How did Solar Crisis — which cost $50 million dollars — disappear from the cultural zeitgeist?
This was not a small movie. While credited to Alan Smithee, the director is truly Richard C. Sarafian, who made Vanishing Point and Lolly-Madonna XXX. The cast includes Tim Matheson, Peter Boyle, Jack Palance, Michael Berryman, Paul Williams — as a talking bomb! — and Charleton Heston. It had a crew that included Russell Carpenter, the cinematographer of Titanic, and Syd Mead (Blade Runner) as production designer.
Hell, one of the investors was Nippon Steel, announced that they would be opening a theme park of the movie.
Thirty years later, no one remembers this movie.
The story could be some of the reason. Steve Kelso (Matheson) — the son of Admiral “Skeet” Kelso (Heston) and father of Mike (Corin Nemec) — plans on dropping a sentient bomb named Freddy — yes, just like Dark Star — with the voice of Paul Williams onto the sun to stop a solar flare and inspire Danny Boyle.
At the same time, Arnold Teague (Boyle) believes that there’s money to be made and tries to stop the mission. There’s also Mike trying to get to his dad, helped byJack Palance, who as always makes the absolute most out of a role.
The filmmakers went so far as to hire scientist Richard J. Terrile — a Voyager scientist who discovered several moons of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — served as a technical advisor for the film. When he tried to tell them that sending a spaceship into the sun just wasn’t scientific, he was told to try to figure ot how to make it plausible.
I have no idea how anyone thought that an American film version of Takeshi Kawata’s novel Crisis: Year 2050 was going to make money off a budget that big, but blockbusters are a weird business. When the film didn’t do well in Japan, the producers reshot scenes for America and Sarafian took his name off the movie. Additional scenes were directed by Arthur Marks, who also was behind Bonnie’s Kids, Detroit 9000, Linda Lovelace for President and J.D.’s Revenge.
There’s also a scene where Charlton Heston shouts at Tim Matheson, “Hold it, dammit! You tell me you love me before you leave this room!” That makes up for this multi-million dollar bomb looking no better than a direct-to-video release and lodges this magnificent failure directly into my head and heart.