Saturday, July 31, 2010

Meteor (1979)

It wasn't that long ago I watched Meteor and wrote a few word about it, but after getting my hands on the gorgeous German DVD from Warner Brothers I had to revisit it. First of all, the DVD beats the hell out of the US and UK DVDs, and the movie looks like it never looked before. It helped me appreciate it a bit more, because the framing was correct and the colours a lot better than before. The effects (some say those are the weakest spot in the movie) also felt better processed.

After watching it now, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a bit unfair to call it a bad movie. It’s certainly generic to the brink of stealing everything from other movies, but Ronald Neame still makes it work with a slick and commercial style of filmmaking. The shots are big and bold, the actors are famous and the lines are ridiculous. A typical American disaster movie. Now, this has all the big names, but it came to budget it probably had less than the more famous disasters from the era. This shows in several ways: lots of dialogue – and the use of stock footage.

Thank heavens the dialogue is less clunky than some other movies, and with a bunch of fun actors – especially Natalie Wood and Brian Keith as Russians (both spoke fluent Russian in real life too), our own Bo Brundin in a small part and the great Sybil Danning in small part where she gets buried by an avalanche. Sean Connery had a tough time during these years and more or less took every job he was offered, but manages to not look to bored. It’s a bit eerie to see Natalie Wood almost drowing in mud, when you think about her famous fear of drowning – and how she died two years later.

So, the disasters then? The main attraction. Better than their reputation. The Swiss-sequence is mostly built around stock footage from the Roger Corman-produced Avalanche and has very little new to offer except a few effect shots that looks ok and the little story about Sybil Danning and her boyfriend. But it’s nicely cut and has some suspense.

The Hong Kong-sequence is actually a lot better with a great build up and a tidal wave that looks way better than some other critics claims. The processing works very good and the miniature-water in combination with the real footage looks kinda neat. Sybil Danning gets a billing in big letters, but the two main Chinese actors here is quite anonymous. But it’s Yung Henry Yu who had (and still has) long career in Hong Kong, and tried his luck as “Bruce Ly” for one movie too! His wife is played by Tsui Ling Yu, a Shaw Brothers veteran who’s credited with twenty movies between 1977 and 1983!

The final in New York looks a lot better in widescreen, and has a cool miniature of WTC exploding – but the rest is mostly footage of real houses getting torn down with explosives, and with a fancy filter on top of it. But it works a lot better here than I’ve seen before. The rest of the show, where our heroes is trying to escape thru the subway, almost drowning in mud, is exciting and fun.

No, Meteor isn’t a masterpiece. But it’s really neither better or worse than Deep Impact or Armageddon, only with less budget and a slightly bored Sean Connery in the lead. Ah, I can’t forget Henry Fonda in one of his one-day-cameos either, as the president of the US. I can never get enough of these one-day-shoots, a good way for a famous character actor to earn some doe and still work minimal time :)

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