Stu and Hambone did something stupid. They watched the 1982 made-for-TV movie Mazes and Monsters, based on the Rona Jaffe novel of the same name, which is based loosely and idiotically on the totally not related to Dungeons & Dragons disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III in 1979. It is notable for being Tom Hanks’ first major role, a shockingly poor understanding of RPGs, some atrocious one-liners and a decent lizard man suit. Some movies are so bad they’re a blast to watch. Mazes and Monsters isn’t one of them. Buckle up and get ready to feel our pain.
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4 thoughts on “Mazes and Monsters”
I still watch this movie occasionally. I find that gamers tend to have very mixed feelings about this film. Personally, I had no knowledge of the Satanic panic until I was older and I know a few people who hate this movie because they did play D&D back during this time and it brings up a lot of negative memories for them.
You’re not wrong about some of your critiques. The movie is that early 80’s, made for tv style film that is very slow in comparison to that we are currently used to.
I watched the movie several years ago and created a drinking game (which I’ve never played) from it. It’s very simple, with only three rules:
1. Every time somebody says or does something that makes it clear that nobody involved in making the movie, with any decision-making power, has ever so much as seen an RPG being played: drink. (e.g. there’s no chess board in RPGs, so drink.)
2. Every time somebody says or does something that makes it clear that nobody involved in making the movie, with any decision-making power, has ever so much as set foot on a college campus since 1952: drink. (e.g. Nobody showed up to college with multiple hat boxes in the 80s, so drink.)
3. Every time Chris Makepeace wears a new hat: drink. (What is it with this movie and hats?)
If you want, you can add “4. drink constantly whenever Chris Makepeace is on screen wearing a Kaiser helmet.” No, really, don’t do that. You’ll pass out.
Seriously, if you ask people who played RPGs in the 80s, they seem to either hate it for the damage it did or love it for the silliness, but either way, they’ll say that it was wildly out of touch with its own era, regardless of RPGs. It’d be like making a movie set in 2020 but everybody has numbers-only pagers instead of smart phones.
Some of the RPG props were pretty cool. Robbie’s/Padru’s Two Towers map was totally bitchin. I remember pausing the VHS just so I could study it.
I absolutely love this movie. It speaks to my inner 80s child on so many levels. When I was a kid, I fully remember the Satanic panic hitting hard, I ended up beefing up my D&D collection with the Monster Manual, Fiend Folio and several other books I bought off of my friend for like 15 or 20 bucks. His mother was caught up big time in the whole thing and made him sell all of his D&D stuff. Lucky for me! I can still even picture seeing the ad for the movie on the TV while my dad was watching the news, and I thought how cool this is going to be! When I finally sat down to watch the broadcast premiere of M&M, I found myself utterly bored within the first 10 minutes, but I believe my dad ended up watching most of it as I would pop in and out every so often to see if anything interesting was on the screen. I vividly remember catching the scene in the cave with the Gorvil, and that was kind of cool, but I didn’t understand that it was all in Tom Hanks’ head so I was confused as to why the lizard suddenly disappeared after he stabbed it with his dagger (that he uses if his magic and spells should fail him). The funny thing is that at the time, Christopher Makepeace, who played the boy genius Jay Jay, had recently starred in the classic Bill Murray teen comedy, Meatballs, was a big star of the show, I didn’t even know who this Tom Hanks guy was lol, nobody did! Many, many, many years later, I rediscovered the movie on the Internet, and I finally got myself a copy – I’ve been huge fan ever since. I own a copy of the original hardback novel, which is pretty interesting and greatly expand on the stories of the main characters, and I’m even drinking my coffee out of a Mazes & Monsters mug as I’m writing this. I’ve probably watched the movie 20 or 30 times now, I’ve lost count, and it doesn’t get old. So many great quotable lines like “Mazes & Monsters is a far out game” and “Beware of the sacrilege!” — it’s like the dialogue came straight out of an elementary school play! I will always love this movie, it will always hold a special place in my heart as a reminder of a time when after school specials were still a thing, Tom Hanks wasn’t yet a household name and RPGs could drive a person to jump from the top floor of the WTC. Five stars, all the way!