Twins – The Rocketeer – tape 1461

It’s Christmas on BBC1.

Christmas on BBC1

The movie is Twins, another high-concept Ivan Reitman comedy, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito as twin brothers. Yes, that’s almost certainly the entirety of the pitch for this movie.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito

Like their later collaboration, Junior, this starts from a very queasy premise – that the two babies were somehow genetically engineered from six different men, “all very distinguished men specially selected for their genetic excellence” although from the examples here it’s unclear quite where Schwarzenegger’s physique came from.

Genetic Excellence

They only had one mother, though, and she wasn’t distinguished, merely “remarkable” and “selected to be his mother”.

Well, I don’t expect Reitman to get genetics remotely correct, and neither should anybody who saw Evolution.

Schwarzenegger is told that he has a twin brother, so he travels to Los Angeles to find him, where he appears to spend most of his first day eating. There’s also a bit of product placement for another movie, Willow, which seems odd.

Willow

I once stayed in the hotel immediately opposite the Chinese Theater. It was very exciting.

Schwarzenegger tracks down DeVito, who’s a bit of a lowlife, and he uses the innocent Schwarzenegger for his minor criminal activities. We learn that Schwarzenegger can’t drive a car, and yet he knows that if you lift a car up to an angle of greater than 45 degrees, the alarm will shut off. Seems like a strange knowledge base.

The plot, such as it is, really kicks off when DeVito steals a car with Schwazenegger’s help, and it happens to have something important in the boot, which a nasty killer is after. Even as it’s setting up, it feels like the laziest cookie-cutter macguffin. The film isn’t content to concentrate solely on the personal story of the twins and their search for their fathers, and the truth about their mother, who is supposed to have died in childbirth.

Julius and one sixth of his fathers

In fact, the film is reminding me a bit of Midnight Run, which came out at roughly the same time, but whose ganster driven plot feels organic.

The twins track down their place of birth, and one of the doctors responsible. He tells them ‘The embryo did split, but it didn’t split equally.’ The science just keeps getting worse.  “All the purity and strength went into Julius. All the crap that was left over went into what you see in the mirror every morning.” Yeah, because that’s how cell division works, isn’t it?

They track down their mother to the artistic retreat she founded on the back of her career as a popular artist, but she doesn’t believe them, and tells them their mother died in childbirth. She was told that her child had died shortly after being born. Good grief, the doctors running that experiment had the ethics of leaf mold.

So DeVito goes to Houston to deliver the macguffin in the back of the car, and pick up the money being paid for it, kicking off the action climax. I still don’t give a shit about this.

But there’s a happy family reunion for a coda, so that’s OK.

And the whole film ends with a perfect 80’s theme song, all heavy drum samples and orchestra stabs.

I have a theory that Ivan Reitman doesn’t actually know anything about comedy. He was lucky to have some good scripts and good performers early in his career, but he’s very dependent on his source material, and here it wasn’t very strong. For a comedy, there’s very few laughs.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 28th December 1992 – 19:00

After this, recording switches to Sky Movies and Joe Johnston’s The Rocketeer. Johnston started his career at Industrial Light and Magic, and his directorial career has been interesting. His first movie was Honey I Shrunk The Kids, which was excellent and quite successful, and this was his followup. It’s based on a comic book by Dave Stevens, which was rich in the imagery of the 1940s, and the film makes good use of that. It also has one of James Horner’s best scores. The opening theme is a lovely piano piece, and the main action themes are some of Horner’s best.

Visitors to Disneyland Paris a few years ago might be familiar with the music, as it was used throughout the first version of Space Mountain, to great effect. I was disappointed when they changed the ride for Space Mountain Mission Two when they changed a lot about the ride, mostly for the worst, including removing Horner’s music.

The screenplay was written by Danny Billson and Paul De Meo, whose early work like Trancers and Zone Troopers was a lot of fun, and who also were showrunners on the 1990s TV version of The Flash.

Bill Campbell plays a barnstorming stunt pilot, in the mould of The Great Waldo Pepper, who’s not having the best of luck. Taking his new plane up for a test flight, he flies across a chase between federal agents and a crook who’s stolen a secret invention, and gets shot at, ending up with his plane burning, and landing with only one wing. His dreams of flying in air shows are at an end.

The secret invention was something built by Howard Hughes, played by Terry O’Quinn (another link to a previous tape – Blind Fury). But he and the feds think it was destroyed when the thief’s car blew up.

Terry O'Quinn as Howard Hughes

But it wasn’t destroyed. The thief had stashed it under the seat of Campbell’s older plane. It’s a rocket pack.

Rocket Pack

The thief was actually stealing it for Hollywood movie star Neville Sinclair, played by Timothy Dalton, via mobsters led by Paul Sorvino. Dalton is perfect in this role, channeling his inner Errol Flynn. “What does a movie star want with a rocket?” asks Sorvino. We’ll find out.

Timothy Dalton

Campbell finds it, with his engineer Alan Arkin, and they run some tests. Campbell wants to use it at air shows. He’s dating Jennifer Connelly, an aspiring actress, who just happens to be working as an extra on Neville Sinclair’s latest film. When he visits her there, he manages to knock over a piece of the set (not very well constructed) and gets her fired, but when Sinclair overhears him telling her about the rocket pack, he’s all over her. offering her a bigger part, and an invitation to dinner.

At an air show, Campbell is supposed to be flying a ‘clown plane’ but he’s late, so his friend goes up in his place, who’s not been in a plane for 25 years, so Campbell has to use the rocket pack to save him, in a great flying sequence. This was just at the end of the classic optical special effects, before computer-based compositing took over completely, so it has a satisfying old-school feeling.

Rocketeer

But the public demostration of the rocket attracts the attention of everyone, good or bad, including Dalton’s hired goon, Lothar, an actor made up with prosthetics to look like Rondo Hatton, a staple of 1940s gangster movies.

Lothar

Hey look, it’s the Chinese Theater again. Did I mention I’ve been there?

Chinese Theater again

Dalton is seducing Connelly, Campbell tries to get her out, but a rocket suit isn’t best deployed in an enclosed ballroom. Dalton takes her back to his house, where she finds out the truth about Neville Sinclair.

Dalton's Diary

Yes, he’s a nazi spy, a clever meta-joke, alluding to the rumours that Errol Flynn himself was secretly a nazi spy.

So the scene is set for a final confrontation, at Griffith Park Observatory, where Dalton and an army of Nazi soldiers face off against Sorvino’s 100% American mobster, and the FBI, with Connelly and Campbell in the middle.

Oh, and did I mention that Dalton has an airship?

Airship

After a curiously small-scale fight between Dalton and Campbell in the airship, Dalton grabs the rocket and makes his escape, but not until Campbell removes the piece of gum that’s blocking a fuel leak, that pack bursts into flames, taking im crashing into the old HOLLYWOODLAND sign, destroying the last four letters.

Then it only remains for Campbell and Connelly to escape, running across the top on an exploding airship, to be rescued by Howard Hughes in an autogyro. How can you not love this film?

Autogyro

After the Rocketeer, that recording stops, and underneath we have the end of Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now – the strange thread of connections continues from yesterday’s tape.

I won’t look at this now, since it’s not the whole film, but this recording presents something of a minor mystery. After the movie, there’s a look ahead at tomorrow’s programmes.

BBC1 Wednesday 27th January 1993

This, along with Genome, absolutely places this showing of Don’t Look Now at  BBC One – 26th January 1993 – 23:40. Therefore, this is a more recent recording than Twins, but which was recorded over by The Rocketeer.

However, if I look at the timeline on the tape it doesn’t look like Don’t Look Now could have been the immediate next recording after Twins, as the duration doesn’t match up. DLN ends at about 4:00 on the tape. Twins ends at 1:40, which means if the recording with DLN was the next recording, which Genome tells up ended at 1:25am, it must have started at 11:05pm (roughly). But the programme before DLN was Omnibus which started at 22:40, so, unless I started recording over 30 minutes before DLN started, that doesn’t make sense. So I have to assume that after Twins but before Don’t Look Now I must have recorded a half hour programme, And I must, therefore, have decided I didn’t want to keep that programme, when I recorded over it with The Rocketeer.

I’m not entirely sure why I would have wanted to record over Don’t Look Now – I had probably forgotten I’d recorded it after whatever was immediately after Twins.

Oh well.

After the film, and the look ahead, there’s some weather, and then Peter Bolgar wishes us a very good night as BBC1 closes down for the night.

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3 comments

  1. I managed to not love “The Rocketeer” – painfully talky and ILM were at their best here. No complaints James Horner’s score.

  2. You know that word “hacky” Americans use to describe a certain type of comedy? That’s what Twins is through and through. Ahnold could do no wrong at the time so of course it was a hit, but when this enjoyed huge success and something that is genuinely fun and inventive like The Rocketeer flopped a short while after… well, it says something very significant! Not sure what.

    1. I genuinely believe that Ivan Reitman doesn’t have a comedy bone in his body. Anything good in any of his movies come from the writing and performances.

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