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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In The Year 2889

Larry Buchanan produced modern remakes of three of American International Pictures' 50s B sci-fi films for A.I. Television. (Hence the VHS cover art in lieu of a theatrical poster.) The third of these remakes, In the year 2889 (2889), is a very close copy of Roger Corman's 1955 cheapy, Day the World Ended. TV movies are out-of-scope, but since it is a remake of a 50s sci-fi, it's worth including. Buchanan did very little to the script, so 2889 is essentially Corman's '55 movie with different actors and shot in color.

Quick Plot Synopsis
See the synopsis of Day the World Ended ('55) for the original plot and notes. Below is a very brief recap. The story opens with a montage of nuclear test blasts and a narrator reading the same Bible verse, 2nd Peter 3:12, about the heavens being on fire and elements burned with fervent heat. Captain John and his daughter Joann are set to wait out the fallout in his protected valley hideaway. Joann's fiance, Larry is late, and presumed lost. Several strangers arrive at John's refuge. Steve, the handsome young geologist and his badly irradiated older brother Grainer. Tim, the grizzled alcoholic rancher from other the ridge wanders in. Mickey (the hood) and his girlfriend Jada (the dancer) arrive to make it seven. John has the gun, so he's in charge. Steve likes Joann, but she pines for Larry. Mickey likes Joann in all the wrong ways. Tensions flare. Grainger "gets better" but craves raw meat, so stalks the woods. Another mutant creature stalks the woods too. Joann feels it's calling to her. Jada and Mickey fight over his shifting affections. Tensions flare. Mickey drowns Jada. Tim, distraught over his lack of hooch goes over the ridge into the deadly fog. John follows trying to retrieve him, but gets a lethal dose for his trouble. Joann goes outside in a trance, to the mutant. She screams, faints and is carried by said mutant. Steve interrupts. Joann flees to a stream. Steve too. It rains, and kills the mutant. Mickey gets John's gun and plans to kills Steve and take Joann. John, hiding a second gun, shoots Mickey dead. Steve and Joann hold hands. Text over still: "The Beginning". The End.

Why is this movie fun?
If you're familiar with the original, it is fun to see it re-enacted by another cast. Knowing the story already, lets you focus on how differently (or badly) the new actors play their parts. It's a compare-and-contrast moment.

Cold War Angle
This is, necessarily, the same armageddon angst as the original, but some missing bits of opening narration suggest that the producers did not feel the audiences of 1967 were living in quite as abject fear as they were in 1955.

Commonalities -- See the notes on the original, as much of it still applies. Overall, 2889 is a very close copy of DWE. In many cases, the dialogue is exactly the same. Certainly it is a scene-for-scene copy with only a few deviations. (cited below)

Differences -- While 2889 does not differ much from the original, here are the main differences: The Father/Captain is named John, not Jim. The Lovely Daughter is named Joann, not Louise. The Mutant Fiance is named Larry (a joke about the director?), not Tommy. The Handsome Geologist is Steve, not Rick. The Radiated Man is Grainger, not Reddik, and he's cast as Steve's brother, not just a random businessman. The Hood is Mickey, not Tony. The Dancer is Jada, not Ruby. The Rustic is now Tim the neighbor rancher, not Pete the Prospector. Tim has no mule, like Pete did, though he is still fond of hooch. A more significant plot change is that The Hood kills the Dancer more in cold blood. In DWE, Ruby is accidently stabbed with the knife while she and Tony struggle over it. In 2889, Mickey deliberately drowns Jada. The Hood got more odious.

Water: Our Savior -- Since the original film, many others have come out in which good ol' ubiquitous water is mankind's savior. Of course, water melted the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz ('39). Salt water killed the triffids in '63. Salt water also stopped the Monolith Monsters in '57. Rain killed the heat aliens in Night of the Big Heat ('67) and mutant Tommy in Day the World Ended ('55). Much later, it was plain ol' water that stopped M.Night Shamaylan's aliens in Signs. Of course, just as many movies used good ol' fire to stop the monsters/aliens. We like our simple cures.

NOT From the Book -- The title of 2889 is entirely misleading. Jules Verne wrote a short story by that title, published in 1889. American International had purchased the rights to Verne's story, but had no script to go with it. They applied their owned title to Buchanan's remake, even though the two have nothing to do with each other. Verne's storoy was a sort of day-in-the-life of an American newspaper editor in the year 2889. As such, it served as a vehicle for delivering several predictions and marvels, such as travel by pneumatic tubes. Verne imagined audio-file newspapers (podcasts) replacing print, but still had physical delivery. No internet. He imagined England becoming a de facto colony of the United States, but also imagined that France would still have her African colonies, etc. etc.

Bottom line? 2889 is an even cheaper production than the movie it copied, which was itself pretty cheap. The acting is marginal and the creature too cheap (basically, a fright mask) to have much appeal to modern audiences -- particularly those with no empathy for the nuclear angst of the 50s. Fans of the original movie, Day the World Ended may be amused at the reenactment.


Anonymous said...

Hello there,

I have a question for the webmaster/admin here at classicscifi.blogspot.com.

May I use some of the information from this blog post right above if I give a backlink back to your website?


Nightowl said...

Hi Daniel,

That would be fine, if you have the attribution and backlink. Also, please send me the link to where you've posted it when you're done.