Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Essential Cinema - 5




The Satan Bug

ACTORS
George Maharis
Anne Francis
Richard Basehart
Dana Andrews
John Larkin
Richard Bull
Edward Asner

DIRECTOR
John Sturges

SCREENPLAY
James Clavell & Edward Anholt

CINEMATOGRAPHER
Robert Surtees

SYNOPSIS:
Insane genius seeks to destroy all life on the planet by developing the ultimate biological weapon....what could possibly go wrong?

CONCEPT IN RELATION TO THE VIEWER:
To instill fear. Fear that the overworked government brainiacs will go postal and create the ultimate lethal chemical agent. If released the population of the planet has two weeks to live. This is all about men playing God and realizing that being a deity comes with some nasty consequences. This sort of things is still going on with stem-cell research, genetic engineers, the human genome project and steroids, but the results are much more frightening and terrifying here.

PROS AND CONS:
This film started out on the slow side and at first appeared somewhat low budget. The sets and dialog seemed sparse and almost empty. As the film progressed, it became apparent that this was intentional in order to give a feeling of alienation and loneliness. The entire cast of the film is minimal. Anne Francis is the ONLY woman you even see on screen. The stark and empty desert landscapes of Arizona and Southern California give a sense of a world abandoned. There aren't a lot of plot twists in this film, but there is a lot of 'motivational' dialog. Questions regarding man's right to exist and the folly of runaway science. The scenes of death by bacterial toxins in the film are riveting and emotional. There is no blood or gore, just a momentary realization that the victims are about to die, and then they collapse and are gone.

There aren't a lot of cons in this film, because you have to take it for what it is. Stark, minimalist film making on a terrifying subject. It does appear odd that with the fate of the world at stake, all the US government needs are 6 men in trench coats barking into phones to get things done and one helicopter. This makes you wonder how we ever accomplished anything before cell phones and the internet. We like to see more detail and drama these days, but like I said, this is a simple film on a terrifying subject.