Mazes And Monsters

Mazes And Monsters


Today’s feature is arguably the capstone of parental paranoia over the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons: 1982’s Mazes and Monsters.

Mazes and Monsters was adapted from a 1981 novel written by Rona Jaffe (who served as a producer on the film), which was loosely inspired by the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III, which was incorrectly cited as being related to his hobby of playing fantasy role-playing games. The screenplay for the movie was written by Tom Lazarus, who also wrote the movie Stigmata and worked on television shows like Freddy’s Nightmares and Jake And The Fatman.

The director for Mazes And Monsters was Steven H. Stern, who specialized in television movies throughout his career. His other credits included Morning Glory, Rolling Vengeance, and Running, among many others.

The cinematographer for the movie was Laszlo George, who shot movies like Nothing Personal, Running, The Bear, and Rolling Vengeance.

The editor for Mazes and Monsters was Bill Parker, who cut numerous episodes of television series like Columbo, MacGyver, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Emergency!.

The musical score for Mazes And Monsters was composed by Hagood Harding, who also did music for The Creeper, Anne of Green Gables, and the animated feature The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The makeup effects for the film were done by one Linda Gill, who also provided effects work on movies like Johnny Mnemonic, Parents, PCU, Strange Brew, Alive, and Cocktail.

The cast of Mazes and Monsters includes Tom Hanks (The ‘Burbs, Catch Me If You Can, Splash, Road To Perdition, Toy Story, Turner & Hooch, Big, Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, Dragnet, Philadelphia) in his first leading role, Wendy Crewson (The Good Son, The Santa Clause, Air Force One), David Wallace (General Hospital, Days Of Our Lives), Chris Makepeace (Vamp), Lloyd Wolfe Bochner (Millennium, The Lonely Lady), Anne Francis (Forbidden Planet), Murray Hamilton (Jaws, The Graduate), Susan Strasberg (The Delta Force), Louise Sorel (Days Of Our Lives), Vera Miles (The Searchers, The Wrong Man, Psycho), and Peter Donat (War of the Roses, The Game).

The plot of Mazes and Monsters is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Bound together by a desire to play “Mazes and Monsters,” Robbie and his four college classmates decide to move the board game into the local legendary cavern. Robbie starts having visions for real, and the line between reality and fantasy fuse into a harrowing adventure.

mazesandmonsters1One of the co-stars of Mazes and Monsters, Wendy Crewson, starred in another similarly-themed movie in 1983: Skullduggery. This movie follows a young man as he slowly becomes a serial killer due to the influence of a role-playing game, and it is astoundingly far worse than Mazes and Monsters.

Aside from Mazes and Monsters, the most famous thing to come out of the era of moral panic surrounding Dungeons & Dragons was a specific religious tract by Jack Chick, titled Dark Dungeons, which infamously portrays a highly fictionalized version of the game. This story was itself adapted into a tongue-in-cheek web series in 2014, thanks to crowdfunded Kickstarter.

The reception for Mazes and Monsters was generally negative, though it has become a bit of an ironic cult movie for fans of role-playing games. It currently holds a 4.2 user rating on IMDb, along with a 20% audience aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Tom Hanks is one of the few bright spots in Mazes and Monsters. While his performance is certainly hammy, his character shows flashes of genuine emotional distress and earnest anguish, which is interesting to see in the early career of such a storied actor. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast in thoroughly unremarkable. The only character who really stuck out to me was the runt of the group, who only did so due to his fascination for wearing ludicrous and varied hats, which changed from scene to scene.

Like with any movie with a definite message behind it, Mazes And Monsters is really transparent about what it has to say: that role-playing games and fantasy escapism are bad, period. This iron-clad belief doesn’t allow the screenplay much wiggle room to build the characters or portray the game in a way that is grounded in reality, which is always a weakness of this kind of movie. Also interesting is the fact that Hanks’s character is revealed to have already had issues relating to the game before the movie starts, and none of the other characters are harmed by the game. This sort of undermines the message, as clearly this problem had far more to do with Hanks’s personality and underlying issues than it had to do with the game.

Overall, this is a legendary bad movie, both for it’s role in the moral panic surrounding Dungeons and Dragons and for its placement in the storied career of Tom Hanks. That said, it is a pretty dull film on the whole. There are a few stand-out moments that are certainly entertaining, but if not for its fascinating cultural relevance as a relic of its time, I wouldn’t strongly recommend that people go back and watch it. As it stands, though, this is worth digging up for bad movie fans at the very least.

For more thoughts on the far-out movie that is Mazes and Monsters, I recommend checking out the episodes on the flick over at The Spoony Experiment and Good Bad Flicks.




Today’s feature is Trucks, a 1997 television movie adapted from a Stephen King story about killer automobiles.

Trucks is based on the same Stephen King short story that turned into the 1986 movie Maximum Overdrive, which King himself directed and adapted. The screenplay for this made-for-television adaptation, however, was written by Brian Taggert, who also penned Omen IV and Poltergeist III.

Trucks was directed by Chris Thomson, a career television director who worked on a variety of television movies, as well as on the shows Flipper and Time Trax.

The cinematographer for the movie was Robert Draper, whose credits include Halloween 5, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie, and numerous episodes of both Tales From The Crypt and Tales From The Darkside.

The editor for Trucks was Lara Mazur, who worked extensively on television shows like Andromeda, Dead Like Me, and Highlander.

The team of producers on Trucks included Mark Amin (Leprechaun, Evolver, Leprechaun 3, The Dentist, The Dentist 2, Chairman of the Board), Bruce David Eisen (Leprechaun In The Hood, The Dentist 2), Greg Griffin (Ice Road Truckers, America’s Next Top Model), and Jerry Leider (My Favorite Martian).

The effects work for Trucks was provided by a team that was made up of Pamela Athayde (Capote), Erich Martin Hicks (Babylon 5, Leprechaun In The Hood), Cara Anderson (Marmaduke, Baby Geniuses 2), Darcy Davis (Final Destination, A Christmas Story 2), Kevin Stadnyk (Deep Evil, Blade Trinity), and Rory Cutler (Iron Eagle II, The Fly II).

trucks4The musical score for Trucks was provided by Michael Richard Plowman, who also did music for Laserhawk, the cartoon Sonic Boom, and a number of nonfiction documentaries like Triggers: Weapons That Changed The World, Untold Stories of the E.R., and The Man With The 200 lb Tumor.

The cast of Trucks includes Timothy Busfield (Revenge of the Nerds, Field of Dreams), Brenda Bakke (Demon Knight, Under Siege 2, L.A. Confidential), Aidan Devine (A History of Violence), Jay Brazeau (Insomnia, Best In Show), and Brendan Fletcher (Freddy vs. Jason).

The plot of Trucks is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Based on the short story by Stephen King, this tells the tail of trucks suddenly coming to life and attacking their owners.

trucks3Given that Trucks was a television movie, it wasn’t particularly widely seen. That said, the people who did see it didn’t exactly like it: the movie currently holds a 3.8 user rating on IMDb, along with a 30% audience aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Comparisons between Trucks and the earlier adaptation of the same story, Maximum Overdrive, are unfortunately impossible to avoid, which doesn’t do Trucks any favors. As much as Maximum Overdrive is a bad movie (a good bad movie if you ask me), it was also a big movie with impressive effects work and a sense of visual spectacle. Trucks, being a much smaller production, just can’t compete with what Maximum Overdrive put on screen. Likewise, the low-budget cast isn’t nearly as impressive, which is saying something given how weak the performances were in Overdrive.

trucks2Overall, outside of a couple of memorable highlight moments, Trucks is just an immensely forgettable movie. It mostly exists as a footnote on the much better known Maximum Overdrive, but I think it is worth checking out for die-hard Stephen King fans, or for people who got a good laugh out of Overdrive. Trucks does take itself a bit too seriously, and never quite feels fun, which I think was a mistake for what is a pretty goofy premise. However, the handful of highlights make it worth digging up for bad movie fanatics.




Today’s picture is one of the most hated biopics ever made: 1989’s Wired, which paints a less-than-generous portrait of comedian John Belushi.

The screenplay for Wired was written by Earl Mac Rauch, whose other credits include Martin Scorcese’s flop New York, New York, and the cult sci-fi movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension. The source material for the movie was penned by journalist Bob Woodward, who is best known for his involvement in exposing the Watergate scandal.

The director on Wired was Larry Peerce, who worked on the television shows Batman and Touched By An Angel, and also helmed a handful of movies dating back to the early 1960s, including Goodbye, Columbus and The Other Side Of The Mountain.

The cinematographer for the film was Tony Imi, who also shot the movies Babycakes, Enemy Mine, and Survival Island.

The editor on Wired was Eric A. Sears, who cut Cellular, Shooter, Spy Hard, D2: The Mighty Ducks, Final Destination 2, and Final Destination 5, among many others.

The team of producers for Wired included Edward S. Feldman (The Truman Show, The Golden Child, The Hitcher, Fuzz, Hot Dog: The Movie), Austen Jewell (Motel Hell), and Charles Meeker (Hamburger: The Motion Picture, The Hitcher, The Golden Child).

The musical score for Wired was composed by Basil Poledouris, who also provided music for movies like Conan The Barbarian, Red Dawn, RoboCop, Iron Eagle, RoboCop 3, On Deadly Ground, Free Willy, and Starship Troopers.

wired2The effects work for the film was provided by a team that included Craig Lyman (The Stuff, Carlito’s Way, The Fisher King, The Happening, Men In Black III), Vera Yurtchuk (Teen Wolf, Tuff Turf), and Robert Calvert (Iron Eagle, Cutthroat Island, Monkeybone, Con Air, Castle).

The cast of Wired includes Michael Chiklis (The Shield, Fantastic Four), Ray Sharkey (Cop And A Half, No Mercy, Wise Guys), J.T. Walsh (Sling Blade, Executive Decision), Patti D’Arbanville (Real Genius, The Fan), Lucinda Jenney (Rain Man, Thirteen Days), and Alex Rocco (The Godfather, Smokin Aces).

The plot of Wired is summarized on IMDb as follows:

The ghost of John Belushi looks back on his troubled life and career, while journalist Bob Woodward researches Belushi’s life as he prepares to write a book about the late comic actor.

In one of the sequences featuring the fictionalized John Landis, a helicopter is prominently heard in the background. This is a not-so-subtle reference to an infamous on-set accident involving a helicopter on Twilight Zone: The Movie that killed three people under his watch, including actor Vic Morrow (The Last Shark, 1990: The Bronx Warriors).

Given that Wired was not an authorized biographical feature, it was haunted by the specter of legal issues. Numerous prominent figures in Belushi’s life threatened to sue if they were portrayed in the film, and Saturday Night Live skits were officially off-limits thanks to NBC’s copyright. The result of this on screen is the featuring of oddly manufactured facsimiles of SNL skits, which only vaguely resemble actual performances, and feature few (if any) of Belushi’s co-stars.

WIRED, from left: Gary Groomes as Dan Aykroyd, Michael Chiklis as John Belushi, 1989 © Taurus EntertainmentWired was widely reviled by both audiences and critics alike upon its release: it currently holds a 4.5 on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 4% from critics and 15% from audiences. Appropriately, the movie was also a financial disaster. On a production budget of roughly $13 million, the movie only managed to gross just over $1 million in its theatrical run, which was significantly impacted by a boycott of the movie which was vocally supported by many of Belushi’s friends and family.

The portrayal of John Belushi in this movie, as many have pointed out, is written is an excessively brutal way, which emphasizes everything negative about the man, while glossing over any of his positive impacts and traits. However, Chiklis’s performance is actually pretty spot-on if you ask me, despite the issues with the material he was working with. His mannerisms and voice were clearly the result of some meticulous effort on his part, and the result is pretty impressive.

WIRED, Lucinda Jenney as Judy Belushi, Michael Chiklis as John Belushi, 1989, © Taurus EntertainmentSomething that bothered me a lot about Wired is how much it feels like a vanity project of the author, Bob Woodward. The fact that he is written into the screenplay as a character is a bit over the top, and Belushi’s portrayed obsessive fascination with him as a celebrity is a little beyond ridiculous. If Belushi’s portrayal wasn’t enough poor taste for this movie, the self-aggrandizing portrait of Bob Woodword adds a layer of sleaze on top of the stack.

The message of Wired is nothing if not heavy-handed, which is a significant weakness of the film. A good biopic should focus on building the central character, with the flaws included as part of the holistic entity of them. Wired, however, just focuses on the flaws of John Belushi, which gives an incomplete picture of the character, and makes his downfall less potent as a result. If the movie wanted to effectively telegraph an anti-drug message, it should have built up a sympathetic character, and then had him destroyed by his drug addiction, which would have had emotional weight. As it stands, Belushi is painted as an asshole from the start, so the tragedy of his story is negated.

Overall, Wired isn’t the worst movie out there. There are actually some interesting aspects to it, like the surreal framing device, some moments of appropriately bleak humor, and Chiklis’s performance. That said, the screenplay clearly has an axe to grind and a message to deliver, which taints everything it touches. The result is a bitter, self-righteous, and hateful movie that is impossible to like, in spite of some of its positive aspects. I can’t very well recommend the movie, because it isn’t a film that can really be enjoyed. However, it has some trivia value thanks to its background, which might make it worth checking out for some.

For some other thoughts on Wired, I recommend checking out the coverage of the movie by The Cinema Snob , as well as the episode on it by the We Hate Movies podcast.