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TV & Media Non-Trek television, movies, books, music, etc.

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Old October 30 2012, 06:26 PM   #1
foxhot
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One of the best 70s thrillers not on DVD....now is

Yesterday Robert Aldrich's unsung 1977 nuclear thriller TWILIGHT'S LAST GLEAMING finally was officially released on disc. I was lucky to nab a VHS of it when it was long out of print, then found a ''fresh'' DVD copy at a convention from Bo Otleg Enterprises.

This film stars Burt Lancaster as the leader of a four-man silo hijacking team which also includes the excellent Paul Winfield, Burt Young in Paulie mode, plus Conan the Barbarian's dad. On the opposing side are Richard Widmark, Charles Durning as the U.S. President, Melvyn Douglas, Blacula, and Cliff from CHEERS as one of the military attack team. But don't let the casting fool you. This is a damn suspenseful piece of work.

Aldrich continuously uses split screen during specific moments, years before 24 or Mike Figgis's TIME CODE. The payoff to these splitscreen moments occurs at the 2/3 mark, which involve Lancaster's team under counterattack by Cliff and his sidekick, which leads to Lancaster throwing the switch to send a nuke to Russia, plus Widmark urging for permission to waste Lancaster, while the President's men all but scream at him to do pull his men back. All this happens at once on four screens, but you won't have problems with overlapping dialogue. And the conclusion ironically mirrored future history, considering that the movie is set in 1981.

If you haven't seen it yet, you'll enjoy checking it out.
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Old October 31 2012, 01:29 AM   #2
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Re: One of the best 70s thrillers not on DVD....now is

Thank you, I'm gonna pick this up.
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Old November 2 2012, 07:22 AM   #3
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Re: One of the best 70s thrillers not on DVD....now is

foxhot wrote: View Post
plus Conan the Barbarian's dad.
Ron Perlman is in it?
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Old November 2 2012, 01:37 PM   #4
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Re: One of the best 70s thrillers not on DVD....now is

No. But the original Will Smith is. Briefly.
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Old November 2 2012, 03:41 PM   #5
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Re: One of the best 70s thrillers not on DVD....now is

This movie, perhaps more than any other piece of cinema, helped shape my worldview ... maybe as much as little league did (during that period when we were in 1st place and all of a sudden the 2nd place team' 1st baseman's dad -- the league president -- started umpiring all our games and calling us out on strikes on pitches that BOUNCED on home plate)

Charles Durning has many times been asked about his best and favorite work, and he always cites TWILIGHT'S LAST GLEAMING -- and I agree. The scenes with him and Gerald S. O'Loughlin (70s TV staple, always better than his material) seem so damned honest, and the scenes where Durning's at-times shrewd, but also in the worst ways naive president, faces off against his cabinet just crackle.

I saw this movie opening night, then called my best friend about it, and found out he had seen it at the same theater, on the screen next door. We went back the next day, and the next after that.

Lots of my contemporaries gave this movie crap for being too naive (this was when we were in high school), but shoot, I didn't even realize we LOST in Vietnam till I saw this.
It just opened my eyes in a lot of ways, much like the nonfiction book ASSAULT ON THE LIBERTY -- about an American ship in international waters that was strafed with machine gun fire and napalmed by jets and torpedoed by a boat, all by an ally -- did just a couple of years later.

Definitely not for all tastes, but in its own way, as representative of what I call the political paranoia films of the 1970s as THE PARALLAX VIEW and Kaufman's INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS remake. Absolutely crackles with tension, and still remains the best use of split-screen ever, by far (DePalma could only DREAM about using it so well.)

A great 'mr. military' score from Jerry Goldsmith, some really clever miniature work, very witty dialog at times, even a STAR TREK reference from Paul Winfield. Gonna be SO happy to not have to watch this on laserdisc anymore!

Last edited by trevanian; November 2 2012 at 03:43 PM. Reason: supplemental
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Old November 4 2012, 02:29 AM   #6
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Re: One of the best 70s thrillers not on DVD....now is

I haven't picked up the official disc yet, but I'm dying to know if there are any significant extras. The trailer would be nice, as I've never seen it. It's cool that trevanian would see a non-Spileberg/Lucas film three days in a row. My brother saw RETURN OF THE JEDI for perhaps 13 straight weeks, but in my case I never got beyond three times a summer for RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK or ALIENS.
My first exposure to TWILIGHT was in its first and only broadcast TV airing on CBS in the late 70s. I never could find it on syndicated channels after that, though I believe WTBS may have ran it occasionally. Even though it sometimes takes two viewings of a film for it to really stick with me, I remembered it vividly until my VHS purchase of it in 1990. I had forgotten SOME moments, i.e. who eliminated Burt Young. When I finally saw it again after up to 12 years, it felt like a lifetime had passed. But it held up perhaps even better the second time. I was likely 12 the first time.
While there is admittedly more action in the second act than the third, there are some high-quality lengthy political discussions, mostly in the White House, which balance the action with solid drama. And Durning's near-breakdown in front of his cabinet is still rather scary to behold. Scary, and understandable.
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Old November 4 2012, 03:20 AM   #7
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Re: One of the best 70s thrillers not on DVD....now is

The dubbing on the CBS broadcast had some outrageous word substitutions for the cussing, that's for sure. Actually had an audio tape off the TV for awhile (pre vhs.)

My understanding is that the film had some very substantial editing pre-release, losing at least 10 minutes, maybe as much as 20. There was a scene, possibly a flashback, involving the president's wife (played by Vera Miles), and a LOT more dealing with the Vietnam revelations (which, given THE PENTAGON PAPERS had been leaked 5 years earlier, weren't really revelations at that point, though they were news to me.)

There is a 66 minute documentary with the disc, which I am jumping over the moon in anticipation for, about Aldrich and the making of with O'Loughlin among others interviewed.
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Old November 4 2012, 01:24 PM   #8
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Re: One of the best 70s thrillers not on DVD....now is

A 66-minute documentary????? Well, that's just.....just......

OUTRAGEOUS(LY FANTASTIC!!!!!!!)

Even though PSYCHO ranks as my all-time favorite film, Vera Miles wasn't exactly a favorite of mine. (Shades of Hitchcock). Good in THE WRONG MAN, but not particularly dynamic in THE SEARCHERS or THE FBI STORY. She still has that wordless scene in the church with Widmark, I believe. Still, any deleted scenes and/or TV spots would be welcome to watch.

I also admire Aldrich for regularly giving us great color productions which run close to 150 minutes at a pop. TWILIGHT and THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX were about 145 minutes and THE DIRTY DOZEN was 150. Too many modern movies settle for 85.
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