part of its attempt to compete with the major studios, American
International Pictures (AIP) produced Meteor (1979). Best
known for beach party movies and low-budget horror and sci-fi films,
AIP was counting on Meteor to be its big-budget prestige
blockbuster. Unfortunately, no matter how much (or how little) they
spent on special effects or an all-star cast, the movie's low-budget
origins were always apparent. It tries so very hard to be like the
other disaster hits of the era, but fails in nearly every attempt.
This is why Meteor is an endearing Cool Cinema Trash favorite.
opening titles that swoop across the screen superman-style are accompanied
by an Age of Aquarius musical intro that sounds like it came from
Wayne Newton's Las Vegas revue. A title card (an attempt to build
suspense?) counts down the days until earth's destruction. Monday.
Sean Connery, formerly of NASA, is plucked from his sailboat mid-race
to meet with Karl Malden, who sets up the movies premise through
U.S. space probe is destroyed while it observes a comet passing
through an asteroid belt. A huge chunk of Orpheus (the antagonist
needs a name, right?) now threatens earth. This sequence displays
the shoddy effects work that will plague the rest of the film. There's
nothing wrong with old school techniques, as long as they're done
well. That's not the case here. The models, which get an inordinate
amount of screen time, never look larger than their actual twelve
to twenty-four inch dimensions and the process matte shots look
had developed an intergalactic defense system to counter such a
threat, but the government overtook the project for military use.
He begrudgingly agrees to help and, as he leaves, delivers the movies
best line, "What do you want me to do? Stick a broom up my
ass so I can sweep the floor on the way out?"
reading a dossier on Hercules (the project he created), Connery
stares at the space age chandelier in his hotel room which, we soon
see, looks a lot like the orbiting Hercules missile station. Even
though it happened mere moments before, Connery hears Malden's dire
prediction in an audio flashback, "There's a chunk of Orpheus
heading towards earth, a pretty big one. Six days from now we could
be hit." This doomsday prophecy prompts the first of many meteor
close-ups. Laurence Rosenthal provides Orpheus with his own theme
song, a giggle inducing ominous guitar riff.
Connery reads a newspaper whose top story is the space observatory
disaster. The headline reads: What Went Wrong? The producers
of Meteor were probably asking the same question.
in his own uniquely hammy style, spells it out. "That meteor
is five miles wide and it's definitely gonna hit us!"
answer, "Shit. Five miles?"
Cold War political machine is soon set into motion. President Henry
Fonda acknowledges the existence of Hercules and that to destroy
Orpheus they will need the help of a similar Russian weapons system
called Peter the Great. In a poor composite shot Orpheus passes,
then eclipses the sun.
In a top secret facility underneath New York City our cast assembles,
including Russian delegate Brian Keith and his translator/assistant
As the meteor plods ever closer, the political haggling continues.
Neither side is willing to fully admit the extent of their nucular
arsenal. Complicating matters is drama queen Martin Landau, a general
whose panties are in a perpetual bunch over the most insignificant
The first pieces of Orpheus strike earth. In the middle of a frozen
wasteland a Siberian family must flee into the night when a meteorite
crashes into the mountains. While Keith sleeps off his jet lag,
Connery has a chance to chat up Wood. After the long version of
her life story he gets the information he's really after. She's
a cosmonaut's widow. "And now, is there anyone?" he asks.
serious, not really." She cryptically answers.
a harmless meteor shower in Europe, the pompous Landau asserts,
"It's a pity the world has been sent into a state of unnecessary
panic. That's your threat Dr. Bradley, a fireworks display."
patience is wearing thin, "Tell this asshole once and for all
that Orpheus will not burn up, it's too damn big!"
has a screaming hissy fit and storms out. After witnessing such
a scene, Keith unleashes his own verbal tirade (entirely in Russian)
giving the U.S. complete support and the use of Peter the Great.
This Glasnost pairing is celebrated with shots of Russian vodka.
In an extended sequence, we watch as the satellites are very slowly
repositioned, turning away from earthbound enemies, to aim at the
A meteor fragment hits a Swiss mountaintop, burying an Alpine ski
chalet and snow bunny Sybil Danning. This avalanche sequence contains
an awkward marriage of location shots and miniature work. What's
even worse is that it also contains stock footage from another movie,
the oval office, Malden briefs the president on the plan to blow
up Orpheus. "Get rid of it," is Fonda's executive order.
As our scientists wait for the chance to launch their missiles,
Wood grills Connery about his personal life. Things are just starting
to get cozy when there's a report of a giant "splinter"
that has created a tidal wave heading for Hong Kong. Asian extras
flee Godzilla-style as a stock footage wave heads right for them.
A brave fisherman attempts to save his wife and child, but they're
submerged by some soggy special effects.
moments pass in New York as the Russian missiles are finally launched.
Seeing that the world has indeed gone to hell in a hand basket,
Landau returns to eat crow. After shaking Malden's hand he offers,
"I'll be in my office
if you need me." Not very likely,
but it's the thought that counts.
they prepare to fire the remaining U.S. warheads, they receive word
that a meteorite is headed straight for NYC. As the launch begins
and the missiles slowly embark on their trip towards Orpheus, a
blazing ball of fire moves through the sky over New York. The
destruction of New York should have been the movies spectacular
highlight, instead it's laughably been done on the cheap using tinted
this post 9/11 age, watching monuments being destroyed can sometimes
be unsettling. In the one concession to a restricted budget, the
effects team on Meteor blows up a model of the Twin Towers.
But, like everything else in the film, the moment is so poorly realized
that it's difficult to tell just what exactly is being destroyed.
That being said, the Meteor DVD, released sometime in 2000,
prominently features stars Natalie Wood, Sean Connery and an exploding
World Trade Center in its cover art.
New York underground facility takes a beating, columns fall, chandeliers
crash. When the dust settles it appears that all our major stars
have survived. The only exception is (thankfully) Martin Landau,
making Meteor one of the disaster movies with the highest
all-star survival rate.
the main entrance blocked by debris, our ragtag group of scientists
must make their way to the surface via a subway tunnel. The weakened
walls of the tunnel crack and the muddy waters of the East River
begin to flood the passageway forcing extras and stars alike to
fight their way through the filthy, slimy mess.
outer space, the nuclear warheads finally reach Orpheus and the
massive charcoal briquette explodes in a fiery cataclysm. The global
threat is over.
on earth, a smoldering matte painting reveals a giant crater in
the center of Manhattan.
making it out of the subway, Keith and Wood board a plane that is
homeland bound. Connery gives Wood farewell kiss, and as the plane
flies away, an informational slide appears. Attempting to bridge
the gap between science fact and science fiction, a voice-over tells
us that in 1968 the brains at MIT developed Project: Icarus to combat
a global threat like Orpheus. Whew. We'll all rest easier knowing
that a plan created over thirty-five years ago is protecting us
from cosmic destruction.