Friday, June 30, 2023

It’s Hazmat Suit Night at Clyde’s Movie Palace and All Patrons Wearing One Get Free Admission to See: Outbreak (1995)

Outbreak Theater MarqueeThe Cast of Outbreak20230629192637087
In the fifties and sixties, the biggest threat to the existence of man on this planet was that a nuclear holocaust could happen at any minute. I'm not sure that fear has ever left us. After all, when you have Dictators such as Putin and Kim Jong Un, and we elect total loons like Donald Trumpenstein, every day is anything can happen day.

We're also smart enough to know now that if the bomb is going to drop, all one can do is put their head between their legs and kiss their ass goodbye. You'll be darn lucky if you have time to do that. One second, you're here; the next second, you're vaporized.

All it takes is one button press to blow the world all to shit. As willing as it always is, Hollywood picked up on that theme with films such as Fail-Safe, The Bedford Incident, Dr. Strangelove, and On The Beach.

OutbreakAnd let's not forget the radiation side effects left over from mega-bomb testing that you won't find in any book or college thesis. If the bomb itself didn't get us, Film Writers and Producers wanted us to believe that some strange monstrous creature blown up to gigantic size from the effects of nuclear radiation would have us all for lunch.

Eventually, Hollywood's preoccupation with the threat of Earth becoming a nuclear wasteland subsided. Once you’ve blown the planet all to hell in a movie like The Day After, there’s not much left to tell.

They seemed to become more preoccupied with more mundane matters such as wiping us out via natural disasters like volcanoes and earthquakes, meteors and comets spinning around in the far reaches of space intent on making Earth their target, or aliens from another world coming down and feasting instead of Godzilla chowing down on sushi.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Another genuine threat loomed on the horizon, made more imperative by recent current events. We may have had too much of a good thing because of our natural tendency to pop an antibiotic down our throats at the first sign of a cough or sneeze. Someday, there may be a virus that will be immune to all popped pills and capsules, and when that happens, it will be adios to one and all.

The virus could be manufactured as it was in Stephen King's The Stand or come from a monkey living it up in sunny California despite the absence of a passport, visa, or green card. And that is the premise behind Outbreak, another Hollywood concoction that lets us see our demise in real time before we actually experience the thrill firsthand.

In 1967, a new virus spread through the Motaba River Valley region of Zaire, wiping out most of the inhabitants of a Mercenary Camp who came in contact with it. In two days, it has claimed 48 victims. We witness the horrific effects of the disease when two U.S. Army soldiers are flown in by helicopter in quarantine suits to survey the damage and to see if the virus is contained and is no longer spreading. 
Thirty Men DeadShitholeThe Big Lie

After gathering blood samples, telling a doctor they'll send supplies in as soon as possible, and reassuring one man that he will be fine, they depart. Shortly after that, they show their genuine humanitarianism by ordering the place to be bombed all to shit.

Bomb Drop!Kiss your ass goodbyeThe Big Bang
And yes, all you morbid violence freaks out there do get to see the bomb drop with men waving at it as if it's a big barrel of Big Macs just before they're disintegrated into gooey microscopic particles of skin and bone matter. But think of the bright side. It did wipe out their disease and kept them from starving to death.

You won't have to hire a voice analyst to know that the voices of the two men in the quarantine suits did, in fact, belong to Morgan Freeman and Donald Sutherland. But who are these masked men?

Fast forward about 27 years to the present day at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID for all you abbreviation fanatics) in Ft. Detrick, Maryland, where Colonel Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) and his co-worker Major Casey Shuler (Kevin Spacey) research and study viruses both old and new in an attempt to keep them from spreading across the planet.

Daniels's ex-wife Roberta (Rene Russo), now works at the Center for Disease Control (that's CDC for all you abbreviation freaks), tracking the outbreak of diseases across the U.S. so they can be contained. She was working with Daniels and Shuler, but for obvious reasons, she moves on to greener pastures. Seems she wants to be as far away from ex-hubby Sam as possible while still getting what amounts to a promotion.

I don't know why they're divorced, but it must have been awful because, in the early part of the film, she seems really pissed off at Sam whenever he shows up. The reasons for the break up don't really matter. Their split is merely a plot device to add another dimension to their characters. And it's one plot device that actually works well. 
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We find all of this out because Sam is ordered by the voice of Morgan Freeman to head to Zaire because there's a level four alert in place. At the USAMRIID, Sam works at Level IV, which deals with extreme biohazards, maximum security, and Infectious agents: Ebola, Lassa, and Hantaviruses. Highly Virulent, no known cures or vaccines. So we can assume that any outbreak Sam is called in to investigate can be some pretty scary shit.

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(Clyde note: In 1999, the World Health Organization (WHO for all you abbreviation nitpickers) began its level alert system. Level 4 is listed as containment of the new virus in a limited area or delay of its spread." Still, it is also acknowledged that the virus is contagious among humans. A Level 5 alert signals that the pandemic has begun. But these standards weren't issued until four years after the release of Outbreak.) 
Biohazard Levels

More importantly, we now know that Morgan Freeman's voice belongs to Sam's superior officer, and his name is Billy. The following day when we see his gazillion stripes, medals, and stars, we discover that Billy is one hot-shot army guy who officially goes by the name of Brigadier General Billy Ford (No relation to Gerald or Henry Ford). They are friendly enough, almost like old-school buddies. But looks can be deceiving. 
What have I ever done to make your life miserable 0001What have I ever done to make your life miserable 0002

Blood and pusUnder Orders
Along on this mission with Sam is Casey Shuler and wet behind-the-ears tissue sample guy Major Salt (Cuba Gooding Jr.) The three are dumped into an African village eerily similar to the one we saw at the film's beginning, with the now familiar bloated and bleeding corpses included.

There is one significant difference. This time the virus "seems" to be contained, which means no fireball shooting like a cannonball from out of the sky, bright as a rose, gleaming its eye, exploding, and blowing villagers to kingdom come and beyond. The reason the virus is contained? Everybody who had it is already dead or near death. It is a mess that causes Major Salt to make a huge mistake, but since the virus is not airborne (yet), it's no harm, no foul.

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After collecting some samples, Sam, Casey, and Major Salt returned home to study the virus. But as Sam says, a brand new virus is something you may only see once in a lifetime. For all you Covid people, we've now seen one.

Casey Schuler: I hate this bug. 
Colonel Sam Daniels: Oh, come on, Casey. You have to admire its simplicity. It's one billionth our size and it's beating us. 
Casey Schuler: So, what do you want to do, take it to dinner? 
Colonel Sam Daniels: No. 
Casey Schuler: What, then? 
Colonel Sam Daniels: Kill it.

When Sam reported that the Motaba virus "seemed" contained, it's with good reason that he wasn't any more definite. He wants officials to issue an alert to be on the safe side in case he's wrong. Just because it was contained in the Motaba village does not mean the virus didn't escape somewhere, someway, or somehow.

Like in a Capuchin Monkey in Zaire on vacation from South America. And then perhaps that disease-carrying little bastard is netted and carried off to be used for lab experiments in the U.S.      

Monkey
Once in California, what if the animal were carted away by Jimbo McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) to be sold in a pet shop. And then, let's suppose Jimbo gets covered in monkey spit. The pet shop owner he's trying to sell the animal to gets scratched by one really pissed-off miniature ape when he decides not to buy the animal. And finally, Jimbo McDreamy, unable to sell the little fellow, lets it loose in the California wilderness just before catching a flight to Boston to lay a big old wet smooch on his girlfriend. Bye, bye, Miss American Pie.

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Meanwhile, back at the USAMRIID ranch, we finally learn the identity of Donald Sutherland's voice. He is Major General Donald McClintock and outranks everybody except maybe God, The President, and The Pope. This guy is such an asshole, though. He probably thinks he's in charge of them too.     

Since the 1960's when McClintock ordered the wipeout of the village in Zaire, turning it into the world's most giant wienie roast ever, the Major General and Billy have been doing some things that weren't entirely on the up and up. And let's not forget the fact that genocide, even on a small scale, isn't part of any Treaty I've ever heard of.

These guys have been secretly experimenting with the original Motaba, hoping to develop a new biological weapon. And along the way, they created a serum that they've secretly kept in a vault for thirty years as if it were the body of Ted Williams which can prevent the spread of the little booger. And as it turns out, the virus is the same as the strain Sam brought back from Africa.

Pretty soon, the shit hits the fan. The disease spreads from one carrier to the next. Jimbo gives it to his girlfriend, a lab assistant carelessly checking blood samples, breaks a vial of blood, then passes the disease on to patrons of a movie theater in the town of Cedar Creek. The President must decide whether to eliminate the village from the California landscape, and as Porky Pig might say, "bida bida bida bida bida, that's all folks."
Big SmoochSplatCough

Billy and his buddy, General McClintock, are more interested in protecting their own asses (think DeSantis/Trump and a slew of other Republicans and crackpots) than how many people will die in Cedar Creek. McClintock orders Billy to send Sam, his best pandemic specialist, off to take care of a situation already under control. To keep Sam out of Cedar Creek because if anyone could figure out what they had been up to for thirty years, Sam could. But Sam has this thing about following orders when there is obviously some underlying motive to keep him in the dark.
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If you're sure that the good friendly folks of Cedar Creek will be spared in the end, then you need to have a refresher course in 60's doomsday films like this one. When push comes to shove, President, whomever it may be, won't want that stuff creeping across the White House lawn to nail his ass. Especially when you have McClintock convincing you that the only way out is to blow Cedar Creek all to hell, the sick along with the ones not yet ill. What?  You think the Constitution is going to protect you when there’s politicians and their hand-picked Corporate Supreme Court Justices out there shitting on it day after day?
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All the characters in Outbreak are exceptionally well written, especially for a film that is simply another disaster movie at its heart. Dustin Hoffman is quite surprising in a role entirely different from anything else he has done. He is intense, rebellious, knowledgeable, and, when necessary, a decent action hero. However, he'll never be compared to Harrison Ford, who was initially planned for the role. But I don't see Ford as the scientific type, so it balances out. Sammy is everything we expect our hero to be, except that he should have been nicer to his ex-wife Robbie.

Rene Russo, as his ex, is good too. She is more sensible and down to Earth than Hoffman, yet not so much so that she would let such a dangerous threat as this virus fall entirely under the radar. When Sam pleas with her to ask for an alert to be called, she hesitates but does it anyway, knowing that while her ex might be an asshole when it comes to relationships, he's usually right on the money when it comes to interacting with microscopic particles.

Kevin Spacey isn't given much to do initially, but this is early in his career, and he is the third banana. But he has a heartbreaking scene with Russo late in the game in Cedar Creek. One thing, though, and it really annoyed me throughout the film. Spacey has the weirdest crappiest hair coloring and haircut I've ever seen in a movie. So throw a few raspberries to the hairstylist. As for his career 28 years later, Spacey seems to have permanently fucked up that with his perverted tendency to sexually assault people.  

Cuba Gooding Jr. is as good in this film as he would be a year later in Jerry Maguire, for which he won an Oscar by yelling, "Show me the money."

In fact, it's almost as if he's auditioning for the part of Rod Tidwell. Too bad his film selection since winning that statue has pretty much sucked, not to mention that he took a page out of the Kevin Spacey handbook of sexual assault. Maybe these guys should have gotten together and blamed the after-effects of Motaba.

Donald Sutherland, whom Writer, director, and producer Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers), who worked with Sutherland on the Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie, once referred to Donald Sutherland as being a dick. A nice anecdote from Whedon, a guy who turned out to be an obnoxious, sexist dick himself.

But one thing is sure, Sutherland can play a dick better than anybody. For reference, see his villainy in The Hunger Games Trilogy

Morgan Freeman has the more difficult task. He has to play a dick with a conscience who knows he's doing some messed up shit but has to follow orders because Sutherland has more stripes on his sleeves. As to whether or not Billy can redeem himself in the end, that remains to be seen. Billy's actions could be why he got sent to Shawshank for an extended stay.   

Many aspects of Outbreak are genuinely frightening. The film opens with one of the most devastating scenes I've ever witnessed, alerting us to the dangers we are about to face. We know beforehand what the result will be when the monkey scratches the pet store owner, and we immediately begin to cringe at the thought, just as we do when the monkey is set free. Other terrifying scenes deal with how the virus rapidly spreads and begins to infect the population. Wolfgang Petersen's adept direction never lets the film linger, keeping things moving along at a rapid pace while at the same time not forgetting to focus on his actors whenever possible. It's much better than Poseidon, where he seemed to be going through the motions.

One of the more remarkable scenes is the one in the Cedar Creek theater, which shows the virus spreading from one victim to the next. Later, when Sam tries to figure out how the virus has spread beyond the quarantined hospital rooms, he looks up at the vent. As the camera takes us through the duct into the other hospital room, Sam realizes the virus has mutated, can now travel through the air, and that Billy's super secret vaccine isn't going to cure that shit now.
Quit Smoking
Nothing is spared from us as we see the disease's devastating effects on those who become infected. It is all these things that make Outbreak such a good film, much of which the credit for can go not only to Peterson but to Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and the many makeup artists and special effects wizards who worked on the film, with an excellent cast that took the subject matter seriously instead of just collecting a paycheck.  

Outbreak is an excellent scary what would happen if... film made more terrifying because everything that occurs is a real threat.

After Covid, it is now inevitable. Making matters worse, we now have a significant segment of anti-vax nut cases in this country led by jackasses like Trump Monster, and total nutcases like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Lauren Bozo Boebert, and Trailer Trash Marjorie Taylor Greene would help to do us in. Kennedy Jr.'s father is rolling over in his grave at his son's bullshit.

Those thoughts alone should be enough to keep you glued to your seat. And if a film such as Outbreak can keep us edgy and tense while reminding us that it may be fiction, but it's also a probable fact, then I have no choice but to give it a grade of A.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Live From Beautiful Downtown Haddonfield, Illinois Clyde’s Movie Palace Presents: Halloween (1978)

    
Reviewing a classic film held in high esteem can be a no win scenario. If it’s a film you really love, you may have a tendency to go on and on like a gushing school boy declaring your undying devotion as if you were Mary Kay Letourneau
longing for heartthrob Vili Fualaau from your jail cell.

On the other hand, maybe you don’t quite see what the big deal is and decide to offer up maybe just a teensy weensy little speck of criticism, or maybe even trash it altogether.  I could do this and probably will when and if I ever get around to reviewing certain films which have had cinematic greatness bestowed on them for all eternity for whatever reason.  At which time all the fan boys will descend on me like locusts letting me know I am not entitled to any opinion but theirs.

Halloween 0001What does all this have to do with John Carpenter’s Halloween? Maybe something, maybe nothing. It’s just that there are some movies where everything that can be said about them has already been said, in a book, in a documentary, or written as commentary on every film discussion board worth its salt that proliferates the internet. The original Halloween is no exception.

In case you’re one of the ½ of 1 percent of the population who doesn’t know the story or maybe a member of the One Million Moms Organization who’ve never seen it because you might go into shock over P.J. Sole’s exposed breasts, here’s a quick rundown.

A very young boy, Michael Myers, (Will Sandin) comes home on Halloween just as his teenage sister (Sandy Johnson) is preparing to do the bump and grind with her boyfriend (David Kyle). (How young is Michael? We’ll get to that, just bear with me.) Or maybe he was always at home just hiding in the shadows until the pumpkin credits finally fade out.

In the amount of time it takes for sis and her sex starved young lover to go upstairs, hop into the bed, then hop out of the bed, and for the boyfriend to kiss and run, Young Mr. Myers takes a knife from the kitchen cabinet, heads upstairs, slips on his clown mask and lovingly greets sis by stabbing the shit out of her. (How long was it before he went upstairs and how old was he that he was able to overpower his sister so easily? We’ll get to that, just bear with me.)

He then heads back downstairs to greet Mom Myers and Pop Myers, who rip his mask off so we can see his blank cold deadly stare of pure evil as the camera pulls backwards until we fade out. (What is Ma and Pa Kettle’s reaction to their son standing there with a bloody kitchen knife? We’ll get to that, just bear with me.)

Flash forward fifteen years minus one day later. Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) and Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) are headed to the State Hospital to pick up Michael for a hearing required by law that will determine if he’s now sane enough to be set free. But Mikey, being of not so sound mind and inhabited by the spirits of Richard Speck, John Wayne Gacy, and Jeffrey Dahmer, knows his chances of being set free to walk the streets of Illinois are roughly equivalent to that of having angels fly out of his ass. So he decides to head out on his own in the same automobile that Loomis and the nurse had arrived in.

Having been locked up for fifteen years, how did Michael learn to drive? Well, funny you should ask because someone else asks Loomis the same question. And although he has no explanation it’s a pretty good come back just the same:


Dr. Loomis, having taken care of The Honorable Michael Myers for a decade and a half, is pretty damn sure he’s headed back to Haddonfield, the All-American City that spawned him in the first place, to practice his craft a little further. Understandable when you consider the fact that he has so little other skills beyond stealing state issued automobiles.

Halloween 3 movie collectionHe commences to stalking the babysitter’s club, whose members are  Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), Annie Brackett (Nancy Kyes (Loomis), and Lynda van der Klok (P.J. Soles). Technically only two of them are doing any babysitting on this particular night, but who knows what Lynda is up to the rest of the week. What other skills could she possibly have besides drinking beer, making out with her boyfriend, drinking more beer, and making out with her boyfriend some more? Come to think of it, I wouldn’t hire her as a babysitter either. I guess Laurie is our go to girl.

While Mikey is stealthily sneaking around his old neighborhood haunts by driving the stolen state vehicle up and down the streets as if he’s just back from Daytona, Dr. Loomis heads to Haddonfield to track him down, hopefully before Michael has a chance to brush up on his jack-o.lantern carving skills using Laurie, Annie, and Lynda as models.

And that’s about it. If you’ve seen the film, you know the rest of the story. If you haven’t you wouldn’t want me going into the rest of the gory details. So if you haven’t watched, you may want to stop reading right now and then come back later for our group discussion, consisting of me, more me, and mostly me, when you have something not so worthwhile to add.

I was watching the film for the umpteenth time a couple of nights ago, and it was a struggle to make it through the first twenty minutes or so. Maybe I was just tired. Perhaps I had seen it so many times that the thrill was long gone. I’m not sure. So while I watched, in between dozing off, I began to become irritated with some of the havoc caused by Mr. Michael Myer’s reunion with his Hometown of Haddonfield.

For instance, my recent review of The Best Little Whorehouse came to mind and the lyrics of the Charles Durning song stuck in my head:

“Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don't-

I've come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,

Cut a little swathe and lead the people on”

The above verse would pop into my head every time Sir Michael Myers would step in and out of the shadows. Look! He’s outside the school window! Oh crap, no he’s not. Look! He’s behind the shrubbery! Oh damn, no he’s not. Look! He’s mingling with my bed sheets! Oh hell, no he’s not. Look! The bogeyman is standing next to the baby-sitter's house! Oh heck, no he’s not.  This guy has more disappearing acts than David Copperfield.  Observe this picture montage that I literally spent hours putting together.  Yes, you may hum the Halloween theme as you scroll.:    


You can stop with the humming any time.

It would seem Myers can move pretty damn fast when he has a mind to. He only seems to slow down when he’s getting ready to stick a butcher knife into your gut or cut an extra airway into your windpipe. In that case he comes at his victims with all the speed, subtlety, and grace of Boris Karloff running from the villagers in Frankenstein. And you know how that ended. Yep, you guessed it: endless Frankenstein sequels, remakes and rip offs, just like it did with this film.

And then there’s this. At 3 minutes and 15 seconds into the movie, Judith Myers (Michael’s sister. She does have a name lest we forget) heads upstairs with her unnamed boyfriend (who doesn’t have a name lest we forget) to do the nasty. At 4 minutes and and 30 seconds, with no cuts and the camera never straying from young Michael’s point of view, the boyfriend is already coming down the stairs putting his shirt on.

That’s what I call a quickie! Hell, why even bother with the trip upstairs to the bedroom when you’re that fast? This lad was so fast he must be an embarrassment to teenage boys all over the planet! This guy is so fast, he makes Roadrunner look like he’s standing stationary. This guy is so fast, that if he had run against Secretariat in the Belmont, Secretariat would have been looking at this boy’s ass fifty lengths from the finish line. This guy is.....oh never mind. You get my point.


When I originally posted this review, one reader dared to challenge me on how I knew if they had even had sex.  Let me see, the boy comes down the stairs getting his clothes back on and Judith is upstairs totally nude brushing her hair.  I don’t think they were up there discussing the merits of 70’s disco.

Then there’s the fact that Michael is only six years old when he carves up dear old sis. We know this to be true because later in the movie Dr. Loomis talks about him having been six when he started treating him.

Now I don’t know about you but even if I were a sixteen but more likely a seventeen year old female and some six year old pint sized little shit comes at me with a knife, he may get one whack at it and then that little fucker is going to be flying across the room and out a second story window. And I don’t care if Judith is just a horny teenage girl with a fast boyfriend. Look how many stabs it took Norman Bates to put the hammer down on Marion Crane.  And he was an adult.


Yeah I know, easy for me to say. I’m not the one being hacked and maybe that first whack was right on target severing her spinal chord, thus incapacitating her and all the arm waving was just a nervous reaction. Sort of like farting after you’re dead.

You know, the proverbial lucky shot. Anything’s possible. Frankly, I just think he was pissed because the boyfriend did some nasty things with that clown mask in the 1 minute and 15 seconds he was up in the bedroom. I’d be pissed too but I still wouldn’t hack my sister up.

And what was the deal with those parents? I mean, they see the bloody knife in his hands and the look on his face and all they can do is say, “Michael!” and then stand there like a couple of clueless dolts waiting for the scene to fade out. I mean, I half expected them to say,

“What do you have to say for yourself Beaver and what did you do with Wally?”



And if you’re like me and have seen this movie endless times, don’t you get just the least bit irritated when a certain someone drops that knife towards the end of the movie? I know you do. Don’t lie.

And then the dumb ass turns around and does it a second time as sort of an ode to Jacqueline Susann’s Once is Not Enough.



I originally saw Halloween at a drive-in with my girlfriend, soon to be wife, soon to be ex-wife in South Point Ohio many summers ago. And the fact that I’ve seen it so many times since and know the details as well as I do is actually a testament to it’s staying power. I’m no longer scared when I watch it, and I’m sure much of today’s audiences are so jaded by the torture porn of films like Hostel and Saw that they would hardly understand what the fuss is all about especially considering how bloodless Halloween is by comparison.

But yet, I viewed it with my youngest son last Halloween, and many of the scenes made him jump, so I guess having the bogeyman come out when you least expect it and say boo still gets the job done, and this film did it better than most especially when you consider it’s miniscule budget of $300,000 which even in 1978 dollars was a mere pittance. The film went on to gross over fifty million dollars upon it’s release.

The reason the film works is not because we watch a serial killer on a prowl, it’s because director/writer John Carpenter and co-writer producer Debra Hill puts us in the house and makes us the victim as much as his cast of hapless teenagers. Is Michael in the kitchen or isn’t he? Is he behind the bushes or isn’t he? Is he mingling with the drying clothes or isn’t he? Just as Laurie is unsure of her own senses, we become doubtful of ours as well. Is what we are seeing in her imagination, or is it the Boogeyman, able to fade in and out as he pleases?

There is one scene in this film that I am in awe of to this day. At one point Laurie is standing next to a darkened room. A Closet or something.  Michael seems to appear out of nothingness and we begin to question whether or not we had seen him there all along. But our attention is so focused on Laurie that we can never be sure. And it happens every time I watch this movie.  Observe:


Likewise, when in the living room of the house across the street, we know just as Laurie does that Michael has gotten in through an open window. We can hear him breathing somewhere nearby, but like Laurie, we never know exactly where he is lurking. And remember, before Halloween, indestructible human killers were a rare thing unless they were man made monsters stitched together in a laboratory being chased into a windmill owned by Universal Pictures.


The casting of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie was either a stroke of luck or genius, depending on how you look at this. She’s young, fresh, and brings just the right feel to a character that is supposed to be na├»ve and innocent, unlike Lynda and Annie who are as horny as Michael’s sister was years ago. Or if you insist, Laurie’s  a goody two shoes.

Donald Pleasance brings a certain amount of over the top scenery chewing gravitas to the character of Dr. Loomis, making him unforgettable in an odd sort of way. I guess. If you mention Donald Pleasance to someone they’ll always think of his role in the Halloween Movies.  In my case, I think of him as Dr. Loomis this film, as Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, or as Dr. Michaels in Fantastic Voyage where he was unceremoniously devoured by a white corpuscle.

There is another actor in this film that I haven’t mentioned. Much in the way that Jaws would have been a different film without John Williams menacing shark theme, Carpenter’s score for this film works to perfection in it’s ominous simplicity. It serves to enhance the relentlessness of Michael Myers, much in the same way that William’s shark score let us know someone was about to become fish bait.


It’s easy for me to have a little fun at the expense of Halloween, but there is no denying it’s impact on horror films and the craftsmanship that went into it. And sure, some of the things in the initial twenty minutes don’t stand up to scrutiny, and at times it’s low budget flaws are glaring. 

All the trees are green as is the grass although it is supposed to be late fall.  But Carpenter blew a bag of dead leaves around to try to overcome that.  At one point, when Annie and Laurie are driving to babysit, it suddenly switches from daylight to dark even though they only drove a couple of block. 

But who cares? That’s part of the charm of this film.  It succeeded with almost nothing but the desire to make a good film.  It’s a horror film, and despite its flaws, when it gets down to business it succeeds on every level leaving me no choice but to grant it a score of an A..

This closing moment, one of the greatest and most memorable two lines ever spoken in any horror film, is worth the A by itself. Not to mention that it’s the best possible way to close out this review. Happy Halloween, y’all. Stay safe.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

From High Atop the Comet Kahoutek Clyde’s Movie Palace Presents: Deep Impact (1998)

Blank Movie Marquee 0003The Cast of Deep ImpactDirector
There is no doubt about it. We are doomed. There are giant comets and meteors in the far reaches of space with Earth's name on it, heading toward us and ready to wipe out the whole piss-ant human population. And a few million years after us, a new species will grow and evolve, perhaps more intelligent than us, with no Fascist Republicans allowed to stupefy whatever species may exist.

Deep Impact 4kHow do I know all of this? Because the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Movies tells us that this is so. In 1998 they told us twice. The first time was when the Wolf–Beiderman comet started worrying us in May. It was produced by the friendly folks of Paramount.

The second entry in the Hollywood Encyclopedia, a meteor named "Dottie," came crashing noisily into cinemas in early July, courtesy of the Touchstone Division of Disney Studios. This was fitting as the Disney Powers That Be Comet would obliterate Touchstone in 2007 and relegate most of its movies to disintegrate into dust in some Disney Vault whose location is top secret.  Recently, these films  have been joined by the 20th Century Fox Library, which was purchased for the pittance of over 70 billion dollars bought by Disney solely to suffer the same fate.

But being a planet of people of Hollywood High Hopes, there is always a last-minute plan to save us all from death, destruction, and one helluva mess to clean up.

Deep Impact opens with a group of students, including Leo Biederman (Elijah Wood), studying the skies through telescopes. Leo discovers what looks to be a comet, although his soon-to-be girlfriend, Sarah Hotchner (Leelee Sobieski), disputes that.

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To settle this boy/girl love is in the air astrological dispute, they send it off to Dr. Marcus Wolf (Charles Martin Smith), who confirms that Leo is correct, that it is indeed a comet, and the prize is Biederman gets his name on it along with Wolf, and they will be famous until the end of days, which as it turns out, comes sooner for Dr. Wolf rather than later.

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Wolf-Biedermann Comet
Wolf discovers that the comet is on a direct collision course with the 3rd Rock From the Sun aka Earth and it's soon going to be bye-bye human race. But in his haste to get the information to the president, Wolfie meets up with a careless chain-smoking truck driver, and while his name will carry on for the remainder of the two-hour running time, he won't. Bye-bye, Wolf Pie.

Truck crashThanks to an irrepressible, relentless ace reporter, Lois Lane Jenny Lerner (Tea Leoni), and a lecture from President Beck (Morgan Freeman), we and she find out that Secretary of the Treasury Alan Rittenhouse (James Cromwell) does not have a mistress named Ellie but that the E.L.E. everyone is talking about stands for Extinction Level Event. Ruh-roh.

President Lecture 0001ELE

There are, however, a few plans in the works. There is always a plan. We, along with our friends, The Russians (Ha!), have been building the world's most enormous ever spacecraft, The Messiah, although calling it the Jee-Bus would have been much more fun.
President 0001President 0002
There will be five American astronauts and one Russian. Among the Americans is Spurgeon Tanner (Robert Duvall), who is not only older than God but the only one on board to have landed on another celestial body. Their mission, which they have no choice but to accept, is to land on the comet, insert a nuclear missile, and take off back into space while blowing it all to shit. Sounds easy, doesn't it? It never is.

Astronauts

Comet Landing
And there is a backup plan as well if the Messiah mission fails. That plan is to herd a few hundred thousand lucky (unlucky?) souls into some caves in some Neverland that will survive the initial impacts. If they live through that, they can find out the joys of staying in perpetual darkness while drinking Enfamil day after day and then wander out of the cave years later as either Cannibalistic Morlocks or Eloi, the main course of the Morlocks. I know, that last part happens in a different movie, but learn your film heritage. There will be a quiz.

President 0003
Meanwhile, here on Earth, the human dramas take place. Jenny's father, Jason (Maximilian Schell), has divorced Jenny's Mother, Robin (Vanessa Redgrave), and has just got him a new cow gal named Chloe (Rya Kihlstedt). Jenny is not too crazy about her stepmother either. As for Robin, she's still determining if she wants anything to do with The Big Bang Theory Part 2. And no, that does not reference Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, and the gang. You can fill in the blanks yourself.

Jenny and Chloe
Having discovered the comet and now a big celebrity, Leo has a guaranteed spot as a cave dweller, so he decides now may be an excellent time to connect the dots and marry Sarah and take her along for the ride with the rest of his family and hers except as you'll find out, he makes a slight miscalculation.

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I can't tell you how all of this turns out. If you've seen the movie, you already know.

At the time of their release, Armageddon and Deep Impact were pretty much drubbed by the critics, with Armageddon scoring 43% and Deep Impact scoring 45%. One can appreciate Deep Impact more for its humanistic approach to the story, no matter how often Bruce Willis blows himself up in Armageddon.

It's probably unfair of me to write criticism of Armageddon without a full review, but I will do it anyway. For many reasons, a lot of which have to do with Michael Bay's over-the-top ham-handed direction, from the first time I saw Armageddon when I took my sons to a theater to see it, I was not too fond of it. And to this day, I despise the movie enough that if I were to list what I think are the ten or twenty worst movies I've ever seen, Armageddon would be there. I'll do a full review someday.

It's not that Deep Impact exactly blew me away. I was kind of meh about it the first time I saw it. Remember, these end-of-the-world-by-comet scenarios came after many of us had seen a little television movie called The Day After (Now out of print, you snooze you lose), which let us all know that after an Atomic War, we are pretty much screwed. So choose your destruction: A wayward comet (meteor) or nuclear bombs blowing the planet all to hell and filling the atmosphere with radiation poisoning. You tell me which is more affecting. There isn't no Messiah spaceship to save us from that.

That being said, Deep Impact has made me appreciate it more now. The human side of the story puts anything in Armageddon to shame. I can't go too deep into it without giving away too much (although I have been known to do that occasionally). I'll only say that in one film, millions die. In another, they don't. We have a great cast in one movie that can act; in the other, we don't. 

Deep Impact now comes to us on a sparkling new 4k release I viewed in my home theater before writing this review. I highly recommend it.  You can watch clips from my theater below from my Instagram account Why aren’t you following me?). I highly recommend the disc, and if you don't have a 4k player, it comes with a bluray you can use until you get one or buy a PS5 or XBoxX, which also plays the 4k format. 

So before the comet hits, and while I still have time, I'll simply say that Deep Impact has found its way to a B- score but the 4k Disc is an A. That’ll do, right James Cromwell?

And as coincidences go, this popped up in my Facebook feed so if you like this sort of thing, have at it.  Go to their youtube and buy them a cookie. They appear to be doing a lot better than I am in that regards.