Yesterday, June 4, 2022, was the 40th anniversary of the U.S. releases of both Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Poltergeist. It seems incredible that these two seminal, A-plus level movies were released on the same day.
And we released the soundtrack CDs to both of them—cool!
I didn’t really notice because I just don’t pay attention to movie anniversaries. I know some labels like to use them for marketing—and I may have at FSM, from time to time—but mostly I figure that it’s always the anniversary of something, and unless it’s a big one (25, 50, 75), I’m just not that interested.
I tend to think of things as being good or not—and the things that I enjoy as being good are always good to me. So to call out the 15th anniversary or 35th or some random -5 or -10 year thing as a celebration, it just seems artificial.
It is sort of shocking to think that on June 4, 1982, you had your choice of Star Trek II or Poltergeist. 1982 was such an amazing year for movies: I won’t take the time to list them all (they include E.T., Blade Runner, Conan the Barbarian, The Road Warrior and John Carpenter’s The Thing), but some friends of mine are making a documentary on the topic—check out their Kickstarter page for a comprehensive list.
1982 was like the last hurrah of the 1970s—with the new generation of genius filmmakers (Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, John Carpenter, George Miller) getting the resources to make A-level versions of old B-movie concepts. Everything was fresh and vibrant and interesting (and brilliantly scored).
In screenwriting, we would say they had dramatic weight. But that weight quickly vanished.
The next year, 1983, was the first real wave of disappointing sequels and knock-offs: Return of the Jedi, Superman III, Krull, Twilight Zone: The Movie. (The scores, at least, were still really good.)
I won’t belabor the point, but it was an object lesson in diminishing returns. It was like, oh, I guess everything is not going to be magnificent. In fact, some of these people clearly don’t know what they are doing and are just pandering.
By 1983–84 the outlook of the country had firmly switched to “the Reagan Revolution”: out were the Vietnam/Watergate-era paranoid thrillers and angsty dramas, and in were the sunny comedies and escapism.
1984 is, in its way, as a noteworthy year as 1982, but for comedies: Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, Police Academy, Revenge of the Nerds—also Gremlins, Footloose, The Karate Kid and Romancing the Stone.
What you’re seeing there are some brilliant, crowd-pleasing concepts executed very well for the first time on a mass-audience level (even the stupid ones).
Anyway, please join me next Friday, June 10, as we celebrate the 39th anniversary of the theatrical U.S. release of Octopussy.