“1982: The Greatest Geek Year Ever” (2023) [Pigeon Shrine FrightFest]

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s the feature-length cinematic cut of 1982: The Greatest Geek Year Ever, helmed by Roger Lay, Jr., which screened as part of London’s Pigeon Shrine FrightFest and which originally aired on the CW as a four part mini-series. 

This remarkable epic documentary spotlights the pop culture milestones of 1982 including notable motion pictures, TV, music and video games of that seminal year.

The Good
Joseph: 1982: The Greatest Geek Year Ever may not be a fully exhaustive effort regarding singing the praises of that year’s array of terrific genre films and beyond, but you would be hard pressed to find one that covers more ground. This documentary is basically a valentine to what has since become affectionately known as geek culture regarding movie fandom, with a side dash of video gaming for good measure, and though I am slightly older than the talking heads herein who were kids growing up in 1982, I remember the era well. It was just seven years earlier that I stood in line for Jaws — for 14 out of 15 Saturdays in a row — and even though by 1982 the only lines I stood in were for concerts, as I had the luxury by then of going to cinemas during weekday matinees and avoiding crowds, I can relate to the stories and images here of fans waiting in long queues to see their favorite films over and over again. How does my personal reminiscing about that relate to a review of 1982: The Greatest Geek Year Ever? Well, you’re basically in for almost three hours of those types of memories from a wide variety of film luminaries with this documentary, sandwiched between behind-the-scenes stories from the people who made the movies.

Mike: To try and cover everything about this that pushed the right buttons for me would be near impossible as just about everything covered within the nearly three hour runtime had some sort of impact on me (which kind of validates their claims about what a great year 1982 was).  While some things, like Star Trek II, may seem to get more discussion time than others, there’s still a fair-enough balance that should make everyone happy. There’s also enough anecdotal trivia that, even if it isn’t something new to the viewer, should be entertaining enough to carry viewers through any segments that aren’t of (much? any?) interest.
The format is like just about any pop-culture nostalgia documentary from the early 2000’s on networks like VH1, E!, and so on, with lots of talking heads, both by principal people involved as well as folks just just giving their own commentary (there’s more than one story about standing in line waiting for a big movie premiere).  This provides a nice, familiar-feeling viewing experience that helps to provide plenty of different takes on each topic.

The Bad
Joseph: The nearly three-hour running time is a lot to ask of viewers, even those deeply enamored with the films discussed. With the documentary’s something-for-virtually-everybody approach, it means that some folks will be less engaged with some sections. That’s about all I can say here, as there isn’t anything truly “bad” about this entertaining documentary.

Mike:  The problem with a long documentary like this is fatigue and is most likely why this was originally presented as a four part mini-series.  There’s also bound to be a feeling of inequity by some fans if their particular subject matter didn’t get as much coverage as something else they may not like as much.  There’s also the matter of the “talking heads” style which, while perfect for something like this that covers a number of different and specific things, can be annoying if someone (to use a pro-wrestling term), “goes into business for themself” such as trying too hard to be funny, or coming across as insincere about something by acting like a know-it-all.  Neither happens here as far as I’m concerned, but I feel it should be mentioned since everyone’s mileage may vary on matters like that.  Honestly, I wouldn’t even mention the second and third thing if I was doing a straight-up review, but “Bad” is in our name, so I feel like I need to include something.  

The Verdict
Joseph: Even if you don’t fully agree with its titular proclamation, 1982: The Greatest Geek Year Ever! is a fun, informative work that should have viewers considering rewatches — not to mention first-time watches for selections that for one reason or another never quite made it to their “I’ve seen it” lists — of most of the films discussed while longing for arcade action of days gone by. It’s both a fine primer for younger viewers and others unfamiliar with that year’s terrific output, and a treasure trove of lump-in-the-throat nostalgia for those who frequented cinemas and arcades that year.

Mike: I can’t recommend this enough to both the younger and older generations that it is aimed at.  For some of the younger folks you get a nice history lesson about some classic stuff, and for us older people you get a fantastic trip back to a seminal year for genre fare.  There’s nothing as pleasing as a well planned and guided trip down Nostalgia Lane and Lay, Jr. and everyone involved provide just that with 1982: The Greatest Geek Year Ever!.

1982: The Greatest Geek Year Ever!, from The CW Network and which originally aired as a mini-series on the CW, screened as part of the 2023 Pigeon Shrine FrightFest, which ran August 24–28 in London.  For more information, visit https://frightfest.co.uk/.

1982: The Greatest Geek Year Ever!
Directed By: Roger Lay, Jr.
Starring: Mick Garris, Barry Bostwick, Adrienne Barbeau, David L. Snyder.
Run Time: 2h 20m
Rating:  NR
Release Date: 2022 (United States)