Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy
The sword and sorcery movies of the 1980s may look cheesy by today’s standards, but they’re fondly remembered by many fans. Science fiction author Matthew Kressel hosts regular get-togethers where he screens classic movies like Krull.
“These are films that, for me, when I saw them for the first time, were just pure enjoyment,” Kressel says in Episode 371 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “They’re just fun movies. They’re not afraid to take risks, and that’s what makes them beautiful in my eyes.”
Many of these movies feature heroes in loincloths. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley blames Conan the Barbarian for popularizing this image, which also shows up in films like Masters of the Universe and The Beastmaster.
“Extremely muscular men wearing almost no clothing was such a trope of ’80s fantasy,” he says. “There’s a lot of Robert E. Howard rip-off stuff going on here.”
The trend even extended to children’s shows like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Humor writer Tom Gerencer remembers being captivated by He-Man. “He’s kind of a nerd, and then he gets this sword and raises it in the air, and says, ‘I have the power!’ and then suddenly he gets giant muscles,” Gerencer says. “And when I was 17 I was like, ‘Oh, that would be so cool.’”
But the idea of heroes in loincloths has pretty much died off in recent years. That’s just fine with TV writer Andrea Kail, who’s glad that movies like John Carter have failed to revive the trend.
“That was a mostly naked, oiled-up guy running around, and it died horribly, and well-deservedly should have died,” she says. “Hopefully going forward we’ll get more that isn’t just a bunch of naked, oiled-up guys throwing swords around.”
Listen to the complete interview with Matthew Kressel, Tom Gerencer, and Andrea Kail in Episode 371 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
David Barr Kirtley on ’80s movies:
“Watching these movies totally took me back to the ’80s. Because the experience of watching so many of these movies for me was that they were on television all the time, and you would be flipping through the channels, and you would come across a movie, and you’re like, ‘I don’t know what this is, but it’s fantasy so I’m going to watch it.’ But it’s already halfway into the movie, and it’s kind of boring, so you fall asleep, and then you wake up again and it’s still going, and toward the end they would start showing so many commercials that you couldn’t stand it any more and you’d turn it off. … So it’s just a completely different experience being able to watch these movies from beginning to end, which I don’t think I had ever done before.”
Tom Gerencer on the He-Man cartoon:
“I was actually a fan of the original TV show—as mercenary as I knew it was back then—and I was too old for it. I think I was 17 years old. But I would get home from high school and I would sit down on the couch, and get myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and be like, ‘Oh, there’s something I can watch that’s kind of fantasy-ish.’ And there were so many enjoyable things about the show that I really liked, even though I was embarrassed that I ever watched it. I mean, I would never tell my friends I watched it, but I would watch it. And my friends’ little brothers would watch it, and I would talk to them about it, and be like, ‘Isn’t it cool when this happens?’”
Matthew Kressel on The Beastmaster:
“That [scene] was horrible. He basically forces himself on her—he force kisses her, and then he forces himself on top of her. And watching it now, it makes me realize how much of a trope this was in ’80s movies—not even just in fantasy. It was like, if the guy’s aggressive and annoying enough, he’ll get the girl, and if she says no, it’s really that she’s playing hard-to-get. And this was one step away from the r-word, if you know what I’m saying. And I was like, ‘Damn, that’s messed up.’ … I noticed that in most of these films, the women were depicted as these helpless damsels in distress, and I really didn’t like that. I wanted to see them have their own power, their own strength.”
Tom Gerencer on cheesy movies:
“There’s this friend of mine who made up this thing called the ‘Cheese Code Truck,’ which is this truck that drives around, and there are actors who are really good actors who are in between movies, and they don’t have a ride—they’re on foot, they’re walking—and they’re like, ‘I hope a good movie comes along and picks me up.’ And they’re waiting and waiting, and it’s not coming along, and so the Cheese Code Truck pulls up, and Ray Liotta‘s driving it. ‘Hey, need a ride?’ And they’re like, ‘Sure, I’ll hop in.’ And they get on board this bad movie, not realizing that the Cheese Code Truck never lets you off. Once you’re on it, you’re on it forever.”
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