It was 80 degrees here today.

Snow is predicted for Thursday.

April. Cruelest month, etc. I spent the early morning on Gnat-bed pacification duty - she needed company in her room, and when she wasn't coughing she was snoring. I have no idea how much sleep I got; whatever I did get was thin and scratchy, and I dreaded the day to come.

But it was too lovely to complain. Granted, I kicked myself for staying up late, but at least I had the presence of mind not to finish the movie I was watching last night: "Run Silent, Run Deep." It’s a submarine movie, and contains all the requisites - a hard barking captain (Clark Gable), a wary second-in-command who thinks the skipper’s nuts but slaps down any hint of mutiny (Burt Lancaster), a comic-relief wiseguy (Don Rickles) (really). There’s plenty o’ lingo - why, did you know they called the torpedoes a “fish,” and that a submarine is not a ship, but a boat? And - get this - there’s a scene in which everyone endures a depth-charge attack by gripping something and staring nervously at the ceiling.

In other words, it’s every submarine movie - but I suspect it's also the submarine movie. The template. I saw “Below” this weekend, a David Twohey movie that ably mixed the sub genre with the ghost-story genre, and it had all the basics I described, tweaked, rearranged, updated. U-571 meets Poltergeist! says the DVD box. Why stop there? It’s “K-19 - the Widowmaker“ meets “The Mothman Prophecies!” It’s “The Hunt for Red October” meets “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!” It’s “Das Boot” meets “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken!”

It’s . . . a good movie. I enjoyed it more than K-19, certainly more than U-571, and quite definitely more than the wretched depressing movie I’d also TiVo’d: "Beneath the Planet of the Apes." I’d seen that one at the Fargo theater as a very young fellow, and how deeply it scarred me I can only guess. It’s one of Charleton Heston’s series of Hey-Your-Future-SUCKS movies: the two Apes films, Omega Man, Soylent Green. Miserable dystopias, all of them. But BTPOTA trumps them all, since it not only ends with its hero dead - a requirement of 70s sci-fi - it destroys the entire planet, thanks to a “cobalt-jacket” nuclear bomb that has remained operational for 1,900 years. Oh, it’s a merry denouement: first the pretty feral woman “Nova” is shot in the neck, then James Franciscus is machine-gunned, then Heston gets a lead infusion, surviving long enough to push the plunger and incinerate the planet. (All astronauts know exactly which Lucite dowel triggers a nuke.) Gee, thanks, man; nice going. Granted, the apes are rather . . . excitable at this point, but how about giving them a few thousand years to figure it out and learn to chill it, ape-style? You rail against the bastards who destroyed the world; you damn-them-all-to-hell, etc., but at least they didn’t blow off this big bad uber-bomb and harsh the planet’s mellow for ever after. Just because you’ve had a bad day doesn’t mean you get to eliminate all life on earth, okay?

I’ve said it before; might as well say it again. Movies like this paved the way for Star Wars, inasmuch as SW let the good guys not only win, but live, AND get a medal from the dame at the end. (Except for Chewie. That still rankles.) If the style of early 70s sci-fi had infected Star Wars, all the Rebels would have been crushed, Tatooine would have been blown up by the Death Star, and the soundtrack would have played “One Tin Soldier” as the Death Star retreated into the infinite blackness of space. War, man! It’s so . . . futile. If Lucas had made the second Apes movie, NASA soldiers would have shown up in the last reel, shot up the apes with flashlight weapons, defused the bomb, scooped up Heston and Franciscus and the mute girl Nova, and taken them back to Cape Kennedy for a ticker-tape parade in a convertible.

And that would be worse than the original . . . how?
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