DNDF: Conspiracies

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Friday, August 23, 2013

DNDF: Conspiracies

Something irritated me this morning so I will be breaking with the usual format to use this article as a soapbox to exercise my righteous indignation.  Every morning as my wife gets ready for work she flips on ABC to watch Good Morning America as she has done for as long as I have known her.  I, of course, would rather watch cartoons but that’s because I am an overgrown man-child who watches B-movies all day and pretends to be a house husband and I need all the entertainment I can get. 

Today I listened to George Stephanopoulos talk about how the latest animated movie from Disney rocked with a vengeance and all the while he and his co-hosts were up-selling the live performance of “The Wanted” that would be coming up later in the hour.  I get excited because I remember “The Wanted” as a British import hard rock band from the 60s and 70s so you can imagine my surprise when a bunch of punk ass teens come out and play some manufactured pop song that was most definitely not worthy of banging my increasingly hairless head to.  I make reference to a cartoon mouse and I get a cease and desist order, they violate a trademark and it’s ok.  Then it hits me.  George Stephanopoulos, you used to be the press secretary for the White House.  Your co-hosts were once respected journalists, and now you all are shrilling for your Disney overlords and wouldn’t dare to tell the truth that “Planes” is just “Cars” with propellers and both still suck. 

Thus, my eyes are now open and I see all the strings being manipulated behind what they call “news” at the ABC network.  So join me by putting on your tin foil hats and please to peruse the following films and mix and match to make your own conspiracy filled double feature date night.  I will only be giving credits and summaries since I couldn’t stop myself from finding all that I felt worked into my delusion.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

  • Directed: John Frankenheimer
  • Produced: George Axelrod, John Frankenheimer
  • Written:
    • Richard Condon (Novel)
    • George Axelrod (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury, Henry Silva, James Gregory, Paul Frees
  • Music: David Amram
  • Editing: Ferris Webster
  • Cinematography: Lionel Lindon
  • Studio: M.C. Productions
  • Distributed: United Artists
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: October 24, 1962
  • Running Time: 126 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

An unusually tense and intelligent political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate was a film far ahead of its time.  Its themes of thought control, political assassination, and multinational conspiracy were hardly common currency in 1962, and while its outlook is sometimes informed by Cold War paranoia, the film seemed nearly as timely when it was reissued in 1987 as it did on its original release.  It opens with a group of soldiers whooping it up in a bar in Korea as their commander, Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), arrives to inform them that they're back on duty.  These men obviously have no fondness for Shaw, and he feels no empathy for them.  While on patrol, Shaw and his platoon are ambushed by Korean troops.  Months later, Shaw is receiving a hero's welcome as he returns to the United States to accept the Congressional Medal of Honor, and several of the soldiers who served under Shaw repeatedly refer to him as "the bravest, finest, most lovable man I ever met."  It soon becomes evident that after their capture by the Koreans, Shaw and his men were subjected to an intense program of brainwashing prior to their release.  While several are troubled by bad dreams and inexplicable behavior, it's Capt. Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) who seems the most haunted by the experience.  In time, Marco is able to piece together what happened; it seems Raymond Shaw was programmed by a shadowy cadre of Russian and Chinese agents into a killing machine who will assassinate anyone, even a close friend, when given the proper commands.  On the other side of the coin, Shaw is also used for political gain by his harridan mother (Angela Lansbury), who guides the career of her second husband, John Iselin (James Gregory), a bone-headed congressman hoping to win the vice-presidential nomination through a campaign of anti-Communist hysteria.

They Saved Hitler's Brain (1968)

  • Directed: David Bradley
  • Produced: Carl Edwards
  • Written: Steve Bennett, Peter Miles
  • Starring: Walter Stocker, Audrey Caire, Carlos Rivas
  • Editing: Alan Marks
  • Cinematography: Stanley Cortez
  • Studio:
    • Paragon Films Inc.
    • Sans-S
  • Distributed:
    • Mill Creek Entertainment (2009) (USA) (DVD) 
    • Rhino Home Video (2000) (USA) (DVD) 
    • Rhino Home Video (USA) (VHS)
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 18 August 1968
  • Running Time: 91 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

They Saved Hitler's Brain is a 1969 science fiction film that was adapted for television from a shorter theatrical feature film, Madmen of Mandoras, directed by David Bradley.  The film was lengthened with about twenty minutes additional footage shot by UCLA students at the request of the distributor.  As the original footage was shot several years earlier, the differences in costumes and production values are rather obvious.

World War II is over, and Nazi officials remove Adolf Hitler's living head and hide it in the fictional South American country of Mandoras, so that they can resurrect the Third Reich for the future.  It fast forwards into the 1960s, and the surviving officials kidnap a scientist in an attempt to keep Hitler alive.  Various intelligence agencies, aware of the evil plot, recruit secret agents to bust the Nazi officials.

The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler (1971)

  • Directed: Bob Wynn
  • Produced: Robert Stabler
  • Written: Jay Simms, Tom Rolf
  • Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Bradford Dillman, James Daly
  • Music: Marlin Skiles
  • Editing: Jerry Greene
  • Cinematography: Bob Boatman
  • Studio: Madison Productions Inc.
  • Distributed:
    • Gold Key Entertainment (USA) (theatrical) 
    • JEF Films (all media) 
    • Vidtronics (all media)
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: November 1971
  • Running Time: 100 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Television newsman Harry Walsh (Leslie Nielsen) holds fast to the maxim "seeing is believing" in this political/medical thriller, with science-fiction overtones.  Harry saw a well-known U.S. Senator (Bradford Dillman) have a car accident, and took video coverage on the scene.  When he arrives at the hospital to follow up on the story, he is told that no such person is, or ever was there.  Since the senator is a presidential hopeful, this is a very important story, and Harry keeps at it.  His TV station, which ran a report on the accident, retracts the story with an apology when the senator's office calls with the story that the senator is on a fishing trip.  Harry doesn't believe it.  In a parallel story, the senator wakes up in a hospital with all sorts of transplanted organs, etc., when he should simply be dead.  He discovers that his survival is part of a worldwide medical blackmail scheme involving world political leaders.

The Groundstar Conspiracy (1972)

  • Directed: Lamont Johnson
  • Produced: Frank Arrigo, Earl A. Glick, Hal Roach Jr., Trevor Wallace
  • Written:
    • L. P. Davies (Novel “The Alien”)
    • Douglas Heyes (Screenplay)
  • Starring: George Peppard, Michael Sarrazin, Christine Belford
  • Music: Paul Hoffert
  • Editing: Edward M. Abroms
  • Cinematography: Michael Reed
  • Studio:
    • Universal Pictures
    • Hal Roach Studios
  • Distributed:
    • Universal Pictures (USA) (theatrical)
    • Anchor Bay Entertainment (USA) (DVD)
    • MCA/Universal Home Video (USA) (VHS)
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: June 12, 1972
  • Running Time: 103 minutes
  • Country: Canada
  • Language: English

Employee John David Welles attempts to steal rocket booster plans from the Groundstar facility.  His attempt goes awry and he is badly disfigured in an explosion and barely escapes.  He stumbles to the home of Nicole Devon, and collapses.  She calls an ambulance, the authorities are alerted, and soon Welles is operated on, given plastic surgery and interrogated by a gung-ho government official named Tuxan.  But Welles claims to have no memory of his crime.  In fact, he claims no memory of his life at all, save for brief glimpses of a woman and small boy frolicking on a beach.

Despite Tuxan's brutal interrogation techniques (electro-shock and water submersion), Welles still maintains his story of total amnesia.  Tuxan allows Welles to escape, hoping he will lead them to the people behind the attempted theft.  Welles goes to Nicole's home and begs her to help him remember.  But she knows nothing.

Eventually the inside conspirators behind the attempted theft are found, and Tuxan reveals the truth to Welles, who still cannot remember any details of the crime.  John David Welles actually died en route to the hospital on the night of the explosion.  The man we have come to know as Welles is really Peter Bellamy, a government employee who recently lost his wife and son in an accident.  Bellamy, feeling that life was no longer worth living and remembering, volunteered to have his memory wiped and to play Welles in order to draw the conspirators into the open.


Soylent Green (1973)

  • Directed: Richard Fleischer
  • Produced: Walter Seltzer, Russell Thacher
  • Written:
    • Harry Harrison (Novel “Make Room! Make Room!”)
    • Stanley R. Greenberg (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, Edward G. Robinson
  • Music: Fred Myrow
  • Editing: Samuel E. Beetley
  • Cinematography: Richard H. Kline
  • Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Distributed: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: April 19, 1973
  • Running Time: 97 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

In 2022, Earth is overpopulated and totally polluted; the natural resources have been exhausted and the nourishment of the population is provided by Soylent Industries, a company that makes a food consisting of plankton from the oceans.  In New York, when Soylent's member of the board William R. Simonson is murdered apparently by a burglar at the Chelsea Towers West where he lives, efficient Detective Thorn is assigned to investigate the case with his partner Solomon "Sol" Roth.  Thorn comes to the fancy apartment and meets Simonson's bodyguard Tab Fielding and the "furniture" (woman that is rented together with the flat) Shirl and the detective concludes that the executive was not victim of burglary but executed.  Further, he finds that the Governor Santini and other powerful men want to disrupt and end Thorn's investigation.  But Thorn continues his work and discovers a bizarre and disturbing secret of the ingredient used to manufacture Soylent Green.

Capricorn One (1977)

  • Directed: Peter Hyams
  • Produced: Paul N. Lazarus III
  • Written: Peter Hyams
  • Starring: Elliott Gould, James Brolin, Brenda Vaccaro, Sam Waterston, O. J. Simpson, Hal Holbrook, Karen Black, Telly Savalas, David Huddleston, David Doyle, James Karen
  • Music: Jerry Goldsmith
  • Editing: James Mitchell
  • Cinematography: Bill Butler
  • Studio: ITC Entertainment
  • Distributed: Warner Bros.
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 2 June 1978
  • Running Time: 124 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Astronauts Charles Brubaker, John Walker, and Peter Willis (James Brolin, O.J. Simpson, and Sam Waterston, respectively) are hailed as heroes when they become the first men to be rocketed to Mars.  Actually the space travelers are as phony as their mission controller, Dr. James Kelloway (Hal Holbrook); to avert a failure, that a faulty life-support system supplied by a corrupt NASA contractor will kill the astronauts during the flight, that might cost the space program its funding, the Mars-bound vessel has been sent up without a crew, while the helmeted astronauts sit on a movie soundstage, pretending to be in outer space for the benefit of the TV cameras. Unfortunately the Mars ship crashes on re-entry, making the astronaut trio thoroughly expendable.  Investigative reporter Robert Caulfield (Elliott Gould), who's smelled a rat all along, races against time to prevent NASA from "terminating" the hapless astronauts in order to cover up the conspiracy.

Coma (1978)

  • Directed: Michael Crichton
  • Produced: Martin Erlichman
  • Written:
    • Robin Cook (novel)
    • Michael Crichton (screenplay)
  • Starring: Geneviève Bujold, Michael Douglas, Elizabeth Ashley, Rip Torn, Richard Widmark
  • Music: Jerry Goldsmith
  • Editing: David Bretherton
  • Cinematography: Victor J. Kemper
  • Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Distributed: United Artists
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 8 February 1978
  • Running Time: 113 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

A feisty, feminist intern uncovers a medical conspiracy in this icy thriller about mysterious goings-on at Boston Memorial Hospital.  When her best friend and aerobics partner, Nancy Greenly (Lois Chiles), emerges in a vegetative state from a routine abortion, Dr. Susan Wheeler (Genevieve Bujold) does some digging and discovers an overabundance of anesthesia-induced comas among otherwise healthy young patients.  The male authority figures who challenge Susan's technically illegal tampering with medical records include her boss, Dr. Harris (Richard Widmark); the chief anesthesiologist, Dr. George (Rip Torn); and even her boyfriend, Dr. Mark Bellows (Michael Douglas), who doesn't want Susan's shenanigans to get in the way of his shot at chief resident.  As Susan continues her crusade, the paper trail leads to the Jefferson Institute, a mysterious, experimental facility in which vegetative patients are stored en masse, suspended from the ceiling by wires threaded through their long bones, in order to reduce the cost of long-term care.  A shadowy assailant begins to stalk Susan just as she uncovers the link between the Jefferson Institute and the comas at Boston Memorial, setting the stage for climactic suspense scenes involving morgues, malpractice and endless institutional corridors.  Writer/director Michael Crichton adapted his second feature film from Robin Cook's bestseller of the same name. Tom Selleck, who would star in Crichton's “Runaway” several years later, appears briefly in Coma as another victim of lethal anesthesia.

The Clonus Horror (1979)

  • Directed: Robert S. Fiveson
  • Produced: Robert S. Fiveson, Myrl A. Schreibman
  • Written:
    • Bob Sullivan (story)
    • Bob Sullivan and Ron Smith (screenplay)
    • Myrl Schreibman and Robert Fiveson (adaptation)
  • Starring: Tim Donnelly, Paulette Breen, Dick Sargent, Peter Graves, Keenan Wynn, Zale Kessler, Frank Ashmore
  • Music: Hod David Schudson
  • Editing: Robert Gordon
  • Cinematography: Max Beaufort
  • Studio: Clonus Associates
  • Distributed:
    • Group 1 International Distribution Organization Ltd.
    • Lightning Video (USA) (VHS) 
    • Mondo Macabro (USA) (DVD)
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: August 1979
  • Running Time: 90 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

The film takes place in an isolated desert compound called Clonus, where clones are bred to be used as replacement parts for the elite, including a soon to be president-elect Jeffrey Knight (Peter Graves).  The clones are kept isolated from the real world by workers of the colony, but are promised to be "accepted" to move to "America" after they have completed some type of physical training.  After a group of clones is chosen to go to "America", they are given a party and a farewell celebration with their fellow clones.  The chosen clones are then taken to a lab where they are sedated and placed in an airtight plastic bag, and their bodies are frozen in order to preserve their organs for harvest.  The story surrounds one clone (Tim Donnelly) who begins to question the circumstances of his existence and eventually escapes the colony.  Pursued by compound guards, the clone enters a nearby city.  He is found by a retired journalist (Keenan Wynn) who takes him to his sponsor, who happens to be the brother of Jeffrey Knight.  Knight's brother, Richard (David Hooks), and his son (James Mantell), argue over what to do with the clone (who turns out to be the clone made for Richard himself).  Richard's son returns the clone to the colony to reunite with his newly developed love interest (Paulette Breen), only to find a trap waiting for him; the clone is subsequently killed and frozen.  Meanwhile, Knight, along with hired thugs of the Clonus project, arrive to interrogate Richard and his son, and both are murdered (along with the journalist who first discovered the clone) as part of Clonus' cover-up.  Knight is seemingly killed in the ensuing struggle with his brother, but reappears the next day at a press conference, where he is stunned to find that the late journalist had managed to disseminate a secret tape to the news media, exposing the Clonus project.

Hangar 18 (1980)

  • Directed: James L. Conway
  • Produced: Charles E. Sellier Jr.
  • Written:
    • Thomas C. Chapman and James L. Conway (Story)
    • Ken Pettus (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Darren McGavin, Robert Vaughn, Gary Collins, James Hampton, Pamela Bellwood
  • Music: Andrew Belling, John Cacavas
  • Editing: Michael Spence
  • Cinematography: Paul Hipp
  • Studio: Sunn Classic Pictures
  • Distributed: Sunn Classic Pictures
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: July 1980
  • Running Time: 97 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Hangar 18 involves a U.F.O. cover-up following an incident aboard the space shuttle.  The orbiter is launching a satellite, which collides with a nearby unidentified object.  The collision kills an astronaut in the launch bay.  The incident is witnessed by astronauts Price and Bancroff.

After returning to Earth, both men investigate what they know happened, but which the government tries its best to hide.  The damaged alien spacecraft has been recovered after making a controlled landing in the Arizona desert. Although the aliens on board die, the government technicians begin researching the complex ship.  On board the craft, the technicians make three discoveries:  A woman in some sort of stasis, who later awakens screaming, symbols on the control panels are the same as those found in ancient Earth civilizations, and extensive surveillance footage of power plants, military bases and major cities worldwide.

Meanwhile, with their dogged pursuit to uncover the truth, both Bancroff and Price are targeted by the government. Chased by agents, Bancroff manages to get away but Price is killed.  Bancroft eventually manages to make his way to Hangar 18, where the alien craft is being studied.

As the researchers discover evidence aboard the spacecraft that the aliens were planning to return to Earth, government agents remotely fly a jet filled with explosives into the hangar — a move aimed at killing off all involved in the cover-up in a final attempt to maintain secrecy.  After the explosion, a news bulletin is released about the hangar explosion, causing a congressional hearing for evidence about the activities in Hangar 18.  It is revealed that Bancroft and a few others survived the explosion since they were inside the alien ship.

They Live (1988)

  • Directed: John Carpenter
  • Produced: Larry Franco
  • Written:
    • Ray Nelson (Short Story “Eight O'clock in the Morning”)
    • John Carpenter (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster
  • Music: John Carpenter, Alan Howarth
  • Editing: Gib Jaffe, Frank E. Jimenez
  • Cinematography: Gary B. Kibbe
  • Studio:
    • Alive Films 
    • Larry Franco Productions
  • Distributed:
    • Universal Studios 
    • Carolco Pictures
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: November 4, 1988
  • Running Time: 94 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

John Carpenter wrote and directed this science fiction thriller about a group of aliens who try to take over the world by disguising themselves as Young Republicans.  Wrestler Roddy Piper stars as John Nada, a drifted who makes his way into an immense encampment for the homeless.  There he stumbles upon a conspiracy concerning aliens who have hypnotized the populace through subliminal messages transmitted through television, magazines, posters, and movies.  When Nada looks through special Ray-Bans developed by the resistance leaders, the aliens lose their clean-cut "Dan Quayle" looks and resemble crusty-looking reptiles.  Nada joins the underground, teaming up with rebel-leader Frank (Keith David) to eradicate the lizard-like aliens from the body politic.

Strange Days (1995)

  • Directed: Kathryn Bigelow
  • Produced: James Cameron, Steven-Charles Jaffe
  • Written:
    • James Cameron (Original Story)
    • James Cameron and Jay Cocks (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Vincent D'Onofrio, Michael Wincott
  • Music: Graeme Revell
  • Editing: James Cameron, Howard E. Smith
  • Cinematography: Matthew F. Leonetti
  • Studio: Lightstorm Entertainment
  • Distributed: 20th Century Fox
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: October 13, 1995
  • Running Time: 145 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Set in Los Angeles two days before the end of 1999, Strange Days introduces us to Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes), an ex-cop turned sleazy hustler who hawks the newest underground thrill on the black market: a "squid," a headpiece that allows one to transmit digital recordings of other people's thoughts, feelings, and memories into their brain; as Lenny describes it, "this is real life, pure and uncut, straight from the cerebral cortex."  Lenny deals "clips" (the software) as well as "squids" (the hardware) for this new and illegal entertainment system, and while sex and violence are the most popular themes, Lenny refuses to deal in "blackjack" -- slang for snuff clips. Lenny is nursing a broken heart after his girlfriend, punk singer Faith Justin (Juliette Lewis), left him, and he spends a lot of time with clips he recorded when they were together.  Faith is now involved with Philo Grant (Michael Wincott), a music business tycoon who once managed Jeriko One (Glenn Plummer), a hip-hop musician and political activist whose murder has sent L.A. into a state of chaos.  When a clip emerges that shows that Jeriko was killed by L.A. police officers, Lenny finds his life in danger, and he tries to escape possible death on both sides of the law with the help of his friend Mace Mason (Angela Bassett).

Eyeborgs (2009)

  • Directed: Richard Clabaugh
  • Produced: Richard Clabaugh
  • Written: Fran Clabaugh, Richard Clabaugh
  • Starring: Adrian Paul, Megan Blake, Luke Eberl
  • Music: Mark Brisbane, Guy-Roger Duvert
  • Editing: Martin Hunter
  • Cinematography: Kenneth Wilson II
  • Studio: Crimson Wolf Productions
  • Distributed: Crimson Wolf Productions
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: April 29, 2009
  • Running Time:
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Are government surveillance cameras intended to keep us safe actually killing people?  Is it a plot by the government to suppress the opposition, or have our terrorist enemies secretly gained control of our security system and are now using it against us?  Following another major terrorist attack the US instigates an intense government surveillance program in which every camera in the country is linked into a single, all-seeing network called the ODIN system (for Optical Defense Intelligence Network).  The system includes millions of mobile, robotic surveillance cameras known as "Eyeborgs," which watch everyone for suspicious behavior, all in the name of security, law enforcement and keeping America safe.  An agent for the Department of Homeland Security grows suspicious of the system after a series of odd murders in which the physical evidence doesn't match up to what the video records show.  Now he must work outside the system to find out who is really controlling the Eyeborgs. With the help of a broadcast journalist and a purple haired Punk Rocker who turns out to be the President's nephew, he must stop a plot to assassinate the President during the final debate of the election.

The Tunnel (2011)

  • Directed: Carlo Ledesma
  • Produced: Andrew Denton, Julian Harvey, Enzo Tedeschi, Anita Jacoby, Valeria Petrenko, Ahmed Salama, Peter Thompson
  • Written: Julian Harvey, Enzo Tedeschi
  • Starring: Bel Deliá, Andy Rodoreda, Steve Davis, Luke Arnold, Goran D. Kleut, James Caitlin, Russell Jeffrey
  • Music: Paul Dawkins
  • Editing: Julian Harvey, Enzo Tedeschi
  • Cinematography: Shing Fung Cheung, Steve Davis
  • Studio:
    • Distracted Media 
    • Zapruder's Other Films 
    • DLSHS Film
  • Distributed: Distracted Media
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 18 May 2011
  • Running Time: 90 minutes
  • Country: Australia
  • Language: English

An investigative reporter leads a camera crew into a maze of tunnels beneath Sydney, Australia's St. James Train Station, and learns that the South Wales Government abandoned plans to tap an underground water reserve for a very good reason.  When rumors begin to surface of a massive government cover-up, journalist Natasha Warner vows to uncover the truth about the derelict tunnel system.  As Natasha and her team descend ever deeper into darkness, they soon realize they aren't the only ones in the tunnels.  Now, one-by-one, people are disappearing. By the time the horrifying truth is uncovered, there may be no one left to tell the public of the terror that lurks just beneath the city streets.

Holy crap!  Thirteen movies and over four thousand words, that’ll do.  So remember to pick one from column A and pick another also from column A since I only made one column.  Big Brother is Watching, Fight The Power and poke Mickey in the eye since that damn rodent caused all this.

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