Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Great Adventure Game Movie: Cloak & Dagger

This wonderful family movie references all sorts of vintage adventure games and hex wargames--Top Secret, most obviously, but there are also scenes that feature snippets of Traveller, the original AD&D Monster Manual, the Players Handbook, Blitzkreig and others. It's centered around a game store.

Henry Thomas, of E.T. fame, plays a boy who has recently lost his mother. His father (Dabney Coleman) is a good man, but doesn't understand his son's attachment to games and fantasy, thinking them a stand-in for the boy's sadness. In turn, the boy has an imaginary friend, the super spy Jack Flack (also played by Coleman) who is an answer to what he perceives as his father's distance.

The boy witnesses a real murder involving the theft of government secrets (disguised as a Cloak & Dagger videogame cartridge). Of course no one believes it, except (sort of) for his young female partner in crime (Christina Nigra). But that doesn't stop the bad guys from coming after him.

Here's a clip from the middle of the film:

Michael Murphy plays a lazily slouchy no-good, as always.

Beware the three-fingered woman.

The kids communicate on early 80's walkie-talkies. And the film makes brilliant Hitchcockian use of the Santa Fe canals.

The film is surprising, suspenseful, frightening (though appropriate for children), funny and ultimately quite moving. The ending made me cry thirty years ago, as well as now. Though this time I had to hide it from my kids.

But enough of that sentimentality (as Jack Flack might say). The other guys lost because they weren't good enough. Pick up your weapon and get moving...


  1. I loved that movie as a kid. I should add it to my watchlist for the weekend. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Thanks for the review; I've got to see this. Apparently it was first released as a double feature (remember those?) with The Last Starfighter, one of my favorites from back then. The Neverending Story came out the same year and also features a boy dealing with the loss of his mother.

    1. That's interesting. I don't remember that. I think I saw both of them when they came out, but I may be misremembering. It was a time when any movie with passable Sci-Fi special effects was eagerly awaited (at least by me). I have a feeling that The Last Starfighter may have dated, but I haven't seen it since it was released.