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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

ICFIFC: Death Racers (2008)

I have written before that I would take substance over style any day when it comes to a good horror story, tonight we have neither.  I happened across tonight’s film by accident and was so amazed it even existed that I had to share the pain with you fine people.  But first the background information for those unfamiliar with the stars of this movie.  As always if you are a fan of either of the stars of this movie I am not passing judgment, simply pointing a finger and saying look at this thing that I have found.


Insane Clown Posse (ICP) is an American hip hop duo from Detroit, Michigan. The group is composed of Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler, who perform under the respective personas of the "wicked clowns" Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope (originally 2 Dope).  Insane Clown Posse performs a style of hardcore hip hop known as horrorcore and is known for its elaborate live performances.  The duo has earned two platinum and five gold albums.  According to Nielsen SoundScan, the entire catalog of the group has sold 6.5 million units in the United States and Canada as of April 2007.

Originally known as JJ Boyz and Inner City Posse, the group introduced supernatural- and horror-themed lyrics as a means of distinguishing itself stylistically.  The duo founded the independent record label Psychopathic Records with Alex Abbiss as manager, and produced and starred in the feature films Big Money Hustlas and Big Money Rustlas.  They formed their own professional wrestling federation, Juggalo Championship Wrestling, and later collaborated with many well-known hip hop and rock musicians.  The group has established a dedicated following called Juggalos numbering in the "tens of thousands".

The songs of Insane Clown Posse center thematically on the mythology of the Dark Carnival, a metaphoric limbo in which the lives of the dead are judged by one of several entities.  The Dark Carnival is elaborated through a series of stories called Joker's Cards, each of which offers a specific lesson designed to change the "evil ways" of listeners before "the end consumes us all".


Scott Anthony Levy (born September 8, 1964), better known by his ring name Raven, is an American professional wrestler, producer, writer/author, and actor.  During his career he has held multiple championships across the world.  He is a former two-time ECW World Heavyweight Champion and former one-time NWA World Heavyweight Championship, which he held whilst in TNA Wrestling.  He also held the WCW Light Heavyweight Championship once, WCW United States Championship once, and is the record holder for most reigns as WWE Hardcore Champion with 27 reigns, which is also the record for most reigns of any title.  He has also held several world tag team championship, having won the ECW World Tag Team Championship four times and the WCW World Tag Team Championship once.

He is the 2005 King of the Mountain winner at Slammiversary in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, being only the second person ever to win the annual event.  Between WCW, TNA, WWE and ECW, Levy has held 37 total championships, in addition to numerous independent titles.

Levy is the innovator of numerous types of "gimmick" wrestling matches, such as Clockwork Orange House of Fun match, Raven's Rules match and Hangman's Horror match.  He, along with Devon Storm and Jerry Lynn are the only wrestlers to have wrestled for WWE, WCW, ECW, TNA, and Ring of Honor (ROH) in their careers.


Death Racers (2008)

  • Genre: Action – Comedy – Horror
  • Directed: Roy Knyrim
  • Produced:
    • Paul Bales  
    • Rachel Goldenberg  
    • David Michael Latt  
    • David Rimawi
  • Written:
    • Andrew Helm  
    • Roy Knyrim  
    • Patrick Tantalo
  • Starring: Violent J, Shaggy 2 Dope, Scott Levy, Jason Ellefson, Robert Pike Daniel, Stephen Blackehart, Dean Kreyling, Anya Benton, Caroline Attwood, Jennifer Keith, Teri Corcoran, Krystle Connor
  • Music: Joseph Kamiya
  • Cinematography: David Conley
  • Editing: Bobby K. Richardson
  • Studio: The Asylum
  • Distributed:
    • The Asylum  
    • Moefie Klub   
    • Peacock Films
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 23 September 2008
  • Running Time: 92 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

In the year 2030, a civil war breaks out in the United States.  In a final attempt to restore order, the president declares martial law.  In 2033, a massive prison camp known as "the Red Zone" is built in a desolate city that soon holds over one million insane, violent felons. The United States is declared safe.

A dangerous criminal known as the Reaper (Scott "Raven" Levy) has been extracting Sarin1, which he plans to spill into the nation's water supply.  One of the prisoners, FX (Dustin Fitzsimons) secretly films the Reaper with a Wi-Fi digital camera as he discusses these plans, and the state's governor, Reagan Black (Robert Pike Daniel) finds out about them.  Black develops a plan to hold a "death race" within the prison system, assembling four teams of racers:

 

• The Severed Head Gang, consisting of Danny Satanico (Koco Limbevski) and Fred "The Hammer" (Jason Ellefson), two members of the largest gang in the United States, known for decapitating their enemies.  The team is given a customized 1995 town car.

• Homeland Security, consisting of Colonel Bob (Paolo Carascon) and Captain Rudy Jackson (Rick Benedetto), formerly honored, but now disgraced members of the United States Army.  The team is given a vintage 1943 Willys MB.

• Vaginamyte, consisting of Double-Dee Destruction (Jennifer Elizabeth Keith) and Queen B (Thereese), two serial killers who seduced and murdered over 72 male and female victims.  The team is given a yellow Lotus with a black widow spider design.

• Insane Clown Posse (Bruce and Utsler), whose violent form of hip hop was attributed as indirectly influencing multiple murders, acts of terrorism and a school massacre which resulted in the rappers being convicted for these murders and being dubbed as "the Charles Manson of their time".  Although the group's music has been banned, it continues to retain a strong fan base.  Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope are given an ice cream truck customized with a meat grinder, machine guns and "all the bling-bling these two Detroit locals could find".

The race is televised live, hosted by anchors Harvey Winkler (Stephen Blackehart) and Jennifer Ramirez (Caroline Attwood).  Black offers the teams gathering points for killing loose prisoners, promising freedom to the team that brings back the Reaper—dead or alive.  When Danny Satanico suggests that the four teams escape, Black reveals that each team member has a chip implanted in their bodies which would kill any member that breaks the rules, using Satanico to demonstrate.

When Insane Clown Posse's truck gets a flat tire, a fight ensues between the teams and loose criminals.  In the distance, Violent J witnesses an explosion.  The teams investigate, finding the burning Homeland Security jeep with two corpses inside.  Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope find FX filming the race.  He tells them that there will be an ambush at their first destination, and they let him ride in their van.  Each of the teams work together to surprise and kill the ambushers.  Metal Machine Man (Damien Puckler), under the order of the Reaper, kills FX and attacks the racers before being hit by missiles fired by a pair of mysterious men.

The teams fix their cars before dispatching.  Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope arrive at the Reaper's lair, and successfully infiltrate the fortress, preventing the Reaper and his henchmen from releasing the Sarin into the water. The mysterious men arrive, firing a rocket into the room, and reveal themselves to be Colonel Bob and Captain Rudy, who were hired by Governor Black as inside men, and faked their deaths to convince the other teams that they had a chance of winning.

Believing the Reaper died in the explosion, Bob and Rudy retrieve his severed hand and leave in Insane Clown Posse's truck.  Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope emerge from the rubble.  Because Violent J is injured, Shaggy 2 Dope goes after Bob and Rudy alone.  The Reaper appears and attempts to release the Sarin as Violent J attempts to stop him.  The Homeland Security team members arrive at the finish line, presenting the Reapers hand to Governor Black.  Shaggy 2 Dope rises from the back of the truck, shooting at Bob, Rudy and the governor. Black presses the button to activate the explosives in the bodies of the Insane Clown Posse team members.  The Sarin explodes, causing a chain reaction which destroys the country.  The End.

In September 2008, Death Racers was released direct-to-video by The Asylum.  The film's soundtrack featured original music by Joseph Kamiya, in addition to previously released music performed by Insane Clown Posse.  Joseph Bruce referred to Death Racers as "a terribly shitty movie", but states that he does not regret making the film, because it inspired him to continue with the production of Big Money Rustlas, because he felt that Psychopathic could make a better film than Death Racers.  At the 2008 Gathering of the Juggalos, Bruce referred to the film as "the bootleg ripoff fake version" of Death Race.

 

Notes:

1. Sarin is a colorless, odorless liquid, used as a chemical weapon owing to its extreme potency as a nerve agent. It has been classified as a weapon of mass destruction in UN Resolution 687.  Production and stockpiling of Sarin was outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, and it is classified as a Schedule 1 substance.

Sarin can be lethal even at very low concentrations, with death following in 1 to 10 minutes after direct inhalation due to suffocation from lung muscle paralysis, unless some antidotes, typically atropine or biperiden and pralidoxime, are quickly administered to a person.  People who absorb a non-lethal dose, but do not receive immediate medical treatment, may suffer permanent neurological damage.

 

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

DNDF: The Airport Movies

When you think of 1970s blockbusters, that usually meant an over the top disaster movie.  And no one did over the top, too outrageous to happen disaster scenario better that Arthur Hailey.  So, let us fix our gaze upon the author, screenwriter and creator of the modern disaster movie and his contributions to the world of cinema.

Arthur Hailey (5 April 1920 – 24 November 2004) was a British/Canadian novelist, whose works have sold more than 170 million copies in 40 languages.  Most of the novels are set within one major industry, such as hotels, banks or airlines, and explore the particular human conflicts sparked-off by that environment.  They are notable for their plain style, extreme realism, based on months of detailed research, and a sympathetic down-to-earth hero with whom the reader can easily identify.

Critics often dismissed Hailey's success as the result of a formulaic "potboiler1" style, in which he caused an ordinary character to become involved in a crisis, then increased the suspense by switching among multiple related plot lines. However, he was so popular with readers that his books were almost guaranteed to become best-sellers.

Four of his books reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list (Airport, Overload, The Moneychangers and Wheels), with Airport alone spending thirty weeks in the top spot, and more than 170 million copies have been sold worldwide in 40 languages.  Many have been made into movies and Hotel was made into a long-running television series.  Airport became a successful film with dramatic visual effects.

He had begun his writing life as a journalist on a transport magazine, but got his break as a fiction writer when, during a flight, he began to ponder what would happen if both pilots fell sick from food poisoning.  The storyline led to his first big success.

Hailey said he detached himself from his plots and characters once a book had been sold to Hollywood.  Having tried script-writing at one stage in his career, he saw movie-making as a completely different discipline from novel writing and decided to stick with what he knew.

Zero Hour! (1957)

  • Genre: Thriller – Drama
  • Directed: Hall Bartlett
  • Produced:
    • John C. Champion 
    • Hall Bartlett
  • Written:
    • Arthur Hailey (Teleplay "Flight Into Danger")  
    • Hall Bartlett (Screenplay) 
    • John C. Champion (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell, Sterling Hayden, Elroy 'Crazylegs' Hirsch, Geoffrey Toone, Jerry Paris, Peggy King, Charles Quinlivan, Patricia Tiernan, Steve London
  • Music: Ted Dale
  • Cinematography: John F. Warren
  • Editing: John C. Fuller
  • Studio:
    • Bartlett-Champion Productions 
    • Carmel Productions 
    • Delta Enterprises Inc.
  • Distributed:
    • Paramount Pictures  
    • Warner Home Video  
    • Warner Bros. Television
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 13 November 1957
  • Running Time: 81 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Zero Hour! is a 1957 movie with a screenplay written by Arthur Hailey.  It was an adaptation of Hailey's 1956 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation play Flight into Danger.  Hailey also co-wrote a novel with John Castle based on the same premise, titled Flight Into Danger: Runway Zero-Eight (1958).

Zero Hour! was used as the basis for the 1980 parody film Airplane!.  Because Zero Hour! was owned at the time by Paramount, the makers of Airplane!, also a Paramount picture, were able to use the screenplay almost verbatim.  In later years, the film was acquired by Warner Bros. Pictures.  The film was released on DVD by Warner Home Video on June 26, 2007.

During the closing days of World War II, six members of pilot Ted Stryker's squadron are killed due to a command decision made by him.  Years later, in civilian life in Ottawa, Canada, a guilt-stricken Stryker goes through many jobs and his marriage is in trouble.

Stryker finds a note at home: His wife Ellen has taken their young son Joey, and they are boarding a plane and leaving him.  He rushes to the airport to board the same flight, which is Air Canada Flight 714 from Ottawa to Vancouver.  He asks Ellen for one last chance, but Ellen explains that she no longer can love a man she does not respect.

The flight is routine until stewardess Janet Turner begins the meal service.  Meat or fish are the options.  When a number of passengers begin feeling sick, a doctor aboard determines that there must have been something toxic in the fish.

While attending to others, including Stryker's son, the stewardess and doctor discover that both the pilot and co-pilot have also become seriously ill.  No one is left to fly the plane.  Stryker is the only one with experience, but he has not flown for 10 years and has no familiarity with aircraft of this size.  Due to dense fog on the ground obscuring the runway, Flight 714 must bypass Calgary and continue on towards its destination of Vancouver before it can land.

Stryker's superior in the war, the tough-minded Captain Treleaven, is summoned to Vancouver airport to instruct him how to land the plane.  Ellen joins her husband in the cockpit to handle the radio.  Ordered to remain airborne, Stryker makes another command decision to bring the airliner down because passengers will die if they do not get to a hospital soon.

Airport (1970)

  • Genre: Drama – Thriller
  • Directed:
    • George Seaton 
    • Henry Hathaway
  • Produced:
    • Ross Hunter  
    • Jacques Mapes  
    • Gordon Cornell Layne
  • Written:
    • Arthur Hailey (Novel “Airport”)  
    • George Seaton (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, Barry Nelson, Dana Wynter, Lloyd Nolan, Barbara Hale
  • Music: Alfred Newman
  • Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
  • Editing: Stuart Gilmore
  • Studio:
    • Universal Pictures  
    • Ross Hunter Productions
  • Distributed:
    • Universal Pictures  
    • American Broadcasting Company  
    • Gaiam  
    • GoodTimes Home Video  
    • MCA/Universal Home Video  
    • RCA SelectaVision VideoDiscs
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 5 March 1970
  • Running Time: 137 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language:
    • English 
    • Italian

The film, which earned nearly $100,500,000, focuses on an airport manager trying to keep his airport open during a snow storm, while a suicidal bomber plots to blow up a Boeing 707 airliner in flight.  The story takes place at fictional Lincoln International Airport located near Chicago, Illinois. 

This film was based on the novel by Arthur Hailey.  With attention to the detail of day-to-day airport and airline operations, the plot concerns the response to a paralyzing snowstorm, environmental concerns over noise pollution, and an attempt to blow up an airliner.

Demolition expert D.O. Guerrero, down on his luck and with a history of mental illness, buys life insurance with the intent of committing suicide by blowing up Trans Global Airlines Flight Two, known as The Golden Argosy, a Rome-bound Boeing 707 intercontinental jet, from a snowbound Chicago-area airport.  He plans to set off a bomb in an attaché case while over the Atlantic with the intent that his wife, Inez, will collect the insurance money.

When the Golden Argosy crew is made aware of Guerrero's presence and possible intentions, Captain Vernon Demerest, acting as a check pilot to evaluate Captain Anson Harris, goes back into the passenger cabin and tries to persuade Guerrero not to trigger the bomb.  Meanwhile, airport manager Mel Bakersfeld deals with personal, weather, runway and stowaway problems from the ground.

When confronted by Captain Demerest, Guerrero briefly considers giving the attaché containing the bomb until a male passenger yells out to a passenger exiting the lavatory that Guerrero has a bomb.  Guerrero, holding the case close to him, runs into the lavatory at the rear of the aircraft and triggers the bomb.  The detonation blows a hole in the wall of the lavatory and Guerrero with it.  Chief Stewardess Gwen Meighen, who is having an affair with the married Demerest and is pregnant with Demerest's child, is injured in the explosion and subsequent rapid decompression.  With all airports east of Chicago unusable due to bad weather, the plane returns to Lincoln International for an emergency landing, even though another airliner stuck in snow has closed the primary runway. TWA (Trans World Airlines, an actual airline of the time) chief mechanic at Lincoln, Joe Patroni is enlisted by Bakersfeld to lead the efforts to move the stuck aircraft, another Boeing 707, even though it belongs to a different airline, TGA (Trans Global Airlines, a fictional airline and the parent company of the film's Golden Argosy jet).  Patroni, who is "taxi-qualified" on Boeing 707s, is trying to move the stuck aircraft in time for Demerest's damaged aircraft to land.  By exceeding the Boeing 707 flight manual's engine operating parameters, Patroni frees the stuck jet, allowing Lincoln International's primary runway to be reopened just in time to permit the crippled Golden Argosy to land.

The film is characterized by personal stories intertwining while decisions are made minute-by-minute by the airport and airline staffs, operations and maintenance crews, flight crews, and Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers.

 

Terror in the Sky (1971)

  • Genre: Thriller – Drama
  • Directed: Bernard L. Kowalski
  • Produced: Matthew Rapf
  • Written:
    • Arthur Hailey (Novel "Runway Zero 8") 
    • Steven Karpf (Screenplay) 
    • Elinor Karpf (Screenplay) 
    • Dick Nelson (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Leif Erickson, Doug McClure, Roddy McDowall, Lois Nettleton, Keenan Wynn, Jack Ging, Sam Melville, Leonard Stone, Sidney Clute, Christopher Dark, Loretta Leversee, Patricia Mattick
  • Music: Patrick Williams
  • Cinematography: Howard Schwartz
  • Editing: Argyle Nelson Jr.
  • Studio: Paramount Television
  • Distributed:
    • Columbia Broadcasting System  
    • Paramount Pictures
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 17 September 1971
  • Running Time: 74 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Terror in the Sky is a low budget 1971 television movie remake of 1957's Zero Hour!, which itself was based on the 1956 television play Flight into Danger.  Arthur Hailey recycled the premise in his book Runway Zero-Eight which was co-written with John Castle in 1958. 

Passengers on a plane headed from the Midwest to the West Coast (Winnipeg to Vancouver in the book; Minneapolis to Seattle in the film) get quite ill after eating the chicken pot pie entree.  Both pilots also ate the chicken.  A man who has not flown since the Vietnam War (single-engine planes in the book, helicopter/war choppers in the film) is reluctantly pressed into flying the plane, where he makes a very neurotic, but survivable landing.  The theme would be used again in Airplane!, which was a spoof of the movie classic Zero Hour!.

 

Airport 1975 (1974)

  • Genre: Action – Drama – Thriller
  • Directed: Jack Smight
  • Produced:
    • William Frye  
    • Jennings Lang
  • Written:
    • Arthur Hailey (Novel “Airport 1975”) 
    • Don Ingalls (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Charlton Heston, Karen Black, George Kennedy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Susan Clark, Helen Reddy, Linda Blair, Dana Andrews, Roy Thinnes, Sid Caesar, Myrna Loy, Ed Nelson
  • Music: John Cacavas
  • Cinematography: Philip H. Lathrop
  • Editing: J. Terry Williams
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Distributed:
    • Universal Pictures  
    • National Broadcasting Company  
    • GoodTimes Home Video  
    • MCA/Universal Home Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 18 October 1974
  • Running Time: 107 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Derided by critics upon its release, Airport 1975 was nonetheless a massive commercial success.  With a budget of $3 million, the film made over $47 million at the box office, making it the sixth highest-grossing film of 1974 and the year's third highest-grossing disaster film, behind The Towering Inferno and Earthquake.  The film was included in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time published in 1978.  The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.

Columbia Air Lines' Flight 409 is a Boeing 747-100 on a red-eye route from Washington Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport.  Scott Freeman, meanwhile, is a New Mexican businessman flying his private Beechcraft Baron to an urgent sales meeting in Boise, Idaho.  However, an occluded front2 has the entire West Coast socked in, with Los Angeles reporting zero visibility.  Columbia 409 and Freeman's Beechcraft are both diverted to Salt Lake City International Airport.

Salt Lake air traffic control assigns Columbia 409 to land ahead of Freeman's Beechcraft.  As Columbia 409 is making its final approach, First Officer Urias unlocks himself from his seat to check out a vibration.  Just then, Freeman suffers a massive heart attack and descends into the approach of Columbia 409.  The Beechcraft impacts Columbia 409 just above the co-pilot seat, blowing Urias out of the plane to his death and killing Flight Engineer Julio.  Captain Stacy is struck in the face by debris and is blinded.  Nancy Pryor, the First Stewardess, rushes to the flight deck, where Captain Stacy is able to engage the autopilot and the altitude hold switch before losing consciousness.

Pryor informs the Salt Lake control tower that the crew is dead or badly injured and that there is no one to fly the plane.  She gives an assessment of the damage as a large hole on the right side of the flight deck that wiped out most of the instrument gauges over the engineer station.  Joe Patroni, Columbia's Vice President of Operations, is apprised of Columbia 409's situation.  He seeks the advice of Captain Al Murdock, Columbia's chief flight instructor, who also happens to be Nancy Pryor's boyfriend, even though their relationship was "on the rocks" at that time.

Patroni and Murdock take the airline's executive jet to Salt Lake.  En route, they communicate with Pryor, learning that the autopilot is keeping the aircraft in level flight, but it is inoperable for turns.  The jet is heading into the Wasatch Mountains, so Murdock starts to guide Pryor by radio on how to perform the turn when radio communications are interrupted and the Salt Lake tower is unable to restore contact.

Unable to turn, leaking fuel and dodging the peaks of the Wasatch Mountains, an air-to-air rescue attempt is undertaken from a jet-powered HH-53 helicopter flown by the USAF Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service. While a replacement pilot is preparing to be released on a tether from the helicopter to Columbia 409, Captain Stacy is able to give a cryptic clue regarding the decrease in airspeed during a climb in altitude.  Pryor realizes that she must accelerate to be able to climb over the mountain and successfully does so.  After Columbia 409 has leveled off, the replacement pilot is released towards the stricken airliner.  Just as Pryor is helping him in, the release cord from his harness becomes caught in the jagged metal surrounding the hole in the cockpit.  As he climbs in, his harness is released from the tether and he falls from the plane..

The only other person on the helicopter who can land a 747 is Captain Murdock.  He is tethered to the helicopter, lowered to the jet and successfully enters it through the hole in the cockpit.  He then lands the plane safely at Salt Lake City Airport, where the flight attendants successfully conduct an emergency evacuation of the passengers via the inflatable slides as Pryor and Murdock reconcile.

 

Airport '77 (1977)

  • Genre: Action – Drama – Thriller
  • Directed: Jerry Jameson
  • Produced:
    • William Frye 
    • Jennings Lang
  • Written:
    • Arthur Hailey (Novel "Airport ‘77") 
    • Michael Scheff (Screenplay) 
    • David Spector (Screenplay) 
    • H.A.L. Craig (Story)  
    • Charles Kuenstle (Story)
  • Starring: Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, Brenda Vaccaro, Joseph Cotten, Olivia de Havilland, James Stewart, George Kennedy, Darren McGavin, Christopher Lee, Robert Foxworth, Robert Hooks, Monte Markham
  • Music: John Cacavas
  • Cinematography: Philip H. Lathrop
  • Editing:
    • Robert Watts 
    • J. Terry Williams
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Distributed:
    • Universal Pictures  
    • DiscoVision  
    • GoodTimes Home Video  
    • Image Entertainment  
    • MCA/Universal Home Video 
    • National Broadcasting Company
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 11 March 1977
  • Running Time: 114 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language:
    • English 
    • Hungarian

Like its predecessors, Airport '77 was a box office hit earning $30 million, making the film the 19th highest-grossing picture of 1977.  It was nominated for two Academy Awards and was directed by Jerry Jameson.

A privately owned luxury Boeing 747-100, Stevens' Flight 23 (call sign two-three Sierra) complete with piano bar, office, and bedroom, is used to fly invited guests to an estate in Palm Beach, Florida owned by wealthy philanthropist Philip Stevens.  Valuable artwork from Stevens's private collection is also on board the jetliner, to be eventually displayed in his new museum.  Such a collection motivates a group of thieves led by co-pilot Bob Chambers to hijack the aircraft in the hopes of landing it on an abandoned airfield on St. George Island.

Once Captain Don Gallagher leaves the cockpit and is knocked unconscious, the hijackers' plans go into motion. A sleeping gas is released into the cabin and the passengers lose consciousness.  Knocking out the flight engineer, Chambers puts the plan in motion, and Stevens' Flight 23 "disappears" into the Bermuda Triangle. Descending to virtual wave-top altitude, Flight 23 heads into a fog bank, reducing visibility to less than a mile. Minutes later, a large offshore drilling platform emerges from the haze, Flight 23 heading straight for it at close to 600 knots.

Chambers pulls back on the yoke in a banking left turn but the engine number 4 clips the derrick, causing the engine to catch fire.  Chambers immediately hits the fire extinguishing button and flames are momentarily extinguished.  However, because the aircraft is at such a low altitude, the sudden loss of airspeed threatens to stall the airplane.  As the engine reignites, Chambers is forced to use another fire-suppression bottle.  But by this time, the aircraft stall alarm goes off and the aircraft's tail hits the water.  All the passengers wake up, and most start to scream and panic.  Chambers is able to pull up, but soon the plane's right wing hits the water again, and the plane lifts into the air for another moment, then hitting the water again.  Because of the impact being so hard, the plane becomes grounded in the ocean.  Eventually, the plane begins to slip beneath the waves.

The ocean bottom is fortunately above the crush-depth of the fuselage.  Many of the passengers are injured, some seriously.  Two of the would-be thieves are killed in the initial crash.  Banker is in the hold securing the art for the transfer when a cargo container causes a breach of the outer skin, crushing and drowning him.  The second fatality is Wilson, who is killed when he is slammed into the flight panel on impact.

Since the aircraft was off course, search and rescue efforts are focused in the wrong area.  Involved in these efforts are Phillip Stevens and Joe Patroni.  The only way to signal rescue efforts to the proper region is to get a signal buoy to the surface in a small dinghy.  Captain Gallagher and diver Martin Wallace enter the main cargo in the attempt, but an unexpected triggering of the hatch crushes Wallace.  Gallagher, out of oxygen provided by the reserve mask, makes it to the surface, and activates the beacon after he climbs into the dinghy.  Getting a fix on the new signal, an S-3 Viking overflies the crash site, confirming the location of Flight 23.

The navy then dispatches a sub-recovery ship, the USS Cayuga (LST-1186) along with the destroyer USS Agerholm (DD-826) and a flotilla of other vessels.  The aircraft is ringed with balloons and once inflated, the aircraft rises from the bottom of the seafloor.  Just before the plane breaks surface, one of the balloons breaks loose, prompting the Navy captain to reduce the air pressure of the remaining balloons, thus keeping the plane just beneath the waves.  At that moment, one of the doors in the cargo hold bursts open, causing the plane to flood. The cascade of sea water sweeps through the passengers; First Officer Chambers is killed when he is pinned under a sofa.  The deluge also sweeps away Wallace's widow, who drowns just as the Navy captain orders more air pressure into the balloons, finally raising the plane successfully.  Once on the surface, the passengers are evacuated.  With the survivors on their way to waiting ships, Captain Gallagher and Stevens' assistant, Eve are the last to evacuate from the aircraft as it slips under the waves for the last time.

 

The Concorde... Airport '79 (1979)

  • Genre: Action – Drama – Thriller
  • Directed: David Lowell Rich
  • Produced: Jennings Lang
  • Written:
    • Arthur Hailey (Novel "Concorde: Airport ‘79")
    • Jennings Lang (Story) 
    • Eric Roth (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Alain Delon, Susan Blakely, Robert Wagner, Sylvia Kristel, George Kennedy, Eddie Albert, Bibi Andersson, Charo, John Davidson, Andrea Marcovicci, Martha Raye, Cicely Tyson
  • Music: Lalo Schifrin
  • Cinematography: Philip H. Lathrop
  • Editing: Dorothy Spencer
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Distributed:
    • Universal Pictures  
    • American Broadcasting Company  
    • MCA/Universal Home Video  
    • Gaiam  
    • Ventura Distribution
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 17 August 1979
  • Running Time: 113 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language:
    • English 
    • French 
    • Spanish

The Concorde ... Airport '79 is a 1979 American disaster film (in the UK, it was released a year later as Airport '80: The Concorde).  The film was the fourth and final installment of the Airport series.  Panned by critics, the film also flopped at the box office.  Produced on a then high budget of $14 million, it earned a little over $13 million, thus ending the enormous financial success of the Airport franchise.

Kevin Harrison, an arms dealer, attempts to destroy an American-owned Concorde on its maiden flight after one of the passengers, Maggie Whelan, learns of his weapons sales to communist countries during the Cold War.

The Concorde takes off from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.  Captain Paul Metrand makes conversation with Isabelle, the purser.  They land at Dulles Airport.

Maggie Whalen recaps the arrival of the Concorde and reports on the "Goodwill" flight on the Concorde the following day, which leads to a story of future boyfriend Kevin Harrison and his Buzzard missile project.  Carl Parker shows up at Maggie's house with a claim about documentation of illegal arms deals.  Carl is shot before a passerby triggers a fire alarm, scaring the assailant away.

Capt. Joe Patroni introduces himself to Captain Metrand.  The next morning, Maggie tells Harrison about her ordeal and the rumor of documents.  Kevin claims someone is framing him.  He sends Maggie off in a limo while he waits for his business partner Willie Halpern to arrive.  Kevin tells Willie that Parker is dead, but they do not have the documents.  Kevin asks what time the next launch of the Buzzard is.  Willie replies 6:30; Kevin wants it delayed until 8:00 and the drone test reprogrammed.

Paul and Joe board the Concorde.  It is difficult to determine the Pilot-in-Command as both of them are captains. Peter O'Neill, the 2nd officer and flight engineer, is living with a controlling girlfriend.

Kevin surprises Maggie at the airline check-in desk to see her off.  He asks if the documents showed up, but they have not.  As he is walking away, Carl Parker's wife delivers the documents to Maggie as she steps on the mobile lounge.  She looks them over on the lounge and realizes that Kevin lied to her.

The Concorde takes off from Washington/Dulles en route to Paris where, unbeknownst to the flight crew, an off-course SAM is headed straight for them.  At company headquarters, Kevin tells his controllers to alert the government.  The USAF scrambles F-15 fighter jets to intercept the missile just as it locks onto the Concorde.  An F-15 shoots down the missile before it collides with the Concorde.

As the Concorde is approaching the European coastline, an F-4 Phantom sent by Harrison engages the Concorde as French Air Force Mirages scramble to help the Concorde.  The Mirages shoot down the F-4 and the Concorde continues to Paris, although to Le Bourget instead of Charles de Gaulle.  The Concorde reaches the French coastline, landing with a damaged hydraulic system and just barely stopping at the last safety net.  Captain Metrand and Isabelle invite Joe to dinner.  Kevin arrives at de Gaulle, where an associate meets him, stating that he has another plan.

Joe, Paul and Isabelle meet for dinner with a date for Joe as promised by Paul.  Maggie meets Kevin for dinner.  He promises to go public with the documents but attempts to bribe Maggie into "polishing" his statement.  After being paid by Kevin, a mechanic, Rollie, places a device in the Concorde's cargo door control unit, timed to open during flight.

As the passengers board the Concorde, a well-dressed woman (played by Charo) attempts to smuggle a dog aboard.  She is caught by an alert Isabelle and leaves the aircraft.  Inside the terminal, Rollie is in line at the security checkpoint when his money falls out of his pant leg.  The X-ray technician attempts to return it, but Rollie pretends not to hear and runs off.  The security guard tells his partner to call security before chasing Rollie.  Rollie runs onto the runway where the Concorde is taking off.  The aircraft's wake scatters the money he received from Kevin.

The aircraft is en route to Moscow when the automatic device opens the cargo door.  When Captain Metrand investigates, he sees the carpet tear down the middle of the aisle, signifying the fuselage is under tremendous stress and the aircraft is about to break apart.  The cargo door is ripped off, extensively damaging the aircraft and ripping the floor of the cabin from the aircraft as it spirals toward the ground.  The airline founder's seat lodges in the hole, acting as a plug.  The pilots attempt to fly to Innsbruck for an emergency landing, but realize they do not have enough fuel.  Paul realizes they are flying towards a ski area he used to go to in the Alps; they could make a gear-up landing on a mountain-side.

The aircraft approaches the landing site while the ski patrol marks a runway.  The aircraft lands successfully. Maggie gives a report of the accident to a news reporter and gives details about a major story she is about to release.  Kevin hears the newscast and commits suicide.  At the crash site, the last of the crew leaves the aircraft shortly before fuselage caves in and explodes from leaking fuel.

 

Airplane! (1980)

  • Genre: Comedy
  • Directed:
    • Jim Abrahams 
    • David Zucker 
    • Jerry Zucker
  • Produced:
    • Jim Abrahams 
    • Jon Davison 
    • Howard W. Koch 
    • Hunt Lowry 
    • David Zucker 
    • Jerry Zucker
  • Written:
    • Arthur Hailey (Screenplay "Zero Hour") 
    • Hall Bartlett (Screenplay "Zero Hour") 
    • John C. Champion (Screenplay "Zero Hour") 
    • Jim Abrahams (Screenplay) 
    • David Zucker (Screenplay) 
    • Jerry Zucker (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Julie Hagerty, Robert Hays, Leslie Nielsen, Lorna Patterson, Robert Stack, Stephen Stucker, Jim Abrahams, Frank Ashmore, Jonathan Banks
  • Music: Elmer Bernstein
  • Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
  • Editing: Patrick Kennedy
  • Studio: Paramount Pictures
  • Distributed:
    • Paramount Pictures  
    • National Broadcasting Company  
    • RCA SelectaVision VideoDiscs
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 2 July 1980
  • Running Time: 88 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Airplane! (titled Flying High! in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan and the Philippines) is a 1980 American satirical comedy film directed and written by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker and released by Paramount Pictures.  The film is a parody of the disaster film genre, particularly the 1957 Paramount film Zero Hour!, from which it borrows the plot and the central characters, as well as many elements from Airport 1975.  The film is known for its use of absurd and fast-paced slapstick comedy, including visual and verbal puns and gags.

Airplane! was a financial success, grossing over US$83 million in North America alone, against a budget of just $3.5 million.  The film's creators received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Comedy, and nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and a BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay.

In the years since its release, Airplane!'s reputation has grown substantially.  The film was voted the 10th-funniest American comedy on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs list in 2000, and ranked sixth on Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies. In a 2007 survey by Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, it was judged the second greatest comedy film of all time.

In 2008 Airplane! was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time and in 2012 was voted No. 1 in The 50 Funniest Comedies Ever poll.  In 2010 it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Ex-fighter pilot and taxi driver Ted Striker became traumatized during an unnamed war, leading to a pathological fear of flying.  As a result, he is unable to hold a responsible job.  His wartime girlfriend, Elaine Dickinson, now a flight attendant, leaves him.  Striker nervously boards a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago on which she is serving, hoping to win her back, but she rebuffs him.

After dinner is served, many of the passengers fall ill, and fellow passenger Dr. Rumack deduces that the passengers have contracted a deadly parasitic worm called Anisakis from the fish.  The cockpit crew, including pilot Clarence Oveur and co-pilot Roger Murdock, have also been affected, leaving no one to fly the plane.  Elaine contacts the Chicago control tower for help, and is instructed by tower supervisor Steve McCroskey to activate the plane's autopilot, a large inflatable pilot doll (listed as "Otto" in the end credits), which will get them to Chicago, but will not be able to land the plane.  Rumack convinces Ted to fly the plane, though Ted feels unable to handle the pressure and the unfamiliar aircraft.

McCroskey knows that he must get someone else to help talk the plane down and calls Rex Kramer.  Kramer was Ted's commanding officer in the war, and despite their hostile relationship he would be the best choice to instruct Striker.  As the plane nears Chicago, Ted is overcome by stress and can only land the plane after a pep talk from Dr. Rumack.  Lightning strikes the plane, disabling some of its engines.  With Kramer's advice, Ted is able to safely land the plane with only minor injuries to some passengers.  Ted's courage rekindles Elaine's love for him, and the two share a kiss.  "Otto" takes off in the evacuated plane after inflating a female companion.

 

Notes:

1.  A potboiler or pot-boiler is a low-quality novel, play, opera, film, or other creative work whose main purpose was to pay for the creator's daily expenses—thus the imagery of "boil the pot", which means "to provide one's livelihood".  Authors who create potboiler novels or screenplays are sometimes called hack writers or hacks. Novels deemed to be potboilers may also be called pulp fiction, and potboiler films may be called "popcorn movies."

2.  An occluded front is a composite of two frontal systems that merge as a result of occlusion. Cold fronts generally move faster than warm fronts. In fact, the speed of a cold front is about double that of a typical warm front. As a result, a cold front will sometimes overtake an existing warm front. Essentially, an occluded front forms as three air masses meet.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

CC: A Kind Of Cthulhu Christmas Movie

Dead of Night (1945) is a British portmanteau1 horror film made by Ealing Studios; the individual stories were directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer.  The film stars Mervyn Johns, Googie Withers and Michael Redgrave.  The film is probably best-remembered for the ventriloquist's dummy episode with Redgrave.

Dead of Night stands out from British film of the 1940s, when few horror films were being produced in the country (horror films had been banned from production in Britain during the war), and it had an influence on subsequent British films in the genre.  Both of the segments by John Baines were recycled for later films, and the possessed ventriloquist dummy episode was adapted as the audition episode of the long-running CBS radio series Escape.

Dead of Night (1945)

  • Genre: Horror – Thriller
  • Directed:
    • Alberto Cavalcanti ("Christmas Party" & "The Ventriloquist's Dummy")  
    • Charles Crichton ("Golfing Story")  
    • Basil Dearden ("Hearse Driver" & "Linking Narrative")  
    • Robert Hamer ("The Haunted Mirror")
  • Produced:
    • Michael Balcon  
    • Sidney Cole  
    • John Croydon
  • Written:
    • John Baines (Screenplay)  
    • Angus MacPhail (Screenplay)  
    • T.E.B. Clarke (Dialogue)  
    • John Baines ("The Haunted Mirror" & "The Ventriloquist's Dummy")  
    • E.F. Benson ("Hearse Driver" and “Linking Narrative”)  
    • Angus MacPhail ("Christmas Party")  
    • H.G. Wells ("Golfing Story")
  • Starring: Mervyn Johns, Roland Culver, Mary Merrall, Googie Withers, Frederick Valk, Anthony Baird, Sally Ann Howes, Robert Wyndham, Judy Kelly, Miles Malleson
  • Music: Georges Auric
  • Cinematography:
    • Stanley Pavey  
    • Douglas Slocombe
  • Editing: Charles Hasse
  • Studio: Ealing Studios
  • Distributed:
    • Eagle-Lion Distributors Limited  
    • Universal Pictures  
    • Associated British Film Distributors  
    • Congress Video Group  
    • Anchor Bay Entertainment  
    • Home Box Office Home Video  
    • Image Entertainment
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date:
    • 4 September 1945 (UK)  
    • 28 June 1946 (US)
  • Running Time: 77 minutes
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Language:
    • English 
    • French


Considered the greatest horror anthology film, the classic British chiller Dead of Night features five stories of supernatural terror from four different directors, yet it ultimately feels like a unified whole.  The framing device is simple but unsettling, as a group of strangers find themselves inexplicably gathered at an isolated country estate, uncertain why they have come.  The topic of conversation soon turns to the world of dreams and nightmares, and each guest shares a frightening event from his/her own past.  Many of these tales have become famous, including Basil Dearden's opening vignette about a ghostly driver with "room for one more" in the back of his hearse.  Equally eerie are Robert Hamer's look at a haunted antique mirror that gradually begins to possess its owner's soul, and Alberto Cavalcanti's ghost story about a mysterious young girl during a Christmas party.  Legendary Ealing comedy director Charles Crichton lightens the mood with an amusing interlude about the spirit of a deceased golfer haunting his former partner, leaving viewers vulnerable to Cavalcanti's superb and much-imitated closing segment, about a ventriloquist slowly driven mad when his dummy appears to come to life.  Deservedly acclaimed and highly influential, Dead of Night's episodic structure inspired an entire genre of lesser imitators.

The story begins with a man (Mr Craig) arriving at a country cottage on a beautiful sunny day, where there's a small gathering of people.  He immediately spoils the atmos by banging on about a recurring dream he's been having. Luckily, everyone's very British (apart from the obligatorily Germanic psychiatrist) and they start breezily trying to explain why he's not a nutter and how it's probably all got a perfectly natural explanation, probably involving the drinking of lots of tea.  "Well, I must say it's very disappointing not to be one of the leading characters in a sort of supernatural drama after all," says one particularly dotty old dear, without drawing breath or indeed bothering to act.  Much talk of seeing the future starts more talk of spooky occurrences that have happened to the assorted members of the gathering, and the terror begins...

Story 1: Hearse Driver

After a particularly nasty car racing accident, our hero wakes up in hospital and within seconds he's fallen in love with his nurse and is calling her "darling".  This being the 1940s when men were all tweed-wearing, pipe-smoking Brylcreemed racing drivers and nurses were all called Joyce, she doesn't seem to mind.
It's evening, and he starts to read a book.  Then suddenly notices that the clock says 4:15 - and it's daylight outside.  Looking through the window, he's shocked to see a hearse parked right outside.  The driver looks up, and cheerily comments: "Just room for one inside, sir".

He sits down, and when he looks up the time is back to normal and it's dark outside. "Am I going crackers?" he asks himself, before shrugging it off in a stiff-upper-lipped kind of way.

The next day he's discharged, but as he waits for a bus to take him home, he asks for the time and doesn't like the answer.  He likes it even less when the bus conductor looks very familiar...

After the unsettling beginning to the film, this is horror painted with much broader strokes.  But it's only an hors d'euvre...  Back at the cottage, the Craig's dream is being broken again and again - this time with the arrival of the "penniless brunette" he predicted.  All he can say is that his "dream becomes a nightmare" later on... "a nightmare of horror". But he can't remember why.

Story 2: Christmas Party

At a children's Christmas Party, the narrator (Sally) shows how crap she is at sardines2 by being found straight away.  She and her finder decide to look for a better place to hide, and start talking about the odd history of the house - which involves hauntings and murder.  They get separated and Sally comes across a small boy crying in a bedroom.  "She hates me..." the boy tells her. "She said she'd like to kill me."

She tucks him in and goes back to the party, where she's told that the child doesn't exist and "that's where the whole thing happened!"

Such a simple story, but effective, some scenes were repeated in the hugely overrated Sixth Sense.  Sally's eventual realization of what she's just seen is genuinely upsetting, and her tears set the viewers up for the next story, what I consider to be one of the most frightening film segments of all time...

Story 3: The Haunted Mirror

Peter (the man who has everything, apparently - including Googie Withers for a missus) gets bought a mirror by his wife.  "I thought you'd like to look at yourself," she tells him.  "Mmm... handsome couple."  But then she notices a troubled look pass over his reflection.  "What's the matter?"

"Nothing," he replies.  "I thought I saw something."

Of course, it's not long before he is definitely seeing something, the reflection of a room that certainly isn't the one he's standing in.  What's worse, when Googie stands next to him, he can't see her - just himself, alone, in an ornate gothic bedroom.

"In a queer sort of way it fascinates me," he explains.  "I feel that room is trying to claim me... I know there's something waiting for me on the other side..."

As Peter becomes more and more obsessed with the mirror, his wife goes back to the shop where she bought it, and finds out it has a "curious history".  A history that's soon to repeat itself, and then it won't just be Peter who sees the ghostly room...

Even if you haven't seen Dead Of Night, this story may seem vaguely familiar, as it was used twice in one film in the 70s.  David Warner met a sticky end thanks to his antique mirror, and Ian Ogilvy had a similar problem with a door, in “From Beyond The Grave.” 

As someone comments to the now-silenced room:  "Well, how's the great debunker going to debunk that?"
Luckily, we're in for a bit of comic relief, thanks to Charters and Caldicott from The Lady Vanishes, and their shared fascination for golf and a strumpet called Mary...

Story 4: Golfing Story

It's bizarre. I can't see any modern woman being happy to be the prize in a game of golf, but that was the 40s for you, I suppose.  Parrot and Potter are great golfing mates, but both of them love Mary.  All three are thoroughly miserable: "I wish you were dead, old man," until they hit on the bright idea of playing for Mary's hand in a game of golf.  Of course, Parrot cheats and Potter loses and walks into a nearby lake, never to be seen again.

Of course, once dead he discovers the truth and is soon back to haunt Parrot: "Cheat!  Cad!  Twister!  May the Lord have mercy on your handicap!"

Parrot is happy enough to give up Mary to make amends, but refuses Potter's request to lay down his clubs forever: "You can't punish me like this!  I should have nothing left to live for!"

They agree that as a punishment for something as trivial as murder, giving up golf would be a bit excessive, but then Potter realizes he's forgotten how to vanish, and he can't stray more than six feet away from his hauntee - ever.  What's worse, it's Parrot's wedding night...

"Just because a chap becomes a ghost," Parrot splutters, "it surely doesn't mean he ceases to be a gentleman!"

This segment, coming as it does between the scariest moments of British cinema, has been unfairly maligned. Yes, it's lighthearted and amusing and therefore jars slightly, but in the context of the film it's supposed to.  It's a story told in an attempt to lighten the mood by a skeptical member of the group, and it's not supposed to be true. In a way its insertion into a bona fide horror film works quite well - the viewer is so unprepared for a bit of whimsy that Potter's botched attempts at haunting are still unsettling.

It's also taken from an H.G. Wells short story (which had very little to do with golf originally), which, once you're aware of this nugget of information, lends the whole thing a certain gravitas.  And the two leads are fantastic. Perhaps the audience has been lulled into a false sense of security by tales of golf and gentle courtship? If so, they're in for a shock...

Story 5: The Ventriloquist's Dummy

The police are investigating an attempted murder, only to be told by their suspect: "Hugo's the only one who can help me.  He's more to blame for all this than I am."

But, as we find out in flashback, "Hugo" is a ventriloquist's dummy.  A very scary ventriloquist's dummy (even by ventriloquist dummy standards).  He's operated by Maxwell Frere, but their latest performance is cut short when Hugo appears to be more interested in discussing job prospects with Sylvester, a rival ventriloquist from America.

Seemingly incensed, Maxwell slaps the dummy, only to be told: "You'll pay for that later."
"Yes..." he replies, wearily. "I will."

Sylvester is very keen to find out exactly how Maxwell has got his dummy to act so realistically - even, it appears, when he's not there.  And even after being told: "You don't know what Hugo's capable of..."
Weeks later, Sylvester saves Maxwell from getting a kicking after Hugo starts a fight, but drunken Maxwell finds Hugo in Sylvester's room and shoots him.  Locked up in jail, he's visited by a psychiatrist, who decides the best way to treat him for his mental illness is to bring Hugo to him...

Hugo Fitch is a terrifying creation, and he's undoubtedly the star of the segment.  But the whole story hinges on Michael Redgrave's stunning performance as Maxwell - if that last scene doesn't stick in your head for days after you first see it, then there's something wrong with you.

"Why... hallo... Sylvester... I've been waiting for you..."

But the horror's not over yet. Back at the cottage, Craig has remembered how his "nightmare of horror" ends, and it's something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  As he's besieged by visions from the stories he's just heard (including a fully mobile Hugo) he wakes up, only for the whole thing to start again...


Notes:

1. An anthology film (also known as an omnibus film, package film, or portmanteau film) is a feature film consisting of several different short films, often tied together by only a single theme, premise, or brief interlocking event (often a turning point).  Sometimes each one is directed by a different director.  These differ from "revue films" such as Paramount on Parade (1930)—which were common in Hollywood in the early sound film era to show off their stars and related vaudeville-style acts—composite films, and compilation films.

Sometimes there is a theme, such as a place (e.g. New York Stories, Paris, je t'aime), a person (e.g. Four Rooms), or a thing (e.g. Twenty Bucks, Coffee and Cigarettes), that is present in each story and serves to bind them together.  Two of the earliest films to use the form were Edmund Goulding's Grand Hotel (1932), released by MGM with an all-star cast; and Paramount's If I Had a Million (also 1932), featuring segments helmed by a number of directors.

2.  Hide-and-seek or hide-and-go-seek is a children's game in which a number of players conceal themselves in the environment, to be found by one or more seekers.  The game is played by one player chosen at random (designated as being "it") counting to a predetermined number while the other players hide.  After reaching the number, the player who is "it" attempts to locate all concealed players.  The game is an example of an oral tradition, as it is commonly passed down by children to younger children.

 

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Holiday Apology

I had intended to continue writing up to tonight but the holiday baking is taking longer than expected so I guess I will be taking off until after Christmas.  Have a great holiday guys and talk to ya on Thursday.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

DNDF: Antonio Margheriti and The Gamma One Pentalogy

Antonio Margheriti (19 September 1930 – 4 November 2002), also known under the pseudonym Anthony M. Dawson, was a prolific Italian filmmaker.  He was born in Rome and died in 2002 from a heart attack in Monterosi, Viterbo, near Rome at the age of 72.

Margheriti made two of the first ever Italian space movies in 1960 and 1961 respectively; Assignment Outer Space (known as "Space Men" in Italy) and Battle of the Worlds (known as "The Planet of Extinct Men" in Italy).

In 1965, since he was considered an accomplished science-fiction film director who could work wonders with a very small budget,  Margheriti was hired by MGM to direct four Italian space movies that became known as the Gamma One series.  He finished all four films in three months.  The films in the series were made to be distributed in the USA (most were sold directly to late-night television) under the following titles: Wild Wild Planet, War of the Planets, War Between the Planets and Snow Devils.  A fifth film was later made in the Gamma One series in Japan in 1968 entitled The Green Slime (aka Gamma One: Operation Outer Space) which starred Robert Horton, but Margheriti was not involved with that one.

 

Wild, Wild Planet (1965)

  • Original Title: I criminali della galassia
  • Genre: Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Antonio Margheriti
  • Produced:
    • Joseph Fryd  
    • Walter Manley  
    • Antonio Margheriti  
    • Ivan Reiner
  • Written:
    • Ivan Reiner  
    • Renato Moretti
  • Starring: Tony Russel, Lisa Gastoni, Massimo Serato, Carlo Giustini, Franco Nero, Enzo Fiermonte, Umberto Raho, Vittorio Bonos, Aldo Canti, Franco Doria, Margherita Horowitz, Carlo Kechler, Rodolfo Lodi
  • Music: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino
  • Cinematography: Riccardo Pallottini
  • Editing: Otello Colangeli
  • Studio:
    • Mercury Film International  
    • Southern Cross Feature Film Company
  • Distributed:
    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer  
    • Something Weird Video  
    • Warner Home Video
  • Rated: Approved
  • Release Date:
    • 1 July 1966 (Italy)  
    • 9 August 1967 (USA)
  • Running Time: 93 minutes
  • Country: Italy
  • Language: Italian

Wild, Wild Planet (Italian: I Criminali della Galassia / "Criminals of the Galaxy"), also released as "The Wild, Wild Planet" is a 1965 Italian science fiction horror film directed by Antonio Margheriti and written by Renato Moretti and Ivan Reiner.  Tony Russel stars as Commander Mike Halstead.  Also featured are Lisa Gastoni, Franco Nero and Massimo Serato.  The low-budget aesthetics and general cheesy vibe of the picture have made it a favorite of bad-movie fans and websites such as badmovies.org.

The film is the first of four "Gamma One" science fiction films.  The films were originally contracted by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to be made for TV movies but were released theatrically instead.

Aboard space station Gamma One, a scientist from "the corporation" conducts experiments creating artificial human organs for transplant.  There is no love lost between Gamma One's macho commander, Mike Halstead, and the creepy perfectionist, Dr. Nurmi.  At a dinner party, Halstead is not especially kind to his girlfriend, Connie. She's drunk, so accepts Nurmi's offer of a vacation on planet Delphus: a Corporation research base.  Meanwhile on earth, people have been disappearing at an alarming rate.  The authorities suspect The Corporation, but can prove nothing.  A bevy of evil Barbie women arrive in the city.  Each has their own evil minion in a black trench coat.  They make people disappear.  Actually, they shrink them so they can be smuggled back to Delphus.  The abduction of a Dr. Fried is interrupted and he's found half size and in a coma.

After another failed shrink attempt, the authorities are alerted to the evil Barbies with black coated minions.  The authorities find a dead minion.  It has four arms and cat-like eyes, and appears to have been assembled.  Halstead and Jake confront the evil Barbies in their apartment.  They fight, but the men win.  Some books are found with lists of names and ties to planet Delphus.  Halstead and a team of men fly a rocket to Delphus.  Nurmi is ready for them and takes them prisoner.  Before executing Halstead, Nurmi gives Halstead a tour of his facility and explains his work and dream.  Nurmi is creating a race of perfect humans.  Part of that perfection is to merge a man and a woman into one body.  Connie is to be Nurmi's merge mate.  Halstead and his men start a big fight with the clones and minions, interrupting the merge process.  Halstead and Nurmi fight, damaging the super computer which runs everything.  Windows and doors break, allowing the red lake water to flood the subterranean complex.  Halstead puts his men and Connie into stasis pods so they can float up.  He and Jake use O2 cylinders to breathe through the swim to the surface.  Once on dry land, two rockets arrive from earth.  All is well again. 

Back on earth, Halstead, Connie and a few others lounge around a pool.  Halstead offends Connie by being a jerk (again), but he kisses her and she melts into his arms.

 

The War of the Planets (1966)

  • Original Title: I diafanoidi vengono da Marte
  • Genre: Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Antonio Margheriti
  • Produced:
    • Joseph Fryd  
    • Walter Manley  
    • Antonio Margheriti  
    • Ivan Reiner
  • Written:
    • Renato Moretti 
    • Ivan Reiner
  • Starring: Tony Russel, Lisa Gastoni, Franco Nero, Carlo Giustini, Enzo Fiermonte, Linda Sini, Nando Angelini, John Bartha, Marco Bogliani, Calisto Calisti, Aldo Canti
  • Music: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino
  • Cinematography: Riccardo Pallottini
  • Editing: Otello Colangeli
  • Studio:
    • Mercury Film International  
    • Southern Cross Feature Film Company
  • Distributed:
    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer  
    • Warner Home Video
  • Rated: Approved
  • Release Date: 4 June 1966 (Italy)
  • Running Time: 99 minutes
  • Country: Italy
  • Language: Italian

War of the Planets (Italian: I Diafanoidi Vengono da Marte, literally "The Diaphinoids Come From Mars") is an Italian film directed by Antonio Margheriti and starring Tony Russel and Lisa Gastoni, released in 1966.  Russel's name is misspelled in the opening credits as "Tony Russell".

The film begins on New Year's Eve in the middle of the 21st century.  After space station Alpha-Two reports impossible "negative radiation" readings and loses contact with United Democracies (U.D.) headquarters, Captain Tice and his crew are sent to investigate.  They find the Alpha-Two crew immobilized, some dead, before coming under attack themselves by green glowing energy beings.  The creatures immobilize Tice's team and the space station disappears entirely.  On space station Gamma-One, Commander Halstead sends ships to investigate the remaining space stations and evacuates all but a skeleton crew.  Meanwhile on Earth, the creatures have possessed Captain Dubois and use him to break into the Institute for Advanced Sciences' nuclear reactor.  The possessed Dubois sends the U.D. a message offering "symbiotic partnership" for "the good of the whole".

As the energy beings seize each of the stations and surround the Earth, Dubois relays the demands of the energy beings.  Halstead and his crew are taken to Mars where they find the missing stations and the alien base at an automated uranium mine.  Exploring the area, they discover the corpses of several Delta-Two crew members who failed to merge with the energy beings because of their "passion and emotion".  Dubois reveals that the beings are "Diaphinoids" from the Andromeda Galaxy who need humans as host bodies.  Halstead and his team are forced to watch a "hosting" ceremony which results in several more deaths.  They rescue a pair of female station crew then start a melee with their captors.  Opening a panel in the outer wall, they escape across the surface of Mars to a nearby spacecraft while the air vents from the base, killing all inside.  The U.D. fleet arrives to bomb the base but Halstead's ship can't liftoff on its own.  Unwilling to let the Diaphinoids escape, Halstead demands the fleet drop its bombs even though it will almost certainly kill them too.  Luckily, they are able to use the blast from the U.D. attack to help loft the ship safely into orbit.  Back on Earth, Halstead is awarded the U.D. Medal of Honor... and court martialed for dereliction of duty.

 

War Between the Planets (1966)

  • Original Title: Il pianeta errante
  • Genre: Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Antonio Margheriti
  • Produced:
    • Joseph Fryd  
    • Walter Manley  
    • Antonio Margheriti  
    • Ivan Reiner
  • Written:
    • Ivan Reiner  
    • Renato Moretti
  • Starring: Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Ombretta Colli, Enzo Fiermonte, Halina Zalewska, Goffredo Unger, Pietro Martellanza, John Bartha, Marco Bogliani, Vera Dolen, Renato Montalbano
  • Music: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino
  • Cinematography: Riccardo Pallottini
  • Editing: Otello Colangeli
  • Studio: Mercury Film International
  • Distributed:
    • Fanfare Films  
    • Astral Films  
    • Something Weird Video  
    • Dark Sky Films  
    • Dias Film  
    • InterCinema Distribuzione  
    • Monterey Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 29 July 1966 (Italy)   7 April 1971 (US)
  • Running Time: 80 minutes
  • Country: Italy
  • Language: Italian

The third film in the Gamma One quadrilogy was titled “Il pianeta errante” (The Errant Planet) in its original Italian. The English dubbed release in America was retitled War Between the Planets (WBP).  Director Magheriti's economizing continued.  Sets, costumes and props were reused from the first two movies, but the cast was different.  WBP is yet another rouge-planet film, though not a strong one.  Yet, the proto-Star Trek-like saga continues.

The earth is being wracked by earthquakes, tsunamis and storms.  Scientists cannot find a source.  Computers suggest an unknown planet may have moved into the solar system in Gamma One's quadrant.  Space Command's leader, General Norton, sends his best "space man" to space station Gamma One to find the cause.  Once back on Gamma One, Commander Rod Jackson barks out orders and is a jerk to his clandestine girlfriend, Lieutenant Terry Sanchez.  Gamma One has been wracked by odd gravity forces too.  Jackson's second-in-command, Dubrowski is miffed at having his earth-leave canceled.  He belittles Jackson's love life.  A fist fight breaks out, but is interrupted.  General Norton and Jackson's fiancée, Janet Norton, are coming.  A faint distress call from station Echo alerts Jackson to the likely place to find the errant planet.  He mounts a recon squadron of ships to find it. 

In his absence, the General arrives who also barks out a lot of orders.  Dubrowski, Sanchez and some others take another ship and join the recon party.  Dubrowski is intent to blow up the planet as revenge for the death of his wife in an earthquake.  One of Jackson's ships finds the planet.  It has many odd features, such as very low density, able to alter its direction and an ability to expel and recover a "school" of asteroids, it can alter it's gravity too.  One of Jackson's ships is caught in a gravity burst and it crashes on the surface and begins sinking in red goo.

Eventually, the others go EVA to explore the planet's surface, some of which is solid.  Dubrowski falls into the red goo and sinks away.  Jackson, Sanchez and Perkinson go down a crater, into a labyrinth of caverns.  The walls are lined with red "arteries", the floor has moving "breathing valves."  They seek a deep enough place to plant their anti-matter bomb.  An artery grabs Sanchez.  She drops the detonator into some goo.  Perkinson must use some extra circuits in Jackson's helmet as an alternate detonator, so they trade helmets.  There is a tremor and a cave-in which traps Perkinson.  Jackson must hack the arteries with an axe to open passageways so he and Sanchez may escape.  Eventually, they do and float back to their rocket.  All ships power away and the order is given to detonate.  The errant planet is destroyed.  At a solemn funeral for Dubrowski and Perkinson, Janet realizes she's lost Jackson.  Jackson, Sanchez and Dubrowski's red-headed son Ricky walk off hand in hand.

Snow Devils (1967)

  • Original Title: La morte viene dal pianeta Aytin
  • Genre: Drama – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Antonio Margheriti
  • Produced:
    • Joseph Fryd  
    • Antonio Margheriti  
    • Walter Manley  
    • Ivan Reiner
  • Written:
    • Antonio Margheriti  
    • Renato Moretti  
    • Ivan Reiner  
    • Charles Sinclair  
    • Aubrey Wisberg
  • Starring: Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Ombretta Colli, Renato Baldini, Wilbert Bradley, Halina Zalewska, Enzo Fiermonte, Goffredo Unger, Furio Meniconi, Isarco Ravaioli, Renato Montalbano, Piero Pastore, Giuliano Raffaelli, Franco Ressel, Nino Vingelli
  • Music: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino
  • Cinematography: Unknown
  • Editing: Otello Colangeli
  • Studio: Mercury Film International
  • Distributed:
    • Warner Home Video  
    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 18 January 1967 (Italy)
  • Running Time: 78 minutes
  • Country: Italy
  • Language: Italian

MGM released the fourth in the Gamma One quadrilogy in early 1967.  Snow Devils (SD) is considered the weakest of the four, but perhaps not by much.  SD may have gone direct to TV without a theatrical release.  This fourth installment of the Gamma One series re-used some of the characters from the prior films, but was not a sequel in the usual sense.  Its plot about alien yeti-men was a stand-alone.

A remote UDSCO weather station in the Himalayas monitors strange global warming events.  It is attacked by strange beasts.  Everyone is killed, but one man missing.  General Norton sends Commander Rod Jackson and his trusty sidekick, Captain Pulowski to investigate.  Lisa, fiancee of the missing Lt. Harris wants to come along, but Rod says no.  Their "helijet" is blown up, so they must trek on foot with porters.  Lisa tags along disguised as a porter.  Weird noises in the night scare off all the porters.  Rod, Frank, Lisa and the odd Sharu press on.

They find a cave, which turns out to be the base of the Yeti men.  All four are captured.  The yeti-men are actually aliens from the planet Aytin.  They came over a hundred years ago to build their base.  Now operational, they're warming Earth to melt the ice caps.  When the earth is flooded, they'll cool the planet to an ice ball just like Aytin -- which is doomed by a cloud of radiation, btw.  Rod and crew escape via an air shaft, make homemade ether which knocks out all the yeti-men.  The leader yeti shoots up his own equipment trying to get the humans, then he dies.

After that, Rod and crew are sent into space to check out Jupiter's moon Calisto.  The Aytians have a base there too.  A force field surrounds Calisto, so no ships can get near (nor missiles sent in).  Rod notices a meteorite strike the moon, so figures that's the key.  His fleet gather up asteroids from the asteroid belt, using magnetic 'cables'.  They then tow and hurl these at Calisto.  The Aytian base is destroyed.  Back on earth Rod is free to resume being a shallow playboy.

The Green Slime (1968)

  • Genre: Drama – Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Kinji Fukasaku
  • Produced:
    • Walter Manley  
    • Ivan Reiner  
    • William Ross
  • Written:
    • William Finger  
    • Ivan Reiner  
    • Tom Rowe  
    • Charles Sinclair
  • Starring: Robert Horton, Luciana Paluzzi, Richard Jaeckel, Bud Widom, Ted Gunther, David Yorston, Robert Dunham, Gary Randolf, Jack Morris, Eugene Vince, Don Plante, Linda Hardisty
  • Music: Charles Fox
  • Cinematography: Yoshikazu Yamasawa
  • Editing: Osamu Tanaka
  • Studio:
    • Lun Film  
    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer  
    • Ram Films Inc.  
    • Southern Cross Feature Film Company 
    • Toei Company
  • Distributed:
    • Toei Company  
    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer  
    • Columbia Broadcasting System  
    • MGM/UA Home Entertainment  
    • Warner Home Video 
  • Rated:
  • Release Date:
    • 19 December 1968 (Japan)  
    • 21 May 1969 (USA)
  • Running Time: 90 minutes
  • Country:
    • United States  
    • Japan
  • Language:
    • English  
    • Japanese

The Green Slime is a 1968 science-fiction film produced by MGM in the United States and shot in Japan at the studios of Toei Company by director Kinji Fukasaku.  The film was spearheaded by Ivan Reiner and Walter Manley, the same creative team who produced similar Italian outings like Wild, Wild Planet.

A group of astronauts set out to stop a giant asteroid on a collision course with the planet Earth.  They land on the asteroid, plant explosive charges and destroy it.  Afterwards they return to the staging area, a space station called Gamma 3 in orbit around the Earth.  Unfortunately, a scientist from the mission has unwittingly carried a luminous-green substance on the leg of his spacesuit which quickly mutates into one-eyed, tentacled monsters with the ability to discharge lethal bolts of electricity.  The Gamma 3 crew fend off the alien creatures with their laser-based weaponry, only to discover the creatures feed off the energy which, in turn, allows them to multiply rapidly, sprouting the new creatures from their blood.  As the creatures overrun the station the crew continues to fight back against overwhelming odds.

Portions of this film were used to pitch the pilot of Mystery Science Theater 3000 to station KTMA, although the entire film was never lampooned on the series later.  The cover of 1983 science fiction book 'The Worlds of H. Beam Piper' was based on a scene on the asteroid in this movie.

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