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Saturday, 1 September 2007

Meteor (1979) Ronald Neame

Ronald Neame was a cinematographer of reknown for decades before he became a director. There are notable films in his career but he really hit the big time in 1972 with The Poseidon Adventure, then The Odessa File two years later. He would therefore have seemed a pretty good choice for Meteor in 1979. It's a very seventies thriller, that has to do with exactly the same fear that came back almost two decades later for Armageddon and Deep Impact.

We start on Monday while Dr Paul Bradley is trying to win a yachting race. He's been gone from NASA for five years, but they need him back. The've discovered a new comet and it's already headed straight into the asteroid belt, collided with a large asteroid called Orpheus and thrown a five mile wide chunk of it onto a collision course with Earth. It'll hit at 30,000 mph, cause huge devastation and throw enough dirt into the atmosphere to potentially start a new ice age.

Luckily NASA, under a project run by Bradley, apparently came up with a orbiting platform called Hercules some time earlier and populated it with nuclear weapons, to deal with this exact possibility. Unfortunately it was naturally hijacked by the military and pointed at Russia instead. Now Bradley and his former boss, Harry Sherwood, has to find a way to point it back at space, and cut through all the political crap to combine it with the firepower of the Russian equivalent, Peter the Great, to save the world.

What all this boils down to is an embarrassingly wooden film in the main, with embarrassingly wooden dialogue. People like Martin Landau (as the military commander of Hercules) and Henry Fonda (as the US President) do their best, but they're weighed down by stilted lines that nobody could do much with. Only a few scenes break through that, like the one where Sean Connery as Bradley and Brian Keith, as his Russian equivalent, Dr Alexei Dubov, through Russian astrophysicist interpreter Tatiana Donskaya.

The rest is hokey. Probably the best word to use is 'hamfisted'. The effects probably looked awesome in 1979 but look painfully bad now: the plastic models, the very early CGI. The science is abysmal and makes no sense whatsoever. A few scenes work OK, though I wouldn't be surprised if the destruction of the twin towers doesn't get edited out from the next DVD release. If you really must watch this, then it ought to be either as part of a disaster movie marathon or for Brian Keith.

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