When I have to explain the 80s to future grandchildren, I think I’ll just tell them the only man they need to know about is Steven Spielberg.
From Jaws to E.T. to movies he produced, like Gremlins, no man captured the way it was like Spielberg did. He combined boyish wonder with lots of gore and made everything twice as majestic as any theater screen could hold.
He wasn’t content with just theater screens, though. He annexed our televisions with a production called Amazing Stories. Amazing Stories was such a grab bag of styles I can’t help but consider it disjointed. Some episodes were perfect for children, and others were perfect for scarring children. Some of the stories were whimsical flights of fancy, and others were so much darker.
Frankly, a lot of them are lame and dated now. You can catch up with the show on Netflix, where shows we remember from our childhoods are resurrected to embarrass us now.
The obvious episode to discuss of Amazing Stories was “Mummy, Daddy,” about an actor dressed as a mummy running into a real mummy on his way to the hospital, where his wife had give birth. It’s a good episode, and it has Spielbergian scary moments mixed with comedy. You should watch it.
Somehow, “Thanksgiving” ends up far scarier to me. Starring David Carradine and Kyra Sedgwick, the episode immediately drops us into squalor. Sedgwick wants to be free of Carradine, and they both think the strange creatures they found in their well might be their ticket to a better life. They send food down the hole on a rope, and they haul gold out of the hole. Carradine gets greedy and lowers himself into the well with a shotgun and a giant winch and . . .
I rewatched “Thanksgiving” to prepare this column, and it still worked for me. The final sun-drenched discovery is haunting, and the Spielberg humor makes the tension more perverse.
Maybe it doesn’t age well, but that Spielberg stew somehow stands the test of time. It might scare you, too.