>>> Click here for the RMC FAQ'N RULES <<<


Your August Unrandom Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: There's No Place On Earth To Hide!


Pizza: Numero Uno


Before I yap about the movie, let me tell you about a fictional scenario I've had swimming in my head for around 15 years now. I'm sitting at a conference table with Sean Connery and a bunch of studio suits. I'm in the middle of pitching a movie when Connery chimes in - "wouldn't it be better if they took a taxi instead of the bus?" I wait a beat, put my pen down in disgust, then slowly turn my head towards him and say, "Shut up you dumb bastard. You made METEOR for chrissakes, you don't get to tell me what happens in my movie." So now, every single time someone mentions Sean Connery, all I can think of is this "dumb bastard" mind-play of mine. Hey, now that it's in writing, perhaps you too will start thinking "dumb bastard" whenever Sean Connery is mentioned.

In 1979, while walking through Times Square, I was handed a button for the movie METEOR. I was probably walking by a theater where it had just opened, although in 1970's NYC, it could have been some stray nutcase who minted his own METEOR buttons and decided Times Square would be a fine place to distribute them. Whatever the case, that moment of movie marketing certainly paid off for its studio, for a mere 30 years later I would sit down and watch METEOR.

Sean Connery in METEOR
Back in 1979, Sean Connery had his hands full dealing with the rock. No, I don't mean the Michael Bay/Nic Cage crapfest, I'm talking a whole different kind of crapfest - a movie called METEOR. This movie is in no way related to the 2009 two-nighter TV movie event also called METEOR. Or to DEEP IMPACT. Or to ARMAGEDDON.

It was movies like METEOR that banged the nail in the coffin of the Irwin Allen-y disaster movies. These outings, fully loaded with marquee names, became pop-uber-lar in the 1970s. I think it all began with the AIRPORT franchise (where they cast Dean Martin as a...pilot!). But after nearly a decade of being shaked 'n baked, the genre simply played out.

METEOR features an all-star cast including Henry Fonda, Karl Malden, Natalie Wood, Brian Keith, Joseph Campanella and The Dumb Bastard. The movie's opening is right out of a 1960's film-strip, giving us a quick astronomy lesson that we don't need. It's not that we're smart, it's that these facts don't really matter ("Thousands of fragments. Some as small as a fist, some as large as a city..."). And it's at this moment, before we meet a single human, even before the cheesy title sequence is flashed on the screen, that the movie loses me. You see, without perspective, an inanimate rock just looks like an inanimate rock. Sure, they can tell us it's five miles long, but really, it's just a rock...and a rock isn't scary no matter how many Korg music stings they cue up. A man in a rubber meteor suit would have been more threatening.

NASA sends a ship to watch a comet pass through an asteroid belt, but instead, it hits the large rock (Orpheus) and shatters into pieces, destroying the ship. So they recruit Dr. Paul Bradley (Connery), who left NASA five years ago after being in charge of the secret nuclear missile space project known as Hercules. But firing these missiles at the meteor isn't enough. I know this because President Henry Fonda said so. Now to me, an arsenal of nuclear missiles shot into a five mile-wide meteor seems likely to do the job, but what do I know? I was distracted in my high school Science class by Lauren, the girl sitting in front of me.

Anyway, their plan comes up short. But wait, don't the Russians have their version of Hercules missiles called Peter The Great? Can the US of A and the USS of R admit to each other (and the world) that they have these projects and band together during the Cold War to save the world?
Natalie Wood in METEOR
And can it all be done in five days? And while they're at it, is five days enough time for an office romance between Dr. Bradley and Tatiana Nikolaevna Donskaya (Natalie Wood), the hot-ass-trophy-sicist of Russia's pointman Dr. Alexei Dubov's (Brian Keith). Why not? Why can't Americans and Russians flirt? If the world was going to end, I'd be hitting on everything, starting with Lauren from Science class, though I bet she looks different now. I'm bound to be disappointed. Plus I doubt that she remembers me. We never talked, I don't think. Man, maybe I should have said something? It's always so easy to look back and want to do things differently. But who am I kidding? I probably still wouldn't say anything even if a meteor was heading towards the school.

Okay, so America and Russia getting in bed together as played out by Connery getting some Wood isn't the only statement that METEOR hits you over the head with. For instance, minutes after the TV news announces the end of the world, the people in the bar are back to watching the football game. I'd like to think the movie was making a statement, but I'm not so sure. Also, the meteor is due to strike on the same day that lives on in infamy.

Trying to get the Russians on board isn't the only obstacle. Major Aldon (Martin Landau) doesn't want the Russkies in his secret government missile installation, located under New York City. Maybe he's just bitter because President Fonda gave full command of his control center to The Dumb Bastard.

So METEOR has conflicts, a love story, and a big fake rock. What it doesn't have is any sort of excitement. And sure, it was pre-CGI effects, but come on, I made Super 8 films when I was 11 that had better effects. And to add insult to insult, some effects were stock, like the avalanche that incorporates footage from the movie AVALANCHE, in theaters just fourteen months earlier. And those numerous lengthy shots of plastic models! I am here to tell you that METEOR's effects are so horrendous, they are almost as bad as the ones in SUPERGIRL. But really, what can you expect from a movie that gives a full-screen end-credit to Sybil Danning?

The one moment in the movie that had any emotion, though it was not their intent, was watching the World Trade Center get destroyed (that happens in ARMAGEDDON, too). And that's with an effect that looked as if somebody's mother turned the light on in the lab while they were developing the film.

You'd think director Ronald Neame (who turns 100 next year), the man who made THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE a few years earlier, would have had this formula down, but he forgot the treacle, essential to any disaster movie. METEOR was produced by Samuel Arkoff, around the time his American International Pictures was releasing more "legitimate" fare like MAD MAX and C.H.O.M.P.S. John Williams was meant to do the music, but he didn't. Perhaps he saw the movie first.

You know, when push comes to shove, I really don't know why everyone was all batshit about a five-mile meteor. ARMAGEDDON's meteor was "the size of Texas." What a bunch of babies people were in the 1970s. A bunch of babies and one dumb bastard.


Oh how I love PLANET OF THE APES. I saw the movie in the theater when I was 11 and was hooked for life. I stayed in the theater and saw it two more times (those were the days when you could do that). A year later I read the book. Sure, I didn't get the movie's political (even referencing HUAC) and racial underpinnings (neither did the studio, the story goes), but that's what's so brilliant about it. There are so many levels this movie works on. And come on, Rod Serling's idea for the money shot ending? What...in the top five endings of all time? But get this, author Pierre Boulle hated the ending so much he wrote a letter to the studio.

And that's just one tidbit you get in this 30 minute doc on how POTA became a book, a movie, a franchise and an ancillary juggernaut. Narrated by James Brolin, who was up for the role of Cornelius, EVOLUTION OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is informative as well as fascinating. They run it on the Fox Movie Channel now and then, and it may be on a DVD as an extra feature, if you can get your stinkin' paws on it.

Feed Burner Subscribe in a reader

Powered byFeedBlitz

About ...

RMC email address
Old RMC Men

RMC is not affiliated with Rochester Midland Corporation, makers of fine restroom disinfecting fluids and urinal mats since 1888.


Powered by Pizza, Red Vines,
& 6 Different Kinds of Soda



This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from Random Movie Club. Make your own badge here.

((( Contribute to our Popcorn Fund! )))

Best Viewed With Firefox 2

Add to Google
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to Technorati Favorites!

eXTReMe Tracker