The wrap-up to the first trilogy (chronologically, not narratively) should have served as a warning of the pain we were to endure upon the release of the prequels twenty years later. All of the flaws that dogged episodes I through III were visible in Episode VI for anyone who cared to look.
Of course, back then we simply assumed that it was George Lucas unable to top the success of The Empire Strikes Back. Maybe he hired the wrong director in Richard Marquand or, as we have often seen in the case of movie trilogies, the filmmakers can’t always write an ending that lives up to the promise of what’s gone before.
Back when the Twilight Zone movie was made, the concept of turning TV shows into movies was still in its infancy. In 1983, you had two Star Trek movies and that Get Smart Nude Bomb monstrosity, so this attempt to bring Rod Serling’sclassic anthology series to the big screen was something of a novelty.
Unfortunately, any novelty value became permanently irrelevant on July 23, 1982, when actor Vic Morrow and two Vietnamese children were killed as an ill-advised helicopter stunt went tragically wrong. Even if John Landis’ segment had been the Citizen Kane of television-to-film adaptations, it would not have been worth the cost in human lives.
Sadly, none of the four segments or the overlong, unfunny introduction even came close to that standard.
I don’t know why, but over the years, the best films based on the works of Stephen King have been those based on material that didn’t fit into the stereotypical mold of the horror-meister, like Stand by Me, Misery and David Cronenerg’s adaptation of The Dead Zone. The straight spook-and-slash flicks have been cranked out by hacks who lean entirely on the gooey red stuff and toss King’s characterization and texture over the side. On the other end of the spectrum was Stanley Kubrick’s arid interpretation of The Shining, where the director’s distance from the material could be measured in light-years.
A lyrical but unsatisfying adaptation of Ray Bradbury‘s classic novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes is interesting more for the possibilities that were squandered than for the end results. Bradbury adapted the script himself, meaning that the novel’s language is kept intact. Unfortunately, Jack Clayton’s pedestrian direction, coupled with corporate meddling from Disney, undermine any artistry found in the author’s prose.
To Be or Not to Be is sort of an odd duck among Mel Brooks films. Aside from voice-over work and TV guest shots, it’s about his only major role in a film he didn’t write or direct. While long on slapstick, it’s the closest thing to serious that Brooks has been at any point of his career, dealing with the Nazi occupation of Poland and the Holocaust, however obliquely. It also has the most cohesive storyline of any Brooks film since Young Frankenstein.
I seem to remember, back in the summer of 1983, I liked this film a whole lot more than I did last Saturday night. In hindsight, the reason seems pretty clear and it’s just two words: nude yoga. The film’s famous peeping tom scene was more than enough to recommend the film to a gang of recent high school grads and aspiring frat rats.
However, twenty-three years hence I tend to demand a lot more from movies, even brainless action flicks. Things like plot logic and characters with more dimension than tissue paper actually matter to me.
I may be the last person of my generation to see A Christmas Story. I don’t know why it took me so long, but now having seen it, I humbly beseech all of you your forgiveness for not giving this classic a spin long ago.
This little gem of a movie accomplishes the not undifficult feat of presenting a warmhearted Christmas tale through a Normal Rockwell-esque lens without becoming unbearably treacly. Its nostagic adult’s take on child’s-eye view of Christmas is likely to give the most hard-hearted Scrooge a case of the giggles.
If nothing else, The Right Stuff could go down in history as the movie that could have elected a President. At a time when the Democratic party was looking for a viable candidate to challenge Ronald Reagan in 1984, the image of Ed Harris as John Glenn, the squeaky clean All-American with the can-do attitude filled them with hope that the real former astronaut turned senator could help them re-capture the White House. I think the film may have actually hurt Glenn in the long run. While he was an American hero, a capable senator and probably would have made an able president, to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, he’s no Ed Harris, at least not in the charisma department.
Unfortunately, all the focus on political ramifications had nothing to do with the actual film, which seemed to get lost in the shuffle. Too bad, because it’s one of the best films of the 1980s, taking real life personalities and molding them into something like a modern American myth.