Francis Ford Coppola’s feverish anti-war epic Apocalypse Now actually began its journey to screen in the late sixties when Über-macho filmmaker John Milius attempted to meet the challenge presented to him when he was informed that no one had successfully adapted Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, although several had tried, including luminaries such as Orson Welles. His original screenplay was true to Milius’s conservative, pro-military outlook, containing a great deal of praise for the warrior lifestyle and nothing but contempt for the hippies he saw protesting against the Vietnam War.
The Frisco Kid is a genial comedy desperately in search of a narrative thread. This story of a hapless Polish rabbi (Gene Wilder) finding his way across the American Old West with the help of a genial bank robber (Harrison Ford) has a good heart and some funny moments, but no sense of direction. It hits the high points of western clichés, like train robbers, Chinese railroad workers, a hanging posses, horse being spooked by a rattlesnake and a climatic showdown on a dusty street. The real problem is that the central relationship, between Wilder’s Rabbi Avram Belinski and Ford’s Tommy Lillard, has no story arc. They meet, they bicker, they reach San Francisco.
In a lot of ways, the Muppets were the Looney Tunes of their generation, seemingly directed at small children but operating at a gleefully subversive level of sophistication that goes right over the kids’ heads and straight for the hearts of their parents. Their first feature length film plays like an extended big-screen version of their late-seventies television show. This is a good thing.
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.”