Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dolph Week: Masters of the Universe

Do you remember your first movie in theaters?  I do, it was Masters of the Universe.  In the year nineteen hundred and eighty seven I was 5 years old, making this inaugural trip to the theater one of my earliest memories.  Earlier than that?  Mom and dad letting me watch He-Man and She-Ra:  A Christmas Special on Christmas Day in 1983. Whoda thunk my two earliest memories would involve the cartoon and live action versions of He-Man?

Cut to nearly 26 years later and I just watched MOTU while working out this past Friday.  Has it aged well?  Or has it soured into childish cheese only the kid in me remembers fondly?  It's still very much a reflection of the time it was produced but I don't hold that against it.  The 80's were a magical time when Star Wars and Spielberg tinged every family adventure while the blades of Conan the Barbarian and The Sword and the Sorcerer gave fantasy a raw edge.  So no, I have not outgrown MOTU, in fact, I like it more now than I probably ever have.  It's still a fun, sci-fi and sword romp of near epic proportions with a simple message:  There's only one of you in the universe.

He-Man has waned and spiked in relevance and popularity ever since the earth shattering cartoon series took to the air in 1983.  Reinvented cartoons, comic books and toy lines have come and gone while an updated live action cinematic adventure has floundered for the last decade.  Through all of this, the 1987 version has stayed with me through various means.  Whether it was the constant showings on local cable, the VHS copy on my shelf or the DVD I inherited from a roommate, Masters was never long out of my sight.

Once, while wandering around the city of Whittier, California I stumbled into a store run by a gentleman who was present during the shooting of the film!  He had a stash of fold out posters from the film and regaled my friend and I with stories of the production.  Nothing too revelatory; they took over the town and destroyed it at night, Courtney Cox was a minor so her mom was around, etc.

Thanks to the prominent rise of Pop/Nerd Culture, nostalgia and midnight movies, MOTU has been making a bit of a come back for the last few years.  Screenings have popped up in California, New York, Texas, Ohio, Canada and the United Kingdom.  In 2009, the now defunct Fairfax Regency played it during their Insomniac Cinema program.  There was a solid turn out which surprised the organizers who said attendance for the last several movies had been lackluster.  Just this past December the famous New Beverly Cinema played it at midnight with director Gary Goddard and production designer William Stout in attendance.

Goddard and Stout have also been on the convention circuit talking up their experiences on Masters of the Universe; showing up at San Diego Comic-Con and Power-Con, the He-Man/ThunderCats convention in Torrance, CA.  Along with the fine commentary by Goddard on the DVD, these appearances help flesh out the behind the scenes turmoil this picture went through.

- Cannon Films and Mattel were to each pay for half the film's budget.  Mattel put up their half first.
- Mattel didn't want He-Man to kill anyone, curse or have a love interest.
- Cannon had over extended itself with costly flops like Over The Top so Mattel had to step in.
- Goddard surrounded newcomer Lundgren with veterans like Frank Langella, Billy Barty and Jon Cypher to ground the performances.
- Worked extensively with Langella to enhance Skeletor's role and dialogue, pulling from Shakespeare, classic poetry and Jack Kirby's work on Fantastic Four.
- Goddard wanted to dub Lundgren's voice but was contractually unable to.
- Sword master and Blade himself, Anthony DeLongis trained Dolph in swordplay and lamented that he was a natural athlete who caught on quickly and swung hard.
- Goddard offered Warner Brothers a new documentary and a commentary moderated by X-Men director Bryan Singer for a 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray, WB said no. 
- Goddard's biggest regret is changing the ending from individual goodbyes to a group scene.
- There have been 3 serious attempts to make the movie at WB but all have failed.

All things Masters of the Universe and Dolph Lundgren:

Check out the trailer:
Good journey!

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