10/15/08

The Lightning Bug Election Season Special


Hello folks and welcome to The Bug's election coverage. I'm not here to take sides and endorse any particular candidate. OK, that's a lie. I do want to endorse someone. Me. As the despot of the moon, I have a proven track record of ruling with an iron fist. I reach out across aisles to embrace other civilizations. Some might say I conquer them, but I think that sounds crass. Yet the most important thing you need to know about The Bug before you cast your ballot is that I share your values. Each and every one of you Moonies, trust that wherever you are whatever you believe, I implicitly share your values. So when you go into the booth and have a choice of that guy or the other, take a moment to ponder a Moon based insane tyrant with a penchant for crazed cinema. I think you'll make the right choice for Earth.... if you know what's good for you.

Enough about me. It's time for the show, and what a show I have for you tonight. Leslie Nielson plays it straight, Angie Dickinson plays doctor, and Bradford Dillman plays dumb in......

The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler (1971) starring Leslie Nielson, Angie Dickinson, Bradford Dillman, and James Daly. Directed by Bob Wynn. '

Late one night, Senator Clayton Zachary Wheeler (Dillman), a junior senator and presidential
hopeful, is involved in a head on collision. Harry Walsh (Nielson) is first reporter on the scene with his photographer Jake. Harry recognizes the man clinging to life as the Senator, and gets the ambulance to speed the dying man to Bethesda Naval Medical Center. Harry waits patiently for hours to see if the Senator is going to pull through, but little does he know that the government is arranging to have the Senator covertly moved to another facility. Soon the hospital is denying any such patient ever existed there even as Harry witnesses Wheeler being taken away in a suspicious van.

Having already filed a report about the senator's accident, Harry gets summarily fired once press releases come out stating the senator is alive and well on a fishing trip. More than ever Harry makes it his job to get to the bottom of what has become of the senator, and he begins to track down clues about how Wheeler was taken away. He starts with a clue about the rented van the Senator was placed in, and he traces it to an airfield. There he uncovers a mysterious jet's flight plan that states it's route to New Mexico. Harry knows he must follow to find out the truth.

Meanwhile, Senator Wheeler is undergoing a massive operation. Organs are harvested from clones of his body and his entire inner workings are repaired. When he awakes, he is both confused and bewildered about what has transpired. Dr. Layle Johnson (Dickinson) is there along with chief surgeon Dr. Redding (Daly) to help him along. They slowly ease Wheeler into his new life before they explain about the clones. They are called Soma (Greek for body), and each is created as a empty shell with baseline life functions. When person's DNA is inserted into the shell body, it becomes an exact genetic clone and can be used for spare parts. The conniving Dr. Fielding, the head of the facility, and his committee approve and deny the service for powerful individuals from all around the world. That is if they can be of use to strengthen America and it's standing in the world.

Harry finally arrives in New Mexico, but Fielding has been forewarned and dispatches a couple of goons to deal with the tenacious reporter. Harry barely gives them the slip in the airport and makes a hasty departure in a taxi. This scene provides my favorite piece of dialog in the film.

Harry: How far to the library?
Cabbie: About 10 miles.
Harry: I'll give you an extra twenty if you can make it in under ten minutes.
Cabbie:Now that's what I call a thirst for knowledge.

Harry continues his quest to locate Wheeler while trying to stay ahead of Fielding's thugs, and he finally manages to get himself in the facility. Harry has a creepy encounter with un-imprinted Soma zombies, and then mistakes the Senators own clone for the real thing. As Harry tries to escape with the slobbering clone senator, he get captured by Fielding's guards. Wheeler has been busy on his own, as he tries to resist the control of Dr. Fielding and falls in love with the buxom Dr. Johnson. As the climax looms Wheeler and Harry both fall deeper into Fielding's clutches with little hope of exposing the truth to the outside world.

This film is interesting on a lot of levels, and it remains topical even today. With advances in stem cell and cloning research, the moral arguments over the facilities' practices are still part of our culture, and people are still as divided on the answers. Nielson turns in a great straight performance, and it makes me wish he still got roles like this instead of the last 25 years of buffoonery. Dickinson who had yet to make her cult movie opus, Big Bad Mama, or star in her seminal TV series, Police Woman, is lovely throughout. Bob Wynn, who directed, went on to have a career in made for TV documentary fare, and the static camera work that plagues the film shows it may have been what he was meant to do. The effects work is minimal, but the Somas have a very unsettling alien/zombie look.

In the end, the film is not really thrilling, and the science, of course, seems dated. However, the moral center of the movie still remains as vital as when it was made, and this gives it the gravitas to still be a worthwhile watch. I sadly could not find a trailer for the film, but to keep up the image of class and sophistication we've got around here, here's Leslie Nielson farting on a British morning show.

Bug Rating



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