This Month In Retro is a monthly article where we look back on the current month as it happened during the 1980's. Learn, reminisce, and stay retro.
Which Star Wars film is your favorite and why is it Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back? The Empire Strikes Back was a phenomenal success. It was so profitable that George Lucas distributed $5 million dollars worth of bonuses to the employees who worked on the film. It was the highest grossing film of 1980, more than doubling the second place film.
The first Friday the 13th film was released. While not as well-crafted as John Carpenter's Halloween, Friday the 13th has proved to be nearly as influential and iconographic. The film was made with a budget of just $550,000 and made over 108 times that at the box office. Fun fact: the hockey mask does not appear in this film or the sequel. You'll need to watch Part III for that pop culture phenomenon.
Finally, to close out an excellent month of film, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining was released. This is one of the best films ever made. The film is a masterstroke by a filmmaker at his best, reveling in a pervasive sense of dread and isolation. I get chills every single time this film is on. If you don't like horror movies, you probably still like The Shining. Yeah. It's that good.
The B-52's, a favorite of mine, scored their first Billboard Top 100 hit with "Rock Lobster", a song that perfectly straddles new wave, surf rock and novelty. Peter Criss quit Kiss. Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)" is banned in South Africa. That makes me wonder about playing parts 1 and 3.
Deaths: Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis commits suicide. If you don't listen to Joy Division, now is a good time to start.
Two noteworthy novels were published in May 1980. The first was John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, a debut novel published eleven years after Toole's suicide. Michael Chrichton published Congo. The film rights for the novel were purchased before the novel was even finished. The film, by the way, is excellent. But you should have probably figured that out since it has Tim Curry and Bruce Campbell.
Henry Winkler, after years, finally becomes the top billing cast member of Happy Days following an exit by Ron Howard and Donny Most. After literally jumping the shark three years earlier, the Fonz was finally the captain of a sinking ship. After five hilarious seasons, the original cast of SNL has their final episode. Regardless of what all the cool kids say, the show is still great.
In video games:
This might not seem like such a big deal but Pac-Man was released. This game is currently or was at one time the highest grossing video game across multiple platforms. It is completely and totally ubiquitous. We even have it on our site! (link) The game also introduced the first instance of a mascot character, appealed to a large number of female gamers, originated the idea of power-ups, and featured cutscenes. Toru Iwatani, creator of Pac-Man, received little recognition or acknowledgement for creating something that was, and I'm not being hyperbolic, one of the most important pieces of entertainment in the past century.