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2004-01-15

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Scott Serilla: Short summaries of fantasy films not seen in at least 15 years

BY
BY SCOTT SERILLA: WHATEVER IT IS
I'm against it
Published January 15, 2004

Dragonslayer” (1981)
Whiny guy from “Ghostbusters II” and “Ally
McBeal” fights a dragon terrorizing a volcano-side village.
Really wasn’t much more to it. The Middle Ages looked really
filthy. There was a wizard and a girl who makes our hero a
fire-protective shield out of dragon scales, but that was about it.
My brother Paul was more into this than me.

Moral: Janosz shouldn’t play the hero.

“The Dark Crystal” (1982) I remember the
picture book more than the actual film. Nevertheless, these
incredibly frightening, giant vulture/reptilian Muppets must have
stolen a regular crystal, made it dark and used to take over other
races of Muppets. Two small, cute elfish thingies try to get it
back. The boy one played annoying pan pipes. Crystal might have
shattered at the end, which restored order and turned the girl
elfish thingy into an angel thingy.

Moral: Potent anti-technological themes about protecting the
natural world were utterly lost on me. Real message here was that
genius Jim Henson loved drugs.

“The Last Starfighter” (1984) Guy lives in
middle of no-where trailer park and spends all of his time playing
an arcade game, which is turns out to be a screening test for alien
starfighters. The SAT of space combat, if you will. Aliens pick him
up and recruit him to fight in their intergalactic war. After that,
it’s a blur.

Moral: Nerd dreams can come true and there’s no need to
pay George Lucas copyright royalties if you change just enough of
“Star Wars” that he can’t sue you.

“The Neverending Story” (1984) Really no
idea. You have a kid reading a book and he gets sucked in. There
was a princess to save, I’ll bet, but what was really
important was this really long flying furry white dog/snake
creature that they rode all over the magic land. In retrospect, I
have no idea how that got past censors. Come on — kids were
watching — think about what you’re teaching them! At
some point, they talked to rock formations, beyond that I’m
at a loss.

Moral: Keep your twisted phallic-infused fantasies to
yourself. Even the title sounds like pornographic film now that I
think about it.

“Return to Oz” (1985) Holy friggin’
crap! Exceedingly dark and terrifying. Obviously, Dorothy heads
back to Oz, but all I can recall was being traumatized with fear by
this way-too-scary picture. The Scarecrow and Tin Man are turned
into stone, and replaced by a walking clock and guy with a pumpkin
for a head. Worse, there were these human-bicyclical creatures that
had wheels at the ends of their hands and legs. They pretty much
stood in for the flying monkeys. After a few too many, I still have
nightmares about these wheeler suckers. Everything else is more
deeply repressed.

Moral: Under no circumstances should human limbs ever be
replaced by wheels.

“Legend” (1985) Tom Cruise. A unicorn. A
giant horned demon. Did I ever even see this? It seems like I would
have, but honestly can think of nothing else. I think this played
non-stop on early HBO, so I must have seen at least parts of
it.

Moral: The beginning of cable television was marked by a
severe lack of programming.

“Santa Claus: The Movie” (1985) First, we
learn Santa’s secret ancient origins, then well into the
future, an evil corporate toy tycoon (John Lithgow) tricks Patch
the elf (Dudley Moore) to come work for him so he can put St. Nick
out of business. I remember the elf’s name because for years
after, my mom would sign Christmas gifts from “Patch.”
Santa most likely got around to saving X-mas by the end.

Moral: While basically just a promotional tie-in for
McDonalds, movie titles that constantly remind us we’re
watching a movie are a missed relic of our youths, like an
ill-fitting retainer kept at the bottom of the sock drawer.

“Labyrinth” (1986) David Bowie is the
mulleted Goblin King who kidnaps a girl’s little brother
while she was babysitting. She has to make her way through a maze
to save him. More Muppets. After years of teaching kids their ABCs
and how to politely ask for juice, Jim Henson delights in
alternating confusing and terrorizing the crap out of children. For
some reason they were always playing this movie outside of Cub
Scout meetings for really little kids to watch.

Moral: Bowie’s been on the down slide longer than you
think.

“The Boy Who Could Fly” (1986) Mute kid can
fly. Syrupy and trite even for a five year old. The Disney Channel
showed this all the time.

Moral: Jumping off the roof. It’s a good idea. Go ahead
try, boy and girls.

“Willow” (1988) A dwarf and Val Kilmer have
to save a baby princess from an evil witch queen. There are really
little people called brownies who yell a lot and a guy with a skull
mask. In the end, Willow switches the baby with a pig, and that
somehow saves the day. Action figures for this movie weren’t
that cool, though Burger King had these rather impressive
“magical” changing cups. If you poured a cold drink in
the one I had, this two-headed dragon appeared. If you washed the
cup in the dishwasher, the “magic” wore off and the
monster was always visible. It might been from Wendy’s.

Moral: Cinema fades, marketing tie-ins are forever.

— Scott took the GRE yesterday and was tired when he
wrote this. Do not e-mail him at "mailto:sserilla@umich.edu">sserilla@umich.edu.


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