While I was crashing at a friend’s pad last month, I read a book having to do with the extensive legal case against John Landis and cie for the accidental (i.e. Landis’ overly inflated ego at the time which led to blind negligence) death of actor Vic Morrow on the 1983 TWILIGHT ZONE shoot. The book made me want to see the flick again, so I popped it in the player and gave it a twirl. Verdict? Let me break it down for ya, so nobody gets hurt.
WRAP AROUND STORY (Directed by John Landis): Two dudes in a car sing sitcom theme songs and talk TV trivia until a scare goes down. Now, although the banter between the two "on the ball" actors; Albert Brook and Dan Akroyd was energetic, well written and witty - the “scare” of the piece was flatter than Paris Hilton letting her tangerines hang out. A blood splat (in the car window perhaps) would have given that payoff some much needed kick. As-is – meh. Rating: B -
SEGMENT #1 (Directed by John Landis): Inspired by the TZ episode A QUALITY OF MERCY, Segment #1 (what no title for the tale that killed Vic Morrrow…hmmm) sees a racist duder (Morrow) bitch-slapped by the other side of the coin when he begins era hopping while being perceived as either a Jew, a Black man or a Vietnamese gent by the wrong people. Nazis, the KKK, American GI’s see him as the enemy and attempt to whack him throughout the piece. Yup, our lead character learns a lesson the hard way.
Vic Morrow was my main anchor to this one via his grounded and intense performance. Dude gave it all he had and I appreciated it. On his end, Landis served up crazy camera shots and a taunt pace that made this "extensive chase scene" fly by effortlessly. Sure, the story was one trick pony in its structure but hey, I had fun with it none the less. NOTE: After finding out that Landis had Morrow do the ledge scene without a net or any form of safety device below, I was literally on the edge of my edge during that bit. Rating: B
KICK THE CAN (Directed by Steven Spielberg): This snoozer was a remake of the TZ episode of the same name and it couldn't end soon enough for this jack-twat. I guess Spielberg was snorting "Pixie dust" when he decided to make this overly syrupy old peeps in a home become kids again drivel. How else can one explain the bland, uneventful, tacky and gun to one's head inducing mushy jive of it all. Even though Scatman Crothers was likeable and that the story had a handful of sweet moments to offer, overall, I can’t say I was moved one way or another… upchuck factor aside of course.. NOTE: That ever so rambling wannabee Peter Pan kid – yeah him - kill me now man. Rating: C
IT'S A GOOD LIFE (Directed by Joe Dante): A retelling of the episode of the same name (which was itself based on Jerome Bixby’s 1953 short story), this LSD ride freaked me out the most when I was younger and it pretty much did the same damn thing today. Not only did the piece appeal to my what if what we wished for came through fantasy, it was also filled with macabre and twisted visuals that I couldn't get enough of. The whole cartoons brought into the real world and the real world brought into cartoon land schtick resulted in all kinds of eerie fun, potent chills and novel beasties. Add great acting and a genre friendly cast (Yes Dick Miller pops up, it’s a Dante effort!) to it all and you get a top notch mofo that kicked KICK THE CAN to the curb where it belonged and put the flick back on the RIGHT track. BOOYA! Rating: A
NIGHTMARE AT 20.000 FEET (Directed by George Miller): Another one based off an old TZ episode (that starred camera-mugging extraordinaire William Shatner no less). This vice grip on a plane capped off the spooky shenanigans on a rock solid note. John Lithgow owned the scenery, the mood was creepy-rific and the monster was scary and then some. Moreover, the story’s build up (and the games played on us) was beyond infectious. Director Miller perfectly echoed the claustrophobic feel of the setting and the zaniness of the situation with his camera moves . Humor, suspense, scares, it was all there! Rating: A+