Ah, yes. The career revival of Leslie Nielson in the late 1970s, and the entire self-referential "slacker" genre of film comedy owe themselves to a happy film research accident.
The Zucker Brothers, while collecting material for Kentucky Fried Movie, inadvertantly videotaped a late nite screening of Zero Hour. When they watched it, they came to the realization that this gripping, taut, drama, starring a bunch of A-listers whose careers had slipped, was funnier than any intentional comedy they had seen in years. They realised that awful, hambone, dialogue and stupid situations played out, straight faced, in grand style by people who had once done a LOT better had a certain, untapped, audience appeal.
The next step was to buy the rights to Zero Hour, which in its day had been a B-list prestige project, written by Arthur Haley, who later brought us Airport. Why Haley, or his estate, okayed the project, remains mysterious but the end result, Airplane, was a surprisingly literal remake with a few over the top additions.
A small portion of Airplane was lifted from a John Wayne film, vintage 1957, in which he has to land a passenger plane, in danger of crashing into Lake Michigan after the crew is disabled. There is a WONDERFUL scene in that film in which Wayne's little boy is asleep when his inflatable life vest deflates. The stewardess selflessly bends over and...uhhh...reinflates the life jacket, in a VERY odd visual adapted, with a deflated autopilot, to Airplane.
Back in the 1990s, Tim was on a crossing with Robert Stack, who related the following anecdote. When Airplane was being shot, Lloyd Bridges commented, after a a scene was shot, that he didn't get many of the jokes. Stack later said that his reply was along the lines of "Lloyd, we ARE the joke."
The Poseidon Adventure, a film for which I have a great deal of affection, was the last of the old school, studio era-style disaster dramas and, as such, has many of the same qualities that made/make Zero Hour fun. Everyone in the film, Lynley excepted, can actually ACT, and also act with more than a hint of the old, pre-Method, studio approved presentational style. Watching Borgnine, Stevens, and Sheila Allen interact during the suppository segment is the textbook definition of camp; it was intended as high drama, played without a hint of irony for high dramatic effect, and ended up a masterpiece of unintended comedy.
None of the disaster films which followed have that elusive quality.
BTW... a great visual in Poseidon (a film awash in great visuals) comes when Captain Leslie Nielson finishes telling Linda Ex Hooker Rogo about the ill tempered cat Poseidon, after whom the ship is named. The red emergency light on his table-mounted phone begins flashing and, if you watch the scene uncropped (in wide screen) it was originally framed so that Stella Stevens' massive breasts (and no other part of her) jut into the frame from stage right, pointing at the flashing light as if to direct our attention towards it.
When films lost small, elegant, detailing such as that, they went from "film" to merely "movie" IMHO.
One sad thing about the death of the studio system, is that it also led to the death of The Career in Decline. You used to slip from A film to B film, A studio to B studio, land lead role on TV series and then, finally, work in films like the Poseidon Adventure and Airport 1975.
No one becomes a beloved has~been anymore; either you are hot or you are gone. There will be no self-referential film making in 2025, because the stars of 1990-2009 will not be beloved has beens and a film with a Poseidon-like cast, altho theoretically possible, will not be fun to watch.
I'll join you, Jim. I hear that she was a hit last year.
Are there any drugs that will stop one's ears from bleeding?
On topic, I was really saddened by the Peterson remake of The Poseidon Adventure. It had so much potential but it was devoid of heart. That's what's so wonderful about the original. Even though it's a camp-fest upside down, it's still got a lot of heart and you actually *care* about the people involved (except Nonnie).
Yeah, that's because the original cast could, for the most part, act. Multiple Oscar winners, plus the one "stacked blonde" from the 1960s who wasn't a complete blank page onscreen ( she, in fact, usually brought tons of personality to the roles she played) and a child actor so irritating that normally robotic Pamela Sue Martin comes across as proficient by default in their scenes together. And Nonnie.
An ET member, not to name drop and not me dammit, lived my fantasy a few years ago when he got to escort The Society Matron Bit Player Who Looks At The Purser As If He Is god (She wrings her hands, overreacts with horror, and yells "the Purser is Right !" at Gene Hackman, post disaster) to the Hollywood screening of Poseidon marking the director's 99th birthday!
Even the bit players had more elan, and were more memorable, than the leads in either remake. Woman In Blue Sequin Gown Sitting Next To Gene Hackman is actually more attractive than any of the female cast (remake) and you find yourself wondering who she is in real life. Special Needs Woman Who Manny Rosen Kisses During Auld Lang Syne Who Then Has An Odd And Prolonged Reaction provides more entertainment during her brief appearance than the remakes do in two hours. Note as well that the dining room is stocked with eye-candy women, many of whom have star quality, yet the majority of the male cast aspires to be slighly more visually appealing than Ernest Borgnine. Yup, apparently it was still "A Man's World" in Poseidon's casting dept.
No heart and no memorable actors is a lethal combination, particularly in a remake.
>I hear that she was a hit last year.
I have a credit from her! She has emailed, more than once, so that I dont forget that Wing will, at my word, call a friend of mine and sing to him or her over the phone. So, I got a ringside table, am going to put myself up at the Millenium, and to keep my brain from rotting out am attending Design USA: Contemporary Innovation at Cooper-Hewitt. Kind of the Jekyll and Hyde of my psyche emerging on the same day.
>Are there any drugs that will stop one's ears from bleeding?
No. You must condition yourself. For the week leading up to the show, listen to Sari Wontner; Florence Foster Jenkins; Mae West's version of Twist and Shout; "Patty Duke Sings Valley of the Dolls," and Sally Struthers, as Teen Pebbles, singing "Yabba Dabba Doozy" (1971), on a daily basis. Do that and you MIGHT emerge from Wing intact.
Yma Sumac is fun. Merman, I suspect, was in the throes of dementia when that album was recorded. It has finally been released on CD. Robert Guillaume's disco release is highly underrated in the ears bleeding competition. Then, of course, is the Braillettes, the all-blind girl group who, alas, never got the chance to give the Supremes a run for their money...