Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Cult Movie Project #16 (of 200): These Are the Armies of the Night. They Are 100,000 Strong. And They are Here to Play-ay-yay in Walter Hill's The Warriors (1979).

Two wildly disparate tales, one an ancient Greek poem, the other a hit Broadway musical, though separated by thousands of years managed to intertwine themselves to form the basis of Walter Hill's ode to New York City's tribal street gangs, The Warriors (1979). First of these machinations was Xenephon's "Anabasis", which told of a group of Greek soldiers who found themselves trapped in Persia after the Battle of Cunaxa (dated around 401 B.C.). Alone, their commander dead, and surrounded by hostiles on all sides, this rag-tag group had to live off the land and fight their way out of enemy territory to the sea and safety over a 1000 miles away. The second influence begins with the production of West Side Story in 1957 (-- later filmed by Robert Wise in 1961), which tweaked "Romeo and Juliet" by turning the Montagues and the Capulets into rival (and racially divided) street gangs, and then ends with the publication of Sol Yurick's novel, "The Warriors" (1965).

Seems back in the late 1950s, before becoming a full-time writer, Yurick had served as a social worker in NYC to help pay for college, where he gained firsthand insight into the dysfunctional world of juvenile delinquents of low to no income families and the gangs they sought refuge in, who roamed the streets, a veritable army of thugs and miscreants. Finding the romanticized version of these street gangs in Wise's film disingenuous, the author wrote his debut novel as a stinging and scathing rebuttal as Yurick spins the depressing yarn of The Coney Island Dominators; a group of Blacks and Hispanics, who attend a gang summit in the Bronx. From there, also using Xenephon's tale as a framework (one of the gang reads a Classics Illustrated comic-book version of the story throughout the novel), after the summit falls apart, the organizer is assassinated, and the truce allowing this meeting to happen evaporates, with their leader killed in the resulting melee, the rest of the Dominators spend a harrowing night trying to get back home through enemy territory, seldom fighting, mostly hiding, and (sadly) raping the whole way. Not all of them make it.

Stumbling upon a battered copy of Yurick's novel in some broken spine in the late 1970s, producer Lawrence Gordon [Rolling Thunder (1977), Predator (1987), Die Hard (1988)] immediately secured the film rights using his own money, and then commissioned David Shaber to adapt a screenplay and approached Walter Hill, whom he had worked with on Hard Times (1975) and The Driver (1978), to direct. Hill loved the whole notion but feared no studio would ever back the film as is, and he was right; sadly, most of the hesitation was due to the proposed all-minority cast. The project was then tabled in favor of a western, but when the financing fell through on The Lone Gun, Hill and Gordon tweaked their pitch and Paramount took the bait. And while these changes didn't exactly revert Yurick's street gangs to the romantic version of Wise, this new version wound up highly fantasized.

Hill's western sensibilities (cinematically speaking) leeched into the project, as well. It's not that hard to see The Warriors as a western, with John Wayne or Randolph Scott, framed for the murder of an Indian chief, leading a wagon train of misfits out of hostile territory, with hostiles, bushwhackers, corrupt land agents, and Commancheros chewing at their heels the whole way. And like in a lot of those westerns, there would be casualties along the way. In Shaber's script, Cleon, the leader, is killed by the Riffs, Cochise is killed by the Baseball Furies, and then Vermin is offed by the Lizzies before Swan gets abducted by the Dingos -- a group of sadistic homosexuals, leaving Fox to lead what's left back to Coney Island.

But in the final film version there are only two casualties -- and it's not really clear if Cleon (Wright) is actually killed, and I'm not even sure if the interlude with the Dingos was ever filmed. And so, the only one who died for sure was Fox (Waites), who fell in front of an oncoming train while wrestling with the cop. Originally, I think Fox was to be a surrogate for Hinton, the main character and moral center in Yurick's novel, who, over the course of the night, comes to grips with the time he's wasted with the Dominators and 'grows up' as the novel progresses. Fox was also intended to be the love interest of Mercy (Van Valkenburgh), a character who was gang-raped and abandoned in the book. But there was no chemistry between the two actors at all; and Waites proved so volatile and difficult onset he was fired (-- his name was even stripped from the credits); and his character was killed off, transferring all of his attributes, and Mercy, to Swan (Beck). And in sharp contrast to Waites, Hill fell in love with the rest of his cast so much he couldn't bear to kill any more of them off.

Apparently, Tony Danza was offered the role of Swan first but he turned it down in favor of the TV series, Taxi (1978-1983). (Danza would take the lead in Floyd Mutrux's slighty tamer and more nostalgic look at gang camaraderie in The Hollywood Knights the very next year.) Hill then offered the role to Michael Beck, whom Hill had discovered watching the film Madman (1978) while scouting the then unknown Sigourney Weaver, whom Hill would cast as the lead in his follow up film, Alien (1979), and was so impressed he called the actor in to audition. Hill had wanted a Puerto Rican actress to play Mercy but he liked what he saw in Deborah Van Valkenburgh's audition, telling her she was the "unobvious choice" for the role. The actress went through all kinds of hell during filming. In the scene where she and Fox are running to catch a train, she fell and shattered her wrist, necessitating a few rewrites and a stolen jacket to cover up the cast. And as that scene concludes, when Swan throws the baseball bat at the cop, Beck's back-swing caught Van Velkenburgh in the face, requiring another trip to the hospital for several stitches and a permanent scar.

Mention should also be made of the eccentric performance of David Patrick Kelly as the psychotic Luther, leader of a rival Rogues, whose actions at the summit railroaded The Warriors and put a target squarely on their back for Cyrus' assassination. And as the story goes, as we breach the climax, his taunting, lunatic call while clinking the empty beer-bottles together was based on an old intimidating neighbor. Then, there's James Remar's Ajax, who gets flushed out of the story too soon. And Lynne Thigpen as a Tokyo Rose-esque disc jockey, who serves as an odd Greek chorus / balladeer combo as the evening toils on could have used some more air time. And Roger Hill's messianic Cyrus? I can totally dig that.

The film took 60 days to shoot, with the production risking life and limb by filming on location from midnight to 8am. (The only set used was the restroom for the spectacular fight with the Punks.) The trucks and equipment were protected by The Mongrels, a real gang, to the tune of $500 a day. Still, thousands of dollars worth of damages were still endured, and apparently, the whole crew got urinated on from a tower block for making too much noise. Also, no members of the cast were allowed to wonder off in costume, lest they get their heads caved in for wearing the wrong colors in hostile territory. Credit to the art and set direction of Don Swanagan, Robert Wightman and Fred Wieler for making that 'hostile territory' so fascinating. And to Bobbie Mannix for the wonderful costume designing which brought all those uniform and uniformed gangs to life. Also a huge nod to cinematographer Andrew Lazlo for convincing Hill into including a scene with a rain shower moving through, allowing for all that reflected neon light. And according to the film's composer, Barry De Vorzon, The Warriors was the first picture to feature an almost entirely synthesized score save for Joe Walsh playing us out over the closing credits.(Though I think John Carpenter might've beaten them to that particular punch.)

Upon completion, the film was turned over to multiple editing teams in an effort to get the picture released ahead of a glut of similarly themed films also due out in 1979; Walk Proud, Boulevard Nights, and The Wanderers. Meanwhile, Paramount's publicity machine cooked up a lurid promotional campaign, including poster art that included the tagline: "These are the armies of the night. They are 100,000 strong. They outnumber the cops five to one. They could run New York City." All of that emblazoned over an image of a motley assortment of thugs and toughs who appeared able to do just that.

But this backfired and triggered a moral panic, fueled by several incidents of fights between rival gangs at screenings of The Warriors (and all of those other films mentioned), both real and rumored, which had theater owners and city councils fuming and soon had the studio scrambling for new posters and a heavily doctored trailer, destroying any momentum the film had. It didn't matter. Fair or not, the word was out, the film was bad news, and the feature was yanked from most urban theaters.

The funny thing is, though the tagline might have been incendiary, the film itself was not. One of the things most often overlooked about The Warriors is how oddly optimistic it is, especially when you look at when it was made and all the other bleak sci-fi-tinged 'dystopian' films released around the same time. And it stands out the most starkly against the works of George Romero. The Warriors have a solid plan to get back home, and working together, even after being forcibly split up, they do make it, though they are nearly undone when they are distracted and stray from the plan (-- Ajax molesting the undercover cop, the incident with the Lizzies.) The members are all also very professional at what they do (unlike their literary counterparts), have each others backs (unlike their literary counterparts), and work toward a common goal (again, except for Ajax, who promptly gets taken off the board). 

Now plug all of those attributes into Dawn or Day of the Dead  or The Crazies and, yeah, they'd all be zombie kibble by the end. Even as the film wraps up on the shore, when they ponder what they were fighting to get back to, and if it was worth it, Swan takes in the whole group and we have our answer: each other, and it was.

Also, the film is oddly sanitized; practically bloodless, the violence straight out of the comics, and our heroes shake off any beating with apparent ease. The only real nasty thing about the movie is the landscape of dirty old New York City that our players move around in. A fantasy-land not far removed from Narnia or Mirkwood, or Monument Valley, to be honest. And the overall plot of world-building, camaraderie and humor, a code of ethics, tough chicks, and manly men banding together to do manly things, is right in Hill's wheelhouse, too. And he delivers a mesmerizing, hyper-stylized film that moves to its own beat; a high and fast, pulsating rhythm, that sucks you in, bopping and weaving the whole way, and doesn't let go. 

Other Points of Interest:

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"But as the many moviegoers, who flocked to the theater to see what all the commotion was about, soon discovered, The Warriors is a lively, well-made action film full of adventure and humor, no more violent than the film down the block, not inciteful, not deserving of the furor it caused. The cult for the film -- the result of enthusiasts rallying behind a film good enough to deserve defending -- charged the [ad campaign] was misleading. Perhaps 100,000 strong could take over New York City as easily as the roaches have, but in The Warriors they are no threat to us at all -- in fact we essentially do not exist in the fantasy world we see on screen."

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The Fine Print: The Warriors was watched via Paramount's 2001 Theatrical Cut DVD. (I've seen Hill's Director's Cut and didn't much care for it.) Watched as a Teenage Rampage double-feature with Quadrophenia (1979). What's the Cult Movie Project? That's 16 down, with 184 to go.

The Warriors (1979) EP: Frank Marshall / P: Lawrence Gordon / AP: Joel Silver / D: Walter Hill / W: David Shaber, Walter Hill, Sol Yurick (novel) / C: Andrew Laszlo / E: Freeman A. Davies, David Holden, Susan E. Morse, Billy Weber / M: Barry De Vorzon / S: Michael Beck, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, James Remar, Dorsey Wright, Brian Tyler, David Harris, Tom McKitterick, Marcelino Sánchez, Terry Michos, Roger Hill, Thomas G. Waites, David Patrick Kelly

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Celluloid Zeroes Present: It's All True! (Except for the Bullshit.) :: Getting Lost 4VR with Charles Berlitz and Friends in Richard Friedenberg's The Bermuda Triangle (1979)

Way, way back in Fourteen Hundred and Ninety-Two, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, history shows he steered the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria into what would come to be known as the Sargasso Sea. Named for the sargassum -- a dense, floating blot of aquatic vegetation -- that marks its boundaries, this nebulous body of water has earned itself a rather insidious reputation over the centuries since Columbus first mistook these masses of seaweed as a good omen that land must be near. Prone to deadly calms that left sailing ships stranded indefinitely, the Sargasso soon earned itself several nicknames, including The Sea of Lost Ships, as several salty tales of massive graveyards of vessels, swamped in the muck, their holds full of gold, with their skeletonized crews still waiting for a wind that would never come just waiting to be plundered, began to surface.

And as wind power gave way to steam, ships still managed to venture into these waters only to never be heard from again. It didn't help matters that this area was also prone to magnetic disturbances known to send compasses a'spinning or pointing to true north instead of magnetic north; and dead spots where all radio communications are disrupted or neutered, which led to another nickname, The Sea of Fear, as the troublesome concentration of these maritime disasters began to define itself a little more clearly; an area that was roughly demarcated by a line drawn from the southern tip of Florida, to the island of Bermuda, to Puerto Rico, and then back to Florida.

Even as man took to the sky this new means of travel brought no immunity as several airplanes met the same unknown fate as their water borne brethren somewhere over the Sargasso. However, most of these instances were isolated with plenty of plausible explanations for the abrupt disappearances. But then, on December 5, 1945, five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers left the naval air-station at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, on what was supposed to be a routine two-hour training flight. Designated Flight 19, it was under the command of Lt. Charles Taylor, a combat veteran of the Pacific campaign, serving on the carrier USS Hancock; and while the rest of the pilots and crew were trainees they were far from their first flights. In fact, this was to be their last training mission before graduating. And after a slight delay, the flight departed; and as the planes formed up the weather was clear and favorable, the sea moderate to rough. Again, this practice bombing run was nothing any of these pilots hadn't done before. And once they cleared the runway, another batch of trainees would launch to run the exact same exercise, just as another group was ahead of them and already well on their way to Chicken Shoals.

But once Flight 19's bombing run was successfully completed, something strange happened. It began with a pilot to pilot radio transmission, asking for a compass heading. This chatter continued, growing more agitated as it became apparent Flight 19 was off course. More radio calls inferred that the entire flight's compasses were malfunctioning, and no one could get a proper bearing or heading. More confused transmissions followed, desperately trying to get fix on their location, one thinking they might be over the Florida Keys, another fearful that they were now somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico. On the ground, all efforts to triangulate the flight's location failed. Radio contact with the flight was spotty and intermittent and as the crisis dragged on it suddenly stopped. Still, the plane to plane chatter continued, arguing over which direction to head as Taylor kept them circling eastward, while the others begged him to head west. At one point, several land-based radio stations were able to fix Flight 19's location as nowhere near Florida but north of the Bahamas. But before this could be confirmed, contact was lost as the weather started to deteriorate. And as the sun started to set and the planes ran dangerously low on fuel, a distraught Taylor radioed how the sea didn't look right, and being awash in a strange light. Then, the last transmission from Flight 19 was received: "All planes close up tight ... We'll have to ditch unless landfall ... When the first plane drops below 10 gallons, we all go down together."

Despite a massive air and sea search covering nearly 250,000 square miles, no traces of Flight 19 or the 14 men who manned the five planes was found. No debris. No oil slicks. Nothing. They simply vanished. The flight was one man short, since a Corporal Allan Kosnar was excused from the flight because, according to legend, he had had a "strong premonition of doom" and begged off sick. A Naval board of inquiry listed the reason for the disappearance as "cause unknown." Seventy years later, they still don't know what happened for sure. But back in 1945, the Sargasso had earned itself another new name: The Bermuda Triangle.

The first allegations that something screwy was going on in the waters southwest of Florida first saw print in 1950, when an article by reporter Edward Jones was picked up by the AP, which tied several maritime disasters, including Flight 19, to the area. In 1952, Fate Magazine published an article by George Sand, "Sea Mystery At Our Back Door", which was the first to note the (now standard) triangular shape of the troubled area and the first to suggest a supernatural element as the cause to all these strange disappearances. A decade later, Vincent Gaddis' "The Deadly Bermuda Triangle" saw print in the February, 1964, edition of Argosy, which further expanded on the pattern and causes of these disappearances. And though Gaddis would later publish his theories in a book, Invisible Horizons (1969), The Bermuda Triangle didn't really strike a chord with the masses until Charles Berlitz came along.

As the legend goes, gonzo author and noted linguist Charles Berlitz first became interested in the Triangle phenomenon at a travel agency in the late 1960s, when he became intrigued by several customers who adamantly refused any mode of travel through the dreaded area. That, however, is not quite true. Born in New York City in 1913, Berlitz, fluent in four languages before the age of three, after graduating magna cum laude at Yale, where he pushed that number to over 32, got into the family business, teaching at the famed Berlitz School of Languages, founded by his grandfather, Maximilian, in 1878.

With America's entry into World War II, Berlitz enlisted and found his way into the Army's counter-intelligence corps. Once the war ended, Berlitz stayed in the military for nearly 13 years as a reservist. He also returned to teaching, eventually taking over the stewardship of several branches of the Berlitz school, where he pioneered the use of records and tapes in learning a second (or third or fourth or 33rd) language, and then took over Berlitz Publications until it was sold to a rival publishing house in 1967. From there, Berlitz abandoned linguistics and went full bore into the world of ancient civilizations, underwater archeology and the paranormal; more specifically, locating and proving the existence of the lost continent of Atlantis and, later, getting to the bottom of the deadly occurrences inside the Bermuda Triangle.

A firm believer in Ancient Astronauts and alien visitations since the dawn of man, Berlitz's first two books, The Mystery of Atlantis (1969) and Mysteries from Forgotten Worlds (1972), delved into these theories and the possible effect these *ahem* visitors had on some infamous "lost civilizations", echoing the work of Erich von Däniken's Chariots of the Gods? (1968). Around this time Berlitz also had his alleged encounter at the unknown travel agency, which determined the topic of his next book. But most of this interest, however, seems to stem from his time as a reservist, where he served as an investigative officer for the Army Air-Corps when Flight 19 disappeared. And after compiling all of his research, Berlitz believed that "the people and planes and ships that have reportedly disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle have been victims of some sort of electromagnetic disturbances that cause them to disintegrate and fall into the sea." And his speculative exposé on this theory, The Bermuda Triangle (1974), sold more than 14 million copies worldwide, feeding the voracious appetite of the crypto-mania-addled public of the 1970s, who had gone completely bonkers over UFOs, Bigfoot, ghosts, and psychic whammies, and almost single-handedly made the notorious area of water a household name and caused a massive dip in Bermuda's tourist trade.

At some point, Berlitz hitched himself on to noted prognosticator and self-proclaimed mystic Edgar Cayce's bandwagon and tied his two obsessions together, claiming Atlantis was located inside the Bermuda Triangle, even claiming to have found a massive pyramid on the ocean floor near Bimini. But a reviewer for TIME Magazine countered that the author "takes off from established facts, then proceeds to lace its theses with a hodgepodge of half-truths, unsubstantiated reports and unsubstantial science." And Naval historian, Eliot Morison, called Berlitz's book "a load of hoey", adding most of the documented disappearances didn't actually happen in the Triangle or could easily be explained by more normal causes.

Even as the Washington Times tagged him as "the de facto expert on weird phenomena", Berlitz was just getting started. Flooded with more eye-witness testimonials after his first book hit big, he immediately published another on the Triangle, Without a Trace (1977), followed by another exposé on some deadly Naval exercises that took place in the very same waters, The Philadelphia Experiment (1979), which alleges the US Navy tested some Top-Secret high-powered generators to make a "magnetic field" powerful enough to render a destroyer invisible that went completely awry, causing the boat to shift between dimensions, leaving several crewman dead, melded into the hull, while others kept blinking in out of this known existence. And as the 1970s came to a close, Berlitz was one of the first to claim the government was covering up the existence of aliens with The Roswell Incident (1980).

Meantime, producer and director Charles E. Sellier Jr., probably best known to the masses for the ruination of Christmas with his controversial but, in the end, harmless holiday slasher, Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), was quietly becoming one of the patron saints for a certain niche of shlock cinema. For we children of the 1970s remember him more for the rash of faux docs on cryptids and other strange phenomenon like The Mysterious Monsters (1975) -- which gave five year old me thee worst case of the drizzles, The Amazing World of Psychic Phenomena (1976), and Beyond and Back (1978) that he unleashed on the public along with his eccentric historical docudramas, In Search of Noah's Ark (1976) and The Lincoln Conspiracy (1977). Half of these I remember seeing in the theater. The others used to be late night staples on the Supestations before they all chucked them for more mainstream programming. Altogether now, BOO!, Superstations. We said, BOO!

So to say Sellier Jr. was a bit obsessive on the mysterious and unexplained would be a bit of an understatement; but he found a kindred spirit with fellow filmmakers Rober Guenette (The Man Who Saw Tomorrow / 1981) and James Conway (Hangar 18 / 1980), who all found distribution through Sunn Classic Pictures, a subsidiary of Schick Enterprises, who had expanded beyond disposable razors. Based out of Salt Lake City, Sunn Classic was kind of a throwback to the old barnstorming and road-show days of Dwain Esper and Kroger Babb, moving from city to city, with over-saturation advertising campaigns to lure people into the theaters, where it would have a limited run to add even more urgency before moving on and starting the process all over again.

As 1978 rolled around, Sellier Jr. and Conway managed to get the film rights for Berlitz's book and set out to adapt it to film in their usual docu-drama style. Now, what I always loved about these kinda movies and books on this type of whackadoodle subject matter is they all tended to follow a fairly familiar pattern. First comes an introduction to what mystery we're investigating, then comes the dramatic recreations of infamous incidents and true testimonials, followed by a token attempt to show all possible rational explanations for these strange phenomenon before we get to the best parts, where the crackpot theories roam free and wild.

In The Bermuda Triangle (1979), director Richard Friedenberg and scriptwriter Stephen Lord stick to this gonzoid approach, playing rather loosely with the facts for ... uhm, dramatic purposes, and throw in everything but Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. And while Flight 19 is a centerpiece (embellished with a few more supernatural twists and turns, 'natch), it begins with Christopher Columbus' encounter with a series of strange "fireballs" in the sky near Bimini; then a ghostly encounter with the Mary Celeste and the Flying Dutchman; then the disappearance of the U.S.S. Cyclops. These along with about a dozen more encounters in the Triangle, by sea and air, related by those who survived and speculation over what happened to those who did not round the film out. Highlights include:

A rather unintentionally hilarious segment about a dimensionally-displaced barge; a plane passenger's harrowing close encounter with a space-time vortex; an airliner that ceased to exist for 12 minutes; a rather creepy tale about a plane and its two passengers, apparently caught in a time-bubble, circling Grand Turk Island, unable to land because whenever / wherever they are / were the airport hadn't been established yet, as the confused radio-operator in the tower below can hear them circling overhead until they disappear into the clouds and are never heard from again. Things even get a little sinister when some of these surviving eye-witnesses die under dubious circumstances for, dare I say, knowing too much.

As far as the theories go, well, once pilot-error, underwater earthquakes, water-spouts, and leftover mines are written off due to the lack of physical evidence, followed by some heated conjecture between several oceanographers with out-RAY-geous French accents over (sacré) blue holes (essentially giant whirlpools), the film starts thinking outside the box -- and these ideas are all bone-headedly magnificent. One of my favorites is the claim that it all boils down to Atlantis -- namely a powerful crystal that, when not harnessed properly, is prone to violent discharges of energy that not only destroyed and sunk the ancient civilization it is still popping-off from the ocean-floor to this very day like some ersatz death-ray -- represented by pilfered and spliced-in footage from George Pal's Atlantis: The Lost Continent (1961).

Dimensional rifts caused by all that magnetic interference is also given some play, as is a wild reenactment of the "failed" Philadelphia Experiment, where the USS Eldridge is super-charged for naught and all her sailors turned into ghostly, intangible lab-rats. But the film's own favorite pet theory is a UFO connection (-- which I'm sure had nothing to do with the release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) the year before), claiming there's a secret underwater alien base near Puerto Rico, who have been picking off ships and planes to keep it a secret since the 1800s. 

This notion even leeches into the Flight 19 segment, with additional radio chatter about a silver object and strange lights before all communications are lost. (Again, Flight 19 plays a role in Spielberg's film, as well. Coincidence? I think not. Nope. Nosiree.) In fact, the last third of the movie is dedicated to these Unidentified Flying -- no, wait, sorry, Underwater Floating Objects, even going so far afield for another hilarious dramatization of Captain Thomas Mantell's fatal encounter with a UFO over Fort Knox, Kentucky, in 1948, which, according to my map, is nowhere near Bermuda. We also learn that these aquatic alien invaders have an aversion to salsa music. Go figure.

Tying all of these spooky and kooky tales together is Brad Crandall, who serves as our omnipresent moderator and guide. Crandall's career began as a proto-shock jock for WNBC, New York, in the 1960s. In the 1970s he sort of became a freelance narrator for films like this one, making his deep and authoritative voice as familiar to me as Percy Rodriquez, Ernie Anderson or Don LaFontaine. The rest of the acting by the cast of unknowns in the reenactments is serviceable enough, as is Friedenberg's direction of the same. Often overlooked in these things, but John Cameron's score kinda quietly glues the film together; making the eerie and ominous even creepier, the rousing more bombastic, or capturing the strange mix of dire danger and gob-smacked awe of the impossible things being seen and heard by all the alleged witnesses. As for what we saw they said they saw, the F/X (credited to Doug Hubbard) is grounded in the decade that spawned it but is actually quite good once you consider the budget, though thinking on it about three-quarters of his job was adding a green-filter to the camera lens. Still, the miniatures and pyrotechnics were top-notch.

Obviously, Berlitz's book is part truth wrapped in a ton of bullshit. But I do believe it was sincere bullshit. Sellier's film adaptation, of course, is pure exploitation, beating the evidence and the sincerity around the head and neck with the three Fs: faulty, fraudulent and fabricated. "Science does not have to answer questions about the [Bermuda] Triangle because those questions are not valid in the first place," said Dr. Buzzkill in an episode of NOVA (June 2006) dedicated to debunking this particular myth. "Ships and planes behave in the Triangle the same way they behave everywhere else in the world."

Yeah. It's been said that if you took a global map and drew a triangle with the same dimensions as the Bermuda Triangle and placed it anywhere else that was blue it would show that just as many ships and planes disappeared in the new triangle as the old, making it no more or less dangerous than anywhere else -- even though anywhere else never got its own home version board game from Milton Bradley. (Take that, Dr. Buzzkill.)

And while I don't necessarily believe in things like The Bermuda Triangle, I like the idea of it existing (and Bigfoot, lake monsters, UFOs and ghosts) if that makes any sense. And I love books and documentaries based on them even more, with this one being a particular riveting favorite both in print and film. Yes, even though the majority of it is bullshit -- I know it and you know it, I love this flick because sometimes ... sometimes you simply just don't care and just simply run with it and see where the B.S. takes you because the B.S. is the best part. And if that doesn't compute for you, well, I'm sorry. Truly sorry. And one more thing before I set sail to parts unknown, while a lot of these old paranormal and cryptid docs managed to eke a VHS release they have yet to make the digital leap and I would hope that someone, anyone, would rectify that as soon as possible.

This post is part of The Celluloid Zeroes latest roundtable: It's All True (Except for the Bullshit). And be sure to please 'o please check out my noble compadre's Stranger than Fiction entries since I'm the one who talked them all into this seemed like a great idea at the time topic in the first place as they pop up over the next few days, please and thank you.

Checkpoint Telstar: Without Warning, Cloverfield, Punishment Park, The Bay, [REC].

Cinemasochist Apocolypse: Legend of the Chupacabra.

The Terrible Claw Reviews: Chariots of the Gods.

The Bermuda Triangle (1979) Schick Sunn Classics / P: Charles E. Sellier Jr., James L. Conway / D: Richard Friedenberg / W: Stephen Lord, Charles Berlitz (book) / C: Henning Schellerup / E: John F. Link / M: John Cameron / S: Brad Crandall, Vince Davis, Anne Galvan, Robert Magruder, Tom Matts
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