Sunday, November 23, 2008

V: The Mini-Series

(1984) ***


This miniseries scared the holy living fuck out of me. I was in 3rd grade, and it was long before the time that I could even conceptualize the phrase “holy living fuck,” but nevertheless, I had it scared out of me. I was freaked the fuck out. This was also my first introduction to the overall concept of “3:00 AM.” I was certainly aware and comfortable with the concept of a 3 in the afternoon, but as a 9 year old, the idea of something called “3 in the MORNING” was absolutely inconceivable. Alas, V let me discover it.

I’ve always been all about aliens, and sci-fi, and this is probably why my parents let me watch it. In retrospect, I have to say, what in the goddamned hell were they thinking? Close Encounters was great, but that’s another movie that has always (to this day) freaked me out. (Ditto 2001 & 2010: benevolent aliens presented in freaky cinematic ways with killer music – I just lose my shit). V looked cool, but nothing was mentioned in the previews about fucking lizard people that take their eyes out and eat gophers.

It all starts out very Independence Day, which is to say that Independence Day totally ripped off V. People going about their lives, blah blah blah, and then a giant, Frisbee-shaped alien spacecraft appears over the horizon, over all the cities of the world.


Obligatory shots of everyone (i.e. every cross-section of extras you could imagine – the construction guy next to the doctor next to the Eskimo next to the pregnant mother next to the Native American in full headdress, who all happen to be on the same street at the same time) stopping what they’re doing, staring in wonderment up at the sky. The effects are admirable for the time, and actually still hold up to this day, in the way that Stonehenge holds up (from another time, and clearly old, but great nonetheless).


The particular bit of the chick eating the gopher was the one image that sent my 9 year old mind reeling, but today, the effects are obviously absolutely ridiculous. What amazes me is how believable it WAS, and how I was completely mesmerized and convinced that this girl just ate a gopher. Cut to 3:00 am. “That lizard-woman ate a gopher!” (gather blanket around chin)


(I couldn’t get a screen cap of the money moment when her chin extends an absurd length and consumes the gopher. But you can imagine it.)

The Visitors are, of course, peaceful. They wish to utilize various physical resources of our planet in exchange for their advanced technological knowledge, in order to solve a climate crisis on their home world.

What they really want is to enslave and eat everyone, and take over the planet. Because they are all evil lizard fuckheads.

The director does a great job of introducing the Visitors’ occupation, allegorically, to Nazi occupation of Poland, and the overall Nazi plan for world domination. As a viewer, you aren’t hammered over the head with the comparison, but through the elder Jewish grandfather character, the overall concepts of oppression and occupation and subjugation are dealt with in a very smart, indirect fashion, never going into preachy territory, or making a point of “saying something” about Nazis. And the grandfather is the one that introduces the concept of “V”, stopping some teenagers defacing Visitor posters with red spray paint. He grabs the can, and sprays the dripping red “V” over the poster, saying “You are doing eet wrong…V…for Veeek tory!”


Anyway, viewing it now, from my jaded adult mind, I was struck by few things. When Marc Singer, the reporter guy, (whose sister Lori Singer, who you might remember from Footloose and Fame The TV series, is totally hot), sneaks aboard the spaceship, all the aliens look like humans. No real humans are supposed to be aboard the spaceship at this point, so you would think you’d see a few lizards just casually walking around, drinking lizard coffee and whatnot. But no, they ALL look like human beings. In subsequent scenes, when Singer gets into a fight with a guy and starts to claw off his prosthetic “human” makeup, you realize that every single alien walking around on the ship has had this “disguise” done for them. In my movie-business mind, to me this means that almost the ENTIRE ship must be made up of Hair and Make-Up people, devoted to getting all the aliens “human-ready” in case they are spotted. Makes the opening scenes feel different, when the giant ships float in over major cities - all I can picture is hundreds of hair and make-up lizards putting human faces on a bunch of other lizards, sitting in chairs in front of lighted mirrors. Hair And Makeup Motherships. The 2nd Assistant Directors of the alien invasion are going CRAZY. “We’re fucking invading NOW, people! And you’re telling me we don’t have more than 50 lizards ready?!? What the fuck is going on in Hair and Makeup?” And so on.



I’m sure I am destroying everyone’s suspension of disbelief with this observation, and I suppose those ships are pretty damn big. You can probably fit a bunch of the other technical Fly-The-Lizard-Frisbee people in there. Plus I'm sure there's a cafeteria somewhere.

As far as the actors in the series, Honorable Mention goes to Freddy Krueger, who plays a slightly dim, sympathetic alien who saves a surly black man from horrible nitrogen freezing or something at a plant. But excuse me, aren’t you a goddamn lizard? In prosthetic hair and makeup? Don’t you want to eat this man? And why hasn’t your fake human mask melted off, instead of just bubbling up on your cheeks?

It’s as if the crocodile that jumps out of the lake at Linda Kozlowski in Crocodile Dundee (sidebar: nice black bikini) decided to suddenly invite her out for a cup of tea, and then push her out of the way of an oncoming bus. Realistically, it just would NEVER happen. The crocodile wouldn’t give a SHIT.

Anyway, V’s great.


Catfreeek said...

Excellent review, I absolutely loved this series when it came out. Of course I was a bit older than you so the when I saw the gopher consumed I just thought it was, "wicked cool".

I have thought of rewatching this many times but have avoided it because I'm afraid it will ruin the magic of the memory for me. Was Robert Englund's character's name Willie? I seem to remember him as that.

JPX said...

"to me this means that almost the ENTIRE ship must be made up of Hair and Make-Up people, devoted to getting all the aliens “human-ready” in case they are spotted." Hilarious.

I too remember really digging this mini-series (not the show). I was 14 at the time and this was during the Star Wars era where all things sci-fi were especially hot. I remember there is one scene in the movie where the kids are playing with toy ships and action figures of the Visitors and I was hoping that they wouild make those in real like - of course they didn't. Awesome review, Stan, I like to wake up in the morning to original blog content!

HandsomeStan said...

Aw, thanks. And I'm pretty sure he was Willie, Catfreeek. I've got The Final Battle in my queue, and I'll probably avoid the series, as everything I read about it trashes it completely. Horrendous effects, crap acting, nowhere near what was in the mini series.

And JPX, those toy ships were bitchin, right?

JPX said...

His name was definitely Willie! Oh yeah, Stan, those ships were awesome and I can't believe they never made them. The only toy that I recall was a 12-inch doll with removable face to reveal lizard face. What's the use of that if you don't have a ship? They should've gone with action figures instead.

AC said...

thanks for the entertaining review handsome stan! your righteous indignation about alien hair and makeup makes my day.

DCD said...

Love the review, HS! I don't know how old I was when I saw this - I'm sure Octo will remember. I feel like it is the series I'm remembering more then the original movie. Although I do recall the gopher thing.

"Ships full of Hair and Make-up people" made me laugh as much as "Breakroom in the Hall of Justice!"

Johnny Sweatpants said...

I loved V as a kid too and have considered revisiting for a while now. I'm sold. I didn't even realize these were available on DVD.

I noticed you swore multiple times in that review. I have had a fucking filthy mouth myself lately. Should be a fun weekend.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

My favorite line was "Because they are all evil lizard fuckheads."

AC said...

"breakroom in the hall of justice"?
did i miss a post?

HandsomeStan said...

That was just me & DCD bonding over Facebook. Masks off, etc. You can imagine the hilarity!

And I'm glad, JSP, you liked "evil lizard fuckheads.". A shout-out to Eddie Izzard, and it made ME laugh.

Octopunk said...

HA! Excellent review. Your hair-and-makeup thesis is a riot, esp. with the pic of you on the I Am Legend shoot.

I remember both the miniseries fondly and yet not fondly... because they both went along great and then tanked in the last few minutes. The first one because, well, I didn't think we were going to have to wait for the next one.

And the next one because of the bizarre telekinetic intervention at the end.

I agree that Willie's makeup should have looked increasingly awful and peeling after he joined the resistance.

AC said...

right, facebook! i've been shy/reticent/lazy about "friending" all thonners whose real names i know, but will do so this week.

i adore eddie izzard.