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Our rating: two lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

Many rock stars tried out for the role of the meteor.
After the cinematic one-two punch that was last summer's Deep Impact and Armageddon you're probably wondering, "Are there any good movies in which Earth is threatened by huge rocks traveling through space?" Sadly, no. Or if there are any, we have yet to see them. Gorath was kind of fun, but hardly a great movie.*

1979's Meteor, like all other American films about this subject, features an ancient craggy object that is woefully out of place. In this movie, that role goes to Sean Connery. Connery, clearly slumming, plays scientist Dr. Paul Bradley, who designed a space based nuclear weapon system called Hercules that was supposed to guard against the making of movies like Deep Impact. But wouldn't you know it, some people in the government thought, "Hey, we have missiles in space! Let's aim them at Russia!" Those wacky government types. Bradley, disgusted by this development, left NASA.

Wouldn't you know it, a meteor is actually headed for Earth. This fact is discovered by a U.S. spacecraft that nips over to the asteroid belt from Mars orbit to observe a comet that will collide with a large asteroid. The collision destroys the spacecraft and sends a huge meteor towards Earth. The whole sequence is made rather amusing by the fact that the high tech spacecraft orbiting Mars is patterned on Skylab, the short lived U.S. space station. Meteor must have been made before Skylab piled into wallaby land.

"We got this set from Stanley Kubrick."
Once the asteroid is on its way, Earth has a week until the meteor strikes. Scientific advisor Harry Sherwood (Karl Malden) convinces Bradley to lead the project to destroy the oncoming rock, but not before Connery delivers the one great line in the whole film, "Why don't you stick a broom up my ass? That way I can sweep the floor on my way out." After that is said, the whole movie goes downhill.

A large part of the film deals with the political machinations that surround the very public use of the very secret Hercules weapon system to destroy the meteor. See, if the President of the United States (played by, yes, Henry "Tentacles" Fonda) admits that the platform is up there, he's afraid that the US government will look like "hypocrites and warmongers." Of course, technically, that's exactly what the US government is, but he doesn't want to admit it. Eventually the President comes up with a morally impressive course: He will lie. He simply says the platform was secret, but it was never aimed at Russia. And it turns out that the Soviets also have space based weapon system, but they won't admit to it. Soon a Soviet scientist and his translator Tatiana Nikolaevna Donskaya (Natalie Wood, believe it or not) are jetted to the U.S.

"Hercules removes 20% more plaque than
any other orbital nuclear toothbrush!"
And so begins the Cold War paranoia plot. Our favorite bit is where the delusional General Aldon (Martin Landau) brings his own translator to a meeting with the Soviets. The second translator talks at the same time as Tatiana. "How else can we know the translations are accurate?" asks Aldon. Well, the second translator could listen and then tell you when it's not accurate! Of course, that's just our uneducated opinion. Aldon is a prima donna throughout the film: he becomes more and more unhappy with the scientists (and worse, Russian scientists) who have invaded his secret Hercules base, finally announcing that he will no longer take part in the operation and then storming out of the room. This is equivalent to the kid who got picked last quitting the team.

Eventually Connery uses his Scots charm to convince the Russians to combine their own satellite-mounted nukes with our own, thus gaining the necessary power to knock the meteor out of the sky. After that, there's just enough time for Bradley to hit on Woods' character, for a smaller meteor to knock the crap out of New York, and for some really boring missile footage in space. Sure, Connery adds to his silly scene count by wading through a sea of mud, but that's about as entertaining as this movie gets.

The nicest thing we can say about Meteor is that, even without the computer generated special effects, it is at least as compelling an asteroid flick as Deep Impact. It's 1970's camp value gave us a lot more to talk about, especially in the realm of technology: witness a certain scene in which Bradley tears a sheet of paper from a computer printer and begins reading it upside-down. We do have to wonder, though: if the world really were about to go kablooie in a week, would the Russians waste half of that time trying to hide the fact that their orbital missiles really do exist? Quick, somebody freeze Sean Connery -- when the big one comes around, we may need his charms again.

"I maintain my good looks
with regular mud baths... why do you ask?"

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Review date: 5/12/99

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* Some might argue that 1951's When Worlds Collide was just such a good asteroid movie, but we think that comes under the heading of highly enjoyable schlock. Go back!