Are you interested in a Michael Crichton movie about Technology going wild? No not the one with Dinosaurs on the loose. How about Robots gone wild? No not the one with Yul Bryner that is being adapted for an HBO Mini-series. This one is about robots that are “Runaways”, that is they have gone out of control and threaten people or property in some way. Throw in a plot concerning an evil genius using micro-chip technology to weaponize robots and build a “smart bullet” and you have this next entry on the project, science fiction with Tom Selleck.
For me in 1984, this was a highly anticipated film because one of the co-stars was making his motion picture debut. Gene Simmons the bassist and singer of the rock group Kiss, a band that I have been of fan of since 1976 was signed to be the villain of the story. The idea that he was going to star in a movie with Tom Selleck jacked me up tremendously for the Christmas season in 1984. There were four big science fiction movies coming out in early December, and as a regular reader of Starlog Magazine I anticipated each of them.
In the early 1980s, I read a couple of John LeCarre novels and there was a great TV series that played on PBS featuring Alec Guinness as the spymaster Smiley. It was my friend Art Franz however who was the real fan. He ate up all those books and read everything he could find about the British Spy scandals of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. I know that we saw this movie opening weekend and I’m pretty sure it was a foursome which included our wives. Unfortunately, I can’t remember Art’s exact reaction to the film. I think we were both impressed with it, but he may have had some reservations. Since he passed in 1993, I don’t always have a buddy to see a spy movie with that can talk about it fluently. I know, that except for the James Bond films, I don’t ever go back and revisit those films unless they are action based. Maybe that makes me a little shallow, but it did mean that today, when watching this film for the project, it was almost like seeing it for the first time. I did not hold many memories of the film, and the plot threw me for the first hour because it was not exactly clear what was happening.
I was blindsided by the fact that the movie was directed by George Roy Hill, a director who had filmed several of my favorite films but was not known for a distinctive style. The procedural nature of this story does not lend itself well to fancy visual story telling techniques. The plot is drama heavy not action oriented, so in a way he is a good choice for the film, but the lack of distinctive technique probably makes the movie feel a little bit lethargic.
Stories based on Faust are everywhere. When I was in High School, I did an interp piece from “The Devil and Daniel Webster” by Stephen Vincent Benét, it was my first exposure to the story of a man who sells his soul for wealth and fame. Not too much later I saw “The Phantom of the Paradise” a contemporary rock scored film using the same concept. In 1977 there was a short lived TV show called “A Year At the Top” , about two musicians from the hinterlands who sell out to make it big in pop music, and as I remember it, it was a sit-com with music sequences. After the success of the original “Oh God!” with George Burns in the title role from 1977, it was followed by “Oh God!, Book II” in 1980 and then this movie, which finally gets to the Faustian bargain that I was hinting at before.
The original premise of George Burns as God, is twisted around this time so that he has a dual role, and plays God’s opposite for the majority of the picture. Where God had been portrayed as a doddering old guy in a golf cap and jacket in the first films, the Devil, in the form of Harry O. Tophet [HOT], is a slick early hipster in dashing sports coats and tuxedos. He also has a few other distinctive characteristics that will give the movie a little pizazz.
Notorious for being expensive, unsuccessful, and killing the relationship between producer Robert Evans and Director Francis Ford Coppola, “The Cotton Club” was also a feature player in a real life murder case where one of the financiers was murdered by contract killer and a former drug associate. With all the bad publicity surrounding the film, it is surprising how good it actually is. There are many faults with the film but the subject matter and the ambitious goals of the film makers were not among them.
I actually own a copy of this beautiful poster
Welcome back to the continuation of the “30 Years on Project” with this dazzling film that doesn’t quite work but comes close enough to be entertaining and worth your time. It features performances from a wide range of actors, a production design that is outstanding and Francis Ford Coppola’s return to gangster movies a decade after his masterpiece “The Godfather Part 2”.