September 1, 1995 in Seven

You Won’t Find This Set Of Tapes For Sale On The Dark Side

Dan Wesbter
 

In video terms, “sell-through” is the industry name for a product that is for sale instead of rent. And in some locations, the big sell-through feature this week is the “Star Wars” trilogy.

Back in the mid-‘70s, science fiction was still considered a gamble for the big screen. Yes, a few sci-fi films had achieved modest success, from the brooding seriousness of “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) and “The Omega Man” (1971) to the brooding ridiculousness of “Planet of the Apes” (1968) and “Zardoz” (1974).

But none was of blockbuster status. Even the “Star Trek” movies, which along with the television series that spawned them have become veritable franchises, were on no one’s must-do list during this period. After all, the original TV show was never a ratings hit over its three-year run (Sept. 8, 1966 to Sept. 2, 1969).

Then George Lucas, whose previous hit had been the coming-of-age drama “American Graffiti’ (1973), dreamed up his world of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, talking robots, Wookies, midget mystics and such dangers of the deadly Death Star. The original film, written and directed by Lucas, won seven Oscars and became - for a time - the most successful movie of all time.

It was eventually followed by two others, “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980, directed by Irvin Kershner) and “The Return of the Jedi” (1983, directed by Richard Marquand). And there has been talk for years of another, associated, series - though nothing has materialized so far.

Instead, we’ve had “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” the seven “Star Trek” movies, “2010” and any number of other efforts, none of which would have made the drawing board before 1977.

Seen today, the “Star Wars” films show their warts. The special effects, cutting edge of their day, look a little crude now. And the simple characterizations, not to mention Saturday-afternoon-serial plotting, are hardly Shakespearean.

But they remain entertaining, and not just for nostalgia’s sake. They belong on any serious collector’s shelf.

Hideaway **

Throughout most of this film by Arne Glimcher, the delicate line between what is seen and what is meant stands firm. Jeff Goldblum, brought back from death, thinks he sees a murderous presence around him. He pursues the killer even though his family, and others, fear he is going mad. Goldblum manages to spice things up with his usual eccentric acting style, yet the story (based on a Dean R. Koontz novel) falls inexorably apart. Even the always-good Christine Lahti gets wasted in a finale that celebrates special effects over sense, big bang over basic logic. Just a few months later, co-star Alicia Silverstone would get her break-through role in “Clueless.” Rated R

The Hunted *

Another in what has become Christopher Lambert’s quest to become the King of B-movies, this ninja-themed action film might actually have been better off without him. It certainly couldn’t have been any worse. As the unwitting witness to a contract murder, Lambert’s character is the only man who can identify the ninja master murderer (John Lone). He flees to the protection of another warrior, a latter-day samurai, and the bloodbath begins - passengers on a train, students in an island martial arts school, anyone who gets in the way of poison-tipped shuriken or flashing samurai swords. What might have made a decent Akira Kurosawa film (see “Yojimbo,” for example) feels watered down whenever Lambert walks into the frame. Where is Toshiro Mifune when we need him? Rated R

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: What’s new to view

Available this weekend: “Freddie the Frog” (MCA/ Universal), “The Hunted” (MCA/ Universal), “Hideaway” (Columbia TriStar), “No Contest” (Columbia TriStar), “Excessive Force 2” (New Line). Available on Tuesday: “The Goofy Movie” (Disney), “Kiss of Death” (Fox), “Where Evil Lies” (TBA), “Midnight Confessions” (TBA).

This sidebar appeared with the story: What’s new to view

Available this weekend: “Freddie the Frog” (MCA/ Universal), “The Hunted” (MCA/ Universal), “Hideaway” (Columbia TriStar), “No Contest” (Columbia TriStar), “Excessive Force 2” (New Line). Available on Tuesday: “The Goofy Movie” (Disney), “Kiss of Death” (Fox), “Where Evil Lies” (TBA), “Midnight Confessions” (TBA).


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email