“The computer . . . some people think it’s a high tech toy. But this is no toy!“
— copywriting department gobbledygook
You’re David Mickey Evans: A budding screenwriter that wants to break into the business with two, deeply personal screenplays—Radio Flyer (1990) and The Sandlot (1993)—that enrapture the innocence of your childhood and lifelong love of baseball.
Access denied, kid!
You’re trying to “make your break” during the slasher ‘80s. And this is the movie business—the operative word being business—and La-La Land stands at the foot of Mount Lee to make money, kid. And they’re not here to give people the warm fuzzies about their lost childhood.
So you come to the realization you’ll have to write “for the marketplace,” so you come up with a slasher script for your screenwriting debut, Multiple Listings, that’s bastardized into 1987’s Open House. Then you’re employed as a writer-for-hire on a WarGames (1983) knock-off. . . .
“Give me Risky Business with a computer, kid.”
— Fat cat studio executive
“Kids and computers, kid. Kids and computers. Smart-ass teen hackers and kiddie tech nerds sell tickets,” stogie-belches the studio fat cat as he perches his wing-tipped spats on his ostentatious oak desk. “But give me a My Science Project (1985) or The Manhattan Project (1986), kid; not a shit-storm Prime Risk (1985). And we want it quick, there’s some movie Defense Play in production and we need to beat ’em to the theaters. And none of that personal childhood crap. You want to relive your baseball dreams, go play a pick-up game in Griffith Park and gander at The Hollywood Sign from afar. And I want action with those smart-ass remarks and no introspective statements about man losing his humanity to technology, either. Now get out of here, kid. I have a ‘nooner’ coming in, I mean, I’m casting a part.”
And the executive cheeses that script with a “design” for the poster of what becomes Terminal Entry (1987): Black-clad terrorist dudes superimposed-running across and attacking an IBM PC, complete with a Tom Cruise Risky Business-inspired smart ass wearing a chef’s hat in the background.
But Terminal Entry worked out reasonably well on cable and home video, so you’re hired to complete uncredited re-writes on a sci-fi clunker, Class of 1999 (1990; sequel to the superior Class of 1984). Again, the end product wasn’t so great, but it did reasonably from a financial, if not critical, standpoint. So now the wing-tipped fat cats are willing to take a look at those two “personal” screenplays—Radio Flyer (1990) and The Sandlot (1993). And you’ve become the toast of Hollywood as one of the highest paid screenwriters of the ‘90s, with sales of over $1 million for each script.
But let’s back to the “Ancient Future” frolic that couldn’t get Tom Cruise as their lead, since he was already off into the wild, blue younger with Top Gun and, luckily, he avoided all the computer crap. And the producers couldn’t come up with a script, so they simply lifted the plot of WarGames hook, line, and CRT monitor.
You remember the plot of WarGames? David Lightman wanted to be the first to play Protovision’s new line of video games, so he attempted to hack into their mainframe . . . and instead hacked into NORAD’s defense computer.
Then you’re up to speed on the (non) story in Terminal Entry.
The gool ol’ U.S.A is under a cyber attack by overseas (Middle Eastern, natch) terrorists trying to access a military satellite. Meanwhile, a group of high school computer nerds want to play a new video game. And they inadvertently hack the terrorist’s stolen password and—instead of the WOPR—they gain access to the defense network satellite. And the kids think they’re “playing the game,” but actually issuing mission directives to the the terrorists to assassinate officials and blow up buildings across the U.S.
What can we tell ya, R2. Times were for tough for Yaphet Kotto (Alien) and Edward Albert (Galaxy of Terror) who must had some laughs at the honeywagon over that career common denominator. Oh, and this makes two Tracy Brooks Swope movies we’ve reviewed at this site: she’s part of our upcoming “Lee Majors Week” with her work in Keaton’s Cop. And speaking of Tracy and our need to see actors in multiple movies: Patrick Labyorteaux from Heathers is in here. Oh, and if you ever wondered what happened to Rob Stone, the eldest son Kevin from the ’80s TV sitcom Mr. Belvedere, he’s here as one of the computer nerds.
And one Patrick and one Rob does not a Tom Cruise make. For this is Terminal Crap, indeed.
Be sure to look for my “80s Computer Week” review tributes to Prime Risk and Defense Play, this week. And, we did a whole week of reviews in honor of Lee Majors and his films, so we’re rolling Keaton’s Cop, as well, in the coming weeks.