The Terror Within – Alien Lite

The Terror Within is currently available on instant Netflix

The Terror Within

 

The Terror Within (1989) – Rated R

The apocalypse has come, and the world has been forever changed by “the accident,” a chemical warfare experiment gone awry. Some have survived by hiding in an underground complex, safe from the harsh landscape above and the mutants that roam there.”

One Line Review: Low budget Alien ripoff is mildly entertaining.

Long before Asylum opened its gaping maw, others were ripping off movies. Admittedly Asylum has perfected the formula, getting their ripoff in stores just before the movie they’re ripping off hits the screens but they were not the first.

In spite of it being made a decade later, The Terror Within is Alien with a much smaller budget. Oh sure there is talk of it being a post-apocalyptic future and it is set in an underground base but this is Alien. We have a ‘gargoyle’ that bursts out of a pregnant woman and rapidly grows to larger than human size.

The crew attempt to hunt down the gargoyle. They move through the spacious air ducts. They split up. They wield flamethrowers and improvised weapons. As they do so, they are picked off one by one. There is even a pet in the base, here a dog instead of Jonesy the cat.

George Kennedy is top-billed here but only collects a paycheck in a role that, with a brief exception, only requires him to sit at a desk and say a few lines. Andrew Stevens (President/CEO of Andrew Stevens Entertainment and Stevens Entertainment Group according to imdb) is the real star here and he relies too much on a pretty face to get things done. The female members of the base contingent are played somewhat woodenly by Starr Andreeff and Terri Treas. On the other hand can you blame them? It’s hard to pretend to high art when you are holding a super soaker and pretending it’s a laser rifle.

People Watch: Jack Valan, who appears here as ‘the gargoyle’, was apparently embarrassed enough by this that he went by Roren Sumner in the credits in spite of using his real name in Witchboard 7 and Witchboard 8.

Spoiler Below

Sequel-itis: You wouldn’t think it but there is indeed a The Terror Within II (1991) written, directed by, and starring Andrew Stevens. Not only that but he wrangled his mother, Stella Stevens, into appearing as well.

The Concorde: Airport 79 – Do Not Get on That Plane week

This is Do Not Get on That Plane week. The Concorde: Airport 79 is currently available on instant Netflix.

AVOID: The Concorde: Airport 79 – Rated PG.

“In the fourth installment of the air-disaster series, a ruthless businessman (Robert Wagner) tries to destroy the Concorde and kill a corporate spy, forcing the flight crew to contend with an errant missile, the French air force and a midair explosion. George Kennedy reprises his role as Joe Patroni — now piloting the hypersonic jet — alongside a bevy of 1970s stars, including Charo and Jimmie Walker”

“My boy is starting college, my wife has been dead for about a year.” – Said with no emotion at all by Patroni (George Kennedy).

Last night I woke up in a cold sweat. I dreamt I was being chased by a giant banana.” (No I am not making that up)

To paraphrase Thumper, “If you do not have anything nice to say then say nothing at all”. Well that will not make for good reading so let me think a moment.

I have it – the good part about this movie is that it is broadcast in high definition for those with set top boxes. that is pretty much it.

In 1979, we are a half decade away from the height of the disaster genre, The Towering Inferno (pun intended). While Robert Wagner does appear in both of them, Inferno stars Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway and William Holden. Airport 79 stars Alain Delon, Eddie Albert, Susan Blakely, and George Kennedy.

George Kennedy reprises his role as Joe Patroni from the previous three Airport movies. Apparently when asked to appear, he must have told them “only if I get to fly the Concorde and have sex with a hooker this time “. Thus, inexplicably, he is now a pilot.

After treating the Concorde like the jet in the arcade game Afterburner, he dazzles the passengers with a story about what a minor problem it was. They proceed to give him a standing ovation (seriously).

What this movie lacks in star power, it makes up for in sheer mind-boggling quantity of low-tier celebrities.

Apparently the European nature of the Concorde inspired them to hire some international actors. My guess is that they were able to acquire them on the cheap. Alain Delon, Bibi Andersson, and Sylvia (Emmanuelle) Kristel all appear here.

For old TV and movie fans we have Mercedes McCambridge and Eddie Albert. For genre fans we have David (Time after Time) Warner and Sybil (Chained Heat) Danning.

Martha Raye makes her final appearance here as a bladder-challenged passenger. Jimmie (Dyn-O-Mite!) Walker appears as a dope-smoking, jive-talking musician (way to fight those stereotypes!). Charo (coochie coochie) is Margarita.

What are the odds that not one, not two but three consecutive news stories would all relate to our plot? Admittedly the first two are related to each other but seriously how often do we have news stories on state-of-the-art military hardware? I wonder if those drones will show up later in the film.

Since the sick kid ploy worked so well in Airport 75, here we have a 7-year old boy who needs a heart-transplant. Apparently they could not find a cute boy so they are transporting the heart to the boy. Do not worry though we have Cicely Tyson talking incessantly about it.

If that is not treacly enough for you, we also have a little deaf girl on the plane. Avery Scheiber plays her Russian coach father.

I have to say that I really do not understand why we do not have Concordes in the military. In this film the most sophisticated drone ever made (news story) is unable to shoot down the Concorde and neither is a jet armed with missiles and machine guns.

Of course, and I assure you that I am not making this up, when you have a missile locked onto you the obvious answer is to open the window and fire a flare gun. If this does not work, you can always turn the Concorde upside down for a second shot.

You would think all of those would be spoilers but they actually occur in the first half of the movie. I thought it was utterly ridiculous before they land in Paris but then they up the ante.

Really the only people I can imagine this appealing to are Concorde fetishists and train-wreck aficionados. This movie is just awful.

People Watch: Ed Begley Jr. has an early role here as the aptly named, Rescuer #1.

Earthquake – Nature Gone Wild! week

This is Nature Gone wild! week. Earthquake is currently available on instant Netflix.

Earthquake

PASS: Earthquake (1974) – Rated PG.

“Academy Award winners Charlton Heston and George Kennedy star in this 1974 box office blockbuster. When a massive earthquake hits Los Angeles, construction engineer Stewart Graff (Heston) must try to rescue his father-in-law boss, Sam Royce (Lorne Greene), who’s trapped in his own building. Meanwhile, tough cop Lew Slade (Kennedy) and motorcycle daredevil Miles Quade (Richard Roundtree) are fighting for their lives.”

“Earthquakes bring out the worst in some people.”

Earthquake is co-written by Mario Puzo. Puzo not only wrote The Godfather and Godfather II but also Superman and Superman II. While Mario Puzo is clearly capable of writing Oscar caliber scripts, this is not one of them. The individual stories are terribly written.

The main story involves a love triangle between Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, and Genevieve Bujold. It is quite fun to see Ava Gardner hurling venom at Charlton Heston throughout the movie.

When I first saw Remy Royce-Graff (Ava Gardner, 52 in 1974) castigating her husband Stewart Graff (Heston, 51), I was a little relieved and surprised that Heston’s wife was about his age. Shortly after that Stewart goes to see Denise Marshall and sure enough she’s played by attractive 32 year old Genevieve Bujold.

George Kennedy apparently felt he wasn’t macho enough in the Airport series of movies so here he is a cop who *gasp* doesn’t play by the rules. When he parodies this character later in Police Squad, it isn’t much different. There is even a police car point of view chase early in the film eerily similar to Police Squad.

Richard Roundtree (Shaft can you dig it?) plays a heroic Evel Knievel-type character. Strangely they mention that he has a girlfriend who is never shown. My guess is they wanted to attract urban audiences of the time while at the same time playing it safe in the heartland.

I will say that all the unique 70s hair and clothing styles do tend to distract from the proceedings. Dallas fans will have a hard time recognizing Victoria Principal as a tight T-shirted poodle haired brunette.

Earthquake does not make the mistake that Killer Wave made. The Earthquake is front and center. There are minor tremors shown early on that cause a few strategic casualties. The big event hits about the halfway mark and is quite a showpiece. The Earthquake portions of the film are quite entertaining.

Earthquake won Oscars for Best Sound and Special Achievement Award for Best Visual Effects. It was also nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Art Direction – Set Decoration. Cinematography is hard to judge given the butchering of the film (see below).

I understand that Netflix can’t supply this movie in Sensurround! (the shake your seats audio provided in some theaters for this film and Midway) but it would have been nice to see this in its original aspect ratio (2.2:1). Netflix appears to have acquired a Pan and Scan/Full screen version.

The drama here is so overwrought as to be fun in a perverse way but I still can’t recommend watching this unless, like me, you automatically have to see any disaster movie.

People Watch: Walter Matthau (billed here as Walter Matuschanskayasky) is hilarious as a drunk. His outfit should have won an Academy Award by itself.