Falling Fortresses

I saw some films that weren’t so great. I liked some parts of them.

Out Of Time (2021) was clearly made 6 or 7 years earlier, since 2015 is referred to twice – it’s in the dates given in Vernon’s note in his box of old junk from the 50s, and at the end we’re told someone has been waiting 64 years since 1951.

The story begins with some figures emerging from a hazy energy field that appears in the night in the Californian desert.

Soon after we see Special Agent Cooper Miller, at the other end of the time tunnel, deciding to set off in pursuit.

Then we get the jolly old title sequence, which does a good job of mixing up old footage from 1947-52 with a faked grainy style and fonts that we would expect.

But then we settle back in to life in California in the early 21st century. Cop Lisa has discovered her fiance is a cheating bastard, but she’s got a job of picking up a confused old guy called Vernon to take her mind off it. And also she’s assigned to look after Miller, after he turns up at the station and has no trouble getting himself taken at face value as an FBI man despite a complete lack of electronic records or ID or any idea what might be required.

Miller’s confusion in the 21st century is well-played, although the script shies away from the obvious detail that would surprise him about Lisa’s status. We don’t see how he manages to survive a night without much spare cash on him or how he manages to buy a new outfit or get cleanshaven.

The 3 figures at the start are bad aliens who have the ability to take over any human by grasping their victim’s head long enough to achieve a full mind-transference (their previous body is then left for dead). In this way they quickly shift appearance and move through the population, although the cops are able to keep up with them given the few photos Miller had of their appearance at arrival. When the aliens are amongst themselves their personalities and apocalyptic plans are rather played for laughs, and there is a scene where Lisa gets an X-Files obsessed geek junkshop owner to delightedly help out by telling him exactly what’s going on. However Miller has serious moments, and he tells that the love of his life was a pilot and flying instructor, who died when the B-17 she was in crashed.

There are a few notable continuity errors: in the scene when Lisa pulls up to check out the parking lot, her car windscreen goes up and down in the background between shots; when the alien gets out of the car, he shuts the door behind him… and then it’s open again.

And yet there’s something charming in all this that deserved a bigger budget and a chance to flesh out the world of the secret base back in 1951 and what it was doing. The twist at the end recalls the closing twist in The Final Countdown (1980), but it should have been set-up for at the outset as that did. Maybe this was supposed to be a TV series and in the end only some of the ideas could make it into the film that could be made with what was available.

For a totally different mood, another film starts with a mock-up of a wartime propaganda film against the dangers of gremlins in the production line. I assume it’s a modern imitation as the script includes “stay focussed” and “stay on task” which I don’t think would sound right in the 1940s, and in any case the animation is too clean and similar to the spoof Itchy & Scratchy war-effort cartoon The Simpsons used once. But then we see some official documents getting prepared, and a mysterious box brought away.

Because this is the invincible force of…

Another female is getting on board a B-17, this time in New Zealand.

WAAF Maude Garrett has blagged her way on to the flight scheduled to take a shipment of transponders to Samoa with some faked paperwork. She’s been in a fight as we can see cuts and bruises to a side of her face, although that disappears over the course of the action. The male crew aren’t keen on her and we get an awful lot of banter, which includes some racism directed at the Maori assistant pilot.

Maude gets put down in the Sperry ball-turret and has to listen to the lads over the comms radio. She also notices something at large on the aircraft wings, as well as hostile fighters nearby, but of course no one listens to her until she’s done some amazing shooting and saved their lives for the first of a few times.

Maude is a bit of a superwoman who can do it all and have it all by the end of the story, when only a few badly-injured men are left of the crew that should have listened to her from the start. She delivers her special package to safety, after some absolutely preposterous action sequences including a laughably outrageous explosive moment that Bruce Willis would have refused to perform in any Die Hard film.

But the first half hour is excellent, with the compulsive claustrophobia of the enclosed ball-turret and the menaces around it. The characters of the male crew are presented in a brief non-natural gallery interlude, and this could have been a very different horror film if the airborne threat was spectral rather than material, or if there was a twist around the nature of this flight itself, which wasn’t what Maude took it to be – something like the premise of the great Sole Survivor (1970). Haunted bombers are a great and under-explored idea, and I don’t think anyone has made much of the tale of RAF Cosford. I do remember a report on Midlands Today in 1979… and the follow-up a week later, after some viewers claimed they’d seen something in the cockpit behind the reporter. What a pity that footage isn’t on-line…. unless it’s going to cause a terrible low-budget British horror flick, in which case best not.

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