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September 27, 1985 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1985-09-27

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

4

Page 8 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, September 27, 1985
Gene splicing thriller mutates drama

By Chris Lauer
I T'S STRANGE that a
movie with such pretentions to be
concerned with biohazardous
materials, misguided genetic
engineering, and the preservation of
the human species should bash its
characters around in bloody,
grotesque drama like so much meat
on a stick. As if the equally crude ap-
proximations of life that are the good
guys and bad guys really mattered -
the latter sporting man-made-virus-
induced flourescent zits and the for-
mer spouting pathologically clean
dialogue from the bottom of the
dialogue editors' (yes there are
dialogue editors) polyurethane-
pumping hearts. As if this was the
way great souls put down insurrec-
tions of evil. As if a couple of car-
dboard boxes could save the world.

Warning Sign is a textbook B-movie
that isn't even fun, which is the
necessary excuse for a B-movie. Un-
doubtedly from the same intellectual
mold as the nuclear power plant
thriller The China Syndrome and TV-
movie cheap-effect extravaganza of
all time The Day After - Warning
Sign concerns biological warfare
research and what happens when a
killer virus gets loose. The virus is
supposed to cause "maximum
tactical confusion" and imminent
death.
Kathleen Quinlan plays a security
guard immune to the virus trapped
inside a quarantined lab with ap-
proximately 100 scientists turned
hyperactive zombies. The security
guard is that resourceful woman kind
of heroine - always managing to stop
lab-coated zombies just in time with a
fire extinguisher or some other neat
trick.
Here's the heartwarming part: The

woman is in radio contact with the
town's sheriff Sam Waterston, a
grown-up Boy Scout with a gun - a
sort of poor man's Jimmy Stewart -
who happens to be her husband.
Naturally, the oh-so-cold government
investigators on the scene won't let
him rescue her. Naturally, he tries.
But not without the help of a cynical
middle-aged doctor-type, zucchini
pancakes and all, played by Jeffery
DeMunn.
The doctor character would be ex-
tra baggage in the movie if the sheriff
weren't too down-home to be able to
find the anti-toxin himself. (The
sheriff still seems to show a fair
knowledge of biochemistry.) But
given the doctor character, the movie
also uses him for some self-indulgent
and probably cheap-effect motivated
moralizing about bioethics. But he's
so intensely "good guy" and the
government so "bad guy" that
drawing lessons from this movie
would be like treating Marvel Comics
like Scripture. I don't think this movie
intended to provide social commen-
tary anyway, just like if The Day Af-
ter had really meant to be a weighty
message why would the network in-
tersperse it with Mr. Coffee commer-
cials. It's what movies like Warning
Sign and The Day After pretend to be
that irks me. It's the drama of
grotesquely deformed faces and
scientists turned ax murderers that
matters in Warning Sign, and the fact
that it relies on the volatility of an
emotional issue only makes the movie
more dramatic - albeit base.
Unfortunately the audience is never
able to share in the suspense. I hope
the filmmakers didn't seriously

4

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4

Kathleen Quinlan and Sam Waterson brace for 'maximum tactical confusion' as man meets virus.

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believe people would identify with
their good guy characters.
The dialogue is spewed forth with
almost consummate rankness - I'm
sure if I saw the movie again I could
find a line even worse than the B-
movie classic uttered by Harrison

Ford in Force 10 From Naverone: "If
we don't blow this baby, the
Yugoslavs'll be dog meat." How can
one get involved in a story with the
actors backing you off with smaller-
than-life bits of verbal repulsiveness?
Meanwhile there's about 100 guys in

I I

lab coats with flourescent zits all over
their faces running around in the
unrealistically and overbearingl
technological-looking laboratork
smashing every test tube and head in
sight. These are the bad guys. Some
of them have names, but forget thai
- they all look the same. I was ab
confused, though not quite as violerf-
tly disposed, as they were. This kind
of confusion is not tactical; it's just
shoddy craftsmanship. There's more
to being the main villain than having
a couple of more lines than the othe~r4
bad guys.
The ax seemed to be the weapon of
choice of most of the zombie scien-
tists. Axes, along with windows 4o
break and heads to split seemed tok
growing on (genetically altered)
trees, so to speak.
Not to give the plot of this mus-
miss film away, but let's just say thi
the good doctor is faster at coming up
with instantaneously effective anti-
toxins than Dr. McCoy of U.S.S. Ea
terprise fame.
UB40 aims
high with
reggae pop
UB40, the English reggae band wie
an eye to the American pop charts,
seems to be well on its way. As
drummer James Brown said, "We're
simply looking to establish reggae as
pop music."
UB40, who take their name from ah
unemployment benefit form, play
down the political aspect of thi4
music, saying, "the music is the im-
portant thing. We care about the
lyrics, but we've never believed that
the success of the band depends on the
lyrical content of the music."
Nonetheless, commercialitfy
depends on the strength of a band'
singles - and UB40's have
progressed quite a bit. The band's
1983 release, Labour of Love was an
album of cover songs from a wide
range of other established reggae
bands. 1984 brought Geoffery
Morgan, and with it a spicier variet
to the band's reggae flavor. The hi
point of this album is that 'h
showcased their own songwritiiig
credentials.
UB40's latest release is the EP Lit-
tle Baggariddim - which makesa
direct attempt to crack the pp
charts with its first single, "I've Got4
You, Babe." By performing this ren-
dition of Sonny and Cher's '70s hit
with established pop star Chrissi
Hynde, and seeking more MTV e -
posure, UB40 is unquestionably
looking for pop success.
UB40 have proved with their latest
material that they can make reggae
form of pop music. For an excellet
glimpse of their beat in action, they
will be performing at the H
Auditorium this Sunday, Septem
29th at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are availab
at the Michigan Union Ticket Office.'
- n b

BLOOM COUNTY
MI
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