Stanley Kramer’s second courtroom drama starring Spencer Tracy in as many years is mostly an actor’s tour de force, but surprisingly not for the film’s nominal stars, Tracy and Burt Lancaster. Both of these veterans step back and let a handful of others take center screen. The talent pool is so deep in this film that the fifth-billed actor, Maximilian Schell, took home a Best Actor Oscar, the deepest that award has gone into a film’s “bench.”
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The film is a heavily fictionalized version of the actual Judges Trial during the Nuremberg Trials after World War II. Continue reading
This movie sadly got overshadowed by the much more popular Galaxy Quest, which went into general release later in the same year. Both were affectionate spoofs/tributes to the phenomenon of Star Trek fandom, although Free Enterprise’s targets cover a broader spectrum of popular culture. That’s also the film’s chief flaw, a lack of discipline and a need for some editing.
Even though Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country effectively passed the torch to the Next Generation cast, the powers that be at Paramount apparently decided that the torch needed even more passing.
My guess is that Rick Berman lacked the faith that the new cast could carry a film franchise without an assist from the original show. Whether that position has any merit is debatable, but the end result was Star Trek: Generations, whose merit is equally debatable.
After being tripped up by their own mistake of letting William Shatner direct a Star Trek feature, the powers-that-be at Paramount did the only wise thing: They brought back Nicholas Meyer, director of installment number two, The Wrath of Khan, still the gold standard among the ten Star Trek movies.
While this sixth movie doesn’t rise to the same level of Khan, it comfortably leaps into second place among the Trek feature films. Continue reading
Star Trek: The Motion Picture‘s spiralling production costs and lukewarm reviews must have left a cold feeling in pit of the Paramount brass’ collective stomachs. Fortunately the box office returns were good enough to justify at least thinking about a sequel. If nothing else, it would help amortize the production costs of the first film across more than one movie.
To keep costs in check, they assigned the film to their television production division. To direct, they hired Nicholas Meyer, whose only other directorial credit to date was the well-received thriller, Time After Time. Both decisions proved fortuitous. Literate, focused and not awed by the Star Trek legacy, Meyer proved to be just the hand to keep the film on course.
Day four of my own little Robert Wise Film Festival
The most common complaint about the more recent Next Generation Star Trek movies is that they seemed more like run-of-the-mill TV episodes shot on a big-screen budget. While a valid criticism, this is most literally true of this first cinematic outing for Gene Roddenberry’s then-cult television hit.
The plot for Star Trek: The Motion Picture borrows liberally from the original series episode called “The Changeling,” about a space probe named Nomad that comes back, vastly enhanced by some alien race and programmed with a low tolerance point for human imperfection. At the time of its release, some retitled the film, “Where Nomad Has Gone Before.”
The similarity to an existing story is only one weakness. Continue reading