Saturday, May 21, 2011

CULT MOVIE REVIEW: Panic in Year Zero! (1962)

"Now, you stay on the back roads. And you keep your gun handy. Our country is still full of thieving, murdering patriots."

- Panic in Year Zero! (1962)

Just a few short months before the Cuban Missile Crisis came to a boil, actor Ray Milland's directorial effort, Panic in Year Zero! (1962) played in American theaters. 

This low-budget, black-and-white, post-apocalyptic movie involves the destruction of cities across the globe by nuclear missiles, and the response of one U.S. family, the Baldwins, who flee the Los Angeles area as nuclear warfare breaks out.

Unlike many post-apocalyptic movies of more recent vintage, Panic in Year Zero! doesn't showcase views of bombed-out city streets, busy military control rooms, or overcrowded rescue centers and shelters.  Instead, this cinematic effort takes place mostly on the open road as the Baldwins attempt to learn what has happened to their home and family, gather supplies -- food and gasoline -- for a possibly indefinite stay in the wild, and reckon with looters, thugs and other unpredictable elements dangerous to the continued existence of the "nuclear" family unit.

Panic in Year Zero! has been termed (by critic Michael Atkinson at The Village Voice) the "most expressive on-the-ground nightmare of the Cold War era," and that's because director Ray Milland and scenarists John Morton, Jay Sims and Ward Moore have successfully transformed weakness into strength.  With very little budget in which to showcase the end of the world, they have instead focused their efforts on the moral condition of man following the apocalypse.  Accordingly, Panic in Year Zero! isn't about the end of the world.  Rather, it's about the way that human beings deals with the end of the world.

Ray Milland's patriarch, Harry Baldwin, in particular, faces some difficult decisions in this drama.  Early in the film, he snaps into a sort of permanent "survival mode" and knowingly leaves the niceties and rules of civilization behind.  This abrupt, serious change in his demeanor frightens and upsets his wife, Ann (Jean Hagen), but Harry understands immediately how bad things could get in a world without law and order. 

"Survival is going to have to be on an individual basis," Harry tells his wife.

The crux of the issue is worth debating, and Panic in Year Zero! doesn't shy away from the discussion.  In a desperate world, is it right to use the tactics of the looters and thugs to achieve a positive end for your own family?  What's the line in the sand that should not be crossed when the future of your loved ones rides on every choice you make?   

And finally, if you make your own family's survival your one and only priority, aren't you putting yourself on a collision course with others who have, for the same reasons, done exactly the same thing?

There's nothing like eating under the open sky... even if it is radioactive.

As Panic in Year Zero! commences, the Baldwins have just departed Los Angeles with their camper in tow.  Their weekend vacation quickly turns to horror, however, when they witness flashes of light in the distance.  They see a mushroom cloud over Los Angeles, and instantaneously, all the radio stations and phone lines are down.  

The Baldwins soon meet another traveler on the highway who reports: "I heard Los Angeles being torn apart, and saw it being tossed into the air."  The apocalypse has come.

As the main road begins to fill up with cars fleeing the nuclear fall-out in L.A. in a "second exodus," as Harry calls it," the Baldwins head to a small town to acquire supplies.  At  Hogan's Grocery Store they buy everything they can to assure their survival, including candles, soap, matches, and canned goods.  Then they head to a Johnson's Hardware Store to purchase guns.  Short on cash, Harry asks Ed Johnson (Richard Gardland) to take a check for the guns.  When Ed refuses to let Harry leave with the guns, Harry resorts to violence to take the weapons, and flees the store.  The breakdown of civilization is occurring rapidly, and Harry is part of it.  "My family must survive," he insists.

Soon, Harry, his wife Ann, and two children -- Rick (Frankie Avalon) and Karen (Mary Mitchell)  -- make it safely to the mountains.  They destroy a small bridge after they traverse it, so they cannot be found.  Then they hide the trailer and take up residence in a large cave. 

Here -- in their new home -- the Baldwins spend their first night of the "Year Zero," a term designated by the U.N. to describe the post-war world.  Meanwhile, on the radio, the President of the United States reports that "there are no civilians," that "we are all at war."

Harry rigorously maintains his survival mode despite Ann's objections, and refuses to permit Ed Johnson (the hardware store owner...) and his wife to join up with his family in the cave.  Later, Harry finds the Johnson's dead, murdered by three young thugs in a local farmhouse; thugs with whom Harry had an earlier altercation. 

After these men attempt to rape Karen, Harry and Rick arm themselves and attack the farmhouse.  There, they discover that the men have been keeping the home's rightful owner, a young woman named Marilyn (Joan Freeman), as a hostage and apparent sex slave.  After Harry kills two of the men in cold blood, he and Rick rescue Marilyn.  The third thug, Carl (Richard Bakalyan) is nowhere to be found...

Back at the homestead, Harry debates his actions with the Johnsons and the strangers.  "I looked for the worst in others and I found it in myself," he tells Ann.  When Carl shows up and badly wounds Rick, Harry realizes he must risk trusting someone if his son is to survive the night.

Save us from the dangers and perils of this night...

Panic in Year Zero! is an inelegantly-crafted genre film, yet one with tremendous visceral impact.  The film's editing isn't always very good -- or even coherent -- particularly during the many  "traffic" highway scenes. 

In these all-too-frequent moments, the film cuts almost  randomly to cars speeding by the camera, and there's no sign of the Baldwin's camper anywhere.  And worse, these kind of moments are repeated over and over again, with successively less impact.  At times, these "traffic" scenes seem injected into the narrative from another movie all-together.

But  budgetary and editing problems aside, Panic in Year Zero! very smartly and ably focuses on the small, the intimate.  The audience is asked to consider each of Harry's decisions and weigh how well he is "maintaining his values" in the face of all-out societal breakdown.  Harry's wife, Ann, doesn't cope well with Harry's decision to arm his young adult son, for instance.  Nor is she happy that he turns away the Johnsons when they most need companionship and supplies.  Ann also objects to the fact that Harry has "turned his back" on the civilized world, and desperately wants for there to be something better for her children. 

"I know I should be grateful we're still alive, but... I love you, Harry, but not more than a future without hope," she explains. 'I've got to have hope to go on. I've got to know there are other people like us, like our children. People who are better than just animals!"

The problem, of course, is that a "hope" in the goodness of mankind is one hell of a gamble in a situation like the one faced by the Baldwins. 

Unwarranted trust could cost everyone their lives, and Harry realizes this fact too well.  Harry even refuses to trust Marilyn at first, after she has (apparently...) been raped by the thugs, and after the thugs have attempted to do the same to his daughter.  In protecting his family from real dangers, Harry has lost his capacity to judge people at all.  he sees only fear and death where, in many cases, he could make allies and friends, and lessen his difficult load.

Harry's dilemma seems particularly realistic, even today.  In a similar situation, how many of us would act in the same fashion; refusing to trust "strangers" until we knew that the danger was passed?   It's a noble impulse to protect one's own family, and yet, at another level, we're all part of the human family too

Civilization, in the final analysis, is defined by man's willingness to do something positive for the survival of his fellow man; for somebody else's family.  Harry realizes this, I believe, by film's end, when he finally needs help for his family; when Rick is shot and requires a doctor's attention.  Now, Harry is suddenly in Ed Johnson's shoes, needing help from someone else.

Harry's inability to trust his fellow man is made even more poignant, actually, by the apocalyptic events of the film.  Nobody who really cared about the "other guy's" family would ever launch a nuclear war in the first place.  The world as depicted in Panic in Year Zero! is about the absence of trust in the global human community, even when things are good; even when people are -- by and large -- safe.  It's a breach so bad that people would rather destroy the planet than "hope" and believe in the goodness of people they don't quite understand or don't share their ideology.  Harry's experience on the road, protecting his family, is thus a microcosm for the very paradigm that gave rise to nuclear holocaust. 

On some level -- and this is devastating to him -- Harry realizes that he is no better than the looters and thieves.  He has stolen guns and gasoline, refused to share his supplies with a family in need, and committed cold-blooded murder.  He has damaged and destroyed property, even setting fire to cars on the highway to make an opening in the traffic pattern.   His intentions are always good ones: the survival of his family.  But still, Harry's intentions aren't quite good enough: the survival of law and order, and of civilization in general.  This is made abundantly clear to Harry when he meets the good-hearted doctor, who is staying behind in his wrecked town to care for any of "his" people (his town-fok) who should return.  This is a man who -- at great personal danger -- has not forgotten his role and importance in the community.

Panic in Year Zero is a little strange and "off" at times.  The musical score by Les Baxter is jazzy and upbeat when it should be disturbing or portentous.  The weird, multiitudinous shots of cars speeding down the road are jarring, and take one out right of the Baldwin's existentialist dilemma.  But outside these weird flourishes, the film remains, indeed an expressive and intimate tale about what it means to truly be civilized.

Civilization, it turns out, is even more necessary when the world has gone to Hell.  If man loses civilization, he'll be back to scrawling pictures on cave walls, huddling forever in darkness and fear. 

The Baldwins escape that fate in Panic in Year Zero!...but just barely.

Friday, May 20, 2011

CULT MOVIE REVIEW: Freejack (1992)

"There's people at the bottom.  There's people at the top..."

- Freejack (1992)

Geoff Murphy's Freejack is a loose adaptation of Robert Sheckley's 1959 celebrated science fiction novel, Immortality, Inc

That literary work told a tale of the year 2110 in which a man named Blaine was reincarnated (by Rex Corp.) into a future world of suicide booths, body transplants and an after-life industry in which "only the rich" went to heaven.

By contrast, the 1992 film centers on a famous race car driver, Alex Furlong (Emilio Estevez) who, during a fatal accident, is zapped into the future year of 2009.  There, Alex countenances a corporate dystopia in America; one where Big Business has its corrupt hands in everything, even the ownership of the human soul. 

In this future America, our nation has lost "a trade war" with the Far East (either China or Japan, it's not clear...).  Accordingly, the middle class has disappeared entirely, leaving only the haves and the have-nots in perpetual conflict.  Most of the population seems to live on the over-populated streets, in shanty-towns.  This is a world in which you "either hide what you have...or you lose it," according to one character.

Alex quickly discovers that his very existence is on the line because a dying CEO, McCandless (Anthony Hopkins) has paid a considerable sum of money to transport him to this future, so that he can transfer his very consciousness into Alex's young, healthy body.   McCandless has only thirty-six hours to make the soul switch, or his consciousness will disappear into a kind of virtual reality/storage device called "the spiritual switchboard."

Hunting Alex down for McCandless is a mercenary and "bone jacker" named Vacendak (Mick Jagger), a man looking to collect on a big payday.  And, as Alex realizes, he is a "freejack," a person whose very body is up for grabs if you possess a big enough check book.

Taken in toto, Freejack is a woefully familiar man-on-the-run story, and that narrative pattern conforms with many cinematic dystopias, including Minority Report (2002), The Island (2005) and Logan's Run (1975), among others.  The 1992 action film also seems to owe something important to Verhoeven's Total Recall (1990), with its heavy focus on action, and on a hero attempting to navigate a world and personal relationships he doesn't fully understand yet.  On the latter front, Alex re-encounters his fiancee, Julie (Rene Russo) in 2009, now a business lawyer working for McCandless.  She could either be a traitor or an ally...

In depicting the "future" world of 2009, Freejack offers some intriguing speculation.  For instance, it accurately predicts the erosion of the American middle class and the economic travails of 2009, but on the other hand features a world with no Internet

The idea of a trade war is scarily believable however, and Freejack's speculation about corporations grown unbound from legal authority seems right on the money given where we are culturally in 2011.  This guess about burgeoning corporate power, in and of itself, however, is not necessarily a reason for a positive reaction to Freejack.  Movies such as Blade Runner (1982), Johnny Mnemonic (1995) and Code 46 (2005) have all concerned the rise of corporate rights over individual ones.  But this overlong iteration of such a future feels phoned in and clunky, no more than a mildly colorful back drop for car chases and gun fights.

What Freejack rather determinedly lacks is the coherent vision of a director such as Spielberg or Ridley Scott, and the larger-than-life presence of an anchor such as Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Here, Emilio Estevez is completely underwhelming as protagonist Alex Furlong.  Although he rattles off the requisite one liners ("Mom told me not to pick up hitchhikers..."), Estevez  isn't able to symbolically remain above the fray like Schwarzenegger did in The Running Man and thus convey a kind of irony or bemusement about the character's situations.  He has very little screen presence, and his decision to play the role straight only comes across as boring.

Mick Jagger doesn't fare much better.  He looks sillier in a tank helmet than Michael Dukakis did in 1988, and Jagger's abundant personal charisma doesn't translate well to the taciturn role of Vacendak.  Like Estevez, Jagger seems out of his element.

Even Hopkins is a dud in the villainous role of McCandless, the corporate soul marauder.  I remember reading an interview with  Hopkins in Starlog when this film was first released, and his key to understanding and playing the character of McCandless involved the fact that his character smoked cigars.  That anecdote reveals just how shallow the performances and concepts in this movie really are.  Under the surface, there's almost nothing of real interest.

There's little more desperate in terms of bad movies than a would-be blockbuster that can't entertain an audience, and that's, finally, what Freejack is.  Or, as Owen Gleiberman wrote in Entertainment Weekly: "The trouble with low-rent science-fiction movies is that beneath all the futuristic gimcrackery — the video phones and laser guns and hyperspace leaps, the obligatory time-travel setups — you realize, at some point, that you're watching a routine urban chase thriller: Lethal Weapon 2000."

Yep.  Clearly, the opportunity was here to present Freejack as what author Paul Meehan terms a "tech noir," the kind of gritty, involving film that fuses high technology with low, basic human impulses.   But Freejack can't get there.   The film doesn't dig deep enough  about the reasons why such a miserable future has come to pass, or even why the characters respond the way they do to such a world.  The film's idea of humor is to feature a crotch-kicking, shotgun-armed nun in a habit (Amanda Plummer), but no thought or explanation is given to her demeanor or belief system.  She's just a joke, not a person we can undersand.

And the future world of Freejack looks ramshackle and cheap (a lot like Johnny Mnemonic, actually), with just a few "futuristic" cars dotting the streets.  Worse,  the action scenes are incredibly dire.  The film lurches from one boring chase sequence to another and then -- finally -- ends with a trippy virtual reality light show that today seems conspicuously dated, a relic from the age of such films as The Lawnmower Man (1992).  To put it another way, the entire film stakes itself on action, and then, in the last scene, attempts to thrill with metaphysical gymnastics.  It fails in both instances.

Perhaps Freejack's biggest hurdle is the film's thoroughly uncritical eye about the miserable future it attempts to portray.  At the end of the movie, Alex survives the cosmic switchboard and fools the authorities into believing he is actually McCandless, the CEO of the biggest and most powerful corporation in the world.  Now Alex has access to money, power and lots and lots of fast cars.   He could change the world, save all the freejacks, and work for a better tomorrow.   But does he?    Of course not.  As the end credits roll on Freejack, Alex drives off in McCandless's luxury car, beautiful Rene Russo at his side.  He's not looking back...or forward.  Nope, he just beat the bad guy and that's all the movie cares about.  With money and Russo, Alex will get by in Corporate Land just fine...

So much for those have-nots on the streets below...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sci-Fi Wisdom of the Week

"What the hell would I have to say to a gorilla?"

- Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CULT MOVIE REVIEW: The Handmaid's Tale (1990)

"Once upon a time in the recent future, a country went wrong.  The country was called the Republic of Gilead."

-  The Handmaid's Tale (1990)

In Volker Schlondorff's adaptation of Margaret Atwood's 1985 dystopian novel, The Handmaid's Tale, America has undergone a frightening transformation. In fact, the country isn't even called America any longer, but rather the Republic of Gilead. 

"Gilead" is a name you may recall from the Bible, from Genesis in particular. And this name perfectly reflects the tenor of the dramatic change in this future United States. In this disturbing world, citizens "pledge allegiance to the Bible" and report that the Old Testament is their "only Constitution."

How did a thriving democracy become a restrictive Christian theocracy? 

As the 1990 film describes the process, a small cadre of religious men led a military coup to take-over what they increasingly viewed as a Godless country.  Because wide-spread sterility had set in, these men believed that God had sent America a "plague of barrenness, a desert of infertility." 

God's reasoning, they surmised, was that the Lord didn't approve of abortion, birth control, artificial insemination, test tube babies, or homosexuality.  These men thus usurped control of the United States, relegated minority citizens to death camps, made homosexuality a "gender treachery crime," and greatly curtailed the rights of women, particularly fertile women.

In the future imagined by The Handmaid's Tale (1990), the rich, white elite have gamed the system to consolidate political and personal power. These upstanding "Christian" men stride atop of the society's food chain while their infertile wives are left at home (with ample servants) to pine away for children and motherhood. Meanwhile, these same men can lawfully engage in sex with fertile "handmaids" so as to conceive children. 

Where do these handmaids come from? Well, from anywhere the men can get them, even if the fertile women are already mothers and wives in other, less fortunate families. 

Family values only matter, you see, if it's your family that you value.

"We are weeding out the Godless." 

The Handmaid's Tale focuses on a woman named Kate (Natasha Richardson) who loses her family at a border crossing at Canada and is subsequently indoctrinated into "The Red Center" to serve as a handmaid for Gilead's security chief, The Commander (Robert Duvall).  

At the handmaid training facility, Kate meets Moira (Elizabeth McGovern), a lesbian who is also being re-trained in the new faith as a kind of nun/sexual partner.  At one point, Moira plots an escape from the facility, and Kate helps her.

Meanwhile, the Commander is married to a bitter, loveless woman, ironically named Serena Joy (Faye Dunaway), who longs for children, not so much for personal happiness or fulfillment, but so as to keep up with the Joneses.  

All the wealthy neighbors are becoming mothers you see, and showing off adorable little infants at lovely afternoon garden parties...

Even as Kate attempts to learn what has become of her own biological daughter, she endures state-sanctioned sexual slavery with the Commander. Unfortunately, the Commander is sterile, which means Kate will ultimately be blamed for the failure to conceive a child.  She could be rendered an "un-woman" for her failure, and sent to a work camp.

In this world, you see, it is always the woman's fault when something goes wrong for a man.  Gang-rape victims merely "lead on" their attackers, and those who have had abortions (for any reason...) are widely termed "sluts" and "whores."  Those who accept handmaidens-hip are encouraged at one level. "You're the lucky ones," they are told by their "aunts" (trainers): "You are going to serve God and your country. Amen." 

Yet on another level, the handmaids they are derided as "tramps" by so-called respectable family women. They can never be accepted as fellow human beings because the upper class (infertile) women resent their ability to have children, and their intimacy with their husbands. 

Handmaiden-ship is thus both enslavement and a trap. The women who serve as handmaids are saddled with bright red uniforms; a kind of scarlet letter-styled nun's habit symbolizing their conflicted place in the culture.

When Kate realizes she will face severe punishment -- perhaps even death -- if she fails to conceive a child for the Commander, she makes love to the Commander's driver, Nick (Aidan Quinn), with the full blessing of Serena Joy. Without a choice, Kate then becomes part of a political conspiracy to topple Gilead.  The message here is eminently worth noting: these restrictive "family"-oriented  laws of Gilead only serve to encourage duplicity and treachery, and actually tear families apart rather than bring them together.

In the end, Kate and Nick attempt to flee Gilead and the house of Commander, but not before a night of bloody violence ensues...

"You can give birth for our country."

In brief snippets and in TV footage, images of the U.S. Capitol and flag appear throughout The Handmaid's Tale, a deliberately feminist-minded dystopian vision. 

Seeing those familiar political images, one can detect -- without being overly paranoid about it -- how this 1990 film remains alarmingly  relevant to today's political dialogue, in particular the so-called "War on Women" launched by politicians predominantly on the right side of the spectrum.  

Critic Janet Maslin saw such a world already forming back in 1990:  "Male supremacy, pollution of the planet and the political power of the religious right have all combined to set Ms. Atwood's worst nightmares in motion, and what keeps them moving is her thoroughness and attention to small details."

We have seen this war on women escalated in 2011 on a variety of fronts. There has been a Congressional effort to redefine rape to better protect the rapist, the Tea Party attempt to eliminate government funding for family planning, and even, in South Dakota,  the proposed expansion of the definition of "justifiable homicide" to protect those who murder -- in the name of God, apparently -- abortion providers. 

Cumulatively, these proposals are not about cutting debt, creating employment, or even reducing abortions, but about limiting the freedom of women to control their own bodies

The attempt to redefine and whitewash rape is particularly loathsome, as was the not-intended-to-be-factual-statement by Senator Kyl that "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does" involves abortion. That self-admitted lie does not acknowledge the abundant good work done by Planned Parenthood regarding cancer screenings for women in poverty, and for women without health care.  You can absolutely hate abortion with every fiber of your being and at the same time still appreciate the work Planned Parenthood does saving women's lives.  Being pro-life means being pro-life in all circumstances, not just for the unborn, right? 

The Handmaid's Tale imaginatively and chillingly speculates about the logical outcome of a world in which such draconian laws and beliefs about women and their bodies ultimately prevail.  Women have become totally subservient to men and to the needs of men in Gilead.  Their bodies, even, have become the playground for men to use and abuse as they see fit.  A handmaid cannot refuse her "owner." And in the sanctified sex act of the handmaid (always begun after a Christian prayer...) the man need not consider the women's pleasure, comfort, or even, actually, consent.  No foreplay is required, either...just ejaculation.  The basis for this new kind of conception is, of course, the Bible, and the story of Rachel and her handmaid.  There's always a religious basis or cover for the laws of Gilead, for the men of the republic to hide behind.

Perhaps the real value and worth in The Handmaid's Tale comes in its depiction of these "morally-upright" men who believe they have done God's work on Earth by creating this theocracy.  As audiences see from the the depiction of the Commander, he is a hypocrite who thrives on instilling fear in the less fortunate.  He keeps forbidden items (like women's magazines) in his office, and frequents a bar where illegal liquor is consumed, and where young women serve as full-time prostitutes. 

For me, this has always been the most important flaw in many of our nation's most prominent right-wing moralizers.  Not that they are anti-abortion in philosophical stance, per se (that's an individual moral decision I would never judge), but that they are, by-and-large, flaming hypocrites. Newt Gingrich, Henry Hyde and Bob Livingston all wanted to prosecute President Clinton for his marital infidelities when they, in fact, were guilty of conducting the same infidelities.  Yes...the infidelty is certainly wrong, but what's  far worse is the hypocrisy concerning it.

The list could go on and on.  David Vitter. John Ensign. Larry Craig. Mark Foley. Jimmy Swaggart. Ted Haggard.  All of these men loudly and self-righteously preached traditional morality while, in secret, flaunting it.  To me, this is a crime much worse than a mistake in judgment and having an extra-marital affair (and asking for forgiveness). 

In the film, the Commander is of the same stripe. He rails against "all those people on welfare," against "the homos" and "the blacks" and the "pressure groups" who were in control of Congress.  But look closely at this man: wallowing in drink, prostitution, and state-sanctioned sexual slavery. 

Like so many of the real-life public figures listed above, the Commander's problem is not his personal belief or value system, it's his total and complete hypocrisy regarding it.   While claiming to be a Christian, he clearly doesn't remember the message of Matthew 7:5 "first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

The Handmaid's Tale is very powerful in detailing the effect of a theocracy on women's rights, and in acknowledging the hypocrisy of so many self-stated "moral guardians" in our midst. 

Unfortunately, except for a few relatively powerful scenes (like the three-way, religious-minded sex act between Duvall, Richardson and Dunaway), The Handmaid's Tale is not a particularly engaging or artistically-rendered film. 

Although Harold Pinter contributed the script, it was largely re-written, over his objections.  Too often the film feels numb and remote, and the character of Kate (Offred in the novel) is an enigmatic, almost inscrutable character.  Before her untimely death, Richardson went on record noting that she would have preferred for the film to include a voice-over narration by Kate that could explain much of what she was feeling and going through during her trials.  Without that guide, it's not always clear in the film why Kate makes the decisions she does at the times she does.    Roger Ebert wrote of the film that "for all of its anger, "The Handmaid's Tale" is curiously muted. Richardson's passivity was effective in "The Patty Hearst Story," where it was required. Here it is a distraction; the role requires someone with a higher energy level."

The lackluster, almost dull, cable-TV-styled presentation of a thought-provoking story renders The Handmaid's Tale stale and uninvolving on a gut, emotional level.  On a cerebral level, one can detect how the details of the story dovetail uncomfortably with contemporary reality, but beyond that recognition, the movie plays, uncomfortably at times, like a burgeoning Victorian romance between Nick and Kate. 

Or as the Washington Post's Rita Kempley described it, as "less a reproductive horror story than a blanked-out bodice ripper, another femme fatality."

I mean, there's clearly a mixed message here.  Kate is ultimately "rescued" by Nick, also a man -- to whom she is apparently in full romantic thrall. And then, in the film's finale, she spends her time locked in a trailer outside Gilead, again a kind of kept woman.    Perhaps that's the film's very point; that even outside Gilead, Kate -- as a woman -- will never have control over her own destiny.

But I just wish the movie played that poignant final note with a little more oomph and conviction before fading to black.  This is supposed to be the Handmaid's tale.  The very title of the piece promises a personal viewpoint, and so the audience wants to feel and understand what Kate goes through, not merely observe life in Gilead passively, and from some safe distance. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Cult-TV Faces of: David McCallum

Identified by Chris G.: as Gwyllim Griffiths  in The Outer Limits' "The Sixth Finger"

Identified by Meredith: as Ilya Kuryakin in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Identified by LJ:  as Dr. Joel Winter in Rod Serling's Night Gallery: "The Phantom Farmhouse"

Identified by Meredith: As Daniel Westin in The Invisible Man (1975)

Identified by Meredith: As Steel in Sapphire and Steel.

Identified by Doug LaLone: from SeaQuest DSV, "Sea West."

Identified by Dr. Howard Margolin: Professor Paradox on Ben 10.