Thursday, April 10, 2003

Wrong Is Right

It was a time when Outer Space was filled with incredible machines whose telescopic eyes & ears witnessed our most sensitive secrets. Information that could, and did, change the face of nations.

It was a time when no one on Earth could hide from Technology. No people. No continent.
No one was safe from spy satellites.

It all could have happened in the recent past. Or the present. Or even in the near-future.

But it didn't.

It did happen in that elusive time between now & later. That time when Dark is Light.

When Down is Up;

When Foul is Fair;


well, see the top to finish out that little introduction.

It was pure happenstance that I happen to find my copy of this movie roughly three weeks ago, as our War Against Iraq started. Others may find that what was once thought to be mindless entertainment suddenly became a bit more pointed (I imagine STARSHIP TROOPERS found a little more respect recently). Even this week's episodes of "Angel" and even "Enterprise" seemed to be right on schedule with concurrent events.

Wrong Is Right is a "moldy oldie" from the early 1980's (1982, to be exact), a dark comedy starring Sean Connery and one of the last projects from Richard Brooks (whose resume includes films such as ELMER GANTRY, THE PROFESSIONALS, IN COLD BLOOD, LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR, and for the cultists out there, co-scripter of the cheese-classic COBRA WOMAN... if you haven't heard of the man before, go out and search out some of these films.) A satire on television media's effect on the world and on political events, it flopped horribly at the time it was released -- I doubt most of anybody reading this who is a fan of Connery has even heard of this picture -- and probably with reason, since political satire was not an audience crowd pleaser at that time, despite comparisons being made with DR. STRANGELOVE at the time.

Brooks wrote the movie, (based on a novel, The Better Angels, by Charles McCarry), which features Connery as superstar newsman Patrick Hale, the shining star of World Television Network, who inadvertantly ends up smack-dab center in a chain of events in the Mideast (well, actually North Africa, but go with it) involving two suitcase atom bombs and various factions (The President and his Cabinet, the CIA, a terrorist leader, and a prospective candidate for the Presidency) all trying to get the bombs first.

From that quick and dirty synopsis, it may appear to be a parody of the James Bond films that starred Connery... not in the slightest. Connery is actually more of a combination of a Dan Rather/Ted Koeppel type, a media superstar who actually gets out and covers the news. The unfolding of the plot is what is of interest here... what was easily dismissed as satire over 20 years ago seems to be indistinguishable from recent events over the past several months/years -- suicide bombings (but only in front of the television cameras), anti-American sentiment in the Mid-East (at the time this was released, the main bad guy was Kadafi (sic)), and a concerted effort for 'regime change' by whatever means necessary.

The plot and tone almost seems to be an advance taste of BUCKEROO BANZAI, although without the overt comic book influences - it was shot by the same person, Fred Koenkamp (who also deserves honor as the DP on BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS) and features Rosalind Cash (as the Vice-President of the U.S.) who was also in BB - I suspect that someone at the Banzai Institute may have tipped the filmmakers to take a look at it before work began on BB. There's some nice montage work by George Grenville, that moves things along at a brisk pace (maybe not brisk enough for those who wallow in today's seizure-inducing editing); and a good cast: Katherine Ross, Hardy Kruger, George Grizzard, Robert Conrad, Dean Stockwell, Leslie Nielson (before he totally switched over to 'funny' roles) and a very young Jennifer Jason Leigh who appears in the first 5 minutes.

Unlike contemporary 'black-comedies', which seem to define the term as having lots of "attitude" and cursing and little that's actually funny, WRONG IS RIGHT aims for skewering the (then) pervasive influence of television turning everything into entertainment and in the hypocrisy of the U.S. Government and its foreign policy in the Mid-East. The joke on us, is, that we've gone even further than even political satire could posit.

It's worth hunting for in your local video stores - as things develop over the next year, it could come in handy...

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