TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WAVELENGTH (1983)

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WAVELENGTH (1983)

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Wavelength is a cool and unique little sci-fi thriller that sadly has faded into obscurity and never gotten a proper DVD, much less Blu-Ray release. It’s atmospheric soundtrack by Tangerine Dream is easier to come by than the movie and hopefully someday this entertaining little flick gets it’s proper due!

The film tells the story of down-on-his-luck guitarist Bobby (Robert Carradine), who lives in the Hollywood Hills near an abandoned military facility. Bobby’s dog starts acting strangely, barking in the direction of the government owned building and his new artist girlfriend Iris (Cherie Currie), claims to be getting some sort of voices in her head emanating from that very structure. Bobby decides to take Iris and check the old building out with the help of a neighbor (Keenan Wynn) who worked on it’s construction back in the 40s. Once inside, Bobby and Iris discover, to their horror, that not only is the place filled with personal, but there are three alien visitors being held inside. Apprehended by the military, Bobby is imprisoned and Iris is used to communicate with the extraterrestrial beings. As much prisoners as the innocent alien travelers, Bobby and Iris plan a daring rescue and escape that makes them and their alien companions, fugitives from a military determined to cover-up their mistakes.

Written and directed by Mark Gray, this low budget film isn’t perfect, but it is a little movie that could and succeeds far more than it fails…and it’s failures are small. What makes the story work, years before the similar Starman or The X-Files made them popular, is that it takes two ordinary people we can identify with and thrusts them into a situation in which they’re up against a government conspiracy that the very knowledge of, makes their lives forfeit. The military are totally the bad guys here as they shot down and now have imprisoned these innocent travelers and their ignorant paranoia and fear keeps the conspiracy going. They plan to eventually make sure Bobby and Iris never see daylight again for what they’ve seen…and they have no intention of ever letting the alien beings go, either. Once they escape, we are there rooting for them to get away, every step. Gray works in subtlety here. He gets some nice tension and suspense simply because we feel for the couple and the aliens and are angry at the ignorant jack-booted mentality of their military captors. He never beats us over the head with any aspect of the story and everything from the action to the FX are all simple and subtle and it’s the emotions from within his tale that make the biggest impact. Never trying to make his small film more than it is, is it’s greatest strength and helps it overcome some of it’s flaws. Those flaws being some weak dialog, some cliche’ characters and a few instances of having a boom appear in his shots. Other than that, this is a quiet, but very effective little sci-fi thriller that never seems to have gotten the attention it deserves. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a darn good movie that proves you don’t need a massive budget to do entertaining and thought-provoking science fiction… and The X-Files wasn’t the first to present this type of situation of alien visitation and sinister cover-ups.

The cast is most noteworthy for having ex-Runaway Cherie Currie as one of it’s leads. Currie seems a bit wooden early on, but as the story gets more intense and requires more of her, she seems to rise to the occasion a bit and does fine enough. The same can be said of Carradine as the guitarist trying to get his career going. A veteran actor already at this point, he doesn’t seem quite comfortable in the role at times, but overall is fine, as his Bobby takes a backseat to Iris as the story progresses. Keenan Wynn does his crotchety old man routine that he can do in his sleep and the rest of the cast are adequate as assorted scientists and villainous military types.

I really like this movie. Sure, it’s pretty low budget and there are no event level scenes or FX, but It’s not that kind of movie. It’s a small and subtle movie about intergalactic travelers who arrive at this planet only to be treated horribly by the inhabitants and two innocent humans who make the mistake of getting in the middle of it. Together they bond to escape the same fate from the same ignorant enemy. It’s the type of story we’ve seen before and have seen many times again, but there is something about the quiet but atmospheric style with which Mark Grey tells his story that makes it work on an emotional level. No better example than a scene where our fugitives take shelter in a church. It’s an effecting scene with minimal dialog. A very enjoyable low budget film that needs a proper release.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 alien visitor occupied containment tubes.

wavelength rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: LEGEND: DIRECTOR’S CUT (1985)

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LEGEND: DIRECTOR’S CUT (1985)

In 1985 when Ridley Scott tested the 113 minute cut of his fantasy epic Legend, it didn’t test well with audiences and it was deemed that it took far too long to get to the action. The film American audiences finally saw was 89 minutes but, the film was a box office failure anyway. Now the film has been restored to Scott’s original 113 minute cut and has been beautifully presented on blu-ray for fans to finally see the film Scott intended. But, is it a better film then what I originally saw in a theater in 1985? I think so. I will agree it does take a lot longer to get to the questing and rescuing but, a lot of the fairy tale elements and atmosphere have been restored with this edition of these removed sequences and a lot more story and character interaction does enrich the film and make it less a music video and more a fantasy film. The restoring of Jerry Goldsmith’s score also changes the atmosphere and gives it more of an epic fantasy feeling. I like Tangerine Dream’s work on the theatrical cut, but, it does give it more of the before mentioned music video vibe. Remember MTV was still new and a big thing when this was released so, I wouldn’t doubt that was what they were going for. Legend tells the story of lone woodsman Jack (Tom Cruise) who is trying to woo a princess named Lili (Mia Sara). He decides to take her to see the last pair of unicorns whose magic keeps the sun rising and good and light in this fantasy world. But, the evil Lord Of Darkness (Tim Curry) plans to destroy the unicorns and bathe the world in darkness so he and his minions may rule. When the unicorns are distracted by the innocence of virginal Lili, one is poisoned and it’s horn stolen by Darkness’ goblins. Soon they capture the last remaining unicorn and Lili as well and Darkness plans to kill the magical animal and wed the girl. Now it is up to Jack and an assortment of Wood Elves, Brownies and Fairies to rescue Lili and save the unicorn from within Darkness’ lair. Whether it’s the director’s cut or theatrical cut, Legend is an amazingly beautiful and sumptuous visual fantasy feast under Ridely Scott’s lens. The visuals are stunning and without benefit of CGI and they, even by today’s high-tech standards, are breathtaking. There is plenty of action and a lot of strange creatures both good and bad and all rendered with some fantastic make-up FX from The Thing’s Rob Bottin. Tim Curry’s Darkness has become an iconic character and is truly remarkable to see. Again, no CGI. As for the acting, Cruise and Sara are fine but, it was early in both careers and the performances are not as strong as they would be today, now that both are veterans. Curry on the other hand, radiates both evil and malicious charm through the layers of latex and even though he looks completely inhuman on the outside, he gives the Dark Lord a vivid personality and makes him a threatening villain worthy of such an epic fantasy film. Overall, we have a lot more moments with all these characters together with the expanded cut. To me it adds a richness to the film that wasn’t there in the theatrical version, especially in Jack and Lili’s relationship, their feelings for each other are far more explored and we get a better idea of why Jack risks so much for her. I feel this Legend is far more a fairy tale in this version then fantasy themed action movie and like Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings films decades later, it’s worth sitting through more of these little moments to emotionally enrich the film as it only gives the action scenes more depth. I still think the theatrical cut has it’s merits as a fun, breezy 90 minutes of fantasy action but, if you want more depth and don’t mind spending a bit more time reveling in Ridley Scott’s beautiful fantasy world, then the director’s cut is for you.

3 and 1/2 Lords of Darkness!

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