SLIPSTREAM

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E.C.McMullen Jr.
Slipstream
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TIP JAR
SLIPSTREAM - 1989
Entertainment Film Productions
Rated: USA: PG-13

In my personal experience there are two forms of Cult Movie. One is a flawed movie that has just enough saving it that it can find a small but very appreciative audience (ERASERHEAD, PHANTASM). The second is a movie that is entirely well made in every respect, but has a story that would never appeal to a broad audience (THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, RE-ANIMATOR).

SLIPSTREAM is neither of these. It is a terribly written (Tony Kayden), terribly directed (Steven M. Lisberger: TRON), terribly edited (Terry Rawlings), and terribly produced (Gary Kurtz) movie. Though shot in English, the voices are seemingly all dubbed in, the audio sounds all piped-in, the soaring Elmer Bernstein original soundtrack (performed by The London Symphony Orchestra no less!) never matches the action or view, the cinematography (Frank Tidy) is dull, the production design (Andrew McAlpine) is derivative and so, uninspired, the pace is in pieces, and because of this, the visual effects (Brian Johnson) are cruddy, all the character performances, despite the quality of their actors, are flat. The best acting couldn't save this movie.

And yet, a whole bunch of some ones must have thought this story had wonderful potential. The movie had an original release in 70mm! But it never got theatrical US distribution (the biggest plum!).

It must have made one hell of a pitch, though. "Think STAR WARS in the air! THE ROAD WARRIOR in the sky!" Enough to make Executive Producers Nigel Green, William Braunstein, and Arthur Maslansky jump at the opportunity to finance it, along with Gary Kurtz.

Actors like Ben Kingsley (SPECIES, A SOUND OF THUNDER) and F. Murray Abraham (RELIC), who were at the top of their Oscar winning careers in the 1980s, signed on for minor parts in this movie at a time when they couldn't have been desperate.

On the other hand, their parts are so detached from the story (Special Appearance by), I can easily believe they each landed a truck bed of money for a one day pick-up shot. Their scenes appear that grafted-on.

Mark Hamill (THE GUYVER), having just wrapped the third Star Wars movie, grabbed top billing for a co-star role, thanks to his Star Wars producer, Gary Kurtz. Star Wars was huge enough to give Mark top billing as well. No doubt, that Star Wars heat must have turned more than a few investor heads for SLIPSTREAM, but even then, not enough, as Kurtz was forced to put up a significant amount of his own money to get this movie made - and it wasn't cheap - even by today's standards (I'm guessing that, for investors, the Star Power couldn't overcome the awful script).

So picture that moment in cinematic history: We have the director of a huge budget, bold-risk Disney movie, called TRON. That went on to tank and nearly topple Disney. Yet people won't stop playing the arcade game. It's making a fortune! Moreover, TRON is finding a growing audience in home video. So the director goes on to make his very next movie, which takes place in a dystopian future where the earth's environment was destroyed, your typical Hollywood future gloom and doom, good guys are bad guys in disguise, and presumptive bad guys are really the good guys.

I'm writing this review in 2013 but I'm talking about a movie made in 1989.

As opening narration tells us, man destroyed the environment and that's why we have giant winds on the planet, society has collapsed, governments have virtually vanished, and planes are forced to ride the "Slipstreams".

Well La de da.

Worse, we'll hear this again, and again, and! Again! Throughout the movie. So the narration was pointless.

From that moment on, and for the rest of the flick, we will see nothing but a lush, beautiful earth. Civilization and technology is in ruins, but the "destroyed" environment (largely shot in Turkey and Ireland) never looked better!

A kit-looking plane (but actually a Brookland Aerospace Optica OA7) flies through the air. A tastefully well-dressed man runs along a rocky ridge, up and down hillocks.

The plane buzzes well-dressed man, but that's all it does.

The man comes to the edge of a cliff face, stops, reaches out to the sky, and Tasker (Mark Hamill) shoots an arrow tipped cable, through his arm. The man doesn't bleed. Tasker yanks the cable, pulling the man off the cliff. The man falls to what should have been his doom, but is unharmed. Tasker makes childish disparaging comments about him that could have sounded so much better if Steven M. Lisberger was able to direct as well as George Lucas (a very famous film writer and producer neither known or respected for his ability to direct - but oh! What an imagination he once had!).

Tasker and Bellitski (Kitty Aldridge) are future cops and they are bringing this murderer in. But first they have to stop and take a Cantina scene - I mean - Bellitski has to go to the bathroom and she has to do it in an actual restroom. In the Cantina we are introduced to cocky Han Solo Matt Owens (Bill Paxton: TERMINATOR, ALIENS, NEAR DARK, PREDATOR 2, FRAILTY). This is a 1980s movie, which means Bill brought his brought his smart-ass cock & swagger. But as typical for Bill in the 1980s - 1990s, his character is less Han Solo and more Jack Burton.

After a failed pick-up attempt on Bellitski, who just wanted to pee in peace, Matt has a run in with Tasker. Narrowly escaping that, Matt's local amigos tell him about the prisoner Tasker and Bellitski have captured and of the wealthy bounty on his head.

A bounty like that would set Owens up for life! Since there is no government, hence no currency, per se, I don't know what people use for money here (maybe they buy stuff with potatoes. But then, what would you use to buy potatoes?). So he steals the "man" from the over-confident, but ineffectual, Tasker, and flies away with his prisoner. So now we are off on an adventure and, 10 minutes into the movie, we don't know who we should like or why we should care. But we do have plenty of aerial shots.

About that.

SLIPSTREAM wants to be Star Wars without all of those noisy spaceships. Instead we get kit planes! And if the flight scenes were shot well, SLIPSTREAM would have been a better movie. But they weren't, so SLIPSTREAM wasn't. Which is too bad because this movie is largely all about watching the kit planes fly.

Ho hum.

You know, the Nazi Prototype plane in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK looked way cooler and that thing never got off the ground!

This type of adventure means that there will be plenty of various locations with their own characters. In Star Wars that meant each new location was a logical progression, all leading up to the Death Star, which becomes the major freaking threat throughout the rest of the movie. So the lifeboat jettisoned from the Ambassador ship; the Empire sent their minions to find what was on it, and the robots aboard that lifeboat were caught by the dwarves to be sold used or for scrap because Tatooine (not to be confused with the grammatically similar Dantooine) is a hostile planet with towns like Mos Eisley, that are "wretched hives full of scum and villainy."

And you'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than the delightful town of Mos Eisley! It put Dantoonie Dantooine Tatooine on the map! And that says a lot about Mos Eisley when you consider what must have been some seriously stiff competition from Jabba the Hutt's palatial estate: a wretched hive of scum and villainy in its own right.

Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi need to get off the planet to escape the Empire and fulfill the dire request of the beautiful woman who sent the robots in the first place. And because Obi and Luke are poor, they have to sell Luke's speeder and hire whatever pilot they can get, which is how they wind up with Han Solo, the Wookie, and their crappy, modified piece of junk spaceship, The Millennium Falcon. Each step connects, taking Luke and the gang all the way to rescuing the Princess, Leia. And once she is rescued, then the whole point of her being in the story in the first place must be carried out.

Now I have to get back to writing a review about SLIPSTREAM...

Tony Kayden's screenplay, based on "story material" (whatever in the hell that means) by Bill Bauer, will have none of that non-linear, logical progression crap, thank you very much.

Instead, Tony went for the one-damn-thing-after-another approach.

So Matt and his prisoner, whom he names Byron (Bob Peck: SURGIKILL, JURASSIC PARK, SMILLA'S SENSE OF SNOW), simply fly until they land, have their merry mishaps with the locals, take off again and fly until they land at another destination unconnected to the prior one, where they have another set of merry mishaps with the locals, and on and on. None of these stops and misadventures have anything to do with the story. None!

Because of this, SLIPSTREAM is divided into set pieces instead of acts, and they are actually titled: At Cafe, At Village, At Wind Cult, and At Museum. I'm not joking. In the end credits, they are actually divided into those categories.

Also in the first ten minutes, from everything we've seen of Byron up to that point (getting shot and not bleeding - or feeling pain, falling to certain death only to walk away unscathed), it's pretty clear that he's a freaking robot. So to have this as the second act reveal (OMG! You're an android? How could I have been so blind?) is so head thumpingly tedious as to be depressing.

SLIPSTREAM has quite a pedigree of names both in front of and behind the camera. And all brought together, it is amazing that nobody appears to have cared about their work on this movie - knowing - that their names would be attached. So I'm wondering if the budget, or whatever, all fell apart in post. Did the producers look at what Lisberger gave them and knew they couldn't save it? Did Lisberger give the producers wonderful shots but they only wanted the worst (unbelievably, that has happened to movies on more than a few occasions). Watching SLIPSTREAM, I'm guessing there was failure on every level, probably brought about by a lot of ego, infighting, incompetence, and criminally poor communication.

There are scenes in SLIPSTREAM that could have worked and could have been wonderful and that even includes a dance number so out of place that it nearly succeeds on novelty alone. But at its heart, the script is simply no good. It has glittering stones that could pass as diamonds if only they weren't sitting at the bottom of a septic tank.

So yeah, SLIPSTREAM probably made one hell of a pitch: It's a good concept (as George Lucas proved years earlier). But if it has any legacy at all, it's the fact that this movie drove Producer Gary Kurtz into bankruptcy, effectively losing him every dime he ever made on Star Wars.

If anyone ever bothers to reboot this big budget flop (and there is talk), I don't see a cult audience bemoaning the idea that a remake will only ruin the original.

One Shriek Girl.

P.S.
I'm not telling you the ending, but the epilogue ending during the credits. And I won't even tell you what happens there, but I'll give you an analogy.

Imagine a movie where the title, plot, and point are all about how our environment, society, and governments were all destroyed by unexpected flash floods and superfast rivers. Throughout the movie it's all the characters talk about, and we repeatedly see people drowned by unexpected flash floods and superfast rivers, people crushed and swept under by unexpected flash floods and superfast rivers, wicked groups of survivors who torture people via the use of a nearby, handy (though unexpected) flash flood or one of their superfast rivers. Why, you need a very special type of water craft just to navigate those superfast rivers and, if you aren't careful, the water will smash your craft to pieces, killing you pretty quick!

Then, during the closing credits, we see people swimming and playing in a completely harmless flashflood which is so safe you can float in a nice colorful, inflatable pool toy! The entire tale about those god damn flash floods and superfast rivers was all bullshit! So WTF was the point in the first place?

It's as if someone in post-production, wrapping up the final edit, said, "You know, I'm going to add this footage to the end credits, because I don't see how it can make this movie any worse."

And Bingo! They made a bad movie worse!

Amigos, the actual ending to SLIPSTREAM is just that jaw-droppingly stupid!

Shriek Girls
This review copyright 2013 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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