VENGER SATANIS 7 of the Best

Venger Satanis’ 7 of the Best

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Written by Venger Satanis

I saw Krull in the theater back in the 80’s.  It’s unapologetically fantasy or science-fantasy, if you prefer.  Beautiful use of language, poetic and magical – everything from the Emerald Seer to the Widow of the Web.  It’s story is mythic and shares that (plus laser fire) with Star Wars.  Rescue the princess from The Beast.  If you don’t have Darth Vader, then some giant and grotesque alien creature is the next best thing.  It’s a hero’s journey.  Krull feels like D&D – an orphaned weird, pulp fantasy without a home.


Star Wars
The film of films.  Star Wars is the epicenter of sci-fi and science-fantasy.  Being a product of the 70’s, you get a whole different feel than you would if Star Wars had come out in another decade.  It has a lived in, struggling, can-do aesthetic that was so influential that most science-fiction that came after Star Wars was influenced by it.  While not super-flashy every single frame, it does an impressive job.  Back then, audiences didn’t need that kind of spectacle desperately trying to keep the eyes of children glued to the screen.  We loved it as a kid because it was adult sci-fi that youth could appreciate.

Blade Runner
Just today I was thinking about this movie.  Probably because there’s an Entertainment Weekly sitting on my kitchen table that has Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling on the cover and featuring a story on the remake or reboot or sequel or whatever it’s supposed to be.  Haven’t read the article yet.

Anyways, today my mind wandered to an old friend of mine.  We used to jam together.  Him on bass and myself on guitar.  We weren’t good or anything, hence why I’m doing this.

So, this old friend… I went over to his place years and years ago and his roommate was just straight up watching Blade Runner in his room, in the dark, alone.  For some reason, that impressed the shit out of me.  People don’t just watch Blade Runner because it’s a Tuesday.  Well, 99% of people don’t.  I’m the kind of guy who will just pop Blade Runner into the DVD player and nestle into that rainy, future-noir hard-boiled awesomeness, probably because I’m a borderline, yet highly functioning sociopath who empathizes with soulless killing machines.

Growing up, I watched it quite a bit.  Getting HBO was probably the coolest thing my parents ever did for me.  As a kid, I liked the darkness, the quiet sadness of all those lives thrown into the neon chaos and then pitted against each other.  Even then, at the age of 10 or whatever, I realized that Blade Runner was a rare film that could only be truly appreciated by weirdos like myself.

The Beastmaster
Speaking of HBO… Hey, Beastmaster’s on!

Some may not know that the guy who directed Phantasm also directed The Beastmaster.  Looking back, you can see a few of the same tones.  A certain other-worldliness that makes both of these movies worth watching again and again.

Tanya Roberts‘ boobs didn’t hurt (at all!) but I was just as impressed with Rip Torn (some day I’ll have to take the time to google how that dude got his name) as the cult leader Maax and Dar’s animals.  But if you watch it – and I just watched it again the other day – every scene has one or more awesome things in it.  Those three witches with great bodies and hideous faces, the interesting magic, those weird bird-like creatures, those green-eyed savages with spiky armor, etc.

My 5-and-a-half-year old wandered into the living room while I was watching that scene with the tree of embryos and people-digesting vaguely humanoid monsters.  She asked me what those things were.  I told her I wasn’t sure, they didn’t have a name, that they were weird creatures I’d never encountered before (before watching The Beastmaster, that is) and never saw them outside of this movie. As I spoke those words to her, I could tell that she was more than a little creeped out by them – because I was creeping myself out at the same time!  Right there is one of the elements of an awesome game of D&D or whatever your RPG poison – strange, nameless things never encountered before!

And just after the 2nd act, things take a dramatic change.  Dar’s actual father turns into a buzzkill and throws Dar under the bus.  Even worse, all his new friends are forced to abandon him.  There isn’t a sword raised, gesture of sorcery, or fierce beasts anywhere in that scene, but it tears you up inside.  I feel for Dar every time I watch it and it breaks my heart.  That’s motivation to rival warlords invading your village and killing everyone you ever loved.

As long as I’m talking about Phantasm, I may as well add it to the list.  The movie has a low-budget charm to it.  None of those actors really went on to do anything noteworthy in TV or film (aside from Phantasm sequels), but they’re all likable, relate-able, and play their parts well.

The silver ball, the Jawa-looking dwarfs, yellow blood, dimensional tuning forks, the creepy Tall Man, and a dreamlike twist at the end – it’s no wonder why Phantasm is another favorite of mine.  I’m having trouble describing the musical score… it’s sort of childlike and whimsical but not really either of those.  It’s dark and nightmarish, too, but not overtly so.  I’ll put it this way, it fits the film very well; Phantasm is hard to pin down.

Just last month, I watched Zardoz again.  That’s probably my 3rd or 4th time watching it.  Still awesome!  First time, I was a teenager.  If you can get past the fashion, it’s a great, albeit weird, sci-fi film.  Rather than space opera – which is what many people think of when they hear science fiction – it’s more serious, more grounded.  Yes, even with immortals, brutals, and giant floating stone heads… it’s less fantastic than starships and killer robots.  Sean Connery is remarkable.  He’s got this vibe going on like the man’s pissed that he’s in this ridiculous movie after his long and successful stint as James Bond, but rather than phone it in he channels his barely-contained frustration and rage into his character – Zed.

The Time Machine
I’m obviously on a sci-fi kick, so why not?  I watch The Time Machine every 2 or 3 years because it’s such a classic.  This is another movie I fondly remember watching when I was young, probably around 10.  The time travel aspect is awesome, of course.  That’s the main event – it’s in the title for God’s sake!  The time traveler himself is an outsider, as if Lovecraft had written him.  He’s a man born into the wrong time.  His friends don’t understand him; they take him for a fool or con-man.  He proves them wrong as he sets a course for the future.  The time traveler is both a realist and optimist, which is an interesting dichotomy to watch and one that I also share.  He believes that things are going to get better – mostly because he’s ill at ease with what he sees around him.  Then he’s surprised by the horror, devastation, and ignorance he sees in the decades and centuries to come.  But his surprise quickly dissipates as he quickly realizes, yes, of course, this is the way things go the vast majority of the time – until man comes to a point where he’s not such a self-destructive asshole.

Plus, the blonde girl is beautiful and the morlocks are really a terrifying foe.  Some great special effects – so much better than the CGI we’ve had to put up with in the 90’s and 00’s.

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