FOOTAGE FETISHES: “BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA”

“Happy anniversary baby…got you on my mi-ind.”

And they said it wouldn’t last.

It isn’t much of a milestone, I know, but allow me to crack a beer and subject all of you to that horrible, gut-wrenching Little River Band flashback as I celebrate one year of “Footage Fetishes.” The bi-weekly schedule I initially hoped to adhere to has been a bit more…malleable than I first thought, but hopefully the occasional brief delay that allowed me to further my missionary work hasn’t annoyed all four of my loyal readers too much.

I keep a list of the films I want to cover at some point in this particular forum, and I add to it on a regular basis. Some of the movies on it are true unknown classics, while others are more gag-inducing than an episode of “Baby Bob,” and I plan on getting to each of them eventually. This is a special occasion, however, so I’ve decided to stray from those particular flicks this time around and write about one particular film that has been close to my heart for almost twenty years. It’s a tale of mirth, woe, and pathos you might be familiar with: “Big Trouble in Little China.”

“Everybody relax, I’m here.”

1986 was one of the last, best years for fans of genre movies: “Aliens” taught us all the only way to be sure was to nuke a site from orbit, while “The Fly” showed audiences that mixing your DNA with an insect’s could be really cool…for about a week, and even then you could dissolve your enemy’s hand by puking on it.

Low budget horror buffs reveled in the likes of “Chopping Mall” (ranking behind only “Dawn of the Dead” and “Invasion U.S.A.” for retail zoned bloodshed) and “Class of Nuke ‘Em High.” For fans of historical inaccuracies, there could be only one “Highlander,” while “From Beyond” demonstrated the best way to a man’s heart (and brain) was through his pineal gland. Finally, for the kiddies, you had “Invaders from Mars” and “Transformers: The Movie.” And I’m man enough to admit that I consider the fall of Optimus Prime to be second only to the deaths of Old Dan and Little Ann in “Where the Red Fern Grows” in terms of childhood trauma.

It was during those heady days that John Carpenter had more clout back and entertainment behemoth 20th Century Fox didn’t have quite as much. This would change soon enough. Fox execs assumed any movie starring Kurt Russell, as “Big Trouble in Little China” did, would have to be an action vehicle in the Stallone/Schwarzenegger mode, and Carpenter wasn’t about to dissuade them from this notion. His previous cinematic collaborations with Russell (“Escape From New York,” “The Thing”) hadn’t exactly broken the bank, but later films like “Starman” garnered modest critical and box office success, and he would be in no better position to exercise majority control over his work. Remember that this was 1986, and Carpenter was still a couple years away from his total departure from big studio reality (“They Live” didn’t come out until 1988, after all).

The studio was aghast at the finished product, and managed to get a pre-credits sequence inserted in the eleventh hour to try and help set up the rest of the film. Sadly for them, it didn’t help much. “Big Trouble in Little China” grossed an anemic $11 million, and Carpenter’s career has never really recovered.

The story continues in part two of FOOTAGE FETISHES: “BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA”>>>




Posted on September 2, 2003 in Features by
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