. After all, what was really the difference between a character study of Michael Corleone and Superman? This period of high concept experimentation wouldn’t last long however. Only about four years, a brief period much like that ethereal light that exists for the last fleeting hour after the sun has dipped below the horizon: This was genre film’s Magic Hour.

The best way to track the rise, zenith and end of Magic Hour is with the Star Wars films themselves. A New Hope symbolizing the start, The Empire Strikes Back being the zenith and Return of the Jedi marking it’s end. It’s hard even now for me to articulate what separates these films from what came after but a lot of it is right there in George Lucas’s original Star Wars. That first film was low budget-, but not a B-film. It was new and outside the Hollywood system but it wasn’t what would come to be called “independent”. To me, it could best be described by the same term used to describe Lucas’s first science fiction outing. Like THX1138, it was EXPERIMENTAL. When I think of this term applied to that first Star Wars film, I think of that trash compactor creature sticking it’s one lone eyeball up from under the muck. It was such a weird and offbeat image in a movie full of them.

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Another element inherent in these films seems to be the grounding of the fantastical. Making the unreal feel real. This was a pretty seminal idea in 1977. That first look at the Millennium Falcon dripping with stains and scorched with exhaust marks was something new at the time. Even though you were looking at an image that you KNEW wasn’t real, it sure as hell felt like something that COULD EXIST. But it wasn’t just the design of the film but the performances too. The actors approached this like they would any other film and through that naturalistic approach that actors traded in at the time, it further solidified the sense of reality. These two elements would slowly bleed away in the decades to come to be replaced with a self-conscious wink to the audience and a much more stylistic method.

Probably the most notable element that hardly exists in these films anymore is the decidedly adult approach to the stories being told. Today, we’re told that Science Fiction and Fantasy movies are only for 14-year old boys but in the wake of 1977, it was anything goes in the genre. Even Star Wars had pretty adult elements that I remember being shocked by as a kid. Who can forget the burned skeletons of Luke’s aunt and uncle or the blood splattered, severed arm of the alien who picks a fight with Luke and ends up on the wrong end of Kenobi’s lightsaber?

These elements would find there way through the films of the period in the various forms of Outland, Alien, Blade Runner and Conan the Barbarian. However, it wasn’t just the violent content but the realistic sense of jeopardy for characters in these films. You really worried about them and felt what they were facing were real challenges. The sense of danger was palpable. I remember being shocked again for the first 20 minutes of The Empire Strikes Back watching the good guys get there asses handed to them. The concept of the good guys not being able to defeat the opposition was new and thrilling and made you feel that for the rest of the movie, truly anything could happen. This adult approach also seemed to extend to a more meaningful, philosophical subtext in these films. Again, witness the musings and complexity of Yoda in Empire or the thought provoking and quasi-spiritual imagery of Close Encounters and the deep questioning of one’s identity in Blade Runner. Even Captain Kirk became a more complex and nuanced character with an existential crisis about age and his own usefulness in The Wrath of Khan. Subtext itself seems to be a sacrilegious concept in today’s high concept films.

The most obvious queue taken from Lucas was the combining of different genres: The Science Fiction Western, the Science Fiction Horror, the Horror Satire and so on. It showed that through the use of this new genre, older genres could be explored again with a fresh perspective. Think again of Outland whose own director described it as “High Noon in space”. Blade Runner itself is “Film Noir science fiction”.

The final and probably most inconsistent element of these films seems to be the experimental flavor itself. This was most likely because it was the main element that resulted in poor box office more times than not and therefore was the first lesson the studio learned in this new enterprise. Tron, The Dark Crystal and Blade Runner may be loved films today but at the time they were definite failures that no one wanted to repeat. The studio’s takeaway seemed to be, don’t stray too far off the beaten path even if the imagery is mind blowing.

Magic Hour can said to have started in 1978, where Hollywood’s first reactions to Star Wars would make it to movie theaters so let’s start there and with the first film out of the gate: Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Technically released at the end of 1977 and not really a reaction to Star Wars but a film made alongside it, this was nonetheless the film that solidified the movement and probably planted the idea that as long as there’s something fantastical in a film (no matter what it is), the audience will show up. In many ways, this is the counterpoint to Star Wars and for me, just as great a film. Where Star Wars was light in tone and heavier on action, CE3K was more akin to 2001, Silent Running and other high profile Science Fiction that came before. This was the space film that made you think. Star Wars made you want to pick up that Christmas paper roll and swing it around at people but CE3k made you look up at the night sky and wonder what was really going on out there. It’s also a wonderful hybrid movie of the time. 70’s elements like government conspiracies; deep character study and realistic, overlapping dialogue ground this film in a way few other science fiction films have achieved since. This film also features two of the most dazzling special effects ever seen: the first being Douglas Trumbull’s seminal UFO effects that still hold up today and the second: Richard Dreyfus’s performance. His obsession with getting to Devil’s Tower is so complete that it truly feels all-consuming. Again, realistic natural performances ground the fantastical narrative.

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That year also flirted with what would become two Hollywood staples: The first being the remake. Philip Kaufman directed the first of many (and in my opinion, the best) retelling of the classic 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, adding a truly disturbing atmosphere with a great 70’s ending that probably wouldn’t fly today. The film itself perfectly infused an old idea with enough of the new while still not losing its original identity. THIS is how remakes are done.

The other Hollywood staple that was introduced that year, the comic book film; was represented by The Man of Steel himself: Superman. Still, to this day; I have yet to see a movie about super heroes that’s been this engrossing, epic and emotional. Nolan’s films come close but this is still the Gold Standard for me. Both actors who play Clark Kent, first as a teenager then as an adult; really make you identify and feel the struggle of a person who can’t quite fit in and wrestles with a destiny that keeps him at a certain distance to those around him he’s come to care for. The film gives a sense of the epic in the way it’s shot but also conveys an intimacy through the character. The way his human father dies also feels sudden and tragic which is how death affects a lot of us in real life. This further grounds the story in a sense of the real and punctuates the emotional response Superman has when he finds Louise Lane killed in the third act. In the end, you understand exactly why he does what he does next and more than that, you want him to. Yes, the film does fall apart quite a bit in the second half almost like it was made by a different director and that’s because it was. The producers fired Donner before he could finish filming the entire story, which is too bad because it does finally make for a pretty noticeable flaw in the viewing. There is still a lot to love in the Metropolis section of the film, however and to this day only Nolan has been able to make a man with a cape feel like a real person inhabiting a real world.

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There are other notable genre films of that year (Coma, The Boys From Brazil and Capricorn One) but I feel these are the ones that really meet the description of Magic Hour.

After that initial first year, 1979 would see filmmakers becoming even more innovative with the genres of science fiction and horror. In some cases, the films would stretch experimentation even further while in others they would rebirth more traditional stories. This is the year that saw the release of one of science fiction’s most enduring films, one that created a new hybrid genre and itself is imitated almost as much as Star Wars. I’m talking about Alien, of course. Outside of 1958’s It! The Terror From Beyond Space and Mario Bava’s atmospheric 1965 film Planet of the Vampires; the world hadn’t been exposed to the idea of Science Fiction/Horror. In the present age where science fiction with a major budget HAS to be PG-13 for the young ones, the gore, violence and the unrelenting, Gothic, bleak atmosphere of Ridley Scott’s classic stands out the most now. I wonder how a studio would react to a pitch like that today, where an alien organism bursting from a man’s chest punctuates the end of the first act. I’m betting that wouldn’t fly today. Scott would push this formula further right at the end of Magic Hour.

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On a lower budget, Horror/Science Fiction/Fantasy would also be explored in what still remains one of the most unique low budget horror films ever made: Phantasm. A film that involves robotic (?) exsanguinations, grave digging and some sort of inter dimensional travel and on top of it all, it’s still frightening. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a horror film with such imaginative elements got the green light a year after the release of Star Wars.

High Concept in the form of horror would also be seen this year with John Carpenter’s The Fog, a modern retelling of the classic ghost story; and David Cronenberg’s The Brood, which, like Phantasm, would find a successful blending of horror and Science Fiction elements to create a disturbing, atmospheric prose.

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Across the world, high concept was also getting a makeover in the form of one of the most successful grindhouse films ever made: George Miller’s original Mad Max. Another film about a dystopian future that were so popular in the 70’s, this film seems to take a certain inspiration from the high speed battle sequences in Star Wars to create a more frenetic and visceral narrative that engages the audience with some of the most intense car stunts ever seen on film. That operatic style extends to the performances too. Toe Cutter (the main villain and leader of the bike gang) feels like a low-fi version of Darth Vader at times…if Vader had a coke habit. As impressive as his film debut is, like Scott; Miller would be back to refine his style at the zenith of Magic Hour.

Among these more modestly budgeted ventures, the movie with the highest profile that year was the return of the Enterprise crew in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. This is probably one of the best examples of Magic Hour and how it took the best innovations of Star Wars to create something decidedly different. On the surface, it resembles Star Wars in the use of truly impressive visuals and an epic sense of scale (world building like this simply wasn’t possible on Star Trek’s television budget) but that’s where the similarities end. Instead of dazzling you with action and speed, it does so with intellectual concepts and a feeling of profound mystery. In this universe, THAT’S what the special effects are there to support. Considered boring and bloated at the time, looking back almost 40 years later; it reads as an ambitious experiment to evolve a 60s’ science fiction show into a hard science fiction drama. It feels exactly like what it is: an attempt to push the intellectual musings of the TV series and put them front and center, free from the restraints of television execs demanding more fist fights and romance. The strengths of Star Trek existing within the creative innovations of Magic Hour is in sharp contrast to Star Trek 30 years removed from all of this. In 2009, once again we get a reinvention of Trek using Star Wars as the main impetus but this takes place in a Hollywood that has its big budget priorities down to an overly researched science. This time those whiz-bang elements BETTER be there or else.

In the end, we now have a corporate created Trek with minimal to no character development, style over substance and in its sequel; the most shallow nod to Trek’s tradition of big ideas in the form of a lazy 9/11 metaphor that had already been done to death on the Battlestar Galactica revival and in Star Trek itself just a few years earlier with an entire season of Enterprise and before that with a much superior Deep Space Nine two-parter (“Homefront” and “Paradise Lost”). In the end, this is the most 2001-like and experimental Star Trek film we would ever see.

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Wrapping up the year, I have to mention Disney’s The Black Hole. The first attempt by the studio to enter into the Star Wars realm of big budgets and high concept; it ends up too imitative and conservative. However, there’s a spark of experimental creativity and a more adult tone for the studio, appearing at the very end. Hastily put together to try to figure out a satisfying ending, the trip through the Black Hole has some very interesting imagery and almost horror-like concepts; pointing to a studio that was ready to step out of its comfort zone and be more daring. This would certainly be felt in the coming years of Magic Hour, ending up with one of the most original and innovative films of this period.

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Other notable films of the year where Time After Time, a movie that mixed the science fiction genre with Edwardian elements culminating in what some might call one of the first examples of Steampunk. It was the debut of filmmaker Nicholas Myer who will come back to flex his muscle even more before Magic Hour is out. In the horror genre, we also have a Gothic remake of Dracula adapted from a popular stage play at the time and directed by John Badham, featuring a wonderful John Williams score and possibly the most frightening and disturbing Mina (in this case, the daughter of Van Helsing) ever devised for the screen.

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1980 would see the return of Star Wars with The Empire Strikes Back, not only one of the best sequels ever made but one of the best examples of combining independent film sensibilities with the Blockbuster concept. This makes Empire one of the strongest examples of Magic Hour, made right in the center of the movement and representing the perfect blend of the first film and the best parts of Return of the Jedi. It’s a beautiful middle ground for the realization of George Lucas’s universe. This is because it’s a blending of that low-budget, experimental spirit of the first film but with a larger budget that somehow doesn’t stifle its creativity but greatly enhances it. This is the rarest of blockbusters and is almost always found in the second act of a trilogy when someone is able to pull it off. In this case, the edgy, adult tone is realized to a greater degree in the sequel both in the form of story and it’s visual atmosphere.

The characters also become much more complex and have to make tougher decisions. What I love most about this is, it’s a sequel but holds off as much as possible on the sequel idea of “the same but different”. The “same” part seems to be represented only by the main characters and a few familiar vehicles (mainly the Millennium Falcon, Luke’s X-Wing and the Empire’s Star Destroyers and Tie Fighters). Everything else is different. This film really doesn’t hold back on introducing you to new elements like Lando, Hoth, Snowspeeders, Super Star Destroyers, Dagobah, Cloud City, Lando, Yoda, bounty hunters, The Emperor and asteroid fields. The best thing is, they all enhance the story and the universe, not distract from it. Even the performances of the actors are more nuanced. The adult tone also comes back with Vader’s revelation (yes, the villain in a Sci-Fi film becoming a more complex character himself was pretty innovative at the time), his severing of Luke’s hand, and the fate of Han Solo. In all, Star Wars didn’t just return with a bang, it also grew up.

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Superman would also return with a more complex and adult tone than its first outing with Superman 2. Now pay attention Zack Snyder. This is how you challenge the character of Superman without fundamentally changing his core. Like Empire, this film feels more adult in tone and darker. I can tell you, much like “Star Wars 2”; this was pretty strong stuff for children at the time. The villains feel like a real threat, mostly thanks to Terence Stamp’s larger than life performance that feels like Hitler, if he could fly and shoot laser beams out of his eyes. The desire of Superman to live an ordinary life with the woman he loves is explored to beautiful effect here, from his initial bungling that reveals his identity to Lois to his attempt to challenge a bully without the benefit of his super powers that ends with the Son of Jor-El being amazed and shocked at the site of his own blood. It culminates in a very poignant moment in which Superman returns to a destroyed Fortress of Solitude and speaks to his father and is greeted with only silence at first. The battle between Superman and the three villains is wonderfully realized and far more engaging than the CGI destruction that seems to drone on and on in Man of Steel. All of our assumptions about the first film are challenged but in the end, aren’t altered beyond being recognizable, making for a sequel that feels just as well balanced as Empire.

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1980 also brought us another science fiction film with a more adult tone and while many of you may be thinking of Sybil Danning’s revealing costume in Battle Beyond the Stars, I’m actually talking about Saturn 3. Ultimately a failure on a storytelling and directorial level; it was attempting something closer to Alien but replacing the alien itself with a robot.

What was interesting here though, is the rare moments of violence and gore which show its connection to Frankenstein and the unique production design. The sets and Hector the robot are still stand outs in concept design especially today when more and more science fiction and fantasy films look like they were all designed by the same artist. Conceived of and originally directed by John Barry, the production designer of the Star Wars films; he was ultimately fired off of his own project and replaced by Stanley Donen after conflicting with Kirk Douglas. Ultimately one of the experimental failures of Magic Hour, the design aspects of this film still hold up today. A great film to watch with the sound off and that’s actually a compliment in this case.

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It seems this was the year for experimental, science fiction failures because there were two more. The first was the remake of Flash Gordon, which interestingly enough was what Star Wars was going to be before George Lucas was unable to secure the rights. The film was both derivative and daringly experimental at the same time. It was obviously a Star Wars clone but took the bold choice of featuring a retro Art Deco-design for the entire film at a time when everyone was chasing Lucas’ “used universe” aesthetic. Then there was the VERY experimental choice of rejecting the “classical score” which Star Wars also brought back into popularity. Instead, the movie was scored by the rock group Queen who created a sound that’s halfway between a synthesized sound and a full on rock opera making for one of the most unique and memorable film scores ever recorded. The other experimental failure was literally about experiments and it was one of the strangest films of Magic Hour.

Altered States was a film directed by Ken Russell from the only novel ever written by famed screenwriter Patty Chayefsky (Marty, The Catered Affair, Network) who also wrote the screenplay but removed his name from the final film after disputes with Russell. The disagreement in tone between the screenwriter and director can be seen in the finished product which features a very serious story with Chayefsky’s trademark naturalistic dialogue but which is somewhat undermined by Russell’s direction which handles the “trip sequences” with an over-the-top approach that sometimes wanders into silliness.

The story itself is pretty heady stuff detailing a research scientist (played by William Hurt in his first film role) who experiments with psychotropic drugs while being suspended in an isolation tank. This first results in intense hallucinations that slowly becomes a frightening trip into a continued regression to man’s earlier state. At first he’s transformed into an early hominid but by the end of the film, regresses to man’s earliest primordial state which is somewhere between non-corporeal and ultimate chaos. As critic Janet Maslin wrote at the time: “The screenplay, addresses, with no particular sagacity, the death of God and the origins of man”. Try getting away with that today in the age of comic book movies.

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Perhaps Altered States would’ve been in better hands with the filmmaker who made this next entry: The Elephant Man. David Lynch had burst on the scene in the same year as Star Wars with his VERY experimental film, Eraserhead. The success of that film afforded Lynch the luxury of a bigger budget and a studio picture. In a great example of how originality and the bigger interests of Hollywood commerce were so evenly balanced in this period, Lynch originally was going to make a film he wrote called Ronnie Rocket but when it became obvious that it wouldn’t be picked up by anyone, he had his producing partner find scripts for him to direct. The Elephant Man was his choice for his sophomore effort. To this day, it’s seen as the most mainstream of Lynch’s filmography and yet, still maintains his trademark surrealist style. Shot in black and white, featuring an innovative use of sound and one of the most impressive make up transformations of all time, John Hurt creates real pathos for the real life tale of John Merrick who, deformed from birth, is rescued by Anthony Hopkins to live a life that finally shows him his own worth. All of the elements combine to create a kind of sad, moving fairy tale that is deeply empathetic to its main character. In the end, it plays like a dream version of E.T.. This is a wonderful blend of big, Hollywood storytelling with the strange, offbeat sensibilities of a real artist.

That’s it for Part 1 and those first three years. Next time, I’ll cover the introduction of horror films to finish off 1980 and take a look at the genre explosion that was 1981. Please comment below on your thoughts on these movies and what other films from this time I may have missed that could fit into Magic Hour.

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Coupon The Movie

  • Sagamanus

    Those covers have always been inspirational to me. Yes just staring at a magazine cover.

  • I_am_better

    Damn, Coupon. You’ve definitely put a lot of work into this. Now we all need to up our game.

  • Bop

    The amount of work you must have put into this… Awesome read, Coupon.

  • This is what I’m talking about!
    I love when people put a lot of thought into things. And unafraid of a high word count to expose their thoughts to writing.
    You humble me, Coupon, and that’s fantastic.
    The experimental blockbusters, as you call them, that might have impressed me the most are the ones done by Disney at this time, like The Black Hole, Dragonslayer and Tron. For a short while, Disney grew a pair of balls and wasn’t afraid go crazy, creating 3 of the top best movies of their entire history. Whatever I might think of Disney, for those 3 movies I have respect.

  • It can’t be done.

  • Anybody who likes and praises STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE automatically has my respect.

  • Captain Genius

    tl;dr i do wanna know what mindy has to say about mork. man i need to order a pizza and red this beast of an article. nice job….and i haven’t even read all of it yet

  • I_am_better

    Well we must try

  • That’s not an attitude I like. Man up, soldier.

  • Excellent stuff, Mr. Coupon. And a joy to read.

  • I do not fight against the laws of physics.

  • I don’t fight wars I know I can’t win. So instead I just turn about and do my own thing as I see fit. I’m not in the business of competition.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Great, great article dude.

  • I_am_better

    Oh, I didn’t mean it as a “War” or competition. Just makes me want to kind of try and better myself. I’m known to write almost all my stuff in one sitting in about 2-3 hours before publishing – basically putting out the first draft every time.

  • It’s the same with me, basically. Recently I find myself do more revisions, but compared to what most would call revisions it’s not that extensive.
    I admit that excellent articles like this or the Sicario review intimidate me, but they also exhilarate me because of their excellency. I’m a huge fan of excellency.

  • KilliK

    indeed, and I am sure Turd will be first in line. nug nug.

  • KilliK

    excellent article, well done.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Thanks man. I’m glad you liked it. Love your stuff.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Funny. My girlfriend loved Star Trek growing up but had never seen any of the movies or TNG etc. We watched all the movies together far divorced from release hype and popular opinion and The Motion Picture is the one she enjoyed the most. She said it was the one most like the show.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Wow man. Thanks for the praise there. I definitely agree with you on Disney at this time period and I get into all of those films in Part 2 and 3. There is also a fourth one that I cover in the second part that a lot of people don’t remember. Yeah, disney was brave then but Eisner fucked it all up and to me, even though he’s long gone; his fingerprint still lingers. I lived in Orlando for a long time and saw the damage he inflicted first hand. This was what Disney was right before he showed up.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    It was fun to write so I got into it. Glad you liked it.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Thanks brother.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Thanks dude but that’s not all true. Your THX1138 article blew me away. I couldn’t write that one and I loved reading it.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    It was a lot of fun finding the images to go with these articles. I love those old mags.

  • Thanks a lot! But that’s a new masterclass. By the way, is it okay if I send you a mail to the address you subscribed with in the next days? I wanted to ask you something.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Thanks again and sure man. If you mean my gmail i registered with then yeah. Otherwise, I’m not sure what address that would be.

  • It’s the gmail, yes. It’s something minor, easier to explain in a mail.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Yeah man. No problem.

  • ErnestRister

    I’m guessing Something Wicked This Way Comes.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Yep. You nailed it.

  • Eisner was cancer. First he fucked up Paramount then Disney. He took his demented hardball attitude he had as an agent to his job as executive. He’s proof why cocaine addicts are fucking shits.

  • It is, at least in intention and philosophy.
    I have always loved the world building done in that movie, I believe in that world.
    I watched that movie for the first time on TV many years ago, I probably even watched it before any SW movie. It was my first ST movie too, as at that time video rental had not yet arrived to my country. I was blown away by the visuals, the designs, but most of all by the story and sense of mystery. I felt no difficulty whatsoever in following the story, nor it bored me for one single second, I couldn’t, the visuals, music and mystery kept me on the edge.
    I also owe ST:TMP for my love of film score. This and Blade Runner taught me how awesome film music can be and how they can be so important for the story the movie tells.
    And to this day the fly-bys over V’Ger and kirk’s arrival to the docked Enterprise inspired me with awe and glee, the type only great cinema can provide.

  • Tarmac492.1

    One can revise too much, as well. Though, we may not have hard deadllines per se there is an urgency to get some of the articles out. One can’t go over and over in their head until they drive themselves nuts. I would guess journalists might agree with what I said, but maybe not. I guess novelists and whatnot have more leniency with their time. Although they have deadlines as well. How I usually write here, I write it down in a word doc and then copy it into wordpress then go over it a few times there. Although, sometimes I do write at work. I sometimes feel the most inspired there. I also get the most horny there as well. If only I had an outlet for that.

  • Tarmac492.1

    I believe this intimidation you speak of is a good thing. I feel it too when I read excellent articles, like this or Dee’s Cobain article to name but two.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Hopefully, one of these articles will discuss Dead Heat, starring the Thespian god known only as PISCOPO.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Agreed about the battle scene in Superman 2 compared to Man of Steel. As kitchy(cheezy) as some of the effects are they have much more dramatic weight to them. And it has a great Rocky moment when Supes is hovering above the ground next to the DP and he asks Zod if he cares to “step outside.” Great stuff.

  • Tarmac492.1

    I think The Brood is my favorite Cronenberg flick. While it still contains the Cronenberg touches–pyschoplasmics, shape of rage book, it was also his most conventional horror flick. I didnt consider Dead Zone novel or film to be horror.

  • Tarmac492.1

    GF that loved Star Trek growing up?? Now you are writing fiction mang!! LOL!!! Lucky man, Again, great article. Hope you write many more.

  • I admit i’m a bit proud of my THX-1138 review. That or the Suspiria review might be my best work. And funny enough, i still feel i only wrote half the things i wanted to say abut those movies.

  • Yeah. I love to be inspired by a very good work, but i never feel i can compete, in that i reallty don’t like the concept of competition. I had never in me to be stimulated by a desire to compete and win. I’d make a bad american.

  • KilliK

    soon to be remade/readapted.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Well that goes without saying, doesn’t it? Actually worked with Piscopo. Really great guy.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    It’s true. Her favorite movie? Blade Runner. Thanks brother. Got a part 2 and 3 coming up later for this one.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Watcher In The Woods, man. Something Wicked actually falls just outside of Magic Hour but I mention it anyway because it still carries that spirit and it’s so well done and pretty scary. Loved it as a kid. Probably the best Bradbury adaptation done yet.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Shhhh. They’ll hear.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    That’s pretty much how I do it too. It also helps to have other writing projects so you have to get your articles done in a timely manner in order to get back to them.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    That was a good one.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Me too. That’s just writing. There’s always more to say but it’s good to self edit and try to keep it lean. That’s what I’ve been learning with my script writing. And you should be damn proud of that THX article and yes, Suspiria! That one was awesome too. Thanks for reminding me.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Yeah, those little mutant kids are so creepy. For some reason, I really like the scene where the coroner is examining one of them. It’s a great touch of realism and really grounds the scares. It’s like a proto X-File scene now.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    That scene is really great. What I love most about it is the context which these movies at the time mined so well to create an emotional moment. When Supes says that, it’s a repeat of what he says to the trucker in the diner right before he gets the shit kicked out of him and when he repeats it to Zod, he says it with so much more confidence and with an obvious learning arc. At that point, the audience knows that he’s ready to kick some ass and it’s that great theme of “you have to take a beating before you can give one” and when he says that to Zod, you know he’s ready to throw down. That’s a real “fuck yeah” moment for the audience.

  • KilliK

    um, they have already announced it.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Exactly. I hope you’ve learned your lesson.

  • KilliK

    i have. that’s why piratebay is my first bookmark.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    I agree on all counts. Trumball’s effects shown alongside Goldsmith’s score is like watching a ballet with the finest dancers and orchestra. Like you, that score was one of the first I ever owned and I listened to it non stop for years.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Good man. Don’t give those bastards your hard earned money. That’s all they do it for anymore.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Thanks man. Oh by the way, this one’s for you.

  • KilliK

    that and the corruption in HW. since they protect and award child rapists, I ll save my money for something else.

  • just staring? you cheap bastard

  • Tarmac492.1

    nice!!

  • My favorite movie IS Blade Runner. Rather, my 3 faves are BR, Apocalypse Now and 2001: A Space Oddyssey. Though BR is closer to my heart due to it was the movie that blrew my mind and made me into a film geek overnight (literally).

    Is there any possibility of cloning your girlfriend? Just saying.

  • Coupon am i misremembering or you didn’t mentioned APOCALYPSE NOW in your article. I consider it one of the best movie ever made and it could had only been made in that time period.

  • Tarmac492.1

    And the very end. “I’ve never seen garbage eat garbage.”

  • Tarmac492.1

    Those fucking snow suits are great. He does a great job of not showing them for the most part which helps. The grandfather’s death was particularly well done. And I love Robert Silverman’s little scene giving the sordid rundown on crazed Oliver Reed’s Dr. Raglan. While Spielberg film’s had similar parental themes, Cronenberg takes it to much darker corners.

  • Tarmac492.1

    I could see that. He doesnt seem to have forgotten his roots. I would gather her probably grew up in fairly humble circumstances.

  • Tarmac492.1

    “The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm. He came along the street of Green Town. Illinois, in the late cloudy October day, sneaking glances over his shoulder. Somewhere not so far back, vast lightnings stomped the earth. Somewhere, a storm like a great beast with terrible teeth could not be denied.”

  • Tarmac492.1

    Word.

  • Tarmac492.1

    I do have to say I am not a huge fan of The Fog. Yes, it was atmospheric, but I found it rather bland. Don’t tell me, but will Romero’s Dawn of the Dead get a mention later on? While not a major studio release, it was the work of a true maverick at the time. I still contend that Romero was one of the pioneers of Indie cinema as we know it.

  • Stalkeye

    Looking forward to “1981” for obvious reasons!
    Solid article BTW!

  • Stalkeye

    I do OK for myself. (;’

  • Stalkeye

    You’re full of self doubt, sir. Works such as these make many of us strive harder. Friendly competition can bee a good thing yanno.

  • Brilliant article to start off my Monday catchup reading on the site. Looking forwards to parts 2 and 3.

  • I don’t believe in friendly competition. If you are friends, you collaborate. But i know what you are saying.

  • Other than Blade Runner and The Right Stuff, what’s so obvious about that year?

  • Tarmac492.1

    Is it me or does the Right Stuff not get talked about as much as it should?

  • Tarmac492.1

    I watched Bone Tomahawk this weekend. It was pretty good, but a tad slow in some spots. Good performances all around. Could have been shorter. And I am seven episodes into Banshee and Lucas Hood is my new hero.

  • Easily Coppola’s best film, but yeah no mention. Hard to talk about everything in articles like this though, you’re bound to miss something.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Liking this action in Banshee. Yikes!!!!

  • Stalkeye

    Oh, you’re gonna love Banshee after the second season and afterwards!
    Plenty of Shit goin on in that one town. Hood is a certified badass and here’s hoping more roles for Anthony Starr.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    And pigs might fly, mate!

  • Stalkeye
  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Eighties movies getting the short stick yet again! We know the drill by now. >:)

  • Stalkeye

    Collaboration is a given but friendly competition can be healthy just as long as its not serious rivalry. One can learn from the other and vice versa. For example, I love what others have done with PS (Especially from what I have seen from Dee and Abe.) and that aspires me to try harder.

  • Stalkeye

    LMMFAO No comment but well played!

  • KilliK

    um, BR came out in 1982 and TRS in 1983…

  • KilliK

    he doesnt even know the correct release years of the movies he mentions..

  • KilliK

    my favorite line from the movie:
    “Get a new president”

  • KilliK

    ditto

  • KilliK

    but that doesnt reinforce the criticism that Superman is nothing without his superpowers?

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    With Blade Runner, it seems to change all the time. :p

    If he meant ’82, how can he say The Thing, The Road Warrior (US release, anyway), Wrath of Khan, and Conan aren’t notable? I know for a fact that he’s a fan of all those movies. And, of course, ’81 had Raiders.

  • Stalkeye

    Runners up

    “I don’t give a Fuck about your war…or your President”.

    “You and everybody else”.

    “Playing with myself, I’m going in”.

    “No Human compassion..”

  • But does it qualify as a blockbuster? Budget-wise maybe, but otherwise…

  • Well, in that regard my question is rephrased with only the second half, then.

  • For some reason i think this movie was made in 1979… which doesn’t make sense since it came after THE FOG and that one was made in 1980.

  • Fuck yeah, love for Apocalypse Now!!! Right on!

  • You said it, brother! That movie is magnificent. And at 3 hours length, there is not a single boring second in it.

  • I’m… focused. And old, memory gone to hell.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Not really. For me, “blockbuster” in this context means something very specific – a genre film. Apocalypse Now is too literary in its source, and esoteric in its approach. It’s an art film with a blockbuster budget, and with blockbuster returns (I think it was a big box office success for its day, but don’t quote me on that).

    Of course, the war movie is a specific genre as well, but sci-fi, fantasy and horror are the core genres of the blockbusters produced post-Star Wars. Ones which would have been considered ‘B’ movies in decades past but which were, in this period, elevated to ‘A’ status through not only superior production values, but a re-imagining of their fundamental tropes and formulas.

  • Yeah totally agree. I think it would not fit into that article at all. It’s definitely more of an art movie.

  • Was #1 for 7 weeks and heavily promoted, so I’d say yes.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    You’ll like part two and three. 80’s represent.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    You’re dead right. One of the finest movies ever made.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Yep. It zips along like greased lightning.

  • True, war films were already a big draw, similar to westerns, so wouldn’t really fit the context of this article.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Thanks sir.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Cool. ’81 has a lot of good stuff.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    “you’re A number 1!”

  • Coupon: The Movie

    He’s very much a working class Jersey boy. Very refreshing and down to earth.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    True, I did skip over Apocalypse Now and I thought about it but it doesn’t quite fit my criteria for Magic Hour. These are more about the explosion of high concept films in the studio’s reaction to Star Wars and the fact that they wanted more films with fantastical elements like robots, spaceships and dragons but they didn’t have the formula nailed down yet which gave the filmmakers a lot of creative leeway. Apocalypse Now doesn’t quite check all those boxes. While it’s epic and innovative, it’s also very much based on reality and also was under way long before Star Wars was released so it’s not really a reaction to that film but more part of the overall creative explosion of the 70’s themselves. Having said that, there is one film from 1980 that should be on the list that I didn’t include because the article would’ve been too long. It was also based on an existing property, was very high concept and was very innovative. It was also considered a failure. See if you can guess what it is.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Exactly.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Yep but later on there is a “science fiction art film” that very much applies but that comes in Part 3.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    No but only because it’s a sequel to a 1968 film so therefore predates my criteria of being a reaction to the Star Wars explosion but yes, a very fine film and the best of the “Dead Films” in my opinion.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Lol! She has a crush on Ridley Scott.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Bradbury was a poet. That’s great stuff. I wish Disney at this time would’ve made an adaptation of Dandelion Wine.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    He always can be counted upon to push the envelope.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    I don’t think that was true. He’s a good man with an unwavering moral center. To me, that’s what makes him great. The superpowers are just a bonus.

  • KilliK

    well said.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Lance Henriksen, Sam Shephard–that is a lot of bad ass in one movie. Funny, suspenseful, thought provoking. Not a thing wrong with it, at all. Amazing cinematography. I dont know if he will go down as one of the greats, but between this and his Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Philip Kaufman really directed two fucking classics.

  • Tarmac492.1

    It has that “real world” humour” that seems to be missing in today’s blockbusters. I mean everyday funny lines that we hear at work, or in times of great stress, or just at the grocery store. Everything today seems like schtick. Jaws, CE3K, the OT, The Thing, stuff like that had characters coping with situations by making amusing observances. Maybe today’s writers dont have that ear, or maybe they are shut down by the studios who want outright comedy in these flicks.

  • Stalkeye

    Ah,June 1981. I remember it well. The Film that called out to me when I was a wee bit lad.

  • And he helped write Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

  • Flash Gordon?

  • Tarmac492.1

    Any Flash Gordon article by me would be very Ornella Muti-centric. All I am saying.

  • KilliK

    who is the meat?

  • Tarmac492.1

    Lilli Simmons

  • Who can blame you?

  • Coupon: The Movie

    The screenwriting was so much better then as compared to now. From what I’ve seen, they just don’t have the ear. I know a few and I’ve seen them interacting with there friends in a social climate and their conversations are so banal. They just have no life experience. I can’t imagine Robert Towne or John Milius being such boring shits. I think it used to be that writers came to the profession with interesting stories and experiences because they lived a life before they started there writing profession.
    I know one guy who’s fairly young, early 30’s; who’s had a little success. He’s published a book, been on writing tours and had some meetings with studios over ideas for films and tv shows but he’s a boring, condescending douche. I’ve talked to him about my different experiences in life, the crazy jobs I’ve had in the past and the interesting characters I’ve met and he just shrugs and says he can’t imagine doing another job other than writing and that he never has. He actually sees it as a badge of honor that he went straight from his parents house, to college and then started writing with no other experiences in between. I can only shake my head at this guy but from what I’ve seen, that’s 98% of modern Hollywood writers in a nutshell. They got nothing to really write about that’s real or personal. They have nothing to draw on but other people’s work and it’s sad. But you know what? This guy’s farther along than me and taking meetings because that’s what Hollywood wants. I can only trudge along and try to finish the monster of a script I’ve been writing which is partly based on real experiences mixed with high concepts and hope someone appreciates that I don’t sound like those other guys and these kinds of films are a good blueprint of how I try to approach my own writing with an interesting lifetime of experience to inform my own ideas.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    I also like Quills. I thought that was pretty entertaining and unique for it’s time but yes, I see him as one of the greats for sure. I’ll say about The Right Stuff that Sam Shephard as Chuck Yeager is just as cool as Han Solo. In fact, it would be hard for me to choose between the two of them for who has the greater “cool factor”. I became obsessed with Chuck Yeager after that and devoured his book when it came out shortly after. How Hollywood has not adapted that awesome autobiography yet is a complete mystery to me although I shudder to think of what millenial nancy boy they would have play such an icon of cool, southern confidence and “it ain’t no big deal” attitude. The key to that guy on screen to me is being able to nail the difference between confidence and arrogance which is something modern society has all but forgotten.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Close but Flash is in this article. This was from a filmmaker who was definitely not known for tackling these kinds of movies and one that I’m betting is a favorite of yours. He made some of the best movies of the 70’s and the film cost a lot to make but didn’t make that much at the box office. It also starred a very famous comedian of the time.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Oh man. She was like the porno version of Princess Leia.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    I skipped it for a reason. See my reply to Asimov above and I love the film but I must admit that I place Godfather 2 and The Conversation over that one.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Ahhh, the resolution.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    You know, that’s actually the Superman film I would like to see. One where he meets the alternate version of himself in some parallel universe where he either never had his powers, lost them or gave them up to become a family man and lead a happy simple life. Or maybe with that strong sense of values, he would’ve gone into politics or something. I’m sure it’s been explored in one of the comics but they’ll never put it on screen because it’s to esoteric and reflective so we’ll just have to watch him fight Batman instead.

  • KilliK

    sounds like a sequel to Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, which is one of the best Superman comics.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    I knew it had to exist in some form there. Thanks man. I’ll have to llok that up. I know just enough about comics to count Alan Moore as one of my favorite writers in that field.

  • Tarmac492.1

    driving me nuts since I was eight years old, dude.

  • Tarmac492.1

    would you let DiCaprio or Bradley Cooper play him? What about Olyphant? Olyphant–while not as accomplished as SHephard–has that easygoing, tough guy quality that almost isnt acting. I would say Olyphant. Yes!! That is my choice.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Keep writing dude. That is all we can do. Back in the 90’s, when I was in my twenties, I received a few “encouraging” rejection letters from agents and an editor. My friend told me then “you havent suffered enough yet to be a great writer.” I think he was right. To tell the truth. I am glad that stuff wasnt published because it wasnt that good. I can revisit it, however. Do you use any programs for screenwriting? Any good one you can recommend?

  • KilliK

    it’s a great comic. I also suggest to read Red Son, Birthright and All-Star Superman, if you havent already.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    I think you’re right. That’s what a professional published writer told me. She had a story about a guy she knew who quit his job because his wife worked and sat in his garage for 10 years writing then finally he sent something in and he blew up. That was her advice. “doesn’t matter who you are. JUST KEEP WRITING. DON’T STOP.”
    Programs? Yeah, there’s the old Final Draft if you want to bone up $500 but if not, you can download a free program called Celtix. It works but it has some weird glitches however, once you get used to it, you’ll be fine. I would also recommend a book called The Scrfeenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier. That gives you all the basics for screenwriting and the correct formats without shoving a personal philosophy on you. It also has a section about how to convert Microsoft Word into the correct margins and font for screenplay format. You can get the newest edition (6th) on Amazon.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Not bad but the guy has to be skinny and not too good looking. I would also choose different actors for young, middle aged and old Chuck so he might be good for 29-44. You need a teenage Chuck and I would say for Old Chuck, Robert Duvall.

  • Coupon: The Movie

    Alright. Here it is. Saw this one in the theater when i was a kid too.

  • Tarmac492.1

    thx man.