Tag Archives: Martin Landau

Meteor (1979)

meteor

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Save earth from rock.

Inspired by the ‘Project Icarus’ report done by MIT students during the spring of 1967 the film surmises what would happen and what defenses might be used should a gigantic asteroid come barreling towards earth. Here the meteor is described as being 5-miles wide with an impact that could prove catastrophic and turn the earth’s climate back into the next ice age. Dr. Paul Bradly (Sean Connery) is brought in to advise since he is the one that created an orbiting nuclear missile space station specifically for this reason, but its firepower will not be enough and they must rely on the help from their Russian counterparts, who have a similar missile station in space, in order to get the job done.

The story and characters are quite bland with little to no effort made to enrich the drama with any side-stories or issues. The viewer is teased with a potential romance between Paul and Russian interpreter Tatiana (Natalie Wood), but it goes nowhere. The constant cutaways showing the meteor zooming through space actually lessens the tension because as it gets dwarfed amongst the immensity of the universe, which makes the rock look rather small and therefore it doesn’t seem all that impressive.

The special effects are tacky although the scene where a smaller asteroid fragment hits New York City has a shot of the World Trade Center collapsing in much the same way that it did on 9-11, which is eerily prophetic. The mud slide in the subway tunnel does have merit and the actors do at times seems genuinely overcome by it, but everything else borders on being unintentionally funny. The only thing that really impressed me was the amount of extras they were able to attain including participants in a ski race that seemed to border on the tens of thousands.

The cast is made up of old Hollywood has-beens who careers peaked long ago and all seemed better suited for a guest shot on ‘The Love Boat’. None of them were under 40 and therefore younger filmgoers of the day where disconnected from it although Brian Keith is a scene stealer as the Russian scientist and speaks fluent Russian rather amazingly given the fact that he did not know the language and was only doing it phonetically. I also got a kick out of Martin Landau as a hot-headed general who has the perfect eyes for a glazed over expression of a dead man, which the viewer gets treated to briefly.

Several special effects teams were reportedly fired during the course of production simply because they could not provide adequate enough effects on the limited budget, but it seems dumb to produce a film that hinges on spectacular effects if that is something that can’t be provided, which ultimately is why this did so poorly at the box office.

meteor-2

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 19, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Ronald Neame

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

Alone in the Dark (1982)

alone-in-the-dark-1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Psychopaths escape from hospital.

Dan Potter (Dwight Schulz) is a new doctor hired at a local mental hospital to oversee some of their more violent psychopaths. Unfortunately before he has any time to implement his new therapy techniques there is power failure, which allows three of the most dangerous ones (Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Erland van Lidth) to escape. They immediately track down the doctor at his residence and lurk outside while the frightened family stays trapped in their home and forced to somehow fight them off.

The story is dull and has a plot where you know exactly where it’s going right from the start. There are no unexpected twists and the gore is almost non-existent. The scares are sparse and not effective with several scenes that come off as unintentionally funny.

There is also never any explanation to what causes the power failure and the idea that it would last for two consecutive nights without some sort of major weather event being the factor is highly unlikely. The fact that the patients are housed inside an institution with electrical monitors and the people who ran the place had no backup plan implemented or considered if the power would ever go out is dumb and most likely an emergency generator would’ve been installed years earlier for just such a scenario, which would then make this whole stupid plot nonexistent from the get-go.

Landau gives a good performance, which makes this dumb thing slightly worth catching although overall the psycho characters are too cardboard and generic to be frightening. Hiring B-actors on the downside of their careers and who were most likely willing to accept any mindless dreck that was handed to them simply so they could keep the cash flowing in, was not a good idea as they approach the material in too much of a hammy way.

I actually came away liking Schulz’s performance best and was impressed how his character here was so much different from his most famous one in ‘The A-Team’ TV-show. It was also fun seeing Van Lidth, who is best remembered as Grossberger from Stir Crazy, with a full head of hair.

The film has only two scenes that are worth catching and even then it really isn’t much. However, I did like the part where the three crazies enter a sporting goods store during the blackout that is being raided by all the ‘sane’ people who act way more fringe than the actual lunatics. The scene where Palance attends a punk rock concert where the band The Sick Fucks is playing is pretty good too even though the atmosphere inside doesn’t effectively reflect a real mosh pit scene.

The overall scenario though dealing with these very clichéd psyhcos ominously lurking outside a home occupied by an equally clichéd All-American family that respond to everything with perpetual looks of fear is not interesting or intense. It also comes off as being too stagey and theatrical and might’ve worked better had it taken more of a modern day hand-held camera/ cinema vertite approach.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: November 12, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: Jack Sholder

Studio: New Line Cinema

Available: DVD