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Hops and Box Office Flops: ‘MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE – Fried Chicken, a Strip Mall, and a Distinct Lack of Eternia’


There was a time in the 1980s when He-Man and the Masters of the Universe line reigned atop the mountain of kids’ toys. Its massive success made this film’s production a no-brainer. It was meant to capitalize on the popularity of those figures, as well as the the cartoon series.

But it was too late; by the time it was released in 1987, the fervor for He-Man and his heroic, scantily clad exploits had waned, another victim of over supply and diminishing demand.

It did not help that his huge onscreen debut left much to be desired. Masters of the Universe is an odd movie—one which could be argued doesn’t even feature its hero as the main character—and it eschews much of what made He-Man who he was. There is no Prince Adam or Battle Cat; nor is there an appearance by Snake Mountain. These omissions were largely due to cost, but to set the film almost entirely in a random suburb is bizarre. It’s a fish out of water tale bogged down by its earthly elements. 

Its penchant to cut corners can all be attributed to who produced it: Cannon Films, a studio infamous for its desire to mass produce movies with little regard for their overall quality.

Masters of the Universe was one of their most expensive films. It was risk for not only them, but for Mattel—the maker of the He-Man toys. And it backfired. On a budget of $22 million, it grossed just over $17 million. Not a horrific flop, but a lot was riding on it. It, along with other bigger budget tripe like Superman IV, eventually led Cannon to shutter their doors.

Despite its dubious performance and initial sub-par reception, it is now considered by some to be a cult classic. This is no doubt due, in part, to Frank Langella’s potent performance as Skeletor and its eclectic cast of supporting characters—anchored by Billy Barty’s Gwildor. 

Frankly, it is something that would probably never be made today; it’s shocking enough that it got the go ahead then. Because of that, though, it must be seen.

So sit back, grab a Howling Gourds Pumpkin Ale, tune up that Cosmic Key, and enjoy, as I, the Thunderous Wizard (@WriterTLK), Capt. Cash, and Chumpzilla barricade ourselves in a record store as we prepare to fight an onslaught of Skeletor’s marauding goons!

This Week’s Segments:

  • Introduction – We break down this wacky adventure on Eter…Earth. Yes, it’s a He-Man film primarily set on Earth. (00:00)
  • Our “I Have the Power!” He-Man Trivia Challenge – Though far from a smash hit, this movie has plenty of wild behind-the-scenes tidbits. (44:05)
  • Recommendations and Our Upcoming Slate – Along with our picks for the week, we offer a look at future episodes. (1:04:23)

And, as always, hit us up on Twitter (@HopsandBOFlops) to check out all the interesting factoids—the bonkers idea for this movie’s sequel, Billy Barty’s Razzie competition, and more—from this week’s episode!

You can find this episode of Hops and Box Office Flops on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcherPodbean, and Spotify!


Thomas L. Kelly

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