Film Review: Countdown to Looking Glass (dir by Fred Barzyk)


“The world’s ending!  Let’s watch the news!”

That, in a nutshell, is the main theme of the 1984 film, Countdown to Looking Glass.  It’s a film that imagines the events leading up to an atomic war between the United States and Russia.  It’s designed to look like a newscast.  A distinguished anchorman named Dan Tobin (played by a real-life anchorman named Patrick Watson) gravely discusses the conflict between the two countries.  Another reporter (played, somewhat jarringly given the film’s attempt to come across as authentic, by Scott Glenn) reports from an aircraft carrier.  We see a lot of stock footage of planes taking off and world leaders meeting and people fleeing from cities.

There are a few scenes that take place outside of the newscast.  They involve a reporter named Dorian Waldorf (Helen Shaver) and her boyfriend Bob Calhoun (Michael Muprhy).  (If your name was Dorian Waldorf, you would kind of have to become a television news reporter, wouldn’t you?)  Bob works for the government and has evidence that the world is a lot closer to ending than anyone realizes.  Dorian tries to put the evidence on air but Dan tells her that they can’t run a story like that with just one source.  It would be irresponsible…. when was this film made?  I guess 1984 was a lot different from 2020 because I can guarantee you that CNN, Fox, and MSNBC would have had no problem running Dorian’s story and creating a mass panic.

(If Dan Tobin’s ethics didn’t already make this film seem dated, just watch the scene where Tobin announces that, because of the growing crisis, the networks will now be airing the news for 24 hours a day.  From the way its announced, it’s obvious that this must have been a radical and new idea in 1984.)

Still, despite those dramatic asides, Countdown to Looking Glass is largely set up to look like a real newscast.  We get stories about people naively singing up to serve in the army because they think war will be fun.  We get interviews with a group of experts playing themselves.  (The only one who I recognized was Newt Gingrich.)  Everyone discusses the dangers of nuclear war and also whether or not humanity could survive an exchange of nuclear weapons.  No one sounds particularly hopeful.  Dan Tobin says that he always believed that nuclear war was inevitable but that the sight of all of the destruction would cause the combatants to come to their senses.  That sounds a bit optimistic to me and the film suggests that Dan has no idea what he’s talking about.

In the end, Countdown to Looking Glass is a victim of its format.  The newscast itself is rather dull, as most newscasts tend to be.  Even the scenes that take place outside of the newscast tend to feel rather awkward, as if Murphy and Shaver were recruited for their roles at the last minute.  In the end, Countdown to Looking Glass works best as a historical artifact.  This is what a news report about the end of the world would have looked like in 1984.  Watch it and compare it to how the news is covered in 2020.

Speaking of watching it …. well, it’s not easy.  It’s never been released on video but you can watch it on YouTube.  The upload’s not great but that’s pretty much your only option.

Cinemax Friday: Not Of This Earth (1988, directed by Jim Wynorski)


Since today is director Jim Wynorski’s birthday, I want to review one of his early films.

A remake of the Roger Corman classic, Wynorksi’s Not Of This Earth stars Traci Lords as Nadine Story, a nurse who works in the office of Dr. Rochelle (Ace Mask) and who has a boyfriend named Harry (Roger Lodge) who is also a cop.  (The leads to jokes like, “Harry called.  He said he left his nightstick with you last night.”)  Dr. Rochelle’s main patient is the mysterious Mr. Johnson (Arthur Roberts), who dresses in all black, always wears sunglasses, and who needs frequent blood transfusions.  When Dr. Rochelle takes a look at Mr. Johnson’s blood, he sees that Mr. Johnson has a strange blood disease that has apparently never been discovered before.  Dr. Rochelle sends Nadine over to work at Mr. Johnson’s home as his private nurse.  Of course, Mr. Johnson is not of this Earth.  His planet is dying and, as Nadine discovers, he is on Earth to search for a new supply of blood.

Wynorski’s version of Not Of This Earth follows the exact same plot of the Corman original, right down to having a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman fall victim to the alien’s bloodlust.  (In the original, the salesman was played by Dick Miller.  In the remake, he’s played by Michael Delano.  Miller does not even get a cameo in the remake of Not of this Earth, which is surprising considering it was still a Corman production and Wynorski previously cast Miller in Chopping Mall.)  They’re both enjoyable movies, especially if you’re in the mood for something that won’t require much thought.  The main difference between the the two versions of Not of this Earth is that the Wynorski version features a lot more nudity and that it makes no pretense towards being anything other than a comedy.

This was Traci Lords’s first role in a non-adult film and she knocks it out of the park.  The scandal surrounding her adult film career has always overshadowed the fact that, for all of her notoriety, Traci Lords was actually a pretty good actress who could handle comedy.  While the deliberately campy humor in Not of this Earth is no one’s definition of subtle, Lords shows good comedic timing and, most importantly, she delivers her lines with a straight face and without winking at the audience.

Wynorski later said that the movie was so popular on video that he was able to buy a house with his share of the profits.  Not of this Earth is a classic Wynorski production, featuring everything that made Jim Wynorski a late-night cable and direct-to-video favorite in the 90s.

Music Video Of The Day: Love Ain’t No Stranger by Whitesnake (1984, directed by ????)


After you watch enough Whitesnake videos, you can be excused for wondering if David Coverdale spent the entire 80s walking in the rain.  In this one, he’s searching for the woman that he loves.  He finds her but she pulls a fast one and manages to get away from him while he’s being driven away.

The woman in this video is NOT played by Tawny Kitaen so I’m not sure if it even qualifies as a real Whitesnake video.  The song, however, is definitely a Whitesnake song and it’s still one of their most popular.

Enjoy!