FILM CLUB
Masters of the Universe
(1987)

 Dolph Lundgren, and Chelsea Field, and John Cypher in Masters of the Universe (Image © Cannon Films). 

 Dolph Lundgren, and Chelsea Field, and John Cypher in Masters of the Universe (Image © Cannon Films). 

Yes, my first Film Club pick is Dolph Lundgren's Masters of the Universe. I swear I didn't just reach into a bag of easy-to-riff-on schlock-fests, although it being recently added to Netflix streaming and Netflix constantly reminding me that I'm the kind of person that would like Masters of the Universe sure did.

September is a weird month.  In the film world it's often thought of as a "dump month", where movies aren't expected to do well or aren't marketed well. There's also few holidays to tie in (Falling Down would make a great pairing with Labor Day, but it's not on streaming), and the obvious fun movies are more in line with Halloween.  What feels like fall (which doesn't start until September 21) without feeling like Halloween? 

Well, Masters of the Universe.  The movie was released in early August of 1987.  He-Man ran 130 episodes between 1983 and 1985 (wow), and was huge. I myself still have a dresser with He-Man paper lining. Needless to say, I saw this movie in the theater, and it does evoke feelings of early fall in me. The movie itself is rather dark and breezy (I remember a lot of wind effects).

Masters of the Universe is not only a fascinating licensed film, not only another notch of batshit mania in the great Canon belt, but also a super interesting mix of cast. No matter how you look at it, Dolph Lundgren is amazingly watchable. So much charisma pushed through the cheese cloth of his larynx. I have no idea why, but he's probably the best part of whatever movie he's in. Then there's Frank Langella, who has won three Tonys, two Obies, and been nominated for an academy award for Frost/Nixon. Not to mention the late great Billy Barty as Gwildor and a young Courtney Cox for the hell of it. Something I didn't know: this movie was written by David Odell, who wrote the screenplay for one of the best movies of the decade/ever, The Dark Crystal

Honestly, I haven't gone back to the movie in years. What I mostly remember is the sound of Gwildor's voice, the ridiculous 80's lightning everywhere, the army arriving at the end, and this scene of Gwildor, Man at Arms and Teela eating fried chicken, which drove me to try KFC immediately.  

As always, try to look at this movie objectively. Yes, it's shit. But what crazy shit! I can't even find a modern analogy, a what if. This is just something that would never make it to a big movie theater these days (keep your Fantastic Four jokes to yourself). Also, remember that no one sets out to make a bad movie. Everything you look at, someone thought was a good idea at some point along the way, and that makes it even more fascinating.  

Also, have fun trying to figure out how this movie relates to He-Man. 


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