Tuesday, October 27, 2009

V…for Victory!

The Visitors are coming

I really loved the original V miniseries. The notion of giant spaceships appearing over Earth’s major cities, ostensibly bearing alien visitors come to peacefully join hands with mankind in a show of interstellar friendship, was compelling. The further development wherein they were revealed to be lizard-like invaders come to steal Earth’s precious water was enthralling. It didn’t hurt that it starred Marc Singer, who just a year before had starred in The Beastmaster, one of the great movies of my youth.

I videotaped both V and V: The Final Battle on my dad’s betamax VCR so I was one of the lucky ones who got to watch the show repeatedly (though I seem to recall some technical difficulties trying to record the sequel that resulted both in missing a few minutes of the beginning as well as a fairly uncharacteristic outburst on my part wherein I punched a small hole in the living room wall. Sorry, Dad!). I don’t remember the movie too vividly anymore – I haven’t seen it in around 20 years – but a handful of scenes really stuck with me. Of course I remember one of the “reveal” scenes where we first learn that the Visitors aren’t exactly what they seem, because the reasonably-attractive leader-lady swallows a guinea pig whole, complete with a python-like bulge in her throat. But for some reason I also remember the latino landscaper who, despite having been condescended to by his anglo employers, braved a Visitor checkpoint to smuggle them out of harm’s way. To make the scene particularly memorable, he ate a gigantic, raw onion as he talked to the guards which helped encourage them to speed him on his way. Not exactly a Jedi mind-trick, but it worked.

Then I remember the scene where some kids are vandalizing one of the many propaganda posters hung about their neighborhood proclaiming that “the Visitors are your friends.” They’ve got a can of red spray-paint and they’re just randomly tagging the posters. But an old Jewish couple approaches them and, to my recollection, I believe we’d been previously made aware that they were holocaust survivors. The old man takes the junior vandal’s hand, the one holding the spray-paint, and instead of lecturing him about graffiti as the kid seemed to expect, he says, “No. You do it like this…” and he helps the boy paint a large V over the entire face of the poster. The same blood-like, dripping V used as the show’s logo. The man continues, holding up two fingers, “V. For Victory! Go, tell your friends.” It was a bit heavy-handed, but as a young teen I was touched by the clear (arguably obvious, but hey, I was a kid) parallels between the police state being created by the Visitors and their human collaborators and the fascist police state of Nazi Germany (who certainly had their collaborators as well). It was a strong, moving scene back then, and definitely one that I remember.

Sadly, I didn’t enjoy V: The Final Battle as much as the original. They took the story in a different direction than the first had suggested they would, and it didn’t work for me. The series was even less successful and was canceled in its first and only season, despite a cast that included Marc Singer, Michael Ironside, Robert Englund (of Freddy Kreuger fame), Lane Smith, Aki Aleong and other recognizable faces of film and TV.

So why would I bother to write about two 25-year-old TV movies and a failed series? Why the hell not? It’s my blog! Ahem. Anyway, it also so happens that the new remake of V is set to debut on ABC next Tuesday, November 3rd. Furthermore, the ridiculously-named SyFy channel will be showing both of the 1980s mini-series as well as the full season of the tv series beginning Sunday, November 1st. So if you missed it the first time around, you’ve got a chance to see the originals before the debut of the remake hits the airwaves. And if you can’t wait that long, the first 8 minutes of the new series are available online. I’ve watched it and I think it looks spectacular, though arguably it seems convenient how quickly the soldiers mobilize, it seems a bit random how they set up their blockades (keeping some people in and some people out, with no real rationale as to who or why), and it seems pretty lucky how fast the FBI Mom finds her son in the crowd, but if nothing else the special effects looked spectacular and the actors looked comfortable in their roles and very dapper. The bad news is that after airing a few initial episodes, ABC is apparently not showing any more until sometime in the winter or spring. Allegedly the delay is due to quality issues, the more persistent rumor being that the show wasn’t very good and needed work. We won’t know whether or not that’s the case until we get to watch it. I’m certainly going to cross my fingers in the hopes that it’s a good, high-quality show. Or perhaps instead of crossing them I’ll hold them up in a V… for victory.

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