Monday, October 07, 2013

The Horror Of..Halloween Night, The Last Flight of Noah's Ark

Not many things like the coming of Halloween.

It is a season that has a unique flavor to it, a spice.

It's a season for some about facing the specter of death. For some it's about laughing at the unknown and what we fear. For others it's an excuse to escape the normal and banal, for even just one night. And for others it's candy candy candy.

But through the candy, there was the dream of getting out of the house. To traverse the neighborhood at night. Be out there while everyone else was also out. To all be in disguise. There's something to it that beckons back to a distant time. Though, of course, the adults had long had costumed balls. But this was for kids, and so much grander.

It was also in my youth that it, at least, feels like their was a hey day for getting the adults into the spirit. So TV further reflected spooks and ghouls of this month. It created quite the cultural spectacle, to a child.

It's also a time for telling stories and tales. Some are meant to terrify, some meant to amuse.

And that is something worth seeking out where you can find. These days you can go anywhere you want to get it from a library to cable TV to the Internet. It is all over.

But once we just had a handful of channels...Okay I actually had a library to, but I want to talk about Halloween TV, okay?!

Spooky themed TV was something to yearn for. And Halloween is a go to time for it.

And we're here for a reason, to look at movies, a Halloween movie. So how about this one?

The Last Flight of Noah's Ark

It looks terrifying doesn't it?

Yeah. Let's consider why it's here.

Back in the paleocinematic age of 1980, this movie was made. It is a Disney production...Don't run away yet!

The next year, 1981, Halloween came around and many kids, waiting to head out after dark (because that once was the idea) to trick or treat, turned on the TV to watch something to build on the excitement and anticipation of the day. And what else would a kid watch but The Wonderful World of Disney. (Hey! This is in the days long before cable, DVD's, OR the Internet.) I mean Disney, for kids, has made plenty of worthwhile Halloween fare over the years. Blackbeard's Ghost, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Bed Knobs and Broomsticks, various shorts, etc. It could be great!

So, in 1981, what did kids get? The Last Flight of Noah's Ark.

And the question of why has haunted me ever since. Why? Were they in need to recoup value from it by showing it? But even if that is the case, that night? It galls me. Still.

But maybe I'm wrong.

Let's look at The Last Flight of Noah's Ark and be sure.

Imagine your a kid, and it's Halloween night, and this is what you have to watch...

"I just had the worse dream! I was
the star of The Last Flight of
Noah's Ark
The film stars Elliott Gould. You may remember him from M*A*S*H (the movie -- Do kids these days even know the TV show?), E/R (a sitcom no one should feel bad not knowing about -- imagine ER as a sitcom, just less funny), Friends, or Ocean's Eleven (Little something for the kids of today.). He;s also an Oscar nominee, though watching this movie may lead you to doubt that this is a fact.

"You think you scare me? I've worked
with Berman and Braga."
Then we have Geneviève Bujold. She's appeared in a number of interesting places, like Anne of the Thousand Days and in Trojan Women. She also played Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. ...For one day, before backing out of the role.

The rest of the main cast includes two "adorable" kids. As with kid actors. Your mileage will vary. But they also won't go on to be unknown. Ricky Schroder and Tammy Lauren ()Billy and Sally...or something.). Schroder, some of us will remember from Silver Spoons. Others will remember him from Lonesome Dove or NYPD Blue. With Lauren, she's been in WishmasterBride of Boogedy, Homefront, and The Young and the Restless.

...and the rest!

Also we have John Fujioka and Yuki Shimoda (As Cleveland and Hiro). Fujioka is just someone you have to know if you've watched anything in 70's and 80's. He's just "that guy". From M*A*S*H (the TV show this time) to Silver Spoons to The Love Boat to Magnum PI to Buck Rogers to The Incredible Hulk to The Six Million Dollar Man to Midway to Baywatch Night, you know he'll eventually pop up. And Shimoda is much the same. Appearing in shows like Mister Ed, McHale's Navy, The Andy Griffith Show, I Spy, Police Woman, Kung Fu, Wonder Woman, and M*A*S*H. And, of course, in Midway.

....with special guest stars...

The movie begins with our star being rudely awakened by knocking on the door. The knocking becomes smashing as two men force their way into the apartment.
"Alright, Noah. You've crossed the Phoenix
Foundation for the last time."

Hey! It's MacGyver's boss! And apparently he wants some money owed (cue Big Lebowski joke). And, heck, he's brought along Major Van Zandt! This is serious.

Are you terrified yet! Are you in the Halloween spirit! Oooooooooo!

Well, Noah needs to come up with this money quickly. And he's broke. So he needs to get some quick work. Trouble is that he's a disreputable pilot, so no one is hiring. Hey! Maybe he'll get a job couriering a cursed relic and all sort of hijinks will break out!

No one will take him, until he gets to a fly-by-night "old friend" who has a job for him. (Okay. Come on evil relic!) He won't explain it to him, but wants him to be thankful for the sweet job. (Oh! This will be good!)

This only pisses off Noah, who pushes him to show what the job entails. (And the reveal? Necronomicon? Puzzle Box? Vigo's painting? The Ark? The One Ring?)

Maybe it's a curse plane?

Maybe it's a cursed...Nevermind.
It's flying an old World War II bomber full of farm animals. (Frick!) Noah is ready to walk away immediately. But he needs the work.

Then the other part of the flight arrives, Bernadette Lafleur, a missionary off to some distant island to teach farming technique. She is friendly and eager to get going.

Noah isn't. And he refuses to fly. So when his friend takes him aside to beg him to go, he pressures him to get all the money he needs to get out of trouble. And he agreed to go.

Then he goes to check on the plane. And it's an antique.

"What a piece of junk!:
"She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts."
But it'll fly.

Gould vs. Duck. Duck wins!
So begins the loading of animals, and kids running around being kids.

While loading the animals he meets Ricky Schroder (Tommy or Billy or Fredrich), and shows his charm by suggesting that the large cow he's trying to get on will be killed and eaten if it gives him trouble. That upsets the kid. But it gives the kid a chance to show his affinity for the cow by getting it on board with ease.

...and they fell to their deaths.
Now Noah and Bernadette get ready to leave, but Ricky talks with a friend, Tammy (Sally or Jill or Marsha). They are both upset that Bernadette is leaving, and taking the animals they raised. So they decide they will go with her. (...and they are both actually ghosts! ...No.)

Last known photo.
Aboard the plan now, the kids hunker down. And the pair in the cockpit relax into the humdrum of flying through some opening movies opening credits. Look out for the Director of Photography!

As they go, Bernadette gets bored. So she gets out and starts playing a tape player. (It's like your iPhone, but comes with free ribbon.)

She just loves her Super Magnetic
Tape Player. She calls it Mr.
Noah's not thrilled.

He would leave, but that involves using the autopilot.
"Not sure why a Fireworks
Control is in here."

And when he uses that...

No autopilot. So he decides to give her a crash course in keeping the plane pointed straight ahead. A skill useful when you are the only other person on a long flight with a pilot being played by Elliott Gould.

But the quiet doesn't last. Soon the duck is back for a rematch.

"You're despicable!"
And the kids run up front.

Children of the Damned on a Plane
They're here! ...And the cow is sick, or something.

Instead of giving the kids a gun, to take care of their pet, he goes. And for that, he gets a hoof to the head. or rather a horn to the butt.

"Daffy sends his regard."
And when he awakens, he's in a twisted world of demons! And the young girl screams, "Silent Hill!" ...No.

So Bernadette flies for awhile while he's out. Well, she was flying anyway when he left the cockpit. And she's the only other adult on the plane. So her main job is being sure the plane doesn't go into the ocean.

Still, she doesn't crash and stays pointed towards the destination. And when he comes to and returns, everything seems good.

Bored now. Need zombies.

But he soon realizes that something is wrong. (Bermuda Triangle wrong?)

"Great. Now the sun went nova."
Looking out the window he notices that the sun is rising at the wrong angle to the plane. (That happens in the Bermuda Triangle! According to a movie I saw once, in a dream.)

"Why does no one ever listen?
Rock music kills!"
The cassette player was placed near the plane's compass. And it shifted the headings. They're going the wrong way!

And with that they are boned. Because what happens when you fly for a long while out over water in the wrong direction, and have to figure out where you are and where you can get to? See a number of stories involving...The Bermuda Triangle. (It's all coming together. Or, this movie is getting to me.)

Maybe they turn against each other in their final hours, in a blood orgy now? ...I'm just not that lucky.

So it's a race to try and not die. And everyone is sure they will be fine.

No. This won't get you out of this movie.

But they, at the end, manage to find an island. And crash land on the beach in some almost believable effects...No it was silly, really silly. But they are alive, and doing their best to invent the Lost of the 80's.

"First things we have to do is find and kill Sawyer."
"Hey Noah! You ever hear of child labor laws!"
Meanwhile they have the kids take the animals off the plane, while they build enclosures. (And how fast did they build those enclosures. That looks pretty fast...Of course Bernadette is a farm girl and was going to train people to do just these things. So it actually makes sense now...Nevermind.)

But they aren't alone. Someone is watching.

Say? An island. An alpha male loner. A women who speaks with a french accent. Some kids. This is almost Father Goose.

All they need are some Japanese soldiers and...

Oh, hell. This is almost a 1980's Father Goose.

At this point I need to pause and ponder. What are we going to get here. Are we going to get some of that uncomfortable caricaturing of people who are Asian? Like we'd see with certain works of Mickey Rooney, Peter Sellers, and Rob Schneider?

I mean, Gilligan's Island once gave us a Japanese soldier, who didn't the war was over. And he would easily make you feel uncomfortable. (I almost put up a picture of him. You can look that up if you want.)

This could be painfully bad.

Luckily, this is more of the 70's to early 80's attitudes, where people were actually a little more aware of how racist some of that stuff in the past certain movies and shorts put out by Disney.

So, actually, these two, our long lost soldiers, stuck on an island for decades. They are actually pretty nice guys, who've been cut off from the world. So you can't help but wonder what went through their minds after the first decade when no one contacted them. I imagine a regimented life helps psychologically. But otherwise they probably just accepted they would probably never get home, or see people again.

But after all that time, a plane crashes (and American WWII plane). And they try to muster the old game. But the guns don't work, so they run off. They must be scare and confused. Has the American army come for them? Are more people trapped on the island to now? (Are these our Others?)

Yeah. I wish we had a movie about these two. Get on it Disney!

Noah wants to be ready for them and not take chances. But Bernadette, being a pacifist, wants to find them and talk to them. He says no. She sneaks off.

She goes to their place, a lovely bungalow, and looks around (Like Goldilocks...Oh my god, maybe there's a polar bear!)

The Japanese soldiers comeback, and freak out. But she wins them over. And for that, they make her a meal. (Ow!...Oh...I meant maker her some food to eat, don't I?)

But then Noah barges in and starts a fight. (Boy Noah made a real meal of all of this!


Come on!)

And, again, Halloween night!

So, what's left in this movie?

They show the soldiers the plane. And one of them has a brilliant plan to use it.

No, really. Somethings get completely lost in translation.
But they come up with a simple enough plan. I mean, it's so obvious.

They will take the plane. Flip it over. Then turn it into a sailing ship.


Yeah, Lost.  Suck it. All those seasons and characters, and you never tried that?

A bit of Disney magic there.

Maybe it looks silly...
...but play the A-Team music in your head now.
Doesn't it all just make more sense.
 So they move things, build things, and have a luau.

Really. Imagine being trapped somewhere for nearly 40 years, with just one other person to talk to, and then a few more people show up. I can't imagine what it's like to be able to share and hear ideas anew. And a chance to be around kids after being cut off for so long from family.

And Noah also has his requisite softening.

And soon they are done, and ready to go. So they launch the plane/ship.

Oh, yes. You are seeing this.

Who needs coconuts and a professor, when you have a
B-29 and a pair of Japanese soldiers?
Smoke monster! I knew it!

And once our friendly soldiers are aboard, explosions rise from the island. They explain they were under orders to destroy their base if they left the island. They fulfilled their final orders.

(And released the hellish beast that were held in the secret research labs beneath their bungalow!!! ...No.)

The end?


Now they sail off and sail and sail ans sail and...

...okay. Now is the one actual part of this movie that genuinely scared me as a kid. Want to see it?

Well, you are going to see it. I don't know why I asked.

What?! When you're a kid, you have things that flip a switch in your brain, and freak you out. Sharks and being underwater used to do that for me. As a kid I got taken to Seaworld. We went into one of those large glass walled rooms that has fish swimming way over your head, I was convinced it was going to shatter and drown us (or the fish would eat me). Heck, I still HATE water levels in games because of this.

Assassin's Cred 4 - Panic Mode kicking in

Of course now I look at this and think that it's a pretty small and benign shark. No real threat, as long as they stay aboard.

"Damn! We need some bait!"
"There we go. Thanks, Ricky!"
 So they try and catch the shark. And Ricky ends up in the water. (Yeah. I am rooting for the shark, Why? The shark hasn't annoyed me yet.) And Noah dives in to save him. And the shark takes it sweet time reaching them. It's like he isn't that interested in the large human shaped things in the water. But they need saving.

Bernadette happens to holding the flare gun (their only weapon) and fires it at the shark to save them, and kills it?

Is that possible? A flare shot into the water will kill? Have the Mythbusters gotten around to busting this movie yet? I think they need to test all of it out. This is starting to not feel like it's 100% true.

I'd make a joke, but I've decided to
lay off certain jokes for this review.
Well, more boring stuff happens, and then the cow is sick again. I hate that cow...Wait. Maybe it'll becomes a zombie c...Oh, let's just get this over with.

They decide to put it down. But Ricky doesn't want that. And we have some emotional turmoil. But they decide it has to be done.

Then, the Coast Guard arrive.

Sure. Why not.

And they get married, by the Coast Guard captain
on the upside down bomber.

In honor to some of the opinions of the Breaking Bad finale, let's just say it.

They all died in the plane crash. And this was a death fantasy.

Grrr. Fine. It's a schmaltzy Disney movie where everything works out in the end. Sure it leaves a number questions and problems unresolved (the debt, the health of the cow, etc.), but the kids watching don't seem to care.

And that is The Last Flight of Noah's Ark, whether you like it or not.

Oh, I should mention that the Disney show was only an hour long. So I only saw the first half on Halloween. I gave you the second half as a treat for me in tricking you!

BWAH! HA! HA! HA! HA...Wait. That means I had to rewatch the second half when I didn't need to...Frick!

Well, I foiled myself there.

This is just not a good movie for Halloween. Any other night of the year, you could watch this movie with your kids and you may even enjoy it.

But Halloween deserves something special. Something with some magic and darkness. There's a spirit there that deserves some fostering. It deserves horror (even in a very mild variation).

This movie doesn't deliver (though the shark does still get to me).

Perhaps this movie came out just before the start of the era where there was more of an interest in gearing TV and advertising towards getting kids and adults engaged in Halloween? Perhaps it was before the big push, where more effort was taken to theme shows for Halloween week. (Be honest. Aren't we all a little disappointed when we see a show on that week not geared towards being spooky or macabre? -- Even Yo Gabba Gabba...Is that still a thing?)

And when I mention gearing ads to a Halloween theme, I do mean the consumerism around it. Ah. It was crazy. Ads would be hawking everything for Halloween. It was a golden age of selling sell other stuff. (No I'm not big on consumerism. I'm big on my own nostalgia.)

It may be silly to some in retrospect. Still, as a kid you loved it. It meant that the adults agreed with you about how great Halloween was. It meant there was some adult stuff you could graduate to (parties and fun). But, past, it did have some negatives. The consumerism of it.

Still for those of us with a love of the season. With a love of the scares and chills. It isn't about buying themed cookies, or pops, or beers. It's about a mood and something we share with one another. We congregate and connect, just like people do at Christmas. Hence this and future posts. It's good to share our love and passions.

And, I assure you, next time. a movie worthy of watching with the family at Halloween. Better get the little kids to bed, you don't want them to start crying.


Somehow I laid off the darker humor for this review. Damn you, Disney!

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