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post #361 of 367 Old 09-12-2016, 03:59 AM
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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), directed by Leonard Nimoy.

Warning signs of a series going off the rails, with Star Trek IV as a case study:

  • Comedy: We are understandably suspicious when a series turns comic. I'm thinking of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies and some later episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It's especially perilous for science fiction if we suspect the writers don't know the genre, don't respect it, or are just tired of the creation and want to goof it up.

    A defense in this case: the original series had comedy episodes. The plot does not alter the characters, but rather exercises the ensemble in ways that fans love. It helps that this is not a battle or villain story. The previous two films had been serious and violent, and it was time for a change of tone. You can't keep making the same film over and over.

    It helps that it is actually often funny. Among the good bits:

    • Spock's creative swearing.
    • Chekov asking passers-by: "Can you direct me to the nuclear wessels?"
    • (Kirk is unable to pay for dinner) Gillian: "Don't tell me you don't use money in the 23rd century?" Kirk: "We don't!"
    • His expression when she kisses him off at the end.
  • Time travel: often a cheap, overused plot device. In this case the comedy helps: their insouciant unconcern for changing history, the Prime Directive (does that even apply?), and taking a woman from the past into the future.
  • Message: too heavy, too much lecturing can be deadly. In this case the eco concerns and homage to Greenpeace are stressed, but the setup is so clever and treatment light enough that it can work. That might depend on your mood.

Catherine Hicks, last seen in The Razor's Edge (1984), is the scientist who loves her whales. Her role is important, as she represents the viewers, including those fans who would rather be in the Trek reality rather than in their own. She reaches a point where she has to believe the unbelievable and make that leap of faith to save her whales. So do we earnestly hope that the optimistic Trek future might actually come to pass.

On a more modest scale, we also hope that any one entry in the Trek cannon does not spoil the whole Enterprise.


  • We have an original crew Trek film without the Enterprise, which is pretty amazing.
  • The space effects are only so-so (no budget) but I found the whale mock-ups to be rather good.
  • The surreal emergence from the timewarp is strange and I think endearing. How do you represent other dimensions where space, time and mind cross over and intersect in different ways?
  • Was some Higher Power applying the braking thrusters after both time jumps?
  • The hostile punk on the bus was their ILM liaison; he wrote and performed the music on the boom box.
  • They used a real plexiglas factory and a real nuclear powered aircraft carrier (although not the Enterprise).
  • Harve Bennett wrote the beginning and end, Nicholas Meyer wrote the San Francisco middle, revisiting his own earlier movie: Time After Time (1979).
  • Totally new score by Leonard Rosenman.
  • They say that there was never any studio planning for the movies, film to film. They'd make one, go to sleep for a year, then wake up and consider making another. So this trilogy was a happy accident.

Available on Blu-ray with two commentary tracks.

The first track is a happy rewatch with Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner. I don't remember ever hearing them together before, but they are obviously good pals. Nimoy talks more, but Shatner is more thoughtful than I expected. Both have serious eco-consciousness. They go silent sometimes.

The second is by two fans turned pro who worked on Star Trek (2009). They sometimes don't have a lot to say and have obvious gaps in Trek knowledge. They both think the "time travel by slingshot around the sun" was a new invention that needed to be explained. It was used twice in the original series, so I think you just accept it without explanation.

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post #362 of 367 Old 09-12-2016, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
[*]They used a real plexiglas factory and a real nuclear powered aircraft carrier (although not the Enterprise).
And a real aquarium - the gorgeous, then newly-minted Monterey Bay - for appropriate scenes. In the aerial shots, the whale pool was added to the structure using a matte painting or some other special effect technique. Right around the time of the movie's premiere, I visited the aquarium, where they were promoting the movie or at least the fact that portions of it had been filmed there.
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post #363 of 367 Old 09-16-2016, 10:43 AM
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I love that movie......... I have the original release on VHS (Actually I have all star trek movies (1-6))
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post #364 of 367 Old 10-03-2016, 10:47 AM
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Dead & Buried (1981), directed by Gary Sherman.

Ordinary folk of a fishing village -- equipped with an assortment of cameras -- are brutally murdering visitors who later come back to life (?) as contented locals. The sheriff is mighty puzzled. Further: he has reason to suspect his wife of... what? It is a "fear of morticians" story.

I read the novelization of this back then but never saw the movie. Apparently no one else did, either. I had more refined tastes when I was young and figured it would be too cheezy. I missed a odd, moody little horror film, something of Roger Corman, maybe some John Carpenter, revive an old "Tales from the Crypt" comics genre plot, and add a cinematographer with a good eye.

Although in a contemporary setting, it has an old 1940s wartime ambiance, with those dark greens and browns and Doc's big band music. For all the terr-o-rama, it has a sad, poignant moment in the graveyard: "Bury me".

Some gruesome but amazing practical effects (big needle, eyeball) arranged by Stan Winston. Originally banned in the UK as a "video nasty". The project was owned by three sets of producers and the last crew insisted on editing and reshoots for less comedy, more gore. One really bad effect (acid up the nose) was done after Winston was gone.

About the only comedy remaining is from Jack Albertson's eccentric mortician/coroner. This was his last film and he died just after completing his voice work. He was ill and medicated during production but it doesn't show in his performance. He knew what was up and I wonder if this last project amused him?

Also with Melody Anderson who everyone thought would become a big star. Flash Gordon (1980) was done but not yet released and it flopped too.

Early views of Robert Englund, Barry Corbin, Lisa Blount and Glenn Morshower.

When Ronald Shusett and Dan O'Bannon met one had the first part of the Alien (1979) script and the other rights to Total Recall (1990) from a story by PK Dick. They helped each other with their stories. Alien (1979) (my favorite!) became a smash hit and "changed everything" for horror properties. Based on that they got to do this film and then (before it flopped) Total Recall (1990).

Everyone in the commentaries regrets the meddling of the "Third Entity" in reediting the movie. (They won't name names). The AVCO Embassy distributor thought the original cut was fine, but that's gone now.

Filmed in Mendocino CA.

Available Blu-ray from Blue Underground. I'm not seeing much high definition detail, but that would be difficult with this one. Much of it is filmed in the dark and uses all sorts of filtering and fog to give the town a soft fishing port look.

Three commentary tracks, and three extras featuring Stan Winston, Dan O'Bannon and Robert Englund.

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post #365 of 367 Old Today, 10:29 AM
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Manhunter (1986), directed by Michael Mann.


Graham: I know that I'm not smarter than you.

Lecktor: Then how did you catch me?

Graham: You had disadvantages.

Lecktor: What disadvantages?

Graham: You're insane.

(Lecktor pauses, then changes the subject)
This first filming of a Hannibal Lecter story (spelled "Lecktor" this time) is a serial killer police procedural. We have an FBI profiler who can get into the mind of a psycho-killer (much to his own psychic distress) and, as a bonus resource, a bona-fide genius serial killer in captivity. Who can be useful if you can cope with his mind games.

Beware: Hannibal the Cannibal has made contact with the new killer and can use him as a weapon.

I hadn't seen this since it was new and remember being impressed with its tension, with how much horror they were able to summon with little blood or explicitness. The mythology has been so developed since and taken such a gruesome turn that this first installment almost doesn't seem like part of the series. It is more real-world than The Silence of the Lambs (1991), which ventures into fantasy-action territory.

The plot is spoken aloud which is usually bad writing both in films and in books, but a police procedural is all about the plot, the actual steps involved in solving a crime, so maybe it is justified this time. The story is elevated by Graham's race to protect his family and keep himself sane.

Is the cinematography a bit self-consciously posed?

For the score I thought some of it sounded like Tangerine Dream, who Mann used for Thief (1981) earlier, but I don't see any connection on the soundtrack listing. Then I thought "this sounds like Shriekback" and they have three credits for the film. The band was formed that same year.

Michael Mann also wrote the screenplay adaptation from the book Red Dragon, which was again filmed under that title in 2002. Same cinematographer.

Available on Blu-ray.


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post #366 of 367 Old Today, 02:56 PM
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^^^ Bill -- Tom Noonan played the dangerous but pitiful Francis Dolarhyde in that one. He was wonderful as were most of the rest of the film's cast. I saw Manhunter again on TV not long ago and enjoyed seeing it again.

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post #367 of 367 Old Today, 04:35 PM
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Brian Cox is still my favorite Lektor. He said he thought that Lektor should charming and affable but calculating ... think English schoolboy crossbred with a demon. He said he thought of the notorious murderer Peter Manuel, also.

I also remember this being marketed as "from the producer of 'Miami Vice.'" Probably didn't help it.
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