Masters of the Universe (1987)

PG | 106 mins | Science fiction, Fantasy | 7 August 1987

Director:

Gary Goddard

Writer:

David Odell

Cinematographer:

Hanania Baer

Editor:

Anne V. Coates

Production Designer:

William Stout

Production Company:

Cannon Films
Full page view
HISTORY

Masters of the Universe is based on a line of popular action figures from Mattel, Inc. Introduced in 1980, the assortment of toys was part of a sword and high-tech sorcery storyline featuring heroic warrior He-Man and his archenemy, the evil sorcerer Skeletor. Ancillary products included comic books and a syndicated animated television series, produced by Filmation, called He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which ran for 130 episodes in 1983-1985. It was followed by a “spin-off” series, She-Ra: Princess of Power, whose ninety-five episodes first aired in 1985-1987. By 1985, the Masters action line was “the largest-selling boy’s toy in the world,” with annual sales exceeding $1 billion, according to the 24 Jul 1985 HR.
       In 1985, RKO Pictures and Edward R. Pressman Film Corp. announced plans for a live-action Masters of the Universe movie. HR noted that the $19-million production would begin shooting at Churubusco Studios in Mexico City, Mexico, in late 1985, and be ready for release by Christmas 1986. Howard Kazanjian was set to produce a script by David Odell, and Gary Goddard, who wrote the script for Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981, see entry), was scheduled to make his directing debut. Six months later, RKO Pictures and Kazanjian were no longer involved with the project. The 11 Feb 1986 HR reported that Pressman was now working with the Cannon Group on the film, and that Elliot Shick and screenwriter David Odell would co-produce. However, Odell does not receive an onscreen co-producer credit.
       “He-Man” was the first starring role for Swedish martial arts master Dolph Lundgren, ... More Less

Masters of the Universe is based on a line of popular action figures from Mattel, Inc. Introduced in 1980, the assortment of toys was part of a sword and high-tech sorcery storyline featuring heroic warrior He-Man and his archenemy, the evil sorcerer Skeletor. Ancillary products included comic books and a syndicated animated television series, produced by Filmation, called He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which ran for 130 episodes in 1983-1985. It was followed by a “spin-off” series, She-Ra: Princess of Power, whose ninety-five episodes first aired in 1985-1987. By 1985, the Masters action line was “the largest-selling boy’s toy in the world,” with annual sales exceeding $1 billion, according to the 24 Jul 1985 HR.
       In 1985, RKO Pictures and Edward R. Pressman Film Corp. announced plans for a live-action Masters of the Universe movie. HR noted that the $19-million production would begin shooting at Churubusco Studios in Mexico City, Mexico, in late 1985, and be ready for release by Christmas 1986. Howard Kazanjian was set to produce a script by David Odell, and Gary Goddard, who wrote the script for Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981, see entry), was scheduled to make his directing debut. Six months later, RKO Pictures and Kazanjian were no longer involved with the project. The 11 Feb 1986 HR reported that Pressman was now working with the Cannon Group on the film, and that Elliot Shick and screenwriter David Odell would co-produce. However, Odell does not receive an onscreen co-producer credit.
       “He-Man” was the first starring role for Swedish martial arts master Dolph Lundgren, who had recently become popular playing Russian boxer “Drago” in Rocky IV (1985, see entry). Lundgren was negotiating for a $500,000 salary, the 21 Jan 1986 Daily News reported.
       Principal photography began 11 Aug 1986 in Los Angeles, CA, according to the 5 Sep 1986 DV production chart. Director Gary Goddard told the 8 Mar 1987 LAT the film’s budget had increased from $16.8 million to $20 million during shooting, but another source hinted that the cost had ballooned to $26 million. The producers considered ending the film with a freeze-frame of “He-Man” about to fight “Skeletor,” superimposed with the words “to be continued,” because the original ending was unaffordable. However, the “cliffhanger” ending was not used, and the film’s plot lines were resolved.
       When the Cannon Group was on the verge of bankruptcy, Warner Bros. provided a $75 million bailout in Dec 1986. Under the terms of the agreement, Warner received the option for North American distribution rights to Masters of the Universe. The 2 Apr 1987 HR reported that Cannon wanted the film released in summer 1987, but Warner did not have summer slots available and did not want the film competing against Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987, see entry), another Cannon-made film which Warner was distributing. Warner planned an Oct 1987 release, but when Cannon objected, Warner returned distribution rights.
       Masters of the Universe opened on 1,185 screens on 7 Aug 1987, taking in $4.9 million in its first three days, the 11 Aug 1987 DV reported.
       A planned sequel was not made because of Cannon’s ongoing financial problems.
       In 1991, Mattel, Inc. sued MGM-Pathé Communications for $650,000. The 19 Feb 1991 DV reported that under the licensing agreement, Cannon, which Pathé acquired in 1987 before it merged with MGM, was to pay Mattel that amount when the film’s gross receipts equaled $50 million. The $50-million figure was probably a misprint, because the 20 Feb 1991 HR put the number that triggered the payout at $15 million, which was reached in Dec 1989. The Box Office Mojo website more recently reported the film’s total domestic gross was $17.3 million.
       End credits state: “Based on the toy line developed by, and copyrights and trademarks owned by Mattel, Inc., used under license.”
       End credits also state: “Special Thanks to: Whittier Uptown Association; The City of Whittier; Burger King Corporation; Pepsi-Cola; Casio; Sunshine Biscuits Inc.; Adidas; The Original Illusions: Billy Munoz, Anthony Moreno, Tony Herrera, and Dennis Contrerras.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
5 Sep 1986.
---
Daily Variety
10 Aug 1987
p. 3, 11.
Daily Variety
11 Aug 1987.
---
Daily Variety
19 Feb 1991.
p. 6, 16.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 1987.
p. 1, 21.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 1987
p. 6, 44.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Feb 1991.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
21 Jan 1986.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Mar 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 Aug 1987
Calendar, p. 7.
New York Times
8 Aug 1987
p. 1, 50.
Variety
12 Aug 1987
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
The Cannon Group, Inc. Presents
a Golan-Globus Production
in Association with Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation
a Gary Goddard film
A Cannon® Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Cam loader
Videographer
Key grip
Key grip
Best boy grip
Key rigging grip
Dolly grip
Best boy elec
Best boy
Still photog
[Equipment] Supplied by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Concept des
Concept des
Concept artist
Spec des by
Art dir
Eff illustrator
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
Prod des coord
Storyboard illustrator
Des maquettes
Des maquettes
Des maquettes
Des maquettes
Art dept prod asst
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
1st asst and eff liaison ed
2d asst ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutting
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Set des
Const coord
Const foreman
Carpenter
Lead sculptor
Sculptor
Sculptor
Sculptor
Lead scenic painter
Painter
Set dec
Set dressing leadman
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Prop master
Asst prop master
Prop asst
Specialty prop builder
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Asst cost des
Asst cost des
Cost
Ward prod asst
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus coord
Mus coord
Mus loc coord
Mus eng by
Mus cond by
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Sd post prod
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Spec sd eff created by
ADR supv
ADR mixer
Supv foley ed
Foley ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Vis eff prod
Visual eff coord
Visual eff coord
Lead spec eff
Asst spec eff
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Vis eff art dir, Boss Film Corporation
Dir of photog, Boss Film Corporation
Vis eff art dir, Boss Film Corporation
Chief financial officer, Boss Film Corporation
Prod supv, Boss Film Corporation
Matte dept supv, Boss Film Corporation
Vis eff ed, Boss Film Corporation
Spec eff foreman, Boss Film Corporation
Prod advisor, Boss Film Corporation
Opt supv, Boss Film Corporation
Model shop supv, Boss Film Corporation
Spec projects supv, Boss Film Corporation
Chief eng, Boss Film Corporation
Chief matte artist, Boss Film Corporation
Asst to Richard Edlund, Boss Film Corporation
Prod coord, Boss Film Corporation
Opt cam op, Boss Film Corporation
Opt cam op, Boss Film Corporation
Opt cam op, Boss Film Corporation
Spec consultant, Boss Film Corporation
Opt line-up, Boss Film Corporation
Opt line-up, Boss Film Corporation
Opt coord, Boss Film Corporation
Head lab tech, Boss Film Corporation
Eff cam, Boss Film Corporation
Eff cam, Boss Film Corporation
1st asst photog, Boss Film Corporation
1st asst photog, Boss Film Corporation
Still photog, Boss Film Corporation
Tech anim, Boss Film Corporation
Anim, Boss Film Corporation
Anim, Boss Film Corporation
Anim, Boss Film Corporation
Anim, Boss Film Corporation
Anim prod asst, Boss Film Corporation
Anim prod asst, Boss Film Corporation
Anim prod asst, Boss Film Corporation
Anim prod asst, Boss Film Corporation
Anim coord, Boss Film Corporation
Matte artist, Boss Film Corporation
Spec projects asst, Boss Film Corporation
Visual eff ed, Boss Film Corporation
Ed prod asst, Boss Film Corporation
Asst spec eff foreman, Boss Film Corporation
Chief lighting tech, Boss Film Corporation
Pyro tech, Boss Film Corporation
Grip, Boss Film Corporation
Grip, Boss Film Corporation
Prod asst, Boss Film Corporation
Des eng, Boss Film Corporation
Chief electronics eng, Boss Film Corporation
Software programmer, Boss Film Corporation
Electronics tech, Boss Film Corporation
Precision cinetechnician, Boss Film Corporation
Accountant, Boss Film Corporation
Prjoect leader--swords, Boss Film Corporation
Project leader--flying discs, Boss Film Corporatio
Project leader--weapons, Boss Film Corporation
Project leader--battle station, Boss Film Corporat
Project leader--puppets, Boss Film Corporation
Project leader--cosmic key, Boss Film Corporation
Mechanical keyman, Boss Film Corporation
Electronics keyman, Boss Film Corporation
Chief modelmaker, Boss Film Corporation
Lead puppet scupltor, Boss Film Coproation
Puppet sculptor, Boss Film Coproation
Mechanical des, Boss Film Corporation
Scenic artist, Boss Film Corporation
Propmaker, Boss Film Corporation
Propmaker, Boss Film Corporation
Propmaker, Boss Film Corporation
Propmaker, Boss Film Corporation
Propmaker, Boss Film Corporation
Propmaker, Boss Film Corporation
Propmaker, Boss Film Corporation
Modelmaker, Boss Film Corporation
Modelmaker, Boss Film Corporation
Sculptor, Boss Film Corporation
Sculptor, Boss Film Corporation
Model shop prod asst, Boss Film Corporation
Model shop coord, Boss Film Corporation
Trooper, warlord & centurion armor created by
Prod exec, Robert Short Productions, Inc.
Armor supv, Robert Short Productions, Inc.
Const supv, Robert Short Productions, Inc.
Armor tech, Robert Short Productions, Inc.
Armor tech, Robert Short Productions, Inc.
Armor tech, Robert Short Productions, Inc.
Armor tech, Robert Short Productions, Inc.
Armor tech, Robert Short Productions, Inc.
Armor tech, Robert Short Productions, Inc.
Armor tech, Robert Short Productions, Inc.
Armor tech, Robert Short Productions, Inc.
Armor tech, Robert Short Productions, Inc.
Principal armor and accessories
Principal armor and accessories, Studio Art Metal
Principal armor and accessories, Studio Art Metal
Principal armor and accessories, Studio Art Metal
Title des
Title des
Titles rendered by
Opticals
Main title opticals
End title opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup conceptual des
Key makeup artist
Makeup lab foreman
Makeup lab sculptor
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Body makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist, For Mr. Lundgren
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv for Mattel, Inc. by
Prod supv for Mattel, Inc. by
Prod supv for Mattel, Inc. by
Exec in charge of prod
Casting
Asst to Elliot Schick and Gary Goddard
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Asst to Mr. Kolar
Unit pub
Extras casting
Casting asst
Prod accountant
Asst auditor
Asst auditor
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Loc projectionist
Drama coach, For Mr. Lundgren
Speech coach, For Mr. Lundgren
Trainer, For Mr. Lundgren
Creative adv, For Mr. Lundgren
Post prod supv
Post prod supv
Post prod coord
Asst to Mr. Conti
Transportation coord
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Transportation co-capt
Prod services and equip provided by
Lab facilities provided by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt choreog
Skeletor stunt double
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
COLOR PERSONNEL
Color
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
“Purple Haze,” written and performed by Jimi Hendrix, published by Bella Godiva Music, courtesy of Are You Experienced, Ltd. and A.R.M., Ltd.
“Waitin’ Up,” written and performed by George Highfill, courtesy of Enigma Records
“Dear Mr. Fantasy,” written by Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood, performed by Traffic, courtesy of Island Records, Inc.
+
SONGS
“Purple Haze,” written and performed by Jimi Hendrix, published by Bella Godiva Music, courtesy of Are You Experienced, Ltd. and A.R.M., Ltd.
“Waitin’ Up,” written and performed by George Highfill, courtesy of Enigma Records
“Dear Mr. Fantasy,” written by Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood, performed by Traffic, courtesy of Island Records, Inc.
“Living In A Box,” written by M. Verv and S. Piggot, performed by Living in a Box, courtesy of Chrysalis Records, Inc.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
7 August 1987
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles, New York opening: 7 August 1987
Production Date:
began 11 August 1986
Copyright Claimant:
Cannon Films, Inc., & Cannon International
Copyright Date:
29 October 1987
Copyright Number:
PA345200
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex ® cam by Panavision ®
Duration(in mins):
106
Length(in feet):
9,505
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28627
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On the planet Eternia, at the center of the universe, the evil Skeletor’s army seizes Castle Grayskull and traps the planet’s ruler, the benevolent Sorceress of Grayskull, inside an energy field. Skeletor slowly drains the Sorceress’s powers, and plans to add them to his own powers at the next moonrise. The Sorceress declares that her warrior, He-Man, is still alive and will defeat Skeletor. He-Man, joined by a veteran Man-at-Arms named Duncan, and Duncan’s daughter, Teela, rescue locksmith and inventor Gwildor from Skeletor’s men. Gwildor has invented a “cosmic key,” which can open a portal to any place in the universe using musical sounds. Skeletor’s second-in-command, Evil-Lyn, stole one of the two cosmic keys and used it to breach Castle Grayskull. Using the remaining cosmic key, Gwildor, He-Man, Duncan, and Teela transport to Castle Grayskull to rescue the Sorceress, but are outnumbered by Skeletor’s army. They open a portal to Earth to escape the army, but upon their arrival, they lose the cosmic key. Two California high school seniors, musician Kevin Corrigan and his recently orphaned girlfriend, Julie Winston, find it. As the young couple pushes various buttons on the cosmic key, it plays music and emits strange lights, so Kevin guesses it must be a handheld Japanese synthesizer. On Eternia, Evil-Lyn picks up the signal, and Skeletor sends a group of mercenaries, Saurod, Blade, Karg, and Beastman, to retrieve it. Skeletor also tells them to bring He-Man back alive, but do whatever they want with the others. Since Julie is now an orphan, she wants to start anew and plans to fly to New Jersey in a few hours. As Julie takes a final afterhours walk around the ... +


On the planet Eternia, at the center of the universe, the evil Skeletor’s army seizes Castle Grayskull and traps the planet’s ruler, the benevolent Sorceress of Grayskull, inside an energy field. Skeletor slowly drains the Sorceress’s powers, and plans to add them to his own powers at the next moonrise. The Sorceress declares that her warrior, He-Man, is still alive and will defeat Skeletor. He-Man, joined by a veteran Man-at-Arms named Duncan, and Duncan’s daughter, Teela, rescue locksmith and inventor Gwildor from Skeletor’s men. Gwildor has invented a “cosmic key,” which can open a portal to any place in the universe using musical sounds. Skeletor’s second-in-command, Evil-Lyn, stole one of the two cosmic keys and used it to breach Castle Grayskull. Using the remaining cosmic key, Gwildor, He-Man, Duncan, and Teela transport to Castle Grayskull to rescue the Sorceress, but are outnumbered by Skeletor’s army. They open a portal to Earth to escape the army, but upon their arrival, they lose the cosmic key. Two California high school seniors, musician Kevin Corrigan and his recently orphaned girlfriend, Julie Winston, find it. As the young couple pushes various buttons on the cosmic key, it plays music and emits strange lights, so Kevin guesses it must be a handheld Japanese synthesizer. On Eternia, Evil-Lyn picks up the signal, and Skeletor sends a group of mercenaries, Saurod, Blade, Karg, and Beastman, to retrieve it. Skeletor also tells them to bring He-Man back alive, but do whatever they want with the others. Since Julie is now an orphan, she wants to start anew and plans to fly to New Jersey in a few hours. As Julie takes a final afterhours walk around the school to say goodbye to her past, Skeletor’s mercenaries arrive through a portal and start shooting at her. As she runs away screaming, He-Man comes to her rescue, hides her, and fights off Skeletor’s men until they retreat. When the mercenaries return to Eternia without the cosmic key, Skeletor kills one, then sends the remaining three, along with Evil-Lyn, back to Earth, with orders to signal when they find the cosmic key, so that he can send an attack force. Meanwhile on Earth, Kevin takes the cosmic key to a music store to ask the owner Charlie, what it is. Charlie confirms Kevin’s guess that it is a Japanese synthesizer. Kevin goes to school to see Julie, but finds fire crews putting out the blazes started by He-Man’s shootout with the mercenaries. A police detective, Lubic, takes Kevin to Julie’s house, but she is not there. When Kevin cannot reasonably explain what the cosmic key is, Lubic confiscates it. As he leaves, Lubic presses the buttons, signaling his location to Evil-Lyn. Her forces break in and attack Kevin. Evil-Lyn places a collar on him that compels the truth, and Kevin reveals the police have the cosmic key. After the mercenaries leave, Julie, accompanied by He-Man, Duncan, Teela, and Gwildor, arrive and rescue Kevin. They hurry to the music store, where Lubic questions Charlie about the cosmic key, and arrive at the same time as Evil-Lyn and her men. During a shoot-out before the good and evil forces, Gwildor retreats to the store’s back room and reprograms the cosmic key to transport them away. Looking out the back window, Julie sees her mother and hurries to her. Mrs. Winston tells her daughter that she did not die, but that she and Julie’s father are doing secret work connected to the cosmic key. Julie’s mother asks her to bring the cosmic key to her. Julie returns inside the store and gets the key, but when she gives it to her mother, Mrs. Winston transforms into Evil-Lyn and signals Skeletor. A large wormhole-like portal opens, and Skeletor’s troops ride through on air boards. As He-Man fights them off, he jumps on an air board and snatches the cosmic key from Evil-Lyn. Skeletor’s army captures Duncan, Teela, and Gwildor, and finally He-Man. With the cosmic key in his possession, Skeletor gives He-Man a choice: If he returns to Eternia as Skeletor’s slave, his friends may live, but if he stays on Earth, they will all perish. He-Man agrees to go. After Skeletor and his men return to Eternia, Julie becomes sick from a poisonous cut sustained during the attack, and only the Sorceress of Grayskull can cure her. Meanwhile on Earth, Duncan reminds them that the moon is about to rise on Eternia, and if they do not rescue the Sorceress before then, Skeletor will inherit the powers of Grayskull. The cosmic key left behind is now broken and no longer has the musical combination to open a portal to Eternia. However, since Kevin is a musician, he gets a keyboard from Charlie’s store and reproduces the sounds it made. Lubic arrives to arrest everyone, but instead is transported along with them to Eternia. In the throne room at Castle Grayskull, the Sorceress withers as her power drains. Meanwhile, Skeletor’s men chain He-Man and whip him. As the moon rises, Skeletor addresses the people of Eternia, claiming that destiny has chosen him to receive the powers of Grayskull. He begins transforming before their eyes, and as the power surges through his body, Skeletor declares himself a god. At that moment, Gwildor, Duncan, Teela, Kevin, Julie, and Lubic arrive in the throne room. He-Man breaks free of his chains, and a shootout with Skeletor’s men ensues. He-Man takes the special sword out of the throne and battles Skeletor, who falls into a bottomless pit. The energy field trapping the Sorceress disappears, and her powers return. The Sorceress heals Julie and gives her a special amulet, telling her that Eternia will always be near when she wears it. Lubic plans to stay on Eternia. Gwildor opens a portal and sends Kevin and Julie back to Earth. When Julie wakes up in her bedroom, she finds her parents are still alive. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.