Looker is Overlooked

Although best known today as the creator of “E.R.” and the author of “Jurassic Park,” Michael Crichton was also an overlooked sci-fi auteur whose films included the classic original “Westworld,” the chilling “Coma,” and the Tom Selleck-Gene Simmons cult film “Runaway.” His most overlooked film, however, is the ahead-of-it’s-time “Looker” from 1981 starring Albert Finney as a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon whose clients are dropping off like flies. All of the models who are dying work for sinister James Coburn and have recently had very minor surgery done to make them “perfect.” Together with Susan Dey, who is working for Coburn and wants to know what’s going on, Finney uncovers a plot to take real models, kill them, and turn them into computerized images. These images will then be used in the worst advertisements ever, both political and for products, and will turn the audience into virtual zombies. Only Finney can stop the madness, by killing the people responsible in scenes that resemble “They Live” and “Videodrome.” If that’s not cool enough already, there’s nudity and an awesome ray gun that zaps you out of consciousness so you’re one step closer to being a victim of computerization.

 

This film has both a relatively believable and very scary plot along with a ton of action. Director Chrichton correctly guessed that computers would be taking over for actors on the future, and that audiences would be seduced into watching terrible advertisements. He also guessed correctly about plastic surgery becoming popular. This film becomes one of the best 1980’s sci-fi films because it is plausible, scary, sexy, and fun. Available in a widescreen DVD with the trailer and commentary by Crichton, this film is not to be missed by any serious sci-fi fan!

Thoughts on Close Encounters

They have for some reason rereleased the Steven Spielberg classic Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind theatrically. It is competing against such other classics as Nut Job 2. Rather than doing a traditional review, I am going to bring up some questions which came to mind while watching this on the big screen 40 years after the original release.

  1. The first thing which is striking about this film by today’s standards is the extent to which Spielberg trashes the middle class traditional family. The husband is being accosted by his spoiled brat kids, who will not compromise with him regarding family outings and such. The kids and wife are always bugging and nagging him about little things and don’t allow Dreyfuss to realize his full potential as a human being.
  2. The husband leaves the wife (Terri Garr) for Melina Dillon, whose child he saves. He does this to feel like a man and to be a hero. Does Spielberg feel that men should leave their wives in pursuit of adventure and for a higher purpose? The way Dreyfuss leaves with the aliens is not unlike how Jesus’s Apostles were called upon and left everything behind, including their wives and children.
  3. Which brings us to the┬ánext point, why was Dreyfuss chosen by the aliens as the sole human to be allowed entry to the spacecraft? The aliens swarm around him in with his arms extended wide (in a messianic fashion). Is Spielberg saying that Dreyfuss becomes the messiah as the aliens decided to share advanced technology or thought with him. Am thinking this has to do something with the telekinesis he has in terms of having been sent the idea to meet the aliens at Devil’s Canyon. Perhaps telekinesis would allow the aliens to speed up the communication with humans to a great extent.
  4. An interesting side-note is that the only other character the aliens choose to interact with in the film is the French scientist played by Trauffaut, a great French director. He does the hand signs that correlate to the notes. Why did the aliens choose him to speak to? Because of his intellectual curiosity??
  5. At the press conference the older cowboy dude discredits the UFO siting by bringing up his Bigfoot experience. Was this guy a nut, genuine, or a government spook who was planted at the news conference in order to discredit the eyewitnesses? Does Spielberg believe in Bigfoot? Poltergeist, A.I., and Close Encounters were the only screenplays he actually wrote by the way. So he was into far out stuff.
  6. The cow mutilations in the film. What’s up with that? The one dude with the glasses does get gassed by the black helicopter. However, the other people take their masks off when they are by the military. Were the cows gassed or precision slayed like in real life? Was the government testing the cows for radiation?
  7. Also , the aliens in the film do have the tall skinny ones, and then the short stubby ones , like in Whitley Strieber’s Communion. Does Spielberg believe this is what aliens really look like and that aliens exist?
  8. Spielberg has been quoted as saying that NASA originally sent him a 20 page letter telling him to not make the film. That making this film would be too dangerous for the general public. What’s up with that???

Til The End of the World (5 hour version)

Thanks to a friend of mine, I inherited a region-free DVD player and the German director’s cut 3-DVD set of “Until the End of the World.” This film by Wim Wenders is a no-longer-available in the U.S. 1991 sci-fi saga starring William Hurt, Solveig Dommartin and Sam Neill about a futuristic 1999 world with great technological advances in which the world may be about to end due to a malfunctioning nuclear satellite. Against this backdrop, three lovers tour the globe, for reasons involving a massive amount of stolen money and a mysterious invention which may allow the blind to see.

I don’t want to talk about this film’s plot too much because it’s not the movie’s strength. The film’s strengths are its performances, its ideas, the depiction of technology, the music, the locations, and the special effects. First, all the performances are good and draw the viewer in. Max Von Sydow and Jeanne Moreau are the best actors, performing their hearts out as an inventor and his blind wife. The main trio of actors (see above) are also good as characters whose motivations are somewhat mysterious.

The ideas of technology that can help the blind see and, later, allow the recording of dreams are rather stunning. In terms of general depiction of technology, you can find GPS’s, cell phones, video phones, and other devices which are indeed in use now. Illuminati coding was present in this film, as it was in Back to the Future II. Other classics such as Metropolis, and Things to Come also were the elite hinting at what the future what be like according to their plan.

The soundtrack features R.E.M., the Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, Julee Cruise, Elvis Costello, U2, Peter Gabriel, K.D. Lang, and others performing music composed for the film. In the short version, you hear only parts of these songs but in this 280-minute director’s cut you hear the entire songs. The film also was shot on four continents in ten countries, which is a level of verisimilitude that I have never seen in a film. The special effects, which use then new high definition technology to show images that the blind can see as well as the recording of dreams, still amaze today. What’s it all about? I think the director is saying that technology is a wonderful thing but it’s bad to worship it or become too dependent on it.

Anyway, this film is supposed to come out on the Criterion collection and was rereleased in America in 2015. I can’t think of a better introduction to foreign cinema than this German classic (mostly in English though).. The short. 158-minute original release version on VHS and laserdisc was good, but of you get a chance to see the Director’s Cut. don’t miss it. It’ll change your life.