Analysis Culture

Catherine Mary Stewart and the queens of retro movie nerddom

Being the Retrologist of the group (I was there, man!), I feel this is really not only my lane… but my responsibility. NAY! My obligation! My lot, even. My crux.

My blessing and my curse. (Coming of age in the 80s made some things really difficult in the modern era. Do you know how hard it is to find tanlines these days?!)

I’ll start by defining the parameters. The temporal bookends here are 1979 and 1988 (arguably the Golden Age of Retro Nerddom; if not golden, then certainly golden-with-a-broad-silverish-buffer). There are exceptions to this time frame, but none of the movies/women mentioned herein fall outside it. (The definition — my definition — of ‘retro’ will be a standalone rant all to itself.)

‘Movie’ is explicit: not TV shows, not games, not music (that’ll be its own list later), not MTV hosts or game show models — because let’s be honest, every woman ever on The Price is Right would be on this list (even though no one knows their names), and Vanna White. Anyway, feature motion pictures (as B as some of them may seem). And the movies need to be pretty nerdy, or cult filmy. This counts out a lot of movies and ladies, in my opinion. Doesn’t mean the movies aren’t rad, or that the chicks aren’t bodacious. (I’m looking at you, Adrian Barbeau…) But having a Cannonball Run lunchbox made you cool. Having a Labyrinth one… did not. (Just trust me on this one.)

‘Queen’ is not quite so explicit. Nor, in this case, is it literal. Although one of the females on this list did play an Empress, and one was technically offered a queenship… you get the picture. And, to the best of my knowledge (and trust me, here, I’ve searched), they are all females. (And any American dude my age *can* verify that as of May 1987, Vanna White was very much a female.)

Objective: To flesh out the top-shelf 80s females, movies, and roles that absolutely no doubt live on the hearts and minds of (at the very least) dudes who were old enough to go to the skating rink alone or ride their GT Pro Performer without training wheels at the time these flicks came out on Betamax, VHS, or Laserdisc. (I’m looking at you, Frumentarius. I know Geo Hand had already traded in his Ghetto Blaster and cardboard mat for an M-16A1 and mortar baseplate by then…)

This list is reasonably definitive to me. I’d like to suggest that you make your own, and let us know. Although I obviously can’t be wrong about it, I can certainly be enlightened on someone I might have overlooked at the time. And if there is a movie on this list that you haven’t seen… find it. Go down to your local Blockbust… wait. Uh. Find it.

This list is in no particular order, because they are all first place for one reason or another. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out more Queens of Retro Movie Nerddom here.


Catherine Mary Stewart as Maggie Gordon and as Regina Belmont.
The Last Starfighter and Night of the Comet, respectively. Both 1984 (good book, great year, and even greater album).

For starters, CMS was — and still is, I assume — more than a decade older than me. So, as this list goes she would have been legally out of my league. However, in my defense, she was playing a high school student in both flicks, so though completely fucked up and ill-advised, I could still have pulled the Lloyd Christmas “one in a million” card.

I digress. Maggie was a little more toned down than Reggie was. But she had her shit together. Certainly more so than her boyfriend, who was a combination of Sarah in the Labyrinth — with the play-pretend dreams of grandeur — and the later-mentioned Bastian with his willy-nilly non-committal bullshit.

Mags was patient with said bullshit (plus some), and was also wickedly understanding when dude finally unfucked himself — in the face of galactic tyranny — showed back up at their trailer park in his fucking Gunstar (coolest 80s spaceship by far, by the way) and asked her to come with him back to Rylos.

She wasn’t really the centerpiece of this movie. But it’s a nerd movie, and she’s in it. This is actually one of my favorite movies ever. (And I was somewhat surprised that the Ready Player One guy rewrote it, called it something else, and tried to pass it off as a new book.)

Having grown up in Smalltown, USA, myself and playing 8-bit video games with dreams that someone would show up and hire me based on my skillz, this flick really hit a solid smorgasbord of sweetspots. I did spend a significant amount of my childhood in a trailer park, though, and I can tell you that it would have been awesome had there been a female there under 75 years old and/or a cabinet video game anywhere on the premises. (To say nothing of being recruited by the damn Star League and getting to skip out on a decade of fucking undergraduate work.)

But for those of us who did not have Maggie Gordons (or proper video games) in our parks… we at least had our blurry HBO-taped copy of The Last Starfighter to see us through all the hardships.

Scene of the movie (which has nothing to do with Maggie): Alex and Grig are hiding in a cave in an asteroid waiting for Xur and the Ko-dan Armada to pass by them so they can sneak attack ’em. As they wait, they’re talking about their homes back home. Grig lives in a cave — says the cave they are in reminds him of home. Alex says he lives in a trailer. Grig asks what a trailer is. Alex replies, “It is like a cave that goes places. Only we never went anywhere…” And he shortly stares off to nowhere; great piece of expressive acting.


 

Regina Belmont was damn near everything I ever wanted in a girlfriend, and probably still is. Hot, sassy, played video games on the job, knew hand-to-hand combat, could use a submachine gun, and would bone down in the projector room of a movie theater (for 15 bucks; I ain’t judgin’… except that it was with Buck from Kill Bill). She had this younger, hipper, Sarah Conner thing going for her… though less militant, no less capable.

Night of the Comet is one of those movies that is somehow a cult classic, but I’m the only person I know who’s ever seen it. Besides my brother, who was waaay more into the cheerleader sister — which is a good thing, because I woulda fought him. But the internet is full of fans, which is awesome. And I’m glad for that, because this movie is awesome.

Reggie’s dad was off in Central America with Special Forces, and the weird twist here is that if he were really an SF guy in Central America in 1984… I would actually personally know dudes who served with him there in real life. (All the more reason for me and Reg to end up together, I’d say.)

With the zombie craze of the last decade and a half going off in all kinds of directions, it’s a wonder NotC never made a comeback. (I heard it’s been picked up for a reboot, but we’ll see.) The comet thing is certainly a more airtight scenario than most of the bullshit zombie stuff that’s come out. And the movie set the scene for an entire follow-on storyline. Which is bound to mostly revolve around a teenage boy who has to come to terms with the fact that if humanity is going to survive, he may have to hook up with a girl who’s been raised as his sister…?

Scene of the movie: Reg and her cheerleader sister, Sam — who also played a cheerleader in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, by the way — are shooting up some big-ass hoopty on the streets of Apoc-LA with [classic 80s] MAC-10s. Shit keeps jamming, because MAC-10s. Sam — all while absently trying to unjam the 10 — looks at Reg and says, “Dad woulda gotten us Uzis.”


 

Next up: Mia Sara!

Feature image via IMDb.

 

 

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clluelo
clluelo
1 year ago

Last Starfighter is on my list of favourite movies !

Miche
Miche
1 year ago

“It is like a cave that goes places. Only we never went anywhere…” I totally forgot that line, hahaha! (Our trailer had an escape hole hidden under the carpet of my brothers’ bedroom, where a second bathroom could have been installed, so there was plenty of sneaking out and going places…. just…. without the cave.) (Never anywhere as cool as Rylos, though. I don’t think…)

I’ve never even heard of Night of the Comet. But then, I’ve never watched a single zombie movie. Ever.

Miche
Miche
1 year ago
Reply to  Theo Dyssean

Ha! It’s on Amazon Prime for “free.” Adding it to the watch list. Dude….if there’s hardly any zombies, why do they need the MAC-10s? Sub-natural bad guys?

Miche
Miche
1 year ago
Reply to  Theo Dyssean

Uh… non-sequitur T&A??
And there were TOTALLY sub-natural bad guys in that movie! I think they need a sequel with a fleet of Benzes to police the new world order for all the survivors. “The burden of civilization is upon us.”

rynosbucket
rynosbucket
1 year ago

“..which is a good thing, because I woulda fought him.”

“… though less militant, no less capable.”

This series has to be the ringer… Has to be, man. I was Literally Laughing Out Loud and remembering how I too wished the galaxy needed me to pilot a Gunstar.

JoyB
JoyB
1 year ago

Remember the looooooong wait for movies to come out on VHS, then trips to the video store to rent them? I saw both of those movies that way. My Dad actually wanted to see the Last Starfighter, so he went the extra step to simulcast it with his stereo, we watched on the family console TV.

JoyB
JoyB
1 year ago
Reply to  Theo Dyssean

My Dad’s side biz was heating and air. He kept the video store’s working, so the owner gave him first dibs on rentals. Knowing people always came in handy. My Dad also genuinely liked nerdy movies and sci-fi. We watched Star Trek reruns together and he took the family to see the first Star Wars movie at a drive in when I became absolutely obsessed with the movie and wanted to be Princess Leia.

Mason
Mason
1 year ago

Who didn’t want to be recruited for your Arcade Machine skillz, and fly a fighter? Great trip down memory lane. Thanks Theo!

georgehand
1 year ago

…and I still haven’t traded in my mortar baseplate yet, you Yankee bushwhacker!
geo sends

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