Zoe Saldana as Uhura (click to enlarge)
As I write this, ABC news is asking a hardcore Star Trek junkie what he thinks of the new voyages of the starship Enterprise. Decked out in a vintage Starfleet uniform, sitting in an authentic captain’s chair from the Shatner series (in his basement, ‘natch), with a Gold Key Star Trek comic book in his hands, this 40-ish husband and father has his reservations. He doesn’t trust where the franchise has headed, he says, but then admits he hasn’t seen the new film. He really doesn’t want to. Don’t you hate cry babies like this? Sitting in his captain’s chair, condemning a movie he hasn’t seen. A movie he has an opinion on, but hasn’t seen. This potential book burner-history revisionist-censor wants everything to be like it was forty years ago. Well, fuck you buddy. It’s 2009. WAKE UP!
(I shouldn’t be too hard on him: his kind have been around since the dawn of speech. They pine for the simplicity of their childhood, when things were easy, when they weren’t troubled by adult responsibility. I had a friend who referred to it as a generational conceit: believing the stuff of one’s formative years to be superior to everyone else’s. This Star Trek guy may think things were better back in, say, 1965, but there were people his age in 1965 who felt things were better thirty or forty years before that. It’s cyclical, it’s got nothing to do with the quality of one generation’s pop culture over another, and there’s very little hope that it’ll ever go away.)
Last week I made it through Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) and found it interesting that, despite the tremendous box office draw of these pictures, 20th Century Fox and producer Arthur Jacobs lowered their choice of director from the original’s Franklin Schaffner (a middlebrow artiste) to b-unit journeyman Ted Post on the sequel. No bother: there are no auteurist values to be mined here, unless you’re completely insane. It’s a useless and forced picture, the screenplay reaching long and hard for material. I remember my father groaning in agony during most of it back in ‘70, especially when the underground people sang to the bomb. Roddy McDowall didn’t make it for this one and was replaced by David Watson, a ham actor who may have studied Henry Brandon’s Silas Barnaby in Babes in Toyland (1934) too close. My eye gravitated toward Nova Linda Harrison’s mid-section; she looked a little wider in the hips than she did in ‘68. Did she have a baby in between the two movies?
Right now it’s about an hour since I watched Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971). I didn’t like this one when it came out. In fact, I disliked it so much that I never bothered going to see the fourth Ape movie. (I’ll be catching up with that next week… if my brain doesn’t seize up on me before then.) It hasn’t improved with age. It’s better than Beneath, but I think the only thing worse than Beneath is getting poked in the eye with a flaming stick. Escape has Roddy (“I’ll take any script”) McDowall, Kim Hunter and poor Sal Mineo managing to haul Charlton Heston’s rocket ship from the deep lake it landed in back in the first movie (we don’t get to see that), filling it with enough refined fuel to send it off into space (we don’t get to see that), piloted by apes totally unfamiliar with flight (we don’t get to see that). They go through the time-space continuum and land in a cheesy TV movie set in 1973, complete with William Windom and Bradford Dillman and Eric Braden, the latter now a popular soap star. Seeing garbage like this often puts me in a foul mood, so maybe I should shut up.
But before I go: Escape was directed by Don Taylor. I once drank with an old buddy of his who told me Taylor was a flamboyant cross-dresser. (I’d love to think he directed Escape in high couture.) Said buddy was also into ladies garments, and he sat at the bar relating the sordid details decked out in a wig of flowing blonde locks, designer dress, f-me pumps, and a rather garish string of pearls. I forget his name, but he got real nasty when he got drunk.