Still Watching the Skies: 2023 Summer Bonus “80s Fantasy”

Cody, Robert, and Nat take time off from our beach reading to bring you a special bonus episode focusing on four films reflecting Hollywood’s attempt at fantasy films in the wake of STAR WARS. It’s a podcast full of scantily clad women, swords, violence, revenge!, magic, superstition, and might makes right.

Our first destination, is John Boorman’s EXCALIBUR.

John Boorman had been aiming to make a version of THE LORD OF THE RINGS in the late 1970s but it never came to fruition. Instead, he got the go-ahead to make EXCALIBUR. While we’ll never know what Boorman’s LORD OF THE RINGS would be like, chances it that it shares a lot of similiarities with EXCALIBUR.

Debuting in April 1981, EXCALIBUR was a good sized hit and has a following to this day. We have a lot to say about the film, the use of colors, the amount of Arthurian lore it fits in, Nicol Williamson’s performance as Merlin, and a whole lot more.

Following close on the heels of EXCALIBUR was DRAGONSLAYER debuting in June 1981. Featuring Oscar nominated special effects and Sir Ralph Richardson it had all the makings of a big hit, and it certainly has a cult following to this day. Instead it was a big flop and largely disowned by co-producer Disney.

But, as has been noted, it does have a following to this day, including Cody’s wife. Although surprisingly, there’s certainly dissension in the ranks and a debate about the film. Although everyone can agree that Vermithrax Pejorative is a terrific screen dragon.

1982 found several significant attempts at creating a sustained fantasy genre on film. Including one of the more profitable independent films ever made with THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER.

Albert Pyun has made it to the main podcast with NEMESIS, but THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER is undoubtedly the most important film of his career. Making almost 10 times its budget, THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER was a big, profitable success and seems like the direct inspiration for films like DEATHSTALKER to follow.

But is it any good? We discuss the film and try not to come off as pigs. Which is kind of hard as the one thing THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER really brings to the table that other films in the genre don’t is a large amount of scantily clad and often naked women. Given how sexless commercially minded films are these days, it’s a reminder that things weren’t always that way. We also discuss a perhaps overly complicated backstory to the hero that sometimes gets in its own way.

Finally we arrive at one of the biggest names in the genre and its biggest success at the box office, CONAN THE BARBARIAN.

Competing with EXCALIBUR for the most iconic film of this grouping, John Milius’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN put Arnold Schwarzenegger on the road to stardom. With ringers like James Earl Jones, Mako, and Max Von Sydow in the cast to deliver speeches Milius is able to use his athletic cast, with Sandahl Bergman being a fine counterpart to Arnold Schwarzenegger, to full effect. We of course have a lot to say about CONAN, including some thoughts on Robert E. Howard.

No need to concoct a ridiculously complicated scheme. You can give us a play below or Download the episode. Also, feel free to let us know what you think by commenting below or Email Us at as we appreciate feedback.

Time tracks:

EXCALIBUR Discussion: 0:00 to 40:11
DRAGONSLAYER Discussion 40:11to 1:08:41
THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER Discussion 1:08:41 to 1:34:51

Later this month, we visit 1999’s DEEP BLUE SEA. We hope you’ll join us too.

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