Also known as: Rabbits (working title, Germany, Austria)
Release Date: September th, 1972 (Ireland)
Directed by: William F. Claxton
Written by: Don Holliday, Gene R. Kearney
Based on: The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon
Music by: Jimmie Haskell
Cast: Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley, Paul Fix, Don Starr
A.C. Lyles Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 88 Minutes
“Attention! Attention! Ladies and gentlemen, attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!” – Officer Lopez
This movie, in my opinion, has a lot of unjustified hatred towards it. People have trashed it for years and talked it down like it’s a blight on early ’70s cinema.
Well, those people don’t have taste, a real appreciation for killer animal horror and don’t have the keen eyesight to spot a diamond in the rough.
Okay, this isn’t a great film and maybe it’s not even a good one by the ridiculous standards of hoity-toity film critics. However, it’s damn entertaining for fans of the right kind of well-aged cheese and it boasts some practical special effects that just work… well, for the most part.
This film is about giant rabbits that have overtaken a small town in Arizona. It employs a lot of force perspective shots, as well as miniature models to help give regular sized rabbits some scale. While these techniques may seem outdated by 1972 (they really weren’t yet), they were actually well done and effective. And seeing this in modern HD didn’t really ruin the magic, which is something that happens way too often with movies from this era.
Honestly, the only real effects that didn’t work were probably the same ones that didn’t work in 1972. Those are the scenes where a large killer rabbit has to interact with a human actor in the same shot. These scenes are very obviously just some stuntman in a furry costume batting his fists at the victims. It’s hokey and the attacks look too human but luckily, this isn’t used too much. But I understand why they had to do it, as you had to show some flesh-on-flesh mauling because it’s the early ’70s and no one wanted the violence to be implied offscreen. The ’70s were edgier, the Hollywood Code was old news and horror got to throw some gore on the big screen.
The film isn’t well acted, despite having Janet Leigh in it, as well as Stuart Whitman, Rory Calhoun and DeForest Kelley alongside her. None of the key players are terrible but they do seem like they’re just going through the motions and dialing it in, as low budget, B-movie horror apparently didn’t require their A-game.
Still, I dig this film quite a bit and I do think it’s better than what the filmgoing consensus has led the world to believe for nearly fifty years.
Pairs well with: other killer animal horror movies of the ’70s; the cheesier, the better.
Release Date: December 6th, 1991
Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
Written by: Nicholas Meyer, Denny Martin Flinn, Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Kim Cattrall, David Warner, Christopher Plummer, Iman, Brock Peters, Kurtwood Smith, Mark Lenard, Grace Lee Whitney, John Schuck, Rosanna DeSoto, Christian Slater, Michael Dorn, Todd Bryant, René Auberjonois, Matthias Hues
Paramount Pictures, 110 Minutes
“Captain’s log, stardate 9522.6: I’ve never trusted Klingons, and I never will. I could never forgive them for the death of my boy. It seems to me our mission to escort the Chancellor of the Klingon High Council to a peace summit is problematic at best. Spock says this could be an historic occasion, and I’d like to believe him, but how on earth can history get past people like me?” – Captain James T. Kirk
Something has to be said for the quality that Nicholas Meyer brings to a Star Trek movie, whether as a director or a writer. He directed two of the very best films with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and this one. He also was involved in the writing of my personal favorite film in the franchise, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
While most fans consider The Wrath of Khan to be the very best, this chapter in the franchise is equal to it. Again, I like The Voyage Home the best overall but Khan and this film are very, very close seconds.
Where Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was almost the death of the franchise on the big screen, this was a breath of fresh air and a proper swan song for the original Enterprise crew, as it was the last time they would all be together. It also sort of closes a major chapter in Trek lore, as the Federation and the Klingons, after decades of conflict, agree to try their hand at peace.
It is that attempt at making peace between the two governments that brings out the worst in some of the characters in this film. People on both sides of the coin don’t want to trust each other and some of them conspire to kill the opportunity for peace. In fact, this is more of a political thriller and a conspiracy movie than just some fantastical sci-fi adventure.
Following a diplomatic dinner between the Enterprise crew and the Klingon Chancellor, the Klingon ship is attacked and the Chancellor assassinated. Everything is set up to look like Captain Kirk orchestrated the attack. As he and McCoy are framed for the assassination, they are sentenced to hard labor on a Klingon prison planet. All the while, Spock heads up an investigation on the Enterprise itself, in an effort to solve this mystery, save his friends and to win the trust of the Klingon Empire and bring forth much needed peace.
The Undiscovered Country isn’t just a great Star Trek movie, it is a great political thriller. It feels real and gritty, even if it takes place in outer space of the future. The experience of the cast really shines through here. Spock takes charge of things on the Enterprise and its really the first and only time we see him truly step into the role of leader. Nimoy knocks it out of the park and his chemistry with the other Vulcan on board, played by Kim Cattrall, was incredible.
We also get to see Sulu as a star ship captain and not only that, he is the captain of the Excelsior, a ship he greatly admired in Star Trek III and Star Trek IV. Seeing Sulu get his moment to shine in the captain’s chair was fantastic for those of us who have been fans of this series for decades.
Another highlight was Christopher Plummer as the Klingon villain General Chang. Plummer is the greatest villain in the film series after Khan from Star Trek II. While I loved Christopher Lloyd’s Kruge in Star Trek III, Chang is the best Klingon commander in the franchise. He’s a character I’d love to read more about, assuming he’s got a novel out there.
The Undiscovered Country is Star Trek at its best. It stands well above any of the modern films, as well as The Next Generation movies that would follow for a dozen years after it.
Pairs well with: Star Trek‘s II, III and IV.
Release Date: June 9th, 1989
Directed by: William Shatner
Written by: William Shatner, Harve Bennett, David Loughery
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Laurence Luckinbill, David Warner
Paramount Pictures, 106 Minutes
“Damn it, Bones, you’re a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They’re the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken away! I need my pain!” – Captain James T. Kirk
There’s no bones about it (pun intended), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is the worst Star Trek film featuring the original crew. I could argue that maybe Generations and Insurrection are worse but this is probably the worst film in the entire franchise. I actually liked Nemesis but I’ll get to the reasons why when I eventually review that one.
The problems with this film are immediately noticeable when it starts with a cold opening like its some procedural cop show on television. We also get an opening on a dusty, sand planet where things are visually obscured. It looks like one of a billion Mad Max ripoffs and a film with little to no budget. Well, the budget on this chapter was incredibly tight and caused some problems. In fact, William Shatner, who directed this chapter, claims that the film was to have a much larger, interesting and impressive ending but his hands were tied by the producers. In reality, this film was so bad and the producers dropped the ball that the franchise almost didn’t recover. Had Star Trek: The Next Generation not have been a hit, two years earlier, this film could have been Star Trek‘s swan song.
With all of its problems, do I dislike this film? Well, not really. In fact, it is still enjoyable and has some positives that I feel, outweigh the myriad of negatives.
For one, I’m huge on camaraderie in an ensemble cast and especially with crew members of Star Trek, regardless of movie, show, crew, actors, etc. The Final Frontier has some of the best scenes in the entire franchise in regards to camaraderie. All the stuff with Kirk, Spock and McCoy is absolute perfection and something that was the culmination of working so closely together for over two decades by the time this was made. I love the camping scenes but all their stuff working together on the ship to stop a mutiny was really good too.
The villain, Sybok, was a fresh and new antagonist for the crew to face. He was a Vulcan for one and he was also Spock’s half-brother. Sybok was on a spiritual pilgrimage to the center of the galaxy to find God. In order to do so, he had to create a scheme where he would be able to lure in a spaceship to his remote area of the galaxy. Once he acquired a ship, he could make his pilgrimage to God, “The Final Frontier”.
I thought Laurence Luckinbill was exceptional and very likable as Sybok. He had an interesting backstory that wasn’t explored nearly enough and ultimately, he wasn’t a bad guy and redeemed himself after realizing his foolishness. I really wish we would have gotten to see more of the Sybok character and that he wasn’t just a one off creation for this bad chapter in Trek history. Maybe there was a book on his character that I can read, as I read a lot of Star Trek books back in my preteen years. I never saw a Sybok book on the shelves though.
One cool thing about this movie, is that every crew member gets a moment. Scotty executes a sweet jail break, Uhura gets to perform a sexy dance and lure enemies into a trap, Chekov gets to play captain and trick the villain and Sulu gets to attempt a daring manual landing of the shuttle into the shuttle bay at blazing speed.
When it comes to the mountain of negatives, the most glaring is the budgetary constraints. The Enterprise hallways are very obviously the same sets used on The Next Generation. Also, the effects are pretty bad. God, for instance, looks like some hokey Doctor Who entity that Tom Baker’s Doctor would have sonic screwdrived into some electric prison. And no offense to classic Doctor Who, I loved the show’s effects in the context of what it was but The Final Frontier is a summer blockbuster that needed to compete with Batman, Ghostbusters II and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
The fight choreography was also really bad but that probably falls on Shatner, who had Kirk duke it out more than he needed to and most of his “killer moves” are pretty ineffective blows in the real world. I’ve never seen a hulking thug get taken out with a hip toss or a standard neck flip. For a guy that used to frequent the WWE, Shatner couldn’t at least give us some Sweet Chin Music or the Cobra Clutch?
Additionally, I love Klingons but the Klingons in this chapter were really weak. I think the problem wasn’t the actors, both looked the part, but Klaa and Vixis didn’t get any sort of character development and didn’t have much else to do than play caricatures of what we saw with Christopher Lloyd’s Kruge in Star Trek III.
Lastly, the story is pretty terrible. I guess it is an interesting concept but it creates more questions than it can answer and there are a lot of plot holes and illogical situations.
I don’t think that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is the abomination that many people try to make it out to be. It is a story that would have worked much better as a television episode, especially after the epics that were the first four movies. Plus, coming off of the Genesis Trilogy (parts II, III and IV) of films, anything following would have had its work cut out for it. Star Trek IV was a perfect movie and this coming right after it probably meant that it was doomed to fail in some regard. Luckily, we did get a Star Trek VI and that film was an incredible send off for the original crew.
Pairs well with: Other Star Trek films featuring the original cast but this will be the low point of any pairing.
Also known as: Star Trek IV: The Adventure Continues (working title)
Release Date: November 26th, 1986
Directed by: Leonard Nimoy
Written by: Harve Bennett, Leonard Nimoy, Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Nicholas Meyer
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Leonard Rosenman
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Catherine Hicks, Majel Barrett, John Schuck, Brock Peters, Grace Lee Whitney, Michael Berryman, Jane Wyatt, Jane Wiedlin (cameo)
Paramount Pictures, 122 Minutes
“They like you very much, but they are not the hell your whales.” – Spock, “I suppose they told you that?” – Dr. Gillian Taylor, “The hell they did.” – Spock
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was the perfect film to follow the emotional roller coasters that were Star Trek II and Star Trek III. It was lighthearted, a ton of fun and I guess, the first and only Star Trek comedy film. However, it is still grounded in its roots and the comedy is mostly because of the crew we know and love finding themselves having to adapt to 1987 San Francisco culture in an effort to blend in and accomplish their time traveling mission. It’s actually cool seeing all these confident, savvy crew members, who are always at the top of their game, suddenly being awkward fish out of water in every situation they encounter.
This is also the third and final part of the trilogy of pictures that I like to refer to as The Genesis Trilogy. They aren’t officially a trilogy but all three films share a common plot thread and happen literally one after the other.
Like the previous film, this one is directed by Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy. This is also a superior film to the previous installment, even though I like Star Trek III a great deal. I feel like Nimoy really learned a lot on Trek III and took the lessons of that experience, better honed his skills and turned out this science fiction masterpiece.
Unlike the directing situation, the film’s music was created by newcomer to the series, Leonard Rosenman. While I much prefer the James Horner scores of Treks II and III, Rosenman created a bold and beautiful theme for the picture and it is still one of my favorite pieces of film music from the era. The overall score is fairly redundant, especially if you’ve watched the movie nine dozen times like I have, but it works well and captures the right kind of emotion for this picture.
The writing on this was absolutely fantastic. It had to have been a fun project to work on, as the Trek writers got to explore new territory in a new way. It was probably a nerve-racking task, to some degree, as there was really no way to know whether or not the fans were going to take to this drastic change in tone. However, in the end, Star Trek IV is a defining milestone in the franchise and also changed how future Star Trek stories were written. Humor became much more apparent in the television series that followed this film. The Next Generation, which came out a year later, was full of humor and fun adventures that took its crew out of their comfort zones. I don’t think that show or anything after it would have existed in quite the same way if it weren’t for Star Trek IV. Also, had the film not been a huge success, we might not have had new Star Trek projects for later generations.
The thing I love most about this movie, is every character has a purpose and their own mission to accomplish. We get Kirk and Spock on a mission, Bones and Scotty on another one, Uhura and Chekov go their own way and Sulu gets to fly an old school helicopter. The Bones and Scotty material is comedic gold, as is Chekov asking where to find the “nuu… clee… ar… wessels”.
A real highlight though, is Catherine Hicks joining the cast in this film. Her chemistry with Shatner, who she shares almost all of her scenes with, is great. I love the restaurant scene between the two where Kirk reveals who he is, where he’s from and why he’s there. It’s kind of a shame that we never got to see Hicks return after this film, as I feel like she had a lot to offer the franchise beyond just this one appearance. Plus, she was incredibly likable and witty.
When I was a kid and I had a bad day, I gravitated towards this movie. It was the right mixture of badass sci-fi and wholesome humor. It always sort of put me in the mood I wanted to be in. It still works the same way for me and honestly, this is the Star Trek movie I have seen the most. I’ve owned them all, pretty much my whole life, but this is the one that just resonates with me more than any other.
While most people will see this now and probably find flaws and be able to pick it apart, it has always been a film that is a true classic, in my eyes. It has just about everything I want: action, adventure, humor, William f’n Shatner, a Klingon Bird-of-Prey, a good environmental message, camaraderie between beloved characters, a deep dish pizza, outer space, a powerful score, good special effects and redemption for the crew.
I don’t care what anyone else thinks; this movie is absolutely perfect.
Pairs well with: The other Genesis Trilogy films: Star Trek II and III. Also goes good followed up with Star Trek VI. Maybe it’s best to ignore Star Trek V.