For Your Ears Only: Roger Spottiswoode’s TOMORROW NEVER DIES

Artwork provided by Jeffrey Marshall

Join Frank, Tom, and Mac with special guest Perrin Spychala as they discuss Pierce Brosnan’s second outing as 007 in Roger Spottiswoode’s TOMORROW NEVER DIES. Released in 1997, the film also features a terrific ensemble composed of Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Ricky Jay, Gotz Otto, Vincent Schiavelli, and Joe Don Baker.

Roger Spottiswoode’s Terror Train

I never realized just how many slasher flicks Jamie Lee Curtis did back in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Well, she only did four, but that’s still two more than I was recently aware of and I probably never would have stumbled upon Terror Train if Prime hadn’t put it top of the queue for awhile. It’s a decent enough horror exercise that is of course no match for Halloween, but has it’s moments. Curtis and a whole pack of rambunctious college partygoers are living it up aboard a train that’s barrelling though rural Quebec in the dead of night. Several of these people were involved in a very nasty prank a few years before and the person they preyed on has returned to prey on them, in the slow build, one by one, gruesome slaughter fashion we’re used to seeing in these types of flicks. It’s essentially your garden variety slasher flick set on a train and is entertaining enough, although never close to anything you might call scary. Curtis is good as the one in their group with the strongest moral compass, who realizes quick that their past isn’t done with them yet. Infamous magician David Copperfield shows up here playing, you guessed it, a magician who entertains these college kids when they’re not drinking or getting hacked to pieces. There’s a salty old train conductor (Ben Johnson) who begins to figure out something is wrong pretty quick, and I enjoyed his keen awareness because usually the slasher lore dictates that any staff or fringe players are clueless until the hammer eventually comes down on them. Pay close attention to certain scenes where the killer is hiding in very plain sight and see if you can tell who it is (it was fairly obvious to me), they picked a very weird, kinda ‘evil pixie’ looking individual whose creepy appearance goes a long way. It’s not a horror classic by any standards, but gets the job done for fans of the retro aesthetic, plus movies set on trains always have that going for them by default.

-Nate Hill

ROGER SPOTTISWOODE’S THE PURSUIT OF D.B. COOPER — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Being a product of the 1980’s, there are more than a few under the radar gems that always made me smile (for one reason or another) or that kept me entertained. Based on the novel Free Fall by J.D. Reed, The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper was one of those titles that I found myself watching on cable (or was it HBO?) repeatedly, never truly understanding it, but enjoying it nonetheless. It’s always been on the back on my mind to revisit, so I sought it out, and low and behold, it’s nearly impossible to find. So I recently purchased a Hungarian Region B DVD for the film (no American disc release has ever occurred, to my knowledge), and despite the fact that the movie was lensed 1.85:1 and then presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio (thus losing visual information), I had to check it out again. The disc transfer looks to have been processed in bowls of urine, which is a shame, because the image looked overly yellow in numerous spots and the cinematography, in general, is consistently eye-catching. As for the movie, it’s exactly as I remembered it being – a raucous, wild, totally crazy little action adventure that took a real man and real situation and turned the entire thing into the equivalent of story you’d tell at a campfire, or an urban legend that takes on a mind of its own.

Released in 1981, the film centers on wild-man aircraft hijacker D. B. Cooper (Treat Williams in a unique role), who made off with $200,000 in 1971 after leaping from the back of a plane over the Pacific Northwest. The script imagines what it would have been like for Cooper to hide out and attempt to evade capture by law enforcement. Jeffrey Alan Fiskin’s incident packed screenplay fictionalized most of what happened during Cooper’s escape, but that doesn’t prevent this offbeat item from being undervalued if a tad obscure; Fiskin’s other scripting credits include Cutter’s Way and Tony Scott’s pulpy thriller Revenge. John Frankenheimer was the film’s original director, and would later denounce the entire production. He was replaced by TV journeyman Buzz Kulik just before shooting began. Then, after the movie was well into production, Kulik was fired, and replaced by final collaborator Roger Spottiswoode, who would be the only director to receive an onscreen credit. The film has an interesting, sort of ramshackle visual aesthetic, heightened by a jaunty, honky-tonk-ish score by James Horner. A sort of lark that would never get made today, the performances by Robert Duvall (as an insurance investigator) and Williams anchor the film with a level of class and conviction, Kathryn Harrold was a total knock-out, and while the overall lightheartedness of the entire endeavor is apparent from frame one, the various action scenes are briskly shot, cut, and executed, especially the opening sequence complete with a real sky-dive done before the era of CGI laziness kicked in.