Today in Movie History: July 10

The key to dystopian science fiction is to make their bleak future plausible, which is why stories like 1984 resonate even after the precise future date they utilize has come and gone. John Carpenter pulled off a similar trick with Escape from New York, turning Manhattan Island into a walled maximum security prison controlled by a future police state. When Air Force One crash lands inside the prison, they sent Kurt Russell’s eyepatch-toting loner in to save him… and in the process gave us one of the best pure iconoclasts in movie history. Escape from New York opened today in 1981.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is generally regarded as the weakest of the four Mad Max movies. Producer Bryon Kennedy died early in production, and a heartbroken George Miller continued the project more out of obligation to his friend than any enthusiasm for going forward without him. Add to that star Mel Gibson’s subsequent Anti-Semitic disgrace and the presence of three other, better Mad Max movies, and Thunderdome struggles more than it should. That said, Miller is still Miller and his boundless imagination still holds strong in this post-apocalyptic future… to say nothing of Tina Turner’s bad-ass turn as Max’s nemesis, Auntie Entity. Beyond Thunderdome opened today in 1985.

That same day, Lawrence Kasdan attempted to revitalized the moribund Western genre with Silverado, pitting a quartet of principled drifters (Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover and Kevin Costner) against a corrupt sheriff (Brian Dennehy) and an evil clan of cattle barons. It’s kind of the salad bar of Westerns: cramming everything it can into its frame and letting you pick the bits you like. That gives it an uneven feeling sometimes, but the grand performances and sparkling dialogue still make it a hell of a romp. Silverado opened today in 1985.

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