Friday, November 03, 2006

ROCKET TO MARS. OR WAS IT KOJAK'S BACKYARD?

Friday morning. And in light of the calendarial proximity of the coming Tuesday, with all the fears of potential chicanery & outright theft, I'm going to do a conspiracy-minded Friday Silly Movie My Youth Of The Day today. Confused? Let's see how you feel after I attempt to explain what the hell I'm talking about. So, with out further -- oh, what the hell, you know the drill by now:

Capricorn One

Yes, indeed. As described in the plot summary on IMDB:
Classic conspiracy tale about the first manned mission to Mars. All appears to be going well until the astronauts are pulled off the ship just before launch by shadowy government types and whisked off to a film studio in the desert. It transpires that the space vehicle has a major defect which NASA just daren't admit. At the studio, over a course of months, the astronauts are forced to act out the journey and the landing to trick the world into believing they have made the trip.
That pretty much matches my memory of the 1978 flick, which I saw when I was about 11 years-old. Of course, there are other plot details that I don't remember:
[Elliot] Gould stars as a journalist determined to crack the conspiracy.
Ok. Elliot Gould, starring as a conspiracy-cracking journalist is straight out of the 70's movie playbook, so nothing too wild there. But, there's more:
Telly Savalas is an eccentric farmer coming to Gould's aid.
There we go! One of those classic moments out of the 70's "Don't Play It By The Handbook" Handbook, that made that wacky decade so damn wacky. Keep in mind, that as a pre-adolescent kid, I knew Telly as Kojak. Who loves ya, baby? That's it. I didn't yet know Dirty Dozen or Kelly's Heroes or any of his early films that showed him as a tough guy, crazy guy, or a combo of both.

And, speaking of crazy, tough guys, look who else was in Capricorn One: Orenthal James Simpson, back in that awkward period when he transformed from The Juice to Arnold Palmer's car-renting sidekick & America's most mediocre actor! Of course, "Arnold Palmer's sidekick" seems far less strange than "homicidal maniac." It's odd to look at his IMDB page, and see how it just stops cold at 1994's Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, even though his biographical info shows he's still alive.

Back to the movie. As a geeky kid living in the post-Watergate, post-Vietnam era, I was just the audience for the half-baked conspiracy stuff that floated this film. I loved that sort of thing: evil "leaders" selling out the good men and women who worked for or followed them, only to be discovered by a well-meaning rebel, blah, blah, blah. But you know what? Even as an 11 year-old, this movie never got me to thinking that the Apollo 11 moon landing (only 9 years earlier) was staged.

Which some people were saying. Or are saying. Check this out. Or this. Or this. Hell, there are probably hundreds more. Do your own damn Googling!

But at an age where I was inclined to believe this shit, I didn't. You know why? Most likely because as a boy, I wanted men to have gone to the moon. Conspiracies about elections or wars or bankers or whatever else were utterly abstract to my to my young brain. But paradoxical though it sounds, a trip to the moon seemed tangible.

Whatever, enough of that quasi-seriousness, or the not-so-subtle allusions to fears of Diebold & other Republican shenanigans next week. Instead, let's talk about the Capricorn One cast: in addition to Gould and Savalas we've got serious actors like Sam Waterston, Hal Holbrook, and Karen Black, back in the days when her appearence in a movie was a good thing (see: Five Easy Pieces and Nashville, as opposed to Zapped Again or Bound and Gagged: A Love Story). And semi-serious actors like James Brolin, Bobby Walden (Lou Grant's sidekick, Rossi) James Sikking (Lt. Hunter on Hill Street Blues) and Brenda Vaccaro (a career's worth of raspy-voiced, mildly sexy ladies).

And if you think I'm letting Hal Holbrook's name pass without a Wall Street quotation, you're nuts:
Kid, you're on a roll. Enjoy it while it lasts, 'cause it never does.
(You thought I was going with either the "Main thing about money . . . ," or "Man looks into the abyss . . ." line, didn't you? C'mon, admit it.)

And, speaking of Wall Street, James Karen (Lynch, the two-faced office manager) was in Capricorn One. He's done a lot in his odd career. Any Given Sunday, The China Syndrome (late-70s conspiracy movie alert!), even Return of the Living Dead, in which he played a helluva dead guy. And by the way, if the FSMOMYOTD ever reaches the 80s, you know that mo-fo's getting its own post. But to me, he's always the Pathmark guy on their commercials, the one who used to lightly tap the items that were on-sale any particular week. Just as Telly's always Kojak, OJ's always an All-Pro RB (or at least the guy running through the airport, Go O.J., Go!), and Chevy Chase is always funny.

Scratch that. He wasn't always funny even then.

8 Comments:

Blogger DED said...

We went to the moon. End of story. Conspiracy theorists should find something else to wack off to.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

B-b-b-b-b-but O.J. And Elliot Gould. And Kojak!

12:56 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

And Carl Everett!

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I think Carl's his own planet.

4:21 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Ah, Mike, you forget, Karen Black came into Capricorn One hot off of the second movie of one of the great movie franchises of all time, that's right, how can you forget Airport 1975? Surely you remember Karen? The ditzy stewardess forced to fly the 747 over the Rockies after a small plane crashes into the cockpit and kills all of the crew except for the captain, who's blind (if I remember correctly, and without cheating and checking IMDB, the navigator is Ponch, pre-CHIPS).

The movie ends when Chuck Heston is lowered into the gaping hole in the cockpit from a hovering helicopter, where he takes over from Karen and lands the plane safely.

My point: I think Karen's serious film career was over by the time she landed on Capricorn One.

And further, you forget that Capricorn One is directed by one of the all-time great hacks, Peter Hyams who, would, somehow, find himself to be the one directing the sequel to 2001: A Space Odysessy. He's also the director responsible for the one good Van Damme movie -- Time Cop.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

John, you're right on all counts, and if my memory serves me right, you've nailed the Airport '75 plot.

Wasn't '75 the one with the guitar-playing nun, mocked so well in Airplane! Helen Reddy, no?

To think, though, Karen Black did Nashville and Airport '75 in the same year. She was DeNiro before he truly became DeNiro.

I loved '75, but it was nothing compared to '77, which saw the crashed plane under water for the duration of the film.

8:01 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

You are correct. Helen Reddy's the singing nun in Airport 75.

In this Airport, George Kennedy is an exec with the airline, having advanced from mechanic in Airport. In Airport '77, Kennedy also works for the airline, though I can't recall in what capacity. But he gets the ultimate promotion in Airport 79 The Concorde, where he's the co-pilot.

Yep, Airport 77 takes place underwater. It's a private 747 owned by Jimmy Stewart, and his daughter is on the plane. Jack Lemmon is the captain.

Karen Black may be DeNiro before DeNiro was DeNiro, but I think she's also Pacino before Pacino was Pacino.

12:04 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Jimmy Stewart . . . Jack Lemmon

Man, no shortage of real start power in that series!

And last night, what did I end up watching on one of those weird ~movie networks on basic cable ("TV Land"?)? None other than Airplane! Sweet. Laughed at the same things I've been laughing at for 25 years. Unbelievable.

And unbelievably pathetic. Who gives his wife a better Friday night than I do?

8:30 AM  

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