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Better Explain All of the Effects To Me.
by Jon Schuller

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"Movie Magic" is a phrase we've heard at one time or another. From the darkest silent films from 1920's Germany or the many strange characters created by Lon Chaney, movie audiences have been thrilled and frightened for countless decades. In 1933, a fifty-foot gorilla named King Kong defied logic and some brave people on Skull Island and then, in New York City, as theatres erupted in shrieks and gasps. Films have innovated and created optical miracles that have advanced their stories as the characters interact with real or imagined foes and friends. Any list of pictures with special effects would be incredibly long as each year that passed saw more Academy Awards going to the studio departments that kept getting more sophisticated. Here are only a few:
Wings 1928
The Wizard of Oz 1939
The Sea Hawk 1940
The Sea Wolf 1941
Air Force 1943
They Were Expendable 1945
The 1950s: Samson and Delilah, The War of the Worlds, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Ten Commandments, The Spirit of St. Louis, Ben-Hur, The War of the Worlds
The Guns of Navarone 1961
2001 A Space Odyssey 1968
Star Wars 1977
Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981

The list goes on and on as the 1990s become the 2000s and C.G.I., and other technical
wizardry, grows better, more creative and innovative.

In February, 1986 a film premiered starring Bryan Brown, Brian Dennehy, Diane Venora and Cliff De Young, featuring Mason Adams and Jerry Orbach, with Angela Bassett making her debut. It was directed by Robert Mandel, with music by Bill Conti. F/X was a thriller/action movie that told the story of Roland "Rollie" Tyler (Brown), an expert in low-budget special-effects films, who is hired by the Justice Department to fake the death of a New York mobster, Nicholas DeFranco (Orbach) who has ratted out the mob and is soon to be put into the Witness Protection Program. They're afraid he'll be assassinated after his testimony is given at trial.

Edward Mason (Adams) tells Rollie to fix everything perfectly, especially the blood packs on DeFranco which will explode when he, Rollie, in disguise as the killer, shoots the mobster in a restaurant. Martin Lipton (DeYoung) picks up Rollie after the "hit", then tries to kill Rollie. They struggle, the car crashes and Rollie escapes. He runs to a phone booth, calls Mason with his location and, as a stranger, thought to be Rollie, starts to make a call, a police car stops at the booth and shoots the unknown man while
Rollie watches from the shadows. He now knows it's been a set-up all along and must escape.

Rollie sneaks to his girfriend's, Ellen's (Venora), apartment where she too is shot instead of Rollie. Rollie kills the assassin after he enters the apartment.

Homicide detective, Leo MacCarthy (Dennehy), is on the case because he realizes it's all connected to Defranco. He's suspended because of unorthodox methods but steals his commander's badge and gun.
Rollie fools Lipton, takes him prisoner and forces him to give up Mason's home address (that scene on the Manhattan side of the Hudson was shot opposite where I grew up and where Chris & I first lived in New Jersey).

At Mason's large home, we see that DeFranco has been hidden there as McCarthy and Rollie work to bring them to justice; the bad guys want to escape by helicopter. Rollie, with his f/x skills, slowly fools and kills the bodyguards, leaving Mason and DeFranco last. Rollie fakes his own death. DeFranco, desperate to leave, runs into an electrified door screen and gets a fatal shock. Mason gets a secret key to a safe deposit box as DeFranco dies. Mason desperately tries to bargain his way out with Rollie who's put SuperGlue on a gun, as Mason runs
through a door, holding the gun. All of the cops shoot him when he won't drop the gun.

We see McCarthy and DeFranco (we thought he was dead, right?) in a car in Geneva! DeFranco goes into a bank and returns to the car with a large bag of money. He takes off the lifelike rubber mask and we see Rollie and McCarthy drive off with $15 million between them.

This is a fun film, with great twists, dead ends and fakes. You're never quite sure who's doing what, why and when. Just when you think you've figured something out, it's quickly gone and a new puzzle takes its place. This film was a perfect vehicle for Brian Dennehy as the street-smart detective who figures things out before the bad guys know he has. He's been featured in many other films I enjoy, like The Jericho Mile, Legal Eagles, First Blood and Cocoon. He and Bryan Brown make a great team as their combined skills blend perfectly. There is a lot of unspoken psychology in this movie, not just the car chases, shoot-'em-ups and blood-and-bodies scattered about. They did make a sequel which, as far as sequels go, wasn't a bad match for the original. I like it when the good guys win, especially when they're smarter and slicker than the criminals. I hope you'll agree.

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Cinema Savant
Every other Thursday

My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.

Other Columns
Other columns by Jon Schuller:

Have You Been Spying On Me Lately? For How Long?

But Can She Act? That's What I Want to Know

They're Not the Same People They Used To Be

Time Does Fly When We Watch Movies

Before Minimum or Maximum, There Was Only Prison

All Columns

Jon Schuller
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 30 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jon Schuller by clicking here.

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