Movie: The Power of the Daleks

Last night I attended a special showing of a Doctor Who story arc. Normally before I write about a movie I like to see it twice, but this is more of a so you know this exists than a full write up so I thought I’d go ahead and share.

Sarah in TARDIS
Sarah in TARDIS


I used to think if you said you were a fan of something and somebody else said they were a fan of something you meant the same thing. I have since learned I was wrong. There are lots of Laura Ingalls Wilder fans who mean a lot less than I do by the term and there are a lot of Star Wars fans that mean a lot more. So with Doctor Who I’d say I’m a medium fan. I don’t go to cons and I haven’t built my own TARDIS, but I’ve been watching faithfully on Iowa Public Television my whole life, I have a sonic screwdriver and used a TARDIS key keychain all the way through high school and years after (I actually wore out a couple of them and they were metal), I had a great sunshade for my car that said TARDIS heatshield, I wore a bring back the Doctor pin on my coat for the entire 18 month shut down after…. well you get the point.

Watching Along

So I have to say while I wasn’t as anxious to see this as the people they interviewed for the Making Of special they showed afterward, the second Doctor is my third favorite Doctor and I was happy that I got a chance to go. This was a country wide release in limited theaters – a much larger pool than the 50th, but still limited for one night only. I was delighted to see on Facebook both before and after many friends around the country were watching “with” me – same time, different place.

Destruction of the Daleks and All the Rest of Doctor Who

If you don’t know, the labor/union movement was stronger in Great Britain than it was here. Early on in the industry people behind the scenes pictured a world where television would be nothing, but repeats or at least mostly repeats so they made a deal with the BBC that required them to pay the salaries of everyone as if they had just reshot the video instead of just replayed it. So with this contract in place showing repeats of older series wasn’t cost efficient. Old films were shipped to a storage facility that was pushed to overflowing. Sometime later a fire marshal inspected was horrified and told the BBC they had to enlarge and update the facility for that number of films. Instead they decided to throw out huge quantities of episodes of old TV shows.

They had a system, but they weren’t very good at it and what is lost is mostly haphazard. Mostly it favored fine art over  what they saw as lower class entertainment and for one reason or another destruction of episodes continued until the late 1970s. The haphazard system meant that only single reels of some episodes were lost, in some cases all that were left were black and white copies that had originally been shot in color, and some entire stories were missing. Other copies were shipped off to TV stations around the world that could show the episodes in other countries and forgotten about. Ever since the late 1970s aka when someone with good sense realized this was happening and stopped it, the search for the 152 single episodes that were completely missing was on. Over the years in sometimes strange and mysterious ways 55 of these episodes have been rediscovered leaving 97 undiscovered.

“Never Give Up, Never Surrender!”

OK that title comes from the wrong sci fi fandom, but it describes Doctor Who fans to a T. Back in the pre-VCR days some fans loves their shows so much that they would record the episode on tape so they could at least listen to it again whenever they wanted. Some at least of these recordings have been collected giving someone very smart the idea of “restoring” these episodes. If you can’t find the real thing, you could at least make use of those sound only recordings of the original episodes.

Using knowledge of the characters actions and facial expressions, publicity stills and fragmentary existing footage efforts were put together to fill the gaps in some existing stories creating animated visuals to go with the sound. That’s what the “missing, but animated” notations mean on the list I linked to in the last section.

Movies versus Episodes

Traditionally Doctor Who was broken into story arcs that would stretch over weeks. That was a familiar format on dramatic radio shows where you would follow a storyline for a few weeks before the show moved on to another story. Doctor Who episodes were traditionally shown in 30 minute episodes. A single story might have as few as 1 or as many as 12 week’s episodes. More recent efforts show these arcs of episodes strung together in one big movie. For instance right now PBS stations around the country are showing the Tom Baker “movies.” There’s a bit of pacing problem with that. It swoops to a cliffhanger every 30 minutes instead of having one long arc besides having to deal with the tags. NuWho abandoned this entirely have self-contained or two parters of roughly 50 minutes each.

“The Power of the Daleks” Format

So the big event was the debut on the big screen of the storyline or “movie” of a second Doctor episode that had been entirely lost. Taking a sound track (and either it was exceptionally well recorded on a very high end machine or they did a near miraculous job of cleaning it up) and adding animation for the entire story arc of the six episode “The Power of the Daleks.”

The animation was a little different than what I was expecting. I thought they’d do it in color, but nope it was gray tones all the way through. I also thought they would maybe drop in what footage they had or at least a little preview that showed what the characters really looked like from existing footage. It’s all animation though.

The Daleks themselves are 100% plus spot on. They were just perfect and you couldn’t want more from a Dalek. You saw them using their suckers for something other than helping push doors open. The voice was terrific especially when they tripped themselves up being sneaky “Daleks are bet…different than humans.”

The people while they still looked like themselves were animated in a 1970s comic book style. The backgrounds were great, the clothes and hairstyles reflected publicity stills perfectly, but their movement was marionette like at best. A few more face close up shots when they were moving might have looked better. Their face movements or slight movements when standing talking looked much better.

The First Regeneration and Reflecting Backward

This was the first episode of the second Doctor and shows the very first regeneration of the Doctor. This brilliant idea kept the series going, but it was a new idea to viewers and the writers don’t have the details we know about the process done yet. They do a very nice analysis of how they did this.

I also think they reflected back some of what has been developed in the meantime. For example the look of the Dalek creature inside the case is what has been established in nuWho not what we’d seen before. Also, the look of the effect of the Dalek ray is from more modern Who.

Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down

If you are Doctor Who fan enough to have watched some of the black and white episodes with the second Doctor, you’ll enjoy this. It does take a bit to get used to the style of animation of the people, but it’s definitely worth watching. If you don’t already know the second Doctor’s facial expressions and how he moves I think you can safely give this a miss. I’m looking forward to seeing it come out on DVD, especially to hear the commentary tracks which looked really good in the Making of special.

Let me know what you think.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,  LinkedIn, and Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.




32 Favorite Movies From 1980 On

I love movies, especially old movies. I think movies from different decades tend to be of different flavors. I’d break them down 1930s-1940s, 1950s-1970s, and, while maybe maybe should be another break in here, 1980s on.


So I went to see The Legend of Tarazn in the theaters and I was just blown away. It’s an amazing movie that actually nails the Tarzan character — AND nobody has ever nailed the Tarzan character on screen. Plus Jane isn’t a simp like in the books, but is amazing. I try to hold off until the second time I see a movie so I’m not writing a review today, but it got me thinking about movies. It really isn’t fair to compare movies to previous decades’s movies, so here is my list of my favorite movies from 1980 on. They might not be the best movies and I certainly haven’t seen every movie, but this is my list of movies I could watch again and again.

My List

The list is not in any particular order, but as I thought of them. I’ll probably do the other decades another time. This is specifically focused on theatrical releases, no TV series, TV movies, miniseries, or straight to video releases were considered. I’m not giving full reviews of the movies, I’m just tossing out why they made my list. I started for 10, realized I had to have 20, finally got to 30 and then two more. What movies would be on your list?

Most Favorite Movies from 1980s On

  1. The Legend of Tarzan (2016) – Seriously why is this not the top movie in the country right now? Other Tarzans are fun, but this is the first one that truly nails the character. Then it elevates Jane to awesome. Plus the cinematography blew me away all on its own. Go see it or buy it. I think there’s a good chance this will follow The Princess Bride in building itself into a classic after a sort of disappointing theater run. Speaking of which….
  2. The Princess Bride (1987) – The best adaption of a book bar none. It follows the book closely except for making the supporting characters’s long “thinks” monologues into discussions. Then it changed over the reading the book interludes to the Grandfather and the Boy. While that muted the life isn’t always fair theme of the book, I think it greatly improved the overall story. The only part I’m sorry they cut was Inigo remembering the Scottish sword master who taught him to fight even if someone else cheated, the worst possible thing happened, and someone threw dirt in your eyes. I often think of that when I need to buck up. The Princess Bride also has the best behind the scenes book about it I’ve ever read As You Wish.
  3. Hunt for Red October  (1990) – I think it’s the second best adaption of the book into a movie. I love Tom Clancy, but I really think a good editor that made him cut 100 pages out of each book would have made him great. This movie cuts those 100 pages (did they really have to search for the sub twice in the same way? Apparently not.) This is the only one of the Jack Ryan films that made my list. Alec Baldwin was exactly right for Jack. Part of the Jack character is that he’s in over his head, but rises to the occasion. Harrison Ford, who starred in the rest of the series, just reads too dang competent for the role. Did I believe for even a second that Harrison Ford ever didn’t know what to do in any emergency in any movie I’ve ever seen him in? In a word – no.
  4. Return of the Jedi (1983) – I truly think this is the best of the first three Star Wars films. I love Star Wars, although I’ve seen enough truly dedicated people that I don’t think I can fairly claim to be a fan. With  Return of the Jedi you have a lovely bit at the beginning of the three friends working together on a clever plot and at the end you have a very emotional showdown. All sorts of lovely beats are included along the way from how amazing Luke looks in his black Jedi outfit, the cuteness of the Ewoks beating high technology, and  where that little spark of the man he used to be brought Anakin back to life. I think there’s lots of people who would love to see that last bit in real life, the good flaring back to life in someone who shut the door to it long ago. I know I would and so it’s a powerful punch. Feel the force urging you to watch this movie.
  5. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) – Like Return of the Jedi, the Last Crusade is the third in the series and the best one. Part of it is that it focuses on Indy’s father and their relationship just crackles, but seems completely plausible. Add that the romance takes a secondary role in this one and frankly it’s not something that fits that well with the character and you have a strong basis for a movie just with those two points. Then the locations are wonderful. The final puzzle makes sense that someone would have set it up which is something sorely lacking in most “treasure map” type films, although I find it funny that it copies the puzzles almost exactly out of the the Doctor Who episode The Five Doctors (1983) and that no one much I’ve seen seems to talk about that. Check it out. And since it was a big deal to me at the time, what I wanted to know from all the publicity build up to the film was Indy’s real name, his name is Henry and the dog is Indiana – so was Steilberg’s dog.
  6. National Treasure (2004) – Since we’re talking about treasure maps and treasure hunts, let’s tip the hat to one of the most glorious and history soaked treasure hunts ever, National Treasure. The bad guy they are racing to stop just adds great fun as we figure out clues that use things like Wall Street being built by a real wall back when it was in New Amsterdam and that the Liberty Bell is no longer hanging in the belfry of Independence Hall. For cleverness and adventure you can’t beat it. (Never mind the fact that in all the times the country was in dire financial straights that they could have taken just a little out and sold the gold rather than going into debt so this would never of happened.) The sequel has just as good if not better puzzles and character interactions, but the set up is a lot weaker so consider it an also ran.
  7. Galaxy Quest (1999) – This was the movie that made my brother announce he was never going to watch a comedy with me in the theater again because I was laughing so hard. I told him it wasn’t my fault that I got all the jokes and the other people didn’t. It’s just a lovely little love note and gentle satire, particularly of Star Trek but really of all sci fi while managing to be a good sci fi on its own. On top of that you’ve got great character growth from all the characters as they finally become a true team and a nice exploration of former child stars and the fan experience from the opposite side of the cameras. By Grabthar’s hammer, you have to watch this movie!
  8. Dave (1993) – Dave is a political comedy. You could see it as a comedy lite version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with almost as much heart. I can’t really explain why Dave is so wonderful, it just is. It also gets a shout out that it’s one of the few fictional stories with a duplicate taking someone’s place where the people closest to them can’t be fooled for long. They should have been vaguer about the jobs bill though because it doesn’t make any sense. “Everybody works on Tuesday.”
  9. Annie (1982) – This is the best movie musical of this time period. I had kind of forgotten just how amazing it was until my niece and nephew wanted me to watch Annie (2014) and I saw how terrible it was in comparison because it clearly didn’t understand the Annie story. It’s really a shame because if the 2014 movie had stopped trying to follow the Annie story and music and just organically gone on its own I think it would have been wonderful. The cast was excellent, the characterizations well done, they just weren’t the Annie characters and trying to make them act like the Annie characters from time to time just didn’t go. In short Annie (2014) was just hogtied. Annie (1982) is one of the movies I specifically remember going to see in the theater and coming back out singing the songs at the top of my lungs as we walked to the car (my mom doesn’t much enjoy going with me to movies anymore either). I loved Annie so much I used to carry a tape player and cassette of the songs around with me. I got an Annie dress from the two pages of Annie clothes available that Christmas Wishbook that year. I had to buy a copy of the DVD so I could show the niece and nephew what they had been missing. The songs are wonderful, the sets are marvelous, and you really feel there are connections between these characters. Watching it again for the first time, it had been years, I was amazed all over again.
  10. Back to the Future (1985) – I was excited to see this film from the previews. I greedily watched each new commercial or entertainment news story about it looking for scenes I hadn’t seen yet. It’s a great film on its own between the idea of taking control of your life and standing up for yourself making your life better. The relationship between Marty and Doc is a great one. But it’s the time travel details that are so beyond belief. My favorite blink and you miss it detail is that in the beginning the mall is the Twin Pine Mall, but after Marty plowed down one of the pines when he went back in time it’s now Lone Pine Mall when he comes back to the present. It’s full of that kind of detail. Truly all three movies in the series should be considered one because by watching how they both continue the story and build up the layers referring back and forth to the other movies between the scenes is what makes the trilogy great and you don’t get that from any single film. I don’t think three movies have ever worked together so well.
  11. Undercover Blues (1993) – If they had set out to make a film similar to The Thin Man with the form of a movie in the 1990s, this would be it. Two spies fell in love and worked like a well oiled machine on all kinds of adventures. Now they’ve married and had a a baby and are on maternity leave, but they can’t help being who they are and whether they’re foiling a robbery just for fun or taking on a case for a bonus, they are clever, witty, and have plenty of action. In addition both villains provide comic relief, especially Morte. There’s a lovely pair of audience identification characters in the police detectives trying to figure out what’s going on. You’ve got to love all the pop culture references too. How can you NOT love a movie that references The Front Page? I’m willing to bet you haven’t seen this movie, but look for it.
  12. Overboard (1987) – This is a great comedy with a heart of gold. Johanna is terrible rich witch who takes advantage of a local carpenter when he does a job on her yacht not only refusing to pay for his time or materials, but also throwing his tools overboard. Johanna later falls off the yacht and the carpenter, widowed father Dean Profitt, realizes she has amnesia and no one knows who she. Dean claims her as his wife to let her work off what she owes him through child care. They become a family with them all becoming better people. Johanna gets her memory back…which life will she choose? In the background there is a lovely romantic legend and a brilliant plan for a miniature golf course that I’d love to play on.
  13. The Man From Uncle (2015) – I must admit I enjoyed this one better the first time than when I rewatched it so the sparkle of surprise was gone, but it still deserves to be on the list. I truly think this is one of the best period films ever. It totally nails the 1960s from the technology to the clothes to the everyday way you did things. I haven’t watched very much of the show it was based on, but it was a nice blend of personalities. One of my favorite things is it had those sequences were someone does something clever like stealing a bracelet, but normally they just pretend they did it and then pull the bracelet out at the end. They actually show them pulling the stuff the first time through before they show it in slow motion so keep your eyes out and you just might see what they’re up to before they point it out in slow-mo. They also manage to drop in a female lead without disrupting the charm and the story of the original. Plus Hugh Grant plays a jerk. I’ve never thought he was right for the characters he played (still grumbling about how it wasn’t Hugh Laurie instead of him in The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain) but he WAS perfect for this. So now I have a movie I like him in. I kept thinking Henry Cavill should really play Superman he looks just like Superman should look. The laugh is on me, he already had.
  14. The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain (1995)- is just a delightful movie. It’s more about the character of a rural British town in time of World War I (remember that’s just 100 years ago now when you watch it). It focuses on relationships and what’s right and the importance of pride in your town. It’s just a lovely little movie and is the most perfectly cast movie I have every seen. Every single person is completely right – except Hugh Grant whose character should TOTALLY have been played by Hugh Laurie. I used to dream of some future technology that would allow us to overlay Grant with Laurie, oh well. See the movie anyway.
  15. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) –  Here is one more in that third movie in the series sweet spot. This is a Christmas classic in our family that we watch at least once, normally twice during the Christmas season. It’s a lot more loving with a lot less adolescent locker room type humor than the others in the series. You really want Clark – who is a much better guy than in the other films, actually all the characters are even Eddie – to succeed in giving his family a great Christmas even if it wasn’t in the way he intended it was. Then they connect all the heart warming stuff with flat on funny stuff – SQUIRREL! – Eddie’s expression thinking about getting Clark what he wants for Christmas – Digging the tree out of the ground because they forgot the saw – Sliding down the hill on a sled polished with non-nutritive cereal varnish. All funny stuff. Even the opening and closing credits are a mix of funny and sweet. It also features one of my grandmother’s favorite Christmas songs “Mele Kalikimaka.” The next day – when they had to fix all the stuff they broke – might be horrible, but they at least DID have a great Christmas. The Grunwalds has become slang for incredibly overboard Christmas light shows. You have to see it for yourself.
  16. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) – This is our second modern Christmas film on the list and it’s by far my favorite version of The Christmas Carol. Of all the versions from both movies or TV shows, this is the one that made me want to read the book. Michael Caine’s performance as Scrooge is amazing of course, but the true thing that sets it apart is that it includes the narrator. Charles Dickens always gives himself all the best lines so when you pull the narrator (which most movies do) you lose all of them. On top of that there are some just amazing music, especially “The Love is Gone” which remarkably is not included in the DVD releases because it’s thought of as too complicated and too sad for children. This is utterly ridiculous. Sign the petition to put it in the next DVD release or contact Disney and let them know this is a problem.
  17. The Little Mermaid (1989)- I decided to include a Disney Princess movie from this era of Disney animation — even though my all time favorite is Snow White. Thinking about it I decided I liked The Little Mermaid best. I think it has some of the best character development. We’re focusing on the events of a couple of days not sweeps of time so we spend intense time with both Ariel and Eric. They are just nice, fun people and you want them to win.  Ariel is fun and spunky and determined to go after what she wants. Plus she’s a collector. How can you not love a fellow collector? Then Eric’s willingness to sacrifice his life for her even though he just learned that she was a mermaid without even a beat to process it, how can you NOT love Eric?  Plus they have great musical numbers my two favorites being “Kiss the Girl” I mean just take a look at that 1940s studio musical inspired magic and Ursula the Sea Witch’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls” which is frankly the most fun torch song type Disney song in decades since 101 Dalmation‘s “Cruella DeVille” and Lady and Tramp‘s “He’s a Tramp.” It’s just super fun to sing and watch.
  18. Frozen (2013) – At their best Disney movies take already good source material, here a story by Hans Christian Anderson (one of the greatest children’s writers in history), and make it better. Disney took a cautionary tale about a heartless queen and turned it into a magical tale about love. It is a counter point to a lot of the Disney Princess movies in that they say family love can be at least as, if not more, important than romantic love and that love at first sight is usually garbage next to a relationship where you spent time getting to know each other and that a girl doesn’t need a boy to be a hero. With all the hype I was expecting to be disappointed. Instead I was impressed – favorite song “He’s a Bit of a Fixer Upper.” How is that not included in the Frozen singalong at Hollywood Studios? It’s the most fun to sing.
  19. Black Cauldron (1985) – There was a behind the scenes drama going on with behind the scenes and it didn’t do too well in the theaters, but it’s a very solid little movie. I went to see it in the movie theater and I’ve always felt protective it mostly because it didn’t do so well in theaters and I liked it. It was based on an excellent book series by Lloyd Alexander so the story is really good. Plus there’s this bit about a mystic pig nose…how can you resist a movie with a mystic pig nose?
  20. The Mask of Zorro (1998) – Zorro is one of my favorite screen characters from silent movies to Guy Williams and even the sitcom Zorro and Son (1983). So it would take a lot to make me not like a Zorro movie. Let’s face it no one is going to beat the Disney Guy Williams series, but this one has as good try at it. The plot is pretty stupid but the interaction and sword play sequences are beyond compare and the witty banter is wonderful. It’s just an enjoyable movie (it’s no Guy Williams though, have I mentioned how much I simply adore Guy Williams?). Fun fact Zorro and Son used some of the exteriors used on the previous Zorro TV show – with Guy Williams – 20 years before. Sadly this section of studio was torn down soon after.
  21.  Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) – Much more like an episode of the original series than the other Star Trek movies it had a fun first hand contrast between what we knew about their century and ours. A great bit is that the crew is broken up into teams. In a lot of the TV episodes the characters beyond Bones-Kirk-Spock had less to do, in this everybody gets a fair share of attention and interest. It’s a lovely story and includes the memorial exchange: “Are you from outer space?” – “No, I’m from Iowa. I just work in outer space.” That line launched Riverside. It also has the guy who accidentally wandered into shot honestly telling the Russian where to find the “nuclear wessels.”
  22. Star Trek (2009) – This isn’t really a Star Trek movie. In a Star Trek movie they’d have found a way to correct the timeline and save both Vulcan and Spock’s mother. This is simply the most beautiful, most mainstream big of visual fanfic ever! It’s lovely and such an open adoption of the Many Worlds theory of physics that underlies all fanfic. It’s just so lovely. See it in 3D IMAX if you ever get the chance. It was clearly shot to take full advantage of that format, but I was surprised how much of the 3D effect showed up on a normal TV screen.
  23. Lake House (2006) – A romantic comedy with a time travel element, it’s lovely and romantic. I know a lot of people make fun of it, but I don’t know why. It’s a lovely sweet film. Sandra Bullock was in a string of romantic comedies, all of which are watchable, but this and Miss Congeniality (2000) are the good stuff.
  24. Cars (2006) – This is just a glorious movie. The setting is beyond belief, every time you watch it you catch another detail. The characters have personality and throughlines and the plot depends on their relationships. Most importantly, and this is underlined by the lovely documentary about it that comes on the DVD, is ignore the small town neighborhood in favor of the empty Interstate at your peril. And save Route 66.
  25. The Incredibles (2004) – is a fun look at the other side of being a superhero dealing with keeping your secret identity. It’s an interesting cast of characters and gives the good advice “NO CAPES!” Most importantly they look at the issues behind “if everyone’s special nobody is.”
  26. Maverick (1994) – Most movies made after TV shows don’t turn out well. They usually make a movie that appeals to what TPTB THINK people liked about the original and normally they guess wrong. Probably the worst example of this is The Dukes of Hazzard (2005). Feel free to shudder. However, Maverick was made by fans who understood what people liked about the original series and played all the beats, even including original star James Garner in a major role. This movie is such a wonderful example of what happens when it’s fans making something new out of what they loved. (See also nuDoctor Who and Sherlock TV episodes).
  27. Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998) – This is another film that deserved more attention than it got mostly due to the absolutely horrible commercials.  I honestly thought Drew Barrymore’s character was supposed to be a butterfly, that’s how bad the commercials were.  It’s a telling of the Cinderella story with more fleshed out characters and a small supporting role by Leonardo da Vinci. It’s a charming take on the classic story with Drew Barrymore as the female lead in a rom-com which she excels at.
  28. Ghost Busters (1984) – A group of theoretical paranormal experts suddenly discover that not only are ghosts real, but they can fight them. The humorous rag tag group end up having to save the world. Whether it was the library ghost at the beginning to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, it’s a great little bit of world building that has spread far beyond this original movie, but what a great start. After all – who you gonna call? Oh, and did you know Dan Aykroyd’s family really investigates ghosts? Read the book A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Séances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters.
  29. Nancy Drew (2007) – It made an interesting choice to take the classic version of Nancy Drew that would be perfectly at home in the 1960s yellowback version and put her in today’s world. Nancy is too utterly perfect, but in all the right ways. It’s a great watch and I MAY or may not have bought a pair of moccasin slippers just because this version of Nancy had a pair.
  30. Mannequin (1987) – It’s a fun comedy set a couple of decades late for the department store windows to actually make that much of a difference, but it’s a nice twist on the Pygmalion story. The music is really fun. The montages are great. As a big plus you get to see Golden Girls‘s Sophia, Estelle Getty, as a character her real age.
  31. The Mummy (1999) – I hesitated to add this one to the list because I really hate the gross stuff in the middle. Also, there’s a bunch of terrible, selfish Americans, but the rest of the characters are cool people, doing cool things, and saying cool things. The first sequel is good too, but they really should have stopped with that. “I am a LIBRARIAN.”
  32. The Pirate Movie (1982) is both a parody and tribute to both Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance and pirate movies in general. It has great 80s style pop rock and fun adaptions of the real songs.

    Mabel: You poor thing. Pirates! You mean like walking the plank? Buried treasure? Hack, slash, off with his head, and the Jolly Richard, and everything?
    Frederic: Roger.
    Mabel: Oh, Roger I love it.
    Frederic: No, Frederic without a “k.”
    Mabel: Mabel, also without a “k.” God, we have so much in common.

Honorable Mentions and Why

  1. Tootsie (1982)- Despite the great soap opera stuff, Tootsie as a whole is not my cup of tea. Too many people get hurt including Teri Garr’s character. I always like Teri Garr’s characters and I don’t like to see them get hurt. But it gets an honorable mention because we came out of the theater talking about “the Roomate” of Dustin Hoffman’s character. We just couldn’t get over with all the guy was expressing with facial expressions alone. Not being SNL people we’d never heard of or seen Bill Murray before, but he blew us away with his performance in this.
  2. Tom Hanks – I want to put a Tom Hanks movie on the list because Tom Hanks is amazing. I’ve loved him since he was on the TV show Bosum Buddies. I enjoy his performances, but I can’t think of a movie I’ve seen that I haven’t enjoyed Hanks’s performances in spite of the rest of the movie instead of enjoying it more because of it. I haven’t seen all of them, but that’s my general impression.
  3. The Last Unicorn (1982) – theme song – This is a truly sad movie, complete with a sad ending. “She is the only unicorn who knows regret.” But it’s got a beautifully perfect theme song. Plus the excellent advice “Never run away from anything immortal” which I define as including fate.
  4. Trading Places (1983) – Edited version – I first watched Trading Places on network TV. They used to take movies and edit them for length and content and play them on the three major networks. It’s too bad they don’t anymore because frankly a lot of times this more drastic editing made it a better movie. None of the stuff the network took out actually contributed to the story in this one and it was a much tighter movie without it. Also watch for the shout out to this movie in Coming to America (1988) where Eddie Murphy’s character – determined not to reveal he’s a prince – gives away a stack of money to a bum. The bum and his partner are the brothers they get payback on in Trading Places.
  5. The Wild, Wild West (1990) – Artemus Gordon – The biggest problem with this movie, despite issues with its plot and some of its humor, is that Will Smith was playing the Will Smith persona instead of James West. James West is a brand like James Bond you can’t just revamp it to suit yourself and have it work. What you have to watch it for is Kevin Klein’s Artemis Ward. He does a brilliant job. The character isn’t quite the same as the TV show because his relationship with Jim is different, but it’s truly a magnificent performance of the character.
  6. Brewster’s Millions (1985) – This remake starring Eddie Murphy doesn’t live up to the previous attempts, but I love the 1935 and 1945 versions so much I want to like this one so I can’t quite give up on it. Previous versions were made in 1914 and 1921 with a gender switch version coming out in 1926. If you haven’t heard of the farcical premise a distant relative leaves a young man a large amount of money which he can either accept outright and settle for that OR he can spend it all according to certain rules within a certain amount of time and without telling anyone what he’s doing and get the rest of the vast fortune.
  7. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) – This reworks the entire Jack Ryan timeline and storyline and the substituted storyline isn’t too hot, but the characterizations are spot on. It’s much better than any of the Harrison Ford films and that earned it a spot here.
  8. Annie (2014) – I explained this one under Annie in the list above.
  9. Never Been Kissed (1999) and Fifty First Dates (2004) both make my near miss list. Drew Barrymore is my favorite rom-com star and I enjoy both these movies, but NBK involves a teacher falling in love with someone who he thinks is his minor student (which as a teacher is something I have ethical issues with) and FFD in the best role of Adam Sandler’s career so far, still had too much of his junior high brand of humor left in. Still they are both definitely worth one focused watch and leaving them on if you happen across them on TV.

There You Have It

And there you have it. There’s my list of the best movies from 1980-the present. What films would be on yours?

UPDATED March 11, 2017: I discovered the TCM movie directory and decided those pages would be worth linking to for this list. For some reason The Last Unicorn didn’t have one so I linked to IMDB instead. I made some slight edits and added a couple of more facts I thought of later.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her onFacebookTwitterGoogle+ LinkedIn, and Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

May the Fourth Be With You – I Love You More Than Star Wars

Every May the Fourth is Star Wars Day. It’s because May the Force/May the Fourth (I love a good pun.) It’s especially appropriate this year with the great Force Awakens promising future quality movies once again. I’m sorry I’m a little late this year, but I hope you’ll still take another “May the Force be with you.”

Me and Darth
Me and Darth

This is me and Darth Vader courtesy of our local Drug Town about the time of Return of the Jedi.

So in honor of Star Wars Day, here’s a song from a couple years ago that I keep coming back to.

Also check out the time they saved Tattooine and the time the US government built a UFO.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, LinkedIn, and Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Quote: People Are Bad At Remembering Words

From time to time I offer a post with a quote I want to be able to find again. Usually it’s something true and clever and makes you think. Today’s entry is quite a bit longer than my normal quotes and is from the hilarious commentary blog Dark Shadows Every Day. Its author, Danny Horn, offered this recently as part of his commentary on episode #759.

Because our memory is not as good for speech as we think it is. When you finish watching a movie, you might be able to recall a short catchphrase, or a joke that was especially funny — but even then, you’re probably going to get the words slightly wrong.

If you really want to remember some dialogue, you have to watch the movie again, this time anticipating the lines and marking them in your head as “important, keep in long-term memory.” Then you probably have to repeat them a couple times if you want them to stick.

That’s why we live in a world of misquotes. Humphrey Bogart never said “Play it again, Sam,” and Clint Eastwood didn’t say “Are you feeling lucky, punk?”

Beam me up, Scotty. Houston, we have a problem. Why don’t you come up and see me some time? Top of the world, Ma! Luke, I am your father. Practically every famous movie quote is wrong, because people are bad at remembering words.

Find the rest of the post here:

For further insight into the world of wrong quotes check out Quote Investigator.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, LinkedIn, and Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Back to the Future is Back to the Present

So what all happened on October 21, 2015, the day in the future Marty McFly came to the future.

Book quote from Back to the Future

A preview roundup of products coming out in honor of the day:

And also:

Or see it in chart form:

Or in another chart form (scroll down):

Or check with Scientific American:

One of the future things Marty sees is the Cubs wining the pennant. They aren’t playing Miami, but the Cubs are in the World Series this year. Will they pull it off or has someone (or a goat) messed with the timeline?

Watch the Jaws 19 trailer:

Lexus Hoverboard is Here

You can buy the USA Today!

Google leaks plan for flying car:
Read the story behind the story:

Toyota goes Back to the Future

What Back To the Future got right:

Paypal’s Payments of the Future

For a brief time add a flux capacitor:[|Ford|Fiesta|2016|1|1.|300A.P4C..UX…SDN.~YZKAA.TAT.FLU.]


Why the brands used in the film were picked:

Catch up with the cast

Cast Reunites

Save the Clock Tower

Finally, “Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one.”

UPDATE: Chuck Berry recalls phone call

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, LinkedIn, and Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

That Time the Government Built a UFO May the 4th

There are a couple of holidays in the calendar that are where they are due to a happy coincidence of date and speech. For example, Pi Day is March 14th since 3-14 reminds people of 3.14. This is the other one – May 4th is Star Wars Day because May the fourth reminds people of “May the force be with you,” the most common farewell in the Star Wars universe. Last year I posted about the great work saving our cinematic history with the restoration of the Tattooine set from the original Star Wars trilogy.

Trying to top that wasn’t easy. It took a huge inflated government program and work by the National Archives to put materials online. This year, learn all about “That time the Government Built a UFO” and if you don’t believe me click on the links and take a look. If that thing isn’t a UFO, I’d like to know what it is. And doesn’t it look like that guy is wearing Luke Skywalker’s uniform from the attack on the Death Star in the video? (And in case you don’t know it I’m a Star Wars fan from when they first came out in theaters.)

Me and Darth

Read Time Magazine‘s history of Star Wars Day:

Flight Tests

Model Tests

And from me and Darth, courtesy of our local Drug Town store, May the Force Be With You!

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,LinkedIn, and She is currently President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Book: As You Wish by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden

Elwes, Cary. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of the Princess Bride. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014. Print. ISBN 9781476764023

The Movie

Before I can move into the book listed above, I first have to expand on the movie that inspired it. The Princess Bride is a movie I simply adore. It’s on my very short list of books where the movie is actually better. (I miss a few of the set pieces, but honestly the internal monologues in the book work so much better as actual conversations between the characters, it’s a whole level better of goodness.) My cousin who hasn’t ever seen the movie calls it “That movie you talk about all the time.” As You Wish

It’s got everything true love, magicians, a giant, the greatest sword fight in modern times, an albino, a handsome prince, a beautiful princess, and a dread pirate. It has dialogue that cries out to be frequently quoted – and it is, not only to the cast, but to other people and all over T-shirts. It’s a fairy tale that gently makes fun of fairy tales. It really does have the most impressive sword fight in all of cinematic history and exactly what I always meant when I said I wanted to learn fencing, to look that impressive while never being out of breath and spouting pithy quips about the history of fencing (which is never what would happen in real life mores the pity). It’s a lovely story with just a spice of sadness and humor that makes the whole like the best cake you’ve ever dreamed about tasting.

Also important is its message which shines through the everything that is in this movie. “Life is pain, Princess, anyone who says anything else is trying to sell you something.” Yes, there will be pain and sadness and sorrow in life. Wesley will die in the Pit of Despair. No one will stop the wedding between Buttercup and the evil Prince Humperdink. The king’s lousy son might kick you out of a job. A six fingered man might kill your father. Just like no one can prevent your parent from needing surgery, your dog from dying, your best friend from moving away, or you not getting that job you so CLEARLY would have been a better match for. Things in life will NOT be fair. Nobody can stop any of those things or completely put them right. “I want my father back.” BUT, if you are loyal, faithful, and true, if you work hard and train your body and your mind, if you help others and let them into your life, if you truly love people, if you TRULY look for them, and have just a little bit of luck, there will also be love, amazing sword fights, four white horses, adventure, friendship and if you are very, VERY lucky there might also be a great romance, a miracle, and an MLT – a mutton-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich.

“Even death can’t stop true love, it can only delay it awhile.” That true love doesn’t have to be with a spouse. That true love can be family. It can be a son who trained his whole life to find his father’s killer. It can be a friend who will never let you down. It can be a grandfather who took a day when you were sick to read you the best parts of The Princess Bride and will return to read it again “As you wish.”

The Making of Book

As You Wish is a history of the making of The Princess Bride from the inside. It’s written by Cary Ewels who played the Man in Black himself, Wesley. Ewels is absolutely brilliant actor in the right part, most recently his best has been as a con man or was it a government agent or ??? in the TV show Psych. Ewels was a very young actor with only a few credits to his name when he was approached to play Wesley.

By Fans for Fans

In a way, they way they describe the production reminds me of the current production of Doctor Who, it’s made by fans for fans. The movie was almost universally made by people who knew and loved the book. Ewels said it was his favorite book since he was a teenager and he couldn’t believe it when he was approached to do the role. Most, but not all of the cast and crew interviewed expressed similar sentiments. It is a great story with a wonderful screen play by the book’s author William Goldman (also a very noted screenwriter). However, several attempts in the past to make it into a movie failed. The studio wasn’t thrilled when this new attempt started but Rob Reiner was coming off of two big successes that allowed him to write his own ticket enough to make it.

Behind the Scenes

As You Wish is very much from the viewpoint of an actor and gives an interesting prospective of how you get a role, how you move from job to job, what training is like, what doing stunts both by yourself and with your double is like, and what it’s like to be on the set. You also get behind the scenes stories that tells you were certain ideas in the movie came from and the full versions of stories you might have heard in passing in interviews or on from other fans over the years. For example, I had heard about Ewels moving strangely in the scene between rolling down the hill and going into the fire swamp was because he’d injured himself driving an ATV. It was great to get the full story (which was pretty funny, if painful).

Another great feature of the book is that it spells out the various shooting locations. I always love it when I can find and document shooting locations for movies or TV shows. They are harder to find than you might think after the fact and I think always nice to know.


Although they were to be the participants in the most impressive sword fight in modern times, neither Cary Elwes nor Mandy Patikin knew much about fencing when they were cast. Not only had Goldman described it in such impressive terms, he’d actually done a lot of research. Those names they drop through out were really the names of styles and defenses that Goldman learned from doing months of research on 16th and 17th fencing styles and moves. If you want to research it yourself Elwes recommends:

  • Treatise on the Science of Arms with Philosophical Dialogue (1553)
  • Great Representation of the Art and the Use of Fencing (1610)
  • The Academy of the Sword (1630)

Patikin started training with a fencing master as soon as he knew he had the part, Elwes waited for the movie trainers. Four months after they were cast, Elwes and Patikin showed up to work with the trainers at the movie studio. They were Peter Diamond and Bob Anderson. Diamond had one of the most legendary careers of a stuntman in Hollywood history; a career that had reached from Errol Flynn to being the man in charge of light saber fights in Star Wars, and coordinating stunts for Raiders of the Lost Ark and Highlander. Anderson was a World War II hero and was on the British fencing team. He was among the world leaders of fencing before he made his way to Hollywood, also working with Flynn and in Star Wars with his final credit being Sword Master on the The Lord of the Rings series.

People who knew THAT much about sword fighting knew there was no way they could teach them to BE that good in the amount of time they had, but they planned to make them LOOK that good. They had them training basically every minute they could. After the intensive training the teachers came along on the location shots, grabbing them for training at every break. They started with the basic way to hold the sword and worked on things looking impressive. Since they change hands mid-fight, they both had to learn both right-handed and left-handed and they learned both parts of the fight so they knew what was coming. Cool parts of the training included always look at your opponent’s eyes because that’s how you see what they are going to do and watching classic cinema sword fights and picking out what they did wrong. It sounds completely awesome. They got so good at it, that the sequence was faster than they thought and they had to add in the part with spinning on the bar to stretch it out. That’s my favorite part of the movie.

The Cast and Crew

Elwes interrupts himself to put in paragraph block quotes from the other people involved with the movie. Rob Reiner offers the forward and does heavy lifting on the comments. His long term producing partner Andy Scheinman also provides stories about the production side. Goldman himself offers his views on the productions as does head of the production company, Norman Lear. Cast who offer insight include Bill Crystal, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Fred Savage, Chris Sarandon, and Carol Kane. Often the cast offer their own individual memories of instances or how certain things happened related to the story Ewels tells. This has to be the definitive book on making The Princess Bride and for a colloquial actor’s view, maybe one of the best books on the making of any movie.

Marathon on Sundance Channel

On Christmas Day 2014, Cary Ewels hosted a marathon of The Princess Bride. They did several videos in promotion.

Introduction to Marathon:

Best Lines:

Cary Elwes Answers Your Questions Part 1:

Other Things To Buy

The original book that started all this was The Princess Bride: The Good Parts by William Goldman. It was always special to Goldman in part because he started it as a story to tell his own daughters. The good parts subtitle is part of the conceit of the book. It supposedly is an edited down version of a classic book from the narrator’s family’s mother country and what you hold in your hands is the good parts he’s edited out. Not knowing this I didn’t buy the first copy I saw in the book store because my librarian mind went Pbbbft! Abridged!, who wants to buy an abridged copy of something for your home library? But that really is all there is, so go ahead and buy it. Especially look for Ingio Montoya’s time training with the Scottish sword master which is my favorite thing they left out of the movie.

The October 2011 issue of Entertainment Weekly (their annual reunions issue) gather the cast for a reunion shoot. Check out back issues or buy one online.
Cast Reunites:
Photo from backstage:

AND the audio book of As You Wish has the actual people reading their comments. It’s available both on CD and digitally.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, LinkedIn, and She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.