Category Archives: LBoM: Editorials

The Film That (Probably) Killed John Wayne And Several Others

Hey folks. So first off and for my regular readers. I know I didn’t publish much on this blog last year. I was busy concentrating on other writing projects and that’s pretty much how things will be this year too. I made some great connections in 2019 and got my foot in a few doors, wrote a lot, published 2 books and almost finished a 3rd too, which I’ll be publishing in the next couple of months. Then I also have a few other big writing projects simmering away for 2020. So I won’t have the time to dedicate to this blog as I have in the past, but I’ll still be publishing a few articles through the year as and when I can.

And for my first article of 2020, I take a look at the film that most probably caused the death of one of Hollywood’s greatest acting legends, as well as other connected deaths and some interesting tit-bits about the film as a whole…

The Man

Marion Mitchell Morrison, a.k.a John Wayne, a.k.a The Duke. One of the all time Hollywood greats, a true tough guy known for playing heroic cowboys, cops, soldiers and much more. A multi-award winning/nominated actor, including winning the Oscar for Best Actor in 1963 for the film True Grit. A man with a worldwide fanbase that included my granddad. As a child growing up, I remember whenever we’d go round to visit my grandparents, granddad would always have his films on and 9 times out of 10, it would be a John Wayne flick.

John Wayne 2

It was the 11th of June, 1979 when John Wayne died of stomach cancer… but the fact he died of cancer is not that unusual. He was a heavy smoker and had a 6 pack a day habit. It’s the fact that more than 90 other people who all worked on the same film as John had developed some form of cancer and by 1980, 46 of those had died from the disease. That film was 1956’s The Conqueror.

The Film

I guess that today, some would call the film “racist” or “culturally inappropriate” due to the fact that white American actor John Wayne plays the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, complete with some questionable make-up to make him darker and appear more Mongolian. But even if we ignore the slight racism by today’s standards… it’s just not a very good film at all. It was critically panned when released and has gone down in cinematic history as one of those “so bad it’s good” flicks.

The Conqueror poster

Directed by Dick Powell, produced by Howard Hughes (yes THE Howard Hughes) and starring John Wayne along with Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead and Pedro Armendáriz. The Conqueror is a hot mess of a film. From terrible miscasting to a nonsensical and boring plot, with some of the worst dialogue you’ll hear in a movie…

“I feel this Tartar woman is for me.”

– John Wayne

The Conqueror tells the story of Genghis Khan (John Wayne) falling in love with, Bortai (Susan Hayward). When Genghis Khan kidnaps Bortai, he kick-starts a war. Long story short, there’s some fighting, betrayal and Bortai ends up falling for the Mongol chief and they live happily ever after. As stupid as the plot is… it is loosely based on fact… very, very loosely.

As I said before, The Conqueror is a terrible film and is considered one of the worst films ever made and definitely one of John Wayne’s poorest flicks. It’s terribleness and being slated by critics at the time led to the closure of legendary production studio RKO Radio Pictures due to losing so much money. And if killing off a world renowned film studio was not enough, it could be argued it also killed off a lot of it’s cast and crew too.

The Cancer Controversy

And so we get to the meat of this article, just how can a film give more than 90 people cancer? Well it all boils down to where they chose to shoot the film… in the vicinity of a nuclear weapon testing site. Pretty much all exterior shots were filmed at St. George, Utah which was several miles downwind of the United States government’s Nevada National Security Site. The same location with a good chunk of nuclear fallout from testing during Operation Upshot–Knothole in 1953. And if that was not bad enough, then Howard Hughes paid to have 60 tons of the dirt from the site shipped back to Hollywood so any filming done at the studio there would match up with the location.

Operation Upshot–Knothole

The deaths include, but not limited to the film’s director, Dick Powell, who died of cancer in 1963. Co-star Pedro Armendáriz took his own life in 1963 after he was diagnosed with cancer in 1960 and learned it became terminal later. Other actors like Agnes Moorehead died of uterine cancer in 1974. Leading lady, Susan Hayward was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1974 and died after suffering a seizure in 1975. Then of course, there was John Wayne himself who died of stomach cancer in 1979.

And that was just the main cast and crew as many others also died from various forms of cancer by 1980 that worked on the film. Then there were cancer scares of people not even in the film at all. Both of John Wanye’s sons, Michael and Patrick visited the location where the film was being  shot and both of them developed cancer related conditions. Michael with skin cancer and Patrick had a tumour removed from his breast. Even Susan Hayward’s son, Tim had to have a benign tumour removed from his mouth. Plus other visitors had to be treated for cancer related illnesses.

Howard Huges

Then we get to eccentric business magnate Howard Hughes who was the main producer on the film. Well if you know anything about Howard, then you know he went a bit off the rails in his latter years… and that’s putting it mildly. He went completely bat-shit crazy. Becoming a recluse, living in a Las Vegas hotel for years and storing his urine in bottles were some of his more tame endeavours. While hiding away from public life, he bought the rights to The Conqueror outright and every single print of the film for around $12 million. He reportedly would watch the film on a loop day and night during his final years before dying of kidney failure in 1976.

Around 220 people worked on the film, an estimated 91 of them developed some form of cancer and a total of 46 of them died due to the disease. And those numbers don’t include visitors to the set or the Native American Paiute extras who also worked on the film but were not credited. So the cancer deaths could very well be higher.

I once read a review of a film where the critic made the jokey comment that the film was so bad that it gave them cancer. Well in the case of The Conqueror that claim could very well be true.

John Wayne 3

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”

– John Wayne

My 12 Movies Of Christmas… And When I Watch Them

I have a tradition every year where I watch my choice of Christmas flicks in the 12 day run up to Christmas Day. Now I don’t only watch these 12, I sit through other films in the festive build up, but it is these 12 in particular I always watch on these specific days. It’s not as obvious a list as others as some of my choices have nothing to do with the annual celebrations that are Noël. Now I do have some undisputed Christmas classics here, yet some just are completely unrelated.

Okay, so before I get into this one, I just need to clarify something, why a few of these films have nothing to do with Christmas. Not set at Christmas, no Yuletide characters, not even a slight whiff of a mention of the festive period or any kind of Christmasy message at all. But there is a reason for this, I covered it in my Die Hard/Christmas article last year, but I’ll just quickly recap here to explain…

So back in the 80s here in the UK, we only had 4 TV channels and 2 of them (BBC 2 and Channel 4) tended to concentrate on alternative, indie, ‘outside of the box’ type shows and films. This left the other 2 (BBC 1 and ITV) which were more mainstream and would, over the Christmas period, always fight for viewers by securing big, popular films for the holidays, often TV premieres. Meaning that I got to see a lot of flicks over Christmas as a kid. So even though some had absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, they still take me back to my childhood and remind me of those family gatherings over the festive period and (to me) are very much Christmas movies despite having zilch to do with Xmas at all. So with that out of the way, on with my list.

December 14th

So you know my explanation of how some of the films in my list are not connected to Christmas? Well the first is very much one of those.

Rocky III#

Yeah Rocky III is a Christmas film for me. See, this one takes me back to Christmas of 85 or 86. It was one of those big TV movie premieres I mentioned. We had Nan and Granddad staying with us for Christmas and after dinner, after playing with my new toys but before bedtime. 9 or 10 year old me sat on the sofa with my Nan and we watched Rocky III for the first time. I like to watch this one as my festive movie marathon begins just to spark off that Christmas childhood memory once more and remember by much missed Nan.

December 15th

Well at least this one is set at Christmas. Okay it involves parents abandoning their deformed child, a dead woman brought back to life by cats, a corrupt business man and other man who dresses up as a bat… but it’s set at Christmas.

Batman Returns

Batman Returns is the sequel to the awesome 1989 Batman flick. It’s dark, brooding, moody and very Gothic. Not as good as the first film, but it’s Christmas setting is mainly why it makes this list. I love the juxtaposition of director Tim Burton’s dark vision against the film’s happy setting. Seeing those wonderful sets and buildings that offer a very
foreboding atmosphere decorated with bright and colourful Christmas decorations is beautiful and always gets me in the festive mood.

December 16th

Follow the yellow brick road.

1939, THE WIZARD OF OZ
I have to confess, I really do not like The Wizard of Oz. I don’t like the music, I don’t like the characters, I don’t like the story. So why is it on this list? Because this is another one of those films from my childhood that always seem to be on TV over Christmas when I was growing up. This one takes me back to memories of those family gatherings as we all sat there watching The Wizard of Oz, it just became tradition year after year. I don’t like the film, but I love the memories it brings back.

December 17th

It’s another one of those nothing to do with Christmas films from my childhood. It’s time to go back in time…

Back to the Future
This film was actually released here in the UK in December, 1985, so at least I can say that Back to the Future is Christmasy-ish. But I first saw it on TV years later (and after I watched the sequel in the cinema in 1989) over the Christmas period. There’s not much I can say about this time travelling classic that has not already been said before. A glorious melding of comedy, sci-fi, and awesome music too. One of my all time favourite films that I still love to revisit every year for Christmas.

December 18th

Okay, so nothing but actual Christmas films from this point onward. My all time favourite Christmas story is the Charles Dickens penned A Christmas Carol. I even like to read the original story over the festive period if I get the chance. But when it comes to film adaptions, there are dozens and dozens to choose from.

Scrooge

Scrooge (A Christmas Carol in the US) starring Alastair Sim from 1951 is my pick here. A great and very British re-telling of the tale with a lot of charm and personality. This version also adds a lot more meat to the bones over the source material and none of it feels out of place either. It’s just brilliantly told version of the classic story. The first, but not only version of A Christmas Carol on my list…

December 19th

What’s Christmas without a little fun and merriment? Quite possibly the funniest Christmas film ever about the worst family Christmas ever.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is third film in the Vacation franchise starring Chevy Chase as Clark, the head of the long suffering Griswold family. A nice family Christmas soon turns into chaos as guest and family members turn the festive gathering into a disaster. This is crude with toilet humour and slapstick… and I love it. A stupid film for a stupid season that packs a lot of heart warming Christmasy felling into it. Just don’t watch the sequel…

December 20th

Cuteness, monsters and quite possibly the most disturbing story of how a little girl learned there was not Santa.

Gremlins

Monster movies and Christmas is a cocktail that just should not work. But Gremlins gets the mix just right and serves up a tasty concoction. A scary “family film” that is at times a little to intense for kids but great fun for adults. I remember the first time I saw Gremlins, I was about 12 years old and a neighbour rented it out on VHS and asked me over to watch.  It was all I could talk about at school for the following few weeks, I loved it as a kid and even more so as an adult. That story Kate tells of how she found out Santa wasn’t real… that’s dark man.

December 21st

So I may be cheating a bit here as this isn’t really a film. It’s a TV show, but a feature length episode of a TV show… but it is Christmas.

Black Mirror White Christmas

Black Mirror is an anthology show where technology takes centre stage and shows the (mostly) dark and disturbing way it can be abused. Black Mirror: White Christmas is the festive special and it’s just as bleak as it’s standard episodes. This one is actually an anthology within an anthology as this episode features four interconnecting stories about 2 men stuck in a small house over Christmas and just how they are connected is slowly revealed. This is very, very downbeat and depressing and I think it’s brilliant.

December 22nd

It’s back, that darned Dickens descriptive. Told you I love this yarn and here’s another adaption I always watch over Christmas.

Scrooged.jpg

Directed by Richard Donner and starring Bill Murray. Scrooged is a much more comedic and contemporary take on the classic tale. Bill’s take on the Scrooge character (Frank Cross in this version) is sarcastic, bitter and still not without charm. Behind the scenes stories tell that Richard Donner and Bill Murray never got on and how the plot kept changing. Apparently Bill hated working on this film… and yet it and he are still brilliant to watch. 

December 23rd

Who’d have thought that a film about a man wanting to commit suicide would make for an all time Christmas classic film?

It's a Wonderful Life.jpg

I love Jimmy Stewart, he’s one of my all time favourite actors ever. His good looks, charm and that voice all add up to one of the most charming and charismatic people ever seen on film. It’s a Wonderful Life is a wonderful flick. Despite the fact this film has very, very little to do with Christmas, it’s still an undisputed Christmas classic and one I watch year after year after year.

Christmas Eve

There is really only one film you can watch on Christmas Eve. The greatest Christmas Eve film ever made.

Die Hard.jpg

Watching Die Hard the night before Christmas has become a decades long tradition for me now going back to Christmas of 1989 when my older brother first came home with a copy of Die Hard on VHS to watch. I must have been around 13 years old at the time and loved the film. This year will mark the 30th year running I’ve watched Die Hard on the night before Christmas and I hope to continue it for at least another 30.

Christmas Day

So it’s the main event and I’ve already included some surefire (and no so) Christmas classics. But for the grand finale, I’ve got to pull out the big guns and those lovable marionette/puppets.

The Muppet Christmas Carol

I grew up watching The Muppet Show on TV and even now as a 43 year old… I have a major soft spot for them. So when they made their version my all time favourite Christmas story, it was lighting in a bottle. I have already said how much I adore A Christmas Carol as a piece of storytelling and no matter how many times it is told and re-told year after year in it’s many different versions, I can just not get bored of it. The Muppet Christmas Carol is the best of the lot. That melding of music, humour, heart and of course, Muppets is genius. Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge is the most perfect casting and the way he plays off his fuzzy co-stars and they off him is flawless. The greatest Christmas film ever made.


 

I’m a little bit late with this list as it’s now the 15th as I publish this and not the 14th when my Christmas movie watching begins. The delay is due to the fact I was in hospital on the 14th as my son was born. Yup, I became a Daddy… best Christmas present ever!

Merry Christmas

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m a little behind with my list and have to go watch Rocky III and Batman Returns tonight. Have a good Christmas and New Year folks, see you in 2020… unless something big happens I feel I need to express an opinion on.

Time For A Female James Bond?

There have been rumours and speculation of a woman stepping into the iconic James Bond role for a while now. There’s even a female 007 in the new Bond flick played by Lashana Lynch. But there is a difference between James Bond and 007 as the number is just that, a number. It’s a code-name given to agents and there’s no issue with the person behind the 007 title being either gender. But the name James Bond, the character itself, is it time for a change there? Is it time for James to step aside as a possible Jane Bond takes over? With current James Bond, Daniel Craig officially stepping down as the iconic character after the latest film, No Time To Die, the door is open for a female.

James Bond.jpg

I’ve been pondering this very issue the last few days and I think I’ve come up with my own personal conclusion. You know what, maybe it is time for a change…

A few names have been thrown about recently as a female replacement for Daniel Craig as the next James Bond including Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart and Emilia Clarke who have all expressed an interest in being the first female James Bond. Times are changing, cinema as a whole is shifting as we see more and more females in larger and more action-centric roles. I’m all for more stronger females in films, we’ve had a smattering of them over the years with the likes of Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise, Beatrix “The Bride” Kiddo from Kill Bill, Sarah Connor from the Terminator flicks and the awesome Pam Grier in any film she’s ever been in for the last 50 years. Yup, there have been some truly amazing and strong females in action cinema over the years. So why not a female James Bond? Move with the times man.

Well, as I said, I’ve been thinking about this and I think a female Bond is wrong. Now hear me out before the feminists sting me up by my nards. It’s not that I’m against a female taking on the role but more a case of I feel a female James Bond is not inclusive enough. What about the whole LGBT+ movement and those folk who refuse to define themselves to any gender? What about the rise of veganism, etc? See, I think a female Bond would be a terrible move in this day and age because there are so many more groups who should also be included. So here’s my pitch for the next James Bond…

LBGT Flag

We need a character of a non-binary gender, one who wants to be addressed as ‘it’, ‘them’ and so on. They should also be strict vegans and teetotallers. Who’s sexual preference is undefined. The sort of person who kicks up a fuss on Twitter because a sandwich has a male-centric name. The new James Bond will no longer travel the world putting an end to evil villains hellbent on destruction, now ‘they’ will sit at home behind a laptop writing angry letters to Starbucks because their logo features a female figure being forced to wear a crown to fit a male-stylised image of beauty. We need a James Bond for the snowflake generation, one that cries a lot over nothing and get’s upset if someone calls him ‘them’ a name.

So what do you think, great idea right?

No, of course it’s not. It’s utter, utter arse gravy. James Bond is male, he was written as a male by Ian Fleming. He drinks booze, he shags women and shoots bad guys in the head while saving the world. That’s what he does, that’s James Bond. If they want a female James Bond then go away and write a new character to fit that template. Come up with a new super slick spy instead of trying to ruin the one we already have.

James Bond All

I’m not against this new trend of gender swapping in movies, I’m not. Look, I quite enjoyed the Ghostbusters remake. It was hardly high art, but I felt entertained by the film when I left the cinema. But do you know why I didn’t mind the gender swapping here? Because they were written as new characters, they didn’t lazily change their names to  Petra Venkman, Ramona Stantz, Ella Spengler and Wilhelmina Zeddemore. They were all new characters and written differently too (with varying degrees of success) and the film was separate from the male Ghostbusters franchise too. As a side-note: have you noticed how this gender swap trend is always male for female? There are not many or even any films where and established female character it recast as male is there?

Anyway, my point is that a female James Bond should never happen, ever. As I said, create a new character and leave Jimmy alone.

E.T. Is Back!

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was a gargantuan hit of a film when it was originally released back in 1982. A real childhood gem for millions of people all over the world. Believe it or not, but writer/director Steven Spielberg even had a sequel idea he wanted to explore, it’s an article I’ve been meaning to write for a while now but have just not yet gotten round to it… maybe next year?

Anyway, we may never have gotten that E.T. sequel, but the lovable alien has recently returned. Here in the UK, every Christmas there’s always a battle for the year’s best Christmas ad. Major supermarkets and shops usually lead the pack with their mini-epic Christmas themed stories, trying to tug at the heartstrings of us viewers while also wanting to sell their name and products.

It’s a tricky balancing act to pull off and for me, I find a lot of the Christmas ads just don’t work. Occasionally you get ones that really hit home, like this Sainsbury’s ad from 2014.

That’s the kind of thing we get year after year, mini-movies that tell a story while trying to get a nice Christmas message over at the same time. Normally it’s John Lewis who are champions at this… normally. They’ve had some cracking Christmas ads over the years, but recently they’ve definitely fallen of their perch. Last year was a blatant ad for Elton John and this year it’s an ad about an arsonist dragon.

This year, SkyUK has knocked it out of the park by bringing us a reunion almost 40 years in the making, finally come true when they brought back E.T. along with his earth-friend Elliot. I have to admit to just not having the admiration and love for E.T. now as I used to when I was a kid, but this ad really hit me hard in the childhood. I could sit here and explain the ad, but what’s the point when you can just watch it yourself…

Aside from the numerous references to the original film, it’s great to see this reunion finally happen after almost 4 decades. There’s just a lovely warm, fuzzy, family feeling running through the whole ad and for me, that’s what Christmas is about, family. SkyUK (or Comcast for our American cousins) have won Christmas 2019.

Well, instead of phoning home, E.T. can just send a email these days.

 

My Terminator Sequel Movie Pitch

So Terminator: Dark Fate is a flop at the box office, with some claiming it could mean the end of the franchise. Not really surprising given how awful and disrespectful it is to long time fans of the franchise. Now, I’ve been pretty vocal on the film myself, the short version is that it’s not very good at all, the much longer version can be read right here.

Now it’s all well and good sitting at my laptop yakking on about how bad the latest Terminator picture is… but it’s not very constructive is it? So after a while, I began to think how I personally would’ve pitched an idea for a new Terminator film. So here it is, my pitch for a new film in the long running and failing franchise.

Before I do get into this, I just want to clear something up. Terminator: Dark Fate had six people involved in the writing… six people, I’m only one person. The story would’ve also gone through weeks, months even years of work before filming began and finished, I’ve just come up with this after a couple of hours of thinking and even throwing in some stuff on the fly. The writers of Dark Fate would’ve been highly paid for their effort, I’m doing this for free… and fun. Then finally, Dark Fate was written by professionals working in Hollywood for years, one of them the creator of the franchise, I’m an amateur writer with a blog. Yet despite all of my short comings, lack of experience, money and talent, I’m still confident I can come up with a better Terminator film idea than Dark Fate. Oh and finally, this is a pitch just to get a story idea across not a script, so won’t be fully detailed.

The Terminator Logo

Okay, so the first thing to make clear is that Terminator: Dark Fate was a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day that ignored all the other films in the franchise. For my pitch, I’ll be doing the same… but I’m going a step further by also ignoring T2. Yup, my idea will be a direct sequel to the original 1984 picture, The Terminator. No friendly T-800, no super advanced T-1000, no blowing up Cyberdyne and no stopping judgement day.

So my film picks up with the end of the first film, 1984 where pregnant Sarah stops off at a gas station and pays $4 for a picture of herself (pretty good hustle kid). The ominous and effective “there’s a storm coming” and all that as Sarah and unborn John drive off toward the Mexican sunset as the storm clouds form. A narration begins with Sarah as she explains that Kyle was right, Skynet did become self-aware at 2:14 am and launched nukes at Russia which and kick-started a war on the 29th of August, 1997. The resulting nuclear war claimed three billion human lives and The War Against the Machines began.

The Terminator End

The film then flashes forward to 2010 in the war ravaged future. Not quite as bad as shown in the first film circa 2029, but still a very rundown future. Classic Terminator future battle stuff with (early model) endoskeletons, HKs, etc all our war shenanigans against humans. Cut to a slightly quieter part on the outskirts of the battlefield where a small family, father, mother and their 6 year old son are scavenging for supplies as they struggle to stay alive. As they look for anything they could use, a terminator kills the parents while the child is distracted looking through scrap. The terminator spots the boy and raises it’s M-27 Phased Plasma Pulse Rifle, taking aim at the 6 year old right between the eyes (a quick throwback to the Tech-Noir scene in the first film). Just as it looks like the kid is going to be terminated, a small group of rebels open fire on the machine and manage to destroy it. A 25 year old, battle scarred man steps forward and picks the youngster up (come with me of you want to live reference?) and takes him away from the horrors of the war to a secure settlement full of human life. Overseeing the settlement is an older Sarah Connor and that 25 year old, battle scarred man is her son John. After a little discussion, it’s agreed they they will look after and raise the 6 year old themselves. Sarah asks the newly orphaned and terrified child his name, he replies “Kyle Reese”, Sarah has a tear running down her face.

Flashback to 1995 with a younger Sarah (de-aged CGI Linda Hamilton, it’s all the rage right now) raising her 10 year old son (doesn’t have to be Edward Furlong cos T2 didn’t happen). She is a tough but fair mother as she trains him for his inevitable future as the leader of the resistance. They are hiding out in Mexico and Sarah has made a few ‘contacts’ over the years to gain weapons, etc to help train John. The youngster never resents his upbringing because it’s all he’s ever known. Firing guns at paper targets and learning how to use grenades is normal behaviour for this 10 year old. John asks about his father, who he was, where is he now. Sarah gets a little emotional (“in the few hours we had together, we loved a lifetime’s worth.”) but decides to tell John all about Kyle as she said she would in the recording she made at the end of the first film/start of this one. She tells John how Kyle was sent back in time from 2029 to 1984. Sarah quickly recaps the original film and tells John how his father sacrificed himself to save both Sarah and the unborn John against the killer T-800. We follow Sarah and John for a couple of years as the training continues and Sarah tries to warn people about judgement day but they think she is crazy. Sarah is shown as a very loving mother with the weight of human existence on her shoulders. It’s now late evening of the 28th of August, 1997, just a few hours before Skynet becomes self-aware. Sarah and John head toward an old and disused underground bunker (with a handful of people who believed Sarah) as the nukes begin to fly, judgement day begins. Taking from T2 (that didn’t happen in this film) to show the horror of a nuclear explosion as millions upon millions of people die.

T2 Sarah

Back in 2010 and the human settlement is attacked by a terminator, Sarah sacrifices herself (just as Kyle did for her) so John, Kyle and others can escape. Throw in a vehicle chase sequence cos you know, Terminator. They go on to set up an new human settlement. It’s now 2020 (looking more like the ravaged future shown in the first film) and Kyle is 16 years old (a very de-aged Michael Biehn), a highly trained and skilled soldier too. The settlement has grown over the years and become a haven for humans looking for shelter and to train and fight. The whole place is teeming with life, it’s reputation has grown over the years along with that of John… so much so that the settlement and John has been put on Skynet’s radar, who just observes, scrutinises and learns from the humans from afar… for now. Kyle begins to ask questions about Sarah, he kind of remembers someone from when he was found as a 6 year old but as she died before he grew up, his memory is hazy. John gives Kyle a picture of Sarah… that picture. He tells Kyle how Sarah was a brave and strong leader that helped him become the man he is now, but John leaves out little details, like Kyle going back in time and being his father.

The Terminator Sarah Photo

The settlement mange to get some intel on Skynet and the battle begins to turn in the humans favour, more settlements begin to be created, more soldiers trained all lead by John. There is still a good few years of fighting to go yet but there is a ray of hope that Skynet can be defeated. 2028 and Kyle is now a grown man (still a de-aged Michael Biehn now looking like he did in the first flick) and John’s right hand man, the resistance are winning the war, many, many human lives have been lost, but they are winning. Skynet has replaced it’s “easy to spot” rubber skinned T-600 units with the much more advanced T-800s with living tissue, one of the many things Skynet has learned observing the humans over the last few years. John Connor has been away and putting a plan together to attack Skynet itself, a bit like the Death Star attack in Star Wars only a lot better. The plan takes a while to perfect as the fighting continues. While trying to enjoy some very rare downtime, Kyle returns to one of the human settlements after being on the battlefield. You know Kyle’s nightmare scene in the first film where a terminator attacks and that photo of Sarah burns? Well this is that bit only with a bit more meat on the bones. More humans die, Kyle escapes and meets up with John. This is where John reveals he has perfected his plan to attack Skynet directly and launches his attack a few months later in 2029 after asking for volunteers. Taking a group of soldiers, Kyle included, they attack Skynet and smash the defence grid, Skynet has lost.

Skynet

Skynet has nothing left, but while John was coming up with his plan, Skynet was piecing together one of it’s own. It had secretly built a time machine, unbeknown to John and his intel. and planned on sending back an army of terminators to kill young Sarah Connor, in 1984, killing John before he’s even born. But with the humans gaining the upper hand in the war and Skynet losing so much, it decides to launch it’s plan early and without an army of units. Only one T-800 is available as most have been lost on the battlefield or currently fighting. As John and his soldiers attack, Skynet sends the T-800 back to 1984. John learns of Skynet’s plan and Kyle volunteers to go back to protect Sarah, wanting to meet the legend who sacrificed herself to save humanity.

The Terminator T-800 2.

Everything is bought full circle as the events of The Terminator begin…


 

Okay so that is my Terminator sequel movie pitch. It’s rough, needs a lot of work and to be honest, I threw it together after only a couple of hours. Of course this film will never be made, this was just done for a bit of fun… and to prove to myself that I could come up with a better film than Terminator: Dark Fate and it’s six writers. If I’m allowed to say so myself, I think I did a half decent job.

Just to finish, I’d like to apologise for the lack of any curtain hanging T-800s, not killing off the most important character in the franchise and rendering Kyle’s sacrifice completely redundant. I guess I just don’t know how to create and craft a film like highly paid Hollywood writers do.

Terminator: Dark Fate… Don’t Come Back

Well it happened, I watched the new Terminator film. I love the original The Terminator. It’s a beautiful blending of sci-fi, horror, action and even a bit of a love story. It’s mega-successful sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a flick I have lot of issues with… outside of Americans not being able to spell the word judgement correctly. The plot holes are ridiculous, it’s writing is inane and it’s basically an insult to the first film… but it’s a pretty decent action romp none the less. Then we get onto the other sequels and they range from average to pretty damn bad at best.

For me, there is only one Terminator film and that’s the first one. Yet I have still sat through all of the other films in the franchise… so may as well endure the sixth and latest film in the franchise, Terminator: Dark Fate. I said after watching the last film, Terminator: Genesis (I’m not spelling it ‘that’ way), that I was done with this franchise, it’s just been downhill since 1984. But Terminator: Dark Fate is currently being called the best sequel since T2, so it has to be good right? Due to the high praise the film has been getting, I just had to check it out.

Right off the bat here, I’m going to warn on massive and gargantuan SPOILERS. I am going to go through the plot and story of the film as well as looking at characters that will give away major plot points, even in the opening. So again, there will be major SPOILERS from this point onward.

The Film

So the flick opens with a nice reminder of one of the better scenes in T2, showing the scene from the film where Sarah Connor is being interviewed and kind of flips out as no one believes her about the future war and the rise of the machines.

Sarah Interview

It then cuts to a future war scene as several terminators emerge from the sea while Sarah delivers a narration about a hopeless future before cutting back to 1998 where Sarah and John are enjoying some sun on a beach in Guatemala. Sarah’s narration continues as she explains that the future of the machines talking over, Skynet and all that never happened because she stopped it. You know, all that blowing up Cyberdyne from T2 and the death of Miles Dyson and all that gubbins. As she sits in a bar looking over John, a T-800 casually walks in and kills John Connor, dead. Couple of shotgun blasts and the future leader of the resistance that will stop Skynet is dead. The main focus of the entire plot of the first two films is dead. It’s not even been four minutes into the film yet (three fifty for those counting) and John Connor is dead… I have more to say about this later but for now, on with the rest of the film.

Sarah laments over the death of John with a tacky line about how she is ‘terminated’ and it then cuts to present day as the arrival of the new protector and main character of the film is shown, Grace, played by… Justin Bieber. Seriously, when I first saw Grace (Mackenzie Davis) in this, I thought the new protector character in the film was played by Justin Bieber, so from now on, it’s Justin Bieber. Anyway, so Justin Bieber has been sent from the future in typical Terminator franchise fashion… naked. But John Connor is dead, so who has she been sent back to protect? There’s a scene where Justin beats the crap out of some Mexican police, cos the film is set in Mexico. Justin steals some clothes and off she goes in search of her target.

Dark Fate Grace

We are then introduced to the new target, Dani Ramos who lives with her family in a crappy little apartment. After some asinine character introductions, we then meet this film’s antagonist and all new terminator, the Rev-9 (basically the T-1000, again), who arrives at Dani’s home seconds after she leaves for work. So Rev-9 sets about looking for Dani, kills and mimics her father and goes after his target. Dani works at a car factory and this is where the first big showdown happens as both the Rev-9 (disguised as Dani’s father) and Justin Bieber turn up to kill and protect Dani respectively.  We get to see what Justin Bieber is made of, she’s human but with ‘enhancements’. You remember The Bionic Woman? Well she’s a bit like that. After a small fight sequence, the main chase of the film begins.

So anyway, Justin, Dani and her brother make a run for it with Rev-9 in pursuit. You know the main car chase scenes from the trailer? Well this is that part. Cars get smashed up as Justin Bieber tells Dani that she is from the future and here to protect her. Rev-9 disables their car and kills Dani’s brother… and this is where Sarah Connor shows up proper, you’ve already seen it in the trailer anyway where she turns up armed to the teeth and shooting an RPG at Rev-9. So Justin and Dani make a run for it by stealing Sarah’s car and leave her to fight off the T-1000, Sorry Rev-9 for herself.

Dark Fate Sarah

As Justin Bieber and Dani are running away, Justin beings to show signs of a struggle and is in a bad way. She has enchanted speed and strength, but at the cost of becoming ‘fatigued’ I guess. Justin is in need of medical attention, so Dani takes her to a local chemist for some drugs. Sarah tracks them down as Justin Bieber passes out. Sarah takes them to a motel to rest up. When Justin regains consciousness, more of the plot (what little there is) is revealed as Sarah learns that Skynet no longer exists and never actually did. It turns out that Justin Bieber is from an alternate future created after the events of T2. Instead of Skynet, there is Legion… basically Skynet. Legion is still a highly advanced AI, it still starts a war between man and machine, there is still a judgement day of sorts, just not one at the hands of Skynet. As I said, Legion is basically Skynet just with a different name. So it turns out that Dani is this film’s 1984 Sarah Connor who will go on to give birth to the future leader the resistance against Legion. So the plot of this film is the plot of The Terminator with a slight name change or two.

Sarah says how after John was killed, she started getting encrypted messages. Justin Bieber decrypts the messages and it just so happens to turn out that the messages are being sent from the very same location of some coordinates that had been tattooed onto Justin’s body just days before she was went back in time… what an incredibly lucky coincidence. So the trio of ladies decide to head to the location the messages have been sent from in Texas. Sneaking over the Mexico-United States border, they finally arrive at the source of the messages, the very same (now aged) T-800 that killed John in the opening. Cutting a very boring story as short as I can, the T-800 agrees to help train Dani to fight Rev-9. I’m just going to skip to the end here…

Dark Fate Heros.png

So Justin Bieber, Sarah, Dani and old T-800 team up and fight the Rev-9 at Hoover Dam. En-route, it is revealed that Dani in the future actually found and raised Justin Bieber when she was younger during the war. It turns out that Dani is not this film’s Sarah at all, she is this film ‘s John Connor. It is Dani who will rise to lead the resistance against Legion… what a pointless twist. After a plane crash and landing at the dam, there’s another fight sequence and both Justin and the T-800 end up sacrificing themselves to save Dani and kill Rev-9. Sarah becomes surrogate mother to the future leader of the resistance (female John). End credits and teases a sequel I hope never happens.

Now the plot is is of the way, I’m just going to take a look at the characters…

Rev-9

So this new evil terminator is basically a cross between the T-800 and T-1000. It has an endoskeleton like the T-800, but instead of the living tissue, it has the liquid metal of the T-1000 and can mimic who and whatever it touches. It can also split itself into two and work independently. It can operate as the endoskeleton as well as making a human form as the liquid metal. To be honest, I kind of liked this idea and you see it used a few times in the film too. But as a character, it’s just all a bit dull. Despite it’s interesting splitting into two thing… it’s just a T-1000 and we’ve already seen it. Gabriel Luna who plays Rev-9 is no Robert Patrick. He’s not scary, not intimidating and never really felt like a threat. I have multiple problems with Terminator 2, but Robert Patrick as the T-1000 was not one of them. This Rev-9 is just boring.

Dani

Ah yes, this film’s Sarah/John Connor. Thinking back to the first film, you get to see Sarah grow as a character. She starts off as this timid waitress who ‘can’t even balance her checkbook’. Yet through the course of the film, we see her grow into the strong woman she becomes at the end and through T2. You don’t get any of that with Dani here, she is one note from start to end. There is no evolution of character, no depth of character. She’s a insipid, annoying girl at the start and she stays just like that right up to the finale.

Justin Bieber

I’m sorry, but I have to keep making these comparisons. Kyle in the first film was a tough and grizzled soldier from the future. He was a bad ass, but he also had a softer side and came across as very vulnerable too. Justin here is a flat line. There is nothing here, no character. And what is the point of making her ‘enhanced’ if she keeps breaking down as in need of drugs? They were (I think) going for a human/machine hybrid in an attempt to show how, despite a deadly war between human and machines, that they can coexist and live in harmony. Instead of this faux and vomit-enduing symbolism, I’d have preferred that they just went with either a human protector or a machine… and a character with some actual character too.

Sarah Connor

Far and away, the best thing about this film is Linda Hamilton back as Sarah Connor. She’s bitter, tough and yet still very likeable… even when she is being a complete bitch. She even has a scene where she breaks down talking to Dani about John… and Linda is sublime in it. Linda’s acting is brilliant. She has the best lines (mostly), the best scenes and more than holds her own during the action scenes too. Utterly brilliant to the point where I kind of wish Sarah was the only main character of the film. Drop the dreadful Dani and the insufferable Justin Bieber, just have the film focus on Sarah and her hatred/distrust of the machines and this could’ve been great. In fact, it would’ve been so much better of they hadn’t killed off John… more on this soon…

T-800

I’ve saved the worst for last. I love the first film and I think that the T-800 is one of cinema’s greatest villains. I really disliked how they made him good for T2… really disliked. Over the years, I held out hope we would see an evil T-800 again in one of the sequels. The closest we got was Arnie’s ‘cameo’ in Terminator: Salvation and his de-ageing bit in Terminator: Genesis (don’t care, I’m not spelling it like a six year old). Sadly, looks like we’ll never see that evil T-800 again. The small glimpse we get in the opening where he kills John is about as close as we will get. I never liked how they made him the good guy in the sequels… but this film? This film just outright takes the piss.

So the T-800 in this, after killing John developed a conscious, he felt ‘guilt’ (I guess) over his actions. He met a woman and got married, became a stepfather to his wife’s son. They live together, have a dog and everything. The T-800 also has a name, Carl. You do remember the T-800 from the first film right? This is how the franchise creator once described the T-800…

“It’s death rendered in steel.”

–  James Cameron

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. But now? Now Carl as he is called is a soft furnishings expert… I’m not joking. The T-800 hangs curtains (drapes for my American readers) for a living. There is a part in the film where Carl advises Dani on the best curtains to hang and how to do it… again, I’m not joking. From smashing through into a police station and massacring people…

Dark Fate T800 T1

To hanging curtains, this is the T-800 now. He’s married, has a kid and a dog… who doesn’t bark, which fans will now is a big no, no! Honestly, this is perhaps the biggest betrayal of the character ever. A huge FU to the fans. But to be honest, us fans should’ve seen this coming, I mean it was foretold in the first film with Kyle Reese’s famous line…

“Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, unless it decides to hang up some curtains.”

– Kyle Reese

Oh no, my mistake. That didn’t happen did it cos it’s fucking stupid. Have you heard what they are doing with Michael Myers in the Halloween reboot sequel? He’s going to work at a veterinary clinic to look after fluffy bunnies and cute puppies. He’s not because the writers of that film are not stupid. Oh and the Halloween reboot is getting a sequel (two even) which this film won’t.

The Plot Holes

This film had six writers covering the story and screenplay (one of them supposedly James Cameron himself)… six and none of them any good. Even the other sequels didn’t have to pay this many people to write something so god awful bad.

Writers

Seriously, six people had a hand in writing this mess? I could’ve done a better job and you wouldn’t have had to pay me six times either. The one is full of plot holes before it ever really begins.

So if a T-800 killed John at the start, then Skynet wins. But because of the events in T2 what with destroying Cyberdyne, Skynet does not exist. Fine… so who sent the T-800 to kill John in the opening then if Skynet does not exist? No Skynet, no T-800 terminators. Sarah says in this film that the future of Skynet taking over didn’t happen…

Why would Skynet send a T-800 back to kill John anyway when it has the much more advanced T-1000?

If this film takes place in an alternate timeline where John and Skynet do not exist, then why would Sarah be involved at all? The first two films were about protecting John. First unborn in The Terminator and then years later when he was ten years old in T2. But if there is no more John, then Sarah has no reason to be involved in this film’s events at all. As much as I loved Sarah in this film (she is easily the best thing)… she is completely redundant too.

Rev-9 arrives in the past during the day and he arrives right outside Dani’s apartment too. Traditionally through the franchise, the terminators arrive at night (Justin Bieber does), so if Rev-9 had arrived at night (as is the tradition) Dani would’ve been asleep in bed and he could have killed her within seconds. So why did Legion send Rev-9 back in time to arrive during the day?

The film points out that Sarah has been hunting and killing other terminators sent back in time over the years (sent by who or what I don’t know, Legion I guess) single-handed. How? These machines are very hard to destroy as shown in all the films, but Sarah has been able to get rid of them on her own? Yeah she’s armed as this film shows, but it also shows her struggling to even make a major dent in Rev-9. Even Justin Bieber says you don’t fight these things, you run away… and she’s enhanced remember. Sarah even admits later in the film the taking out a terminator alone is virtually impossible… but that’s what she has been doing for the last twenty odd years. So an enhanced super soldier can’t stop a terminator, but a 60 year old normal woman can?

The very second Sarah see the T-800 in this, she instantly knows it’s the same one that killed John… how? Sarah knows there are multiple T-800s from her own experiences. The killer one form the first film and the protector from T2. As she has been killing other terminators over the years, there’s a chance she crossed paths with others too. Yet the second she sees the T-800 in this, she just knows it’s the exact same make and model that killed John back in 1998? No questions are asked. For all Sarah knew, it could’ve been another good T-800 sent back to protect.

How has the T-800/Carl in this managed to get married and settle down when the authorities have his face on file from the previous two films? You know, the T-800 image was caught when he stormed the police station and again in T2 at the shopping mall. He’s a wanted ‘man’ being hunted for mass murder, but he can get a marriage license, house, set up a curtain hanging business, etc and not raise any suspicion? Did the police just forget about this mass murderer?

How can his wife not notice she is married to a machine? This is kind of covered in the film when Carl explains their relationship is not physical. So they don’t to the mattress-mambo or anything, but they must at least hug, a goodnight kiss? Something, they must have had some kind of physical contact in the twenty plus years they have been together. Not once has his wife ever hugged her husband, tried to playfully lift him. Not once in over two decades has she noticed her husband doesn’t sleep, use the toilet or ever get ill… never?

Overall

This film is awful. I have problems with T2 as a film, but I’m willing to admit that it’s still an entertaining flick. This is dull, it’s boring. Even the action sequences are nothing more than mediocre. The plot is basically T2 with a pinch of the first film thrown in. The characters are asinine and unlike-able (except for Sarah). People are describing this film as the Star Wars: The Force Awakens of the Terminator franchise. I agree, as it’s just as bad. It’s also being called the best sequel since T2… by idiots. Either that or people paid by the production studio to try and gain some favourable reviews. Again, six people were involved in the writing. How and why does it take six people to say “let’s rehash T2 and a bit of the first film.”?

What was the point of killing off John in the opening if all you are going to do is replace him with another character exactly the same? If the filmmakers really wanted to change things up… then change things up. Same goes for getting rid of Skynet only to replace it with Legion, which is Skynet just with a different name. Legion does the exact same thing Skynet did. It’s utterly pointless. It you are going to change something, then change it.

On the subject of killing John. Apparently that was James Cameron’s idea. Well I’m here to call him out on his hypocrisy, because ole James was one of the most vocal on the killing of Newt and Hicks in Alien 3, in fact he said that idea was dumb. So let me see if I have this right Mr Cameron. Killing off secondary characters like Newt and Hicks, who, in the grand scheme, are not intrigal to the plot was dumb… but killing off a central and important character, the main focus of the entire franchise like John Connor is a good idea? Making Kyle Reese’s reason for existing as a character and his sacrifice to go to the past utterly redundant, that’s a good thing is it Jimmy?

Linda Hamilton has said of the opening to this film that it will shock people. No Linda it won’t. What it will do is piss off millions and millions of fans of the franchise all over the world. You won’t get shock, what you will get is a collective “fuck you!” and continual eye rolling. John Connor is the cornerstone of the entire franchise, kill off John, you have no film(s)… as Dark Fate proves. The death of John means that everything before this film was pointless. Remember Kyle’s sacrifice of volunteering to go back in time to (his words) “meet the legend” that is Sarah Connor. The fact he knew it was a one way trip, the fact Kyle ended up falling in love and creating the saviour of the world? Nothing, it means nothing due to the plot of this flick. All that emotion, all that bravery from Kyle is meaningless now.

Other people are highlighting this film’s anti-male agenda (kill off John – male, replace with Dani – female) or it’s ‘woke culture’ banality. Honestly, that’s not my problem with this picture, my problem is how badly written it is and how dull turned out to be. See, when I watch a film, I just want one thing… to be entertained. Terminator: Dark Fate is anything but entertaining.

The other sequels have been mostly poor, maybe a few highlights, but mostly poor. Yet, they tried to do something different, at least they put some effort in. Terminator: Salvation with it’s idea to tell the story of John and Kyle in the future was a great idea, this is what T2 should’ve been back in 1991. Terminator Genesis (nope) also had a fantastic premise (badly realised and cast I admit) of another T-800 send back when Sarah was a child and preparing her for the events of the first film was fantastic. Even Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which was another lazy rehash of T2 and featured some terrible ‘comedy’ moments, at least that film had that amazing ending. But Dark Fate is bland, boring, tiresome and an insult to Terminator fans on every level.

Said to be the start of a new trilogy of Terminator films. Yeah they said that about both Terminator: Salvation and Genesis (I still refuse to spell it that stupid way) and look what happened there. Here’s an idea, how about just trying to make one good film and then see how it goes from there instead of forcing a trilogy?

Please do not waste you money on this dreck, the less money this film makes, the less likely it is to get a sequel. The Terminator franchise is dead and has been for many, many years now.

I'll Be Back

I hope not.

Update: Thankfully Terminator: Dark Fate is currently bombing at the box office. My faith in the public as been renewed. Hopefully Hollywood might take notice and realise they can’t keep churning out shit and expect people to lap it up.

Was There A Real Killer In The Exorcist?

I love The Exorcist, it’s my favourite horror flick. I’m such a fan that this is the second article on the film in my bumper, multi-article Halloween celebration for this year. The first one covered the very fictional ‘curse’ the film is said to have, but for this article, I want to cover a real life horror within the greatest horror film ever made.

Released in 1973, The Exorcist is a masterclass on how to make the perfect horror film. Directed by William Friedkin and adapted for the screen by William Peter Blatty from his novel of the same name. The film tells the story of 12 year old Regan (Linda Blair) and her actress mother, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) who are living on location in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. while Chris works on her new film. After using a Ouija board, Regan begins to act strangely. Long story short, it turns out that 12 year old Regan has been possessed by a demon claiming to be the Devil himself. Better call in The Exorcist.

The Exotcist Gif.gif

Anyway there is a scene in the film where Regan is taken to hospital to have various tests as doctors try to work out why she’s been acting so strange (before the revelation that she’s possessed by a demon is made). One of the hospital workers was played by real life radiographer, Paul Bateson who also worked as a medical adviser for the film too. In fact, the particular scene where Regan has an arteriogram (an arterial catheter inserted into her neck) in which Paul appears is often praised by medical professionals for it’s attention to detail and realism. So he did a damn fine job…

The Exotcist Paul Bateson.jpg

Yup, that’s Paul in The Exorcist right there. However, in 1979, six years after the release of the film. Paul Bateson was arrested and convicted of murder.

It was the 14th of September, 1977 when film critic Addison Verrill was found dead in his New York apartment. Addison had been severely beaten and stabbed. There was no evidence of forced entry, which lead the police to believe that Addison knew his killer. An appeal was launched to find the person resposible and that all eventually lead to the arrest of Paul Bateson. After being questioned, Paul confessed to the murder and gave details of the crime that no one else would’ve known about except the investigating police. Paul told how he and Addison met at a gay nightclub, went back to Addison’s apartment, had drinks and cocaine followed by consensual sex. Paul then said that he hit Addison with a skillet incapacitating him before stabbing his victim in the chest. Paul said he then stole money, a credit card and clothing before fleeing the scene. All details that police had not yet made public.

At the time of Paul Bateson’s arrest, trial and conviction, police were investigating a series of other murders in the gay community over the previous two years before the Addison Verrill murder. A total of six bodies were found… or at least what was left of them. The dismembered and decomposed body parts were discovered in plastic bags and dumped in the Hudson River, New York. None of the bodies were officially identified due to the decomposition and dismemberment. No one was ever convicted of the murders either.

The Exotcist Paul Bateson 2.jpg

After his conviction in the late 70s, director of The Exorcist, William Friedkin visited Paul Bateson an interviewed him for a new film he was making. Based on Gerald Walker’s 1970 novel Cruising, a novel about a police officer going undercover in the gay community to find a serial killer. The film was released in 1980 starring Al Pacino and William Friedkin even worked in elements of Paul Bateson’s life and the murder of Addison Verrill into the movie. Anyway, during William’s chat with the incarcerated Paul, he said the police offered him a deal of a reduced sentence if he confessed to the other murders.

It’s not known if Paul actually did commit the other murders or not, but it is strongly believed by many that he did, mainly as the plastic bags used to hold the body parts found in the Hudson River all had tags on them indicating they came from NYU Medical Center… which was where Paul Bateson worked at the time of the killings. But there was never any concrete evidence to officially link him to the murders and no one had ever been convicted of them either.

Paul Bateson was sentenced to twenty five years for the murder of Addison Verrill, of which he served twenty four years and three months before being released in 2003 aged 63. As of writing, it’s not known what happened to Paul. It’s not known where he is or if he’s even still alive, but it had been rumoured he is still alive and living somewhere in upstate New York.

The Netflix true crime show, Mindhunter featured the Paul Bateson story in it’s second season (episode six) earlier this year, where Paul was played by Morgan Kelly.

Paul Bateson Mindhunter.jpg

So yeah, there was a real life killer in the scariest horror film ever made.

Murder of Addison Verrill.jpg

Next up is the finale of my Halloween celebration this year, a two part look at a recently resurrected horror movie franchise that spans almost forty years…