Mazes and Monsters

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Mazes and Monsters
VHS cover
Based onMazes and Monsters
by Rona Jaffe
Written byTom Lazarus
Directed bySteven Hilliard Stern
Music by
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producerTom McDermott
CinematographyLaszlo George
EditorBill Parker
Running time100 minutes
Production companies
Original networkCBS
Original releaseDecember 28, 1982 (1982-12-28)

Mazes and Monsters, also known as Rona Jaffe's Mazes and Monsters, is a 1982 American made-for-television film directed by Steven Hilliard Stern about a group of college students and their interest in a fictitious role-playing game (RPG) of the same name.[1] The film stars Tom Hanks in his first lead acting role.[2]


The film begins in medias res with a scene in which a reporter meets with police searching a cavern. He is told a game of Mazes and Monsters got out of hand.

Robbie Wheeling (Tom Hanks) starts college at the fictional Grant University and soon develops a group of friends, all of whom have personal problems and issues. Jay-Jay (Chris Makepeace) feels marginalized by his mother, who constantly redecorates his room since she cannot make up her mind about the best look. In his "self-decorating", he wears a variety of unusual hats. Kate (Wendy Crewson) has had a series of failed relationships, and suffers from her father leaving home; Daniel's (David Wallace) parents reject his dream of becoming a video game designer; and Robbie's alcoholic mother and strict father fight constantly, and he is still tormented by the mysterious disappearance of his brother, Hall. They are fans of Mazes and Monsters, a fantasy role-playing game over which Robbie was kicked out of his last school when he became too obsessed with it. Though he is reluctant, the other three students convince him to start playing again with them.

Through the course of playing the game, Robbie and Kate begin a romantic relationship; he confides in her that he still has nightmares about his missing brother. Eventually, Jay-Jay, upset by feeling left out by his friends, decides to commit suicide in a local cavern. In the process of planning it, he changes his mind and decides the cavern would be better suited to a new Mazes and Monsters campaign. He kills off his character to force them to start a new campaign, in which he says they will be living out their fantasy. He proposes playing his new game in a disused and condemned cavern, and dismisses the warnings from his friends – who reluctantly agree to participate.

During the actual spelunking, Robbie experiences a psychotic episode involving the last time he saw his brother, and hallucinates that he has slain a monster called a Gorvil. From this point forward, Robbie believes he is actually his character, the cleric Pardieu. This leads him to break off his relationship with Kate (to maintain celibacy) and start drawing maps that will lead him to a sacred place he has seen in his dreams, the Great Hall. In his dream, the Great Hall tells him to go to the Two Towers, and he disappears.

Robbie's friends report him to the police while concealing their trip into the caverns. They and police investigators suspect he is deceased. Robbie travels to New York City, where he stabs a mugger whom he imagines to be a monster. He sees blood on his knife, then his bloodied clothes in a window, and breaks out of his delusions long enough to call Kate from a payphone. After he agrees to go to Jay-Jay's house, a delusion leads him into the subway. Not finding him at Jay-Jay's house, the friends deduce Robbie has equated the Two Towers with the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Robbie believes that by jumping off one of them and casting a spell, he will finally join the Great Hall. After a search, his friends find him and stop him from jumping off the south tower observation deck using the game's rules, once again pulling him out of his delusion.

The film ends with the friends visiting Robbie at his parents' estate, hoping to pick up their friendship where they left off. Though he is now in regular counseling, it is implied that Robbie will live out the rest of his life trapped in his imaginary world, believing he is Pardieu, that his friends are their characters, and that he is living at an inn (actually his parents' home) and paying for his boarding with a coin that "magically" reappears in his pouch each morning. He then tells his shocked friends of a great evil lurking in the forest across the lake, believing that it threatens the lives of the "innkeeper" and his wife. The three, feeling sorry for Robbie and guilty for their role in his psychotic break, decide to engage him in a "game" of Mazes and Monsters, letting Robbie dictate the events to them. In the end, Kate says, "And so ... we played the game again ... for one last time."[3]



The film was adapted from Rona Jaffe's 1981 novel Mazes and Monsters.[1] Jaffe based the novel on inaccurate newspaper stories about the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III from Michigan State University in 1979. Early media accounts overemphasized Egbert's participation in fantasy role playing, speculating that his hobby of Dungeons & Dragons might have been a factor in his disappearance. William Dear, the private investigator hired to investigate the case, explained actual events and the reasons behind the media myth in his 1984 book The Dungeon Master. Jaffe wrote her novel in a matter of days, fearing that another author might also be fictionalizing the Egbert investigation.[citation needed]

Like the book on which it is based, the film touches on the claim that playing role-playing games could be related to psychological problems. At least one protagonist is (or appears to be) suffering from schizophrenia (or some analogous condition).[4]

Home media[edit]

The film has been available on VHS, DVD, and various streaming services. On September 19, 2022, Plumeria Pictures released a 40th-anniversary Blu-ray, the film's first high-definition release.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b O'Connor, John J. (December 28, 1982). "TV: 'MAZES AND MONSTERS,' FANTASY". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  2. ^ Kushner, David (March 10, 2008). "Dungeon Master: The Life and Legacy of Gary Gygax". Archived from the original on October 31, 2014. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  3. ^ "Mazes and Monsters". IMDb. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  4. ^ Lowrey, Michael J. (as "Mike Lowery"). "Tales stranger than fantasy" (a review of the novel and of Hobgoblin); Dragon #75, p. 74
  5. ^ Jarvis, Matt (July 20, 2022). "D&D-inspired movie Mazes & Monsters is getting a HD re-release for its 40th anniversary - here's an exclusive first look". Dicebreaker. Archived from the original on July 20, 2022. Retrieved September 25, 2022.

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