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Screen-caps-- movie missiles...
Was re-watching an old movie this weekend and thought "Wow, I'd like to build some of those!"... The movie was from 1979, called "Meteor!", with an all-star cast including Natalie Wood (in one of her last roles), Karl Malden, Henry Fonda, Brian Keith, and Sean Connery, among others. The movie was basically the predecessor to movies like "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact", about Earth's response to a killer asteroid headed straight for us.

Connery plays the lead scientist, recalled to NASA from a yacht race right in the middle of it, and briefed by his former cohort Karl Malden, who brings him up to speed on events that have been occurring... turns out NASA re-routed a space mission from Mars to the asteroid belt, to observe a never-seen-before comet making its first pass through the asteroid belt... a comet that promptly slams into Orpheus, a large main belt asteroid, and explodes, shattering it, and sending a five-mile-wide chunk on a direct collision course for Earth, and destroying the Mars spacecraft in the process, killing the astronauts. They now have about five days to impact and turns out they need Connery to help save the world-- the asteroid is headed straight for us and will "make a hole big enough to put the Atlantic in, unless they find a way to stop it!". Connery angrily argues that's "exactly why they put Hercules up there!"... turns out that Connery was the scientist in charge who developed an orbital missile platform, with the idea that just such a threat might occur in the future. After it was completed, the military decided to take it over (surprise surprise) and turned it around so its missiles are now pointing down at Russia... and as Connery finds out, "not just Russia", "Oh, China, where the hell else??" After angrily denouncing the military, NASA, and his former boss Malden, who evidently didn't support him enough in his fight to prevent the military from taking over the missile platform, he grudgingly agrees to a meeting in Washington.

Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union, the Russians have discovered the threat as well, as some of their scientific and government leaders converse as they leave a snowbound astronomical observatory. One scientist describes in Russian to his leaders that the Germans took three years to "destroy Leningrad", but their "friend up there could turn all of Russia into one giant Siberia in seconds." They agree to talks with the Americans, but refuse to allow any real cooperation with the Americans.

After a heated meeting with a lot of generals and bureaucrats in DC, who are arguing over the importance of keeping the "Hercules" missile platform top secret, particularly the stuffed shirt general that took over Hercules from NASA in the first place and turned its missiles downward pointing at Russia, Connery storms out, telling them he's explained what will happen when the asteroid hits, but if they want to argue about hitting it with slingshots and BB guns until after it hits, that's fine... he'll await their decision in the bar across the street.

Malden joins him not long after, and soon they have the green light to take over Hercules and retask it to destroy the asteroid. The five mile wide chunk is too big for Hercules to destroy alone. They need more rockets, more warheads, in order to destroy it. Turns out the Soviets too orbited a nuclear missile platform, with 16 missiles aboard, called "Peter the Great". The Russians are sending one of their top scientists, Dr. Dubov (Brian Keith) to have talks with the Americans... the US President (Henry Fonda), explains to the public the situation in a nationwide address, and diplomatically points out the Russians, with the "same foresight and wisdom we ourselves possess", have orbited their own nuclear missile platform, and suggests they 'team up' to destroy the "meteor".

After some tap-dancing and diplomatic fluff between Dubov (Brian Keith) and his pretty translator/assistant (Natalie Wood) and the American general formerly in charge of Hercules, and then with the newly arrived Connery and Malden, nothing much changes... Until a cloud of asteroid fragments, which have been blown out ahead of the main chunk, begins raining down on Earth. A piece hits in remote Siberia, much to the shock of some natives... this latest batch of fragments fortunately burns up high over Europe, creating nothing more than a "fantastic light show", according to one of Connery and Malden's friends at Jodrell Bank in Britain. The general goes off on a rant, shouting that "there's your threat, a *light show*! When sense has been returned and he's put back in charge of the facility (and Hercules by extension), he'll return to the facility!" and then storms out. Dubov, evidently pushed to his own fury by the general's tirade, begins shouting in Russian and angrily stalking about trying to make a phone call... Natalie Wood translates and Malden and Connery rush to get him a phone, since apparently Dubov is now ready to call out his own leaders and convince them to cooperate in using "Peter the Great" to help "Hercules" blow up the asteroid.

After some technical mumbo-jumbo, the missile platforms are realigned from the US "Hercules" headquarters under the AT&T building in New York City. "Peter the Great" is realigned so its missiles point out, and after a glitch that allows a longer "fly around" of the "Hercules" missile platform, Hercules too is realigned pointing out. Now it's just a matter of reprogramming the missiles for the mission and then launching them at the appropriate time.

Meanwhile, more asteroid fragments are impacting Earth-- a shard impacts the Alps and triggers an enormous avalanche that destroys a town and ski lodge that Sybil Danning is at, and then another fragment later impacts the ocean off Hong Kong and sends a massive tsunami in which destroys the city. The preparations continue and the time for launch approaches. Peter the Great is successfully fired first, then 40 minutes later (presumably when the orbital position is right) Hercules is to be fired. Just as the final preparations are being made on Hercules, Jodrell Bank calls, and Connery's friend alerts them to a large fragment headed directly for the US eastern seaboard, particularly New York, or near enough. It will hit at any moment, and Hercules is still a few minutes from launch. Malden suggests launching early, as "if we go down and Hercules doesn't launch, Peter the Great can't do the job alone". Connery points out launching early will upset all their careful calculations of trajectories and impact timing on the asteroid, so he gambles and they wait, as Hercules counts down. As the fragment is entering the atmosphere over New York, Hercules successfully launches, moments before impact. New York is hit and after a lot of stock footage from another movie of a nuclear attack on New York, the city is "devastated". The underground base is smashed up pretty bad, as lots of collapsing concrete and detritus and equipment crushes people in the underground base, including the love interest of one of the programmers, another programmer running the console to launch Hercules, and the repentant General formerly in charge, who returned and apologized to Connery and Malden after Hong Kong got wiped out and offered to help. Now knocked out of action, control and monitoring of the missiles is transferred to Houston or other facilities, and all that's left for Connery, Malden, Wood, and Keith to do (with a cohort of minor stars and extras, most of which will be expendable in coming scenes) is escape from the crumbling underground base, via nearby disused subway tunnels. Of course it's not enough they have to make their way through a wrecked subway car, but the East River starts breaking through the concrete and flooding the tunnel, taking out a few more of the cast. As the tunnel fills with chocolate pudding, which looks very good on Natalie Wood, I must admit, we see a similarly pudding-slimed Connery and Malden (shudder) make their way up escalators from the flooding subway tunnels, only to find themselves trapped in a subway station at a higher level with other subway travelers who found themselves trapped there after the impact. As they sit out the remaining minutes until impact, we cut to a series of shots of the missiles in space, finally joining up with the previously launched Russian missiles, and flying in to detonate around the asteroid in several waves. After the first couple waves detonate, producing fireballs that the asteroid seemingly rolls right through, the final wave makes a spectacular impact of flashing light and blast and flame that rolls on and on, and finally dissipates to reveal a lovely nebula which has replaced the vaporized "meteor" that has been threatening Earth. The portable radio of one of the subway station survivors reports the good news that "the danger has passed".

Cut to the happy scene where everyone's ready to return home and get on with their lives. Dubov is presented by Connery and Malden with a baseball bat, courtesy of the Dodgers (which Dubov made a rather rude toast earlier in the film, repeating something he heard in the cab ride from the airport on his arrival-- "Fook the Dodgers!") which he happily accepts. Connery steals a kiss from Natalie Wood as she goes to climb the stairs into the plane, and turns as she enters the plane to wave and share a longing look at Connery, as Keith comments "I think you will return one day" to which she says "perhaps" and after Connery and Malden wave as they close the aircraft door, the Russian plane departs and a voiceover announces that at MIT, a plan was drawn up to deal with a massive asteroid on a collision course with Earth-- the plan was called "Project Icarus". The end...

Later! OL JR [Image: smile.gif]

The real project Icarus was a plan to use Saturn V's carrying enormous hydrogen bombs to destroy an incoming asteroid on a collision course with Earth, and bore little resemblance to the fictional orbital missile platforms "Peter the Great" and "Hercules" used in the film... and of course since the Saturn V was basically phased out and retired at basically the same time as the plan was drawn up, it was pointless anyway (the first production run of Saturn V's was completed in 1969 IIRC, and no further production was authorized... the remaining Saturn V's were used for the Moon missions, orbited Skylab, and the rest never flown and rest in pieces in museums today.

Still, its kind of a neat film, as the predecessor of hugely successful asteroid/comet impact films with a lot more technical problems that came decades later, specifically "Armageddon" with Bruce Willis, and "Deep Impact" with Tea Leoni... unfortunately, despite the fact that it sported an all-star cast for the time, including luminaries like Sean Connery and Natalie Wood as the main characters, and a great supporting cast like Karl Malden and Brian Keith, and even Henry Fonda as the President, the stars were convinced it would be a flop-- they were not impressed with the director and the script. Turns out they were right. The movie is basically cited as the cause of the collapse and bankruptcy of the studio that made it... it made a VERY poor showing at the box office and didn't come close to making back the money spent to produce it. Coming at the end of the "big box office disaster film epic" genre's popularity, in addition to not being a particularly well-done film from a directorial or script standpoint, it was a flop. Had it been made much better and 20-30 years later, it would likely have been a smash hit... certainly better than the gosh-awful "Armageddon" mess of factually challenged and ridiculously overplayed canned ham by Bruce Willis and his merry gang of misfit oil drillers recruited by NASA to blow up an "asteroid the size of Texas" coming straight for Earth.... or even the much better but still overdramatized "Deep Impact", which at least had a more compelling story, even if it was only slightly more accurate technically...

At any rate, the special effects are pretty good for the time. The missiles are interesting designs that would be fairly easy to replicate as model rockets... with clear fins or slide-in tail-fin units for flight, of course. When I get the time and materials, I'd like to build a missile from "Peter the Great" and "Hercules" myself...

SO, here's the pics from the film-- taken from some screencaps I made while watching the movie on Youtube in its entirety...

Enjoy! OL JR [Image: smile.gif]


second batch... OL JR Smile

third batch... OL JR Smile

Next batch... OL JR Smile

Last batch... OL JR Smile

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