Unseen films – Roy 1980

Throughout our history, we have overcome incredible odds. From putting men and women in outer space, to placing a decade’s worth of information on a chip the size of a pencil eraser. Yet there seems to be some things that even our collected intellect has not yet been able to solve. My first film examines one such problem, where it’s solution has alluded us: Suicidal Depression.  Even though Ordinary People came out almost 37 years ago, it’s examination on how one person’s tragic decision can dramatically affect the lives surrounding that person. I choose this movie because it won the Oscar for Best Picture and it was the first major motion picture to look at this disease in this way.

ordinary_people

Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton) is trying to re-acclimate to life in upper-middle class Chicago suburb after a 4 month stay in a psychiatric hospital for trying to take his own life. Conrad is fighting post stress disorder and survivor’s guilt after losing his older, and much more beloved, brother to a sailing accident. Calvin (Donald Sutherland), Conrad’s father, and Beth (Mary Tyler Moore), Conrad’s mother, are trying to cope with the loss of one son and the suicide attempt of another. Calvin is trying to gain a relationship with his remaining son, while attempting to understand what his wife is going through. Beth wants nothing more than to get back to her perceived perfect suburban life. Conrad eventually seeks guidance from Dr. Tyrone Burger (Judd Hirsch), who helps him face his depression.  Conrad’s girlfriend, Jeannine (Elizabeth McGovern) tries to add more normalcy to his life. Conrad does suffer some setbacks, but Dr. Burger is able to help him overcome.  Each character has demons that they must face and in the end, not all of them are able to.

This film won numerous awards and for good reason. Mary Tyler Moore gives a powerful performance about a woman struggling to keep up appearance, but failing to cope with the loss of her son.  Her portrayal of a struggling mother and wife is amazing. Ultimately, she fails to cope and chooses to leave. Donald Sutherland gave an equally tremendous performance as a father trying to fix his broken family. Timothy Hutton in his breakout film gave a powerful performance, and one I had to remind myself that this was not real. You lived his struggles and felt his guilt. Finally, Judd Hirsch, known for his comedic role in Taxi, played the role of the psychiatrist so well, that many in the profession commended him and his positive portrayal and its influence. His performance reminded me of Robin Williams and his role in Good Will Hunting.

Suicidal Depression is just as real today as it was in 1980. The themes discussed in Ordinary People are timeless. The actors and actresses response to the death of a character and the suicide attempt of another also withstands the test of time. Today’s society deals with PTSD and survivor’s grief in a number of ways and examines how to best cope with these diseases. However, on its own, this film would be tough to relate to. Though suburban life still exists, it doesn’t in the form shown in the film. Very few families have sit down breakfast, where mom cooks breakfast, dad drinks coffee, and the kids come running down the stairs to sit at the table. Additionally, dinner and cocktail parties are not the societal norm as they once were. Of course, 1980 technology is comical in today’s world. I am not sure what some viewers would even think about a corded rotary phone? However, since the current Hollywood landscape is to reboot older films, I believe this film could be adapted to today’s world and have just as much success as this one did in 1980.

Hawk-Slayer

Dungeons and Dragons was first published in 1974. It grew in popularity until it had a cult like following. In 1980, director Terry Marcel wanted to capture the magic of a dungeons and dragons game on film. Thus Hawk the Slayer was born.  This movie has giants, witches, dwarfs, elves, and evil warlords. It has magic, elfstones, and great swords. Basically, everything a ten year old playing dungeons and dragons wanted to see. I chose my second film because I am a science fiction/fantasy lover and I wanted to see what a film from my birth year in this genre was like.

Two brothers, one good and one evil, are destined to face one another. The evil Voltan (Jack Palance) killed his and Hawk’s father because he would not give him the last elvin mindstone. Instead, Old Hawk bequeathed a great sword to Hawk (John Terry). This great sword had a human hand as its pommel and when the hand and mindstone came in contact, the hand grasped the stone and imbued the sword with magical powers that Hawk could control with his mind. Voltan wants to gain the mindstone.  His evil is every present and he will stop at nothing to punish Hawk. He even goes so far as to kill Hawk’s wife.  Hawk is called to help a convent that is under attack. While there, Hawk kills his nephew, Voltan’s son, Drogo. An enraged Voltan goes after Hawk and confronts him in a final battle.

This film was amazing! Like many films of this genre during the 1980’s, it had a cult following that made it more popular. People flocked to see their favorite Dungeons and Dragon characters come alive.  By no means would it stand up to today’s special effects standards. Hell, I am not sure it could compete with a fan made internet show’s special effects, but the effects used in this film for the time period were great. They are what made the film. The effects really captured the magic trying to be portrayed. In one scene, glow-in-the-dark ping pong balls were used to create spell work. Silly string was used in one instance to do a binding spell.  Additionally, the levitating sword during the dueling scenes was cool to see.

If you are a fan of fantasy movies or a fun of dungeon crawler table top games, this is a must see movie. The special effects are cheesy and the acting is over the top, but you get a great story between good and evil with giants, elves, dwarves, and magic. What more could you ask for!

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