Michael Jackson's Thriller (1983)
November 25, 2020 9:30 AM - Subscribe

A night at the movies turns into a nightmare when Michael and his date are attacked by a hoard of bloodthirsty zombies - only a "Thriller" can save them now.

Michael Jackson's Thriller at Youtube

Some snippets from Wikipedia:
Michael Jackson's Thriller is a 1983 music video made for the Michael Jackson song "Thriller", directed by John Landis and written by Landis and Jackson. It references numerous horror films, and stars Jackson performing a dance routine with a horde of the undead. Ola Ray co-stars as Jackson's girlfriend. The music video was released on December 2, 1983, just two days after the first anniversary of his sixth album, Thriller (1982).

Michael Jackson's Thriller was launched to great anticipation and played regularly on MTV. [It] sold over a million copies on VHS, becoming the bestselling videotape at the time. It is credited for transforming music videos into a serious art form, breaking down racial barriers in popular entertainment, and popularizing the making-of documentary. The success transformed Jackson into a dominant force in global pop culture.

The Library of Congress described it as "the most famous music video of all time", and it has been named the greatest video of all time by various publications and readers' polls. In 2009, it became the first music video inducted into the National Film Registry as "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant.
Poster's thoughts:
Let's get it out of the way. Anything Michael Jackson probably has a taint to it these days. Let it be said at the very least Michael had issues. But whatever they may be, they don't diminish this work of art. I can't even hear it anymore, but when I watch, my foot is tapping along in time with the dancers and Michael's voice is in my head. It is propulsive. Its place in the 1980s cannot be understated. There's a reason why MTV preempted its programming and went to this video for the rest of the day when MJ died.
posted by Fukiyama (8 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Moonwalker, the longform versions of 'Bad' and 'Black or White,' Captain EO, and Ghosts are also films that Michael Jackson made (also, like, dozens of music videos).
posted by box at 1:40 PM on November 25, 2020

When Mtv finally premiered this, they'd hyped it for weeks. It was an event.

I was fortunate enough that later in 1983, my mom the cafeteria lady heard about and got us tickets to Vincent Price doing his speaking tour, "The Villains Still Pursue Me" at a local high school. He opened with the Thriller poem. And then afterwards he graciously sat backstage and signed autographs and took questions. He was thin and frail and the most charming man in person.
posted by Catblack at 4:54 PM on November 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

When Mtv finally premiered this, they'd hyped it for weeks. It was an event.

I was too young to remember this but I sure remember the hype before the premiere of the Black or White video. There is so much that I love about the internet and streaming but I do miss the sense of EVENT that came with only being able to see something on live television, so it becomes a shared moment in time. And Michael Jackson was one of the few in pop culture that could ever command such an event. I'm trying to think of good examples in the streaming age for an analogue but all the ones I think of were surprise drops - not videos built up with weeks of hype.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 5:15 PM on November 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

I so remember this - the MTV hype, all of it. I was a junior in high school at the time, and a total devotee of the MTV genre.

I also remember wearing pedal pushers and spiked heels to school (a la the girl in the video) and thinking I was all that. Good times.
posted by sundrop at 7:50 PM on November 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was but a mere slip of a girly boy, to quote Hedwig, but as an MTV-obsessed six-year-old, I definitely remember the lead-up to this premiere, and boy howdy, was I in the target demo. We bought it on VHS and I wore the thing OUT. Along with the behind-the-scenes documentary featuring John Landis. My musical infatuation with Michael didn't outlast this album (even Bad was too corny for me by age 10; I was already on to Weird Al's parody) but oh, what a moment this was.
posted by mykescipark at 8:30 PM on November 25, 2020

I got to see the premier on the big projection screen at a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese...back when they were cool and not for babies.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:18 PM on November 26, 2020

Despite co-starring in one of the most famous films ever made, Ola Ray (she played Mike's girlfriend) didn't get much of a career bump from it, and she had to sue him to get royalties from her appearance in the video (and eventually settled with his estate for much less than she sought). (She talked about suing again when the 3d version of the video was released in 2017, but it doesn't appear anything further came of it.)

That article also mentions in passing that Quincy Jones also sued him--a judge ruled that Q was owed $9.4 million in royalties for producing the Thriller album. The estate claimed he was owed $392,000.

I'm kinda thinking Mike's business people might've been a little shady. E.g. manager Frank Dileo, who was at various times a bookie and a radio promotions guy (implicated in a payola scandal), and who Mike fired after Bad didn't sell Thriller numbers.

(Side note that I can't not mention--after Martin Scorcese met Dileo at the 'Thriller' video shoot, he cast him as a mobster in Goodfellas. Joe Pesci, who starred in Goodfellas, also appears in Moonwalker, where he plays a villain who wants to sell drugs to children. His character is named 'Frank Lideo.' I'd write more about the plot of Moonwalker, a movie that sometimes seems like it was written by a child, but I can't do better than the fine folks at Wikipedia.)
posted by box at 3:16 PM on November 27, 2020

Let's get it out of the way. Anything Michael Jackson probably has a taint to it these days.

Separating an artist from their problematical lives is always a challenge, and I've given a lot of thought to Michael Jackson especially. My take is that after a fucked up life as a kid in Joe Jackson's family business, he completely lost it during the Bad tour, so that's my dividing line. Pre-Bad: OK Bad+: Bad.
posted by mikelieman at 11:05 AM on November 28, 2020

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