The 1980s is one of the most unique eras in the modern era of movies. It was this era that turned out so many timeless movies helmed by the late, great John Hughes. It was also the era that turned out great movies, such as Back to the Future, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Shining among so many others. For all of the great movies released throughout the 1980s, that era also turned out its own share of movies that while enjoyable, did not get the recognition that maybe they deserved. One such movie was United Artists’ 1980 action/drama The Final Countdown. This star-studded movie was largely panned by critics and audiences alike. The movie, has also mostly been compared to 1984’s The Philadelphia Experiment, which itself received far more acclaim and better response. That aside, the movie really is an underappreciated presentation, and thanks to independent movie studio Blue Underground, it received new life last month in a new Blu-ray/4KUHD presentation. The new re-issue is well-deserved and will hopefully earn the movie a new appreciation among science-fiction fans in its new release. The story featured in the movie serves as the most important of its elements. It will be discussed shortly. The bonus content that accompanies the movie’s new re-issue is certain to help establish that new appreciation. It will be discussed a little later. The set’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation. All things considered, they make this presentation such that every science fiction should watch at least once.
Blue Underground’s recently released re-issue of The Final Countdown is a presentation that most science fiction fans will find surprisingly entertaining and engaging. That is proven in part through its story. The story in question is simple. A United States Navy aircraft carrier goes back in time when a bizarre storm comes upon the ship. It sends the aircraft carrier and its crew back to December 6, 1941, the day before Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese navy. At first the carrier’s heads do not believe they could possibly have traveled back in time, but when they come to terms with the reality, the discussion comes up as to whether the lone naval vessel and its crew should take on the Japanese navy by itself and prevent the attack from ever happening. It is a timeless (no pun intended) plot element used in science fiction. That aside, it still works here. The whole thing runs just short of the two hour mark (one hour, 42 minutes to be exact). It was also presented on a limited budget and limited scheduling (this will be discussed in the examination of the re-issue’s bonus content), but even with those constraints, everything actually turned out well. Given, there are not a lot of explosions. There is thankfully not any sexual content, either. Maybe that lack of such common content is what made people dislike the movie considering there is more talking than action. In reality though, that required the cast, led by famed actors Kirk Douglas (Spartacus, Lust for Life, Ace in the Hole), Martin Sheen (The West Wing, Apocalypse Now, Spawn), and Charles Durning (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Dog Day Afternoon, The Muppet Movie) to really put forth their best job acting. Their interactions really serve to keep the story engaging and entertaining. The trio’s work echoes their personalities behind the scenes, which will also be addressed in the examination of the movie’s bonus content. All things considered, the story is simple, but that simplicity, together with the acting (and cinematography) works to make the movie deserving of more credit than it has received.
The story featured at the heart of The Final Countdown is an underrated presentation in its own right. Sure, it isn’t the action-packed blockbuster that maybe audiences had hoped for from a summer blockbuster (the movie debuted Aug. 1, 1980 as part of that year’s summer blockbuster crop), but is still engaging and entertaining in its own right. The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new re-issue shows even more why the movie deserves its own share of respect. One of the most notable of the bonus features is the movie’s feature-length audio commentary with the movie’s Director of Photography, Victor J. Kemper. Kemper shares a variety of interesting items in his discussions, one of which being the noted limitations under which the movie’s cast and crew had to work. He points out that during the scenes in which the Nimitz was at sea, the carrier’s skipper severely limited the cast and crew’s movement throughout the ship and that the movie was shot under a tight budget. He stressed that the budget was so tight, that by the end of shooting, the organization was out of money. Audiences must take these statements into account before just criticizing the movie. Considering how little the organization had to work with, they made the best of a bad situation.
Additionally, Kemper points out that the at sea shooting schedule was limited. He notes in his commentary that the company spent only eight days shooting at sea while it spent approximately a week-and-a-half shooting in port in Norfolk, VA. That has to be taken into account, too. It shows again, what those involved had to work with in order to make the movie happen. Considering this, all involved are to be commended for what they produced. That is the case even considering how things were behind the scenes. Associate Producer Lloyd Kaufman talks about what went on behind the scenes in his own bonus interview.
Kaufman alleges in his 14-minute interview that few people involved in the movie (including cast and crew) really took the whole production serious. He alleges that much of the crew was more concerned with the catering than actually focusing on proper shooting, etc. Additionally, he alleges that star James Farentino was more concerned with his bedding on board the ship than his acting at another point, adding that if not for Douglas and his son Peter, who served as the movie’s main Producer, the movie likely would not have even been completed. Kaufman even lodges some rather harsh comments against the movie’s director, Don Taylor. Audiences will be left to take in those comments for themselves. Sheen and Durning meanwhile were among the only cast members with whom Kaufman claimed to have enjoyed working. Considering all of Kaufman’s allegations and the limitations faced in terms of just recording the movie, all involved faced a perfect storm (pardon that pun) in getting this underappreciated movie done. To that end, it proves again that this movie is deserving of the second chance that it has received from Blue Underground. It is just as deserving of a second chance from audiences and critics alike. That is even clearer when audiences read through the “Pilot’s Journal” that is included with the movie’s re-issue. It points out some conflicts that happened behind the scenes, too, between the people who flew the Zeros and military officials. It is yet another example of all the problems that this movie apparently faced during production. In turn, it makes for even more appreciation for what was produced.
Taking into account all that this movie’s story and bonus content offers audiences, there is still one more item to examine in regards to its recent re-issue. That item is its packaging. The packaging houses three discs – the movie’s soundtrack (its own bonus for the most devoted audiences), the movie’s Blu-ray presentation, and in its 4K UHD presentation. The soundtrack sits on its own spindle inside the front of the movie’s case. The BD and 4K UHD discs sit uniquely in the other side, one under the other. Now that sounds like the “old” way of packaging multi-disc sets, and to a point it is. What Blue Underground has done in the case of the BD and 4K UHD presentation however is what makes it unique. Rather than just overlaying the discs, a plastic cover of sorts separates the discs in the overlay. This essentially prevents the discs from marring one another when one or the other is removed and replaced. That unique approach is to be applauded. Given, it would have made more sense to just use an insert with one spindle on either side for the BD and 4K UHD discs. That is the more common and equally safe packaging format, but that one minor aspect here does its own share to protect the discs. What’s more, not every viewer has both a Blu-ray player and 4K UHD player and/or monitor. To that end, whichever viewers have, they can simply place that disc on top and ignore the other. That means even more so that the discs will receive less damage. So once more, audiences see why the packaging is just as much a positive to this presentation as the presentation’s story and its companion bonus content. When the positive of the packaging is considered along with the story and the movie’s bonus content, the whole of these items makes this re-issue a presentation that science fiction fans will agree is surprisingly engaging and entertaining. It combines to prove, again, this movie is deserving of its second life and a second chance.
Blue Underground’s recently released re-issue of The Final Countdown is a presentation that every science fiction fan should see or see again. That is due in part to its story. Sure, there’s not lots of explosions and sexual content, even with it being a summer blockbuster in its initial release. Regardless, it is a story that offers an interesting, thoughtful take on a familiar science fiction topic. The extensive bonus content that accompanies the movie in its re-issue adds its own interest to the whole. That is because it shows how many obstacles the movie faced in even being recorded. It makes for even more appreciation considering how much worse it could have turned out, considering all of those obstacles. The re-issue’s packaging rounds out its most important elements. It shows just as much thought was put into this aspect as the bonus content and general presentation. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s re-issue. All things considered, they make the movie a surprisingly engaging and entertaining presentation that proves this movie is deserving of its second life and of a second chance from audiences and critics alike.
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