Thursday, July 18, 2013

Only now does it occur to me... ENEMY MINE

Only now does it occur to me...  that ENEMY MINE is one of the great, largely unsung 1980s science fiction flicks.

Let me give you the rundown– as a kind of brilliant combination of ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS and THE DEFIANT ONES, ENEMY MINE has got all the requirements for solid 80s sci-fi:

#1.  Critters.

Courtesy of the creature shop of FX legend Chris Walas (GREMLINS, THE FLY, DRAGONSLAYER, ARACHNOPHOBIA, SCANNERS).  Pictured above is a kind of Sarlaac-y thing that nearly devours Dennis Quaid, but Walas' finest work is on the Draconians, the lead alien species in the film

(demonstrated here by the always fantastic Lou Gossett, Jr.), whose pulsating nodules and detailed reptilian skin is a testament to the genius of practical effects and the patience of actors.

Also, as more Draconians appear throughout the film, I realized that the species was obviously a trial run for Walas' work on the Mugwumps six years later in David Cronenberg's NAKED LUNCH:

#2.  Heart.

Though marketed to a younger, thrill-seeking demographic, ENEMY MINE is a thoughtful rumination on a number of subjects, including racial and religious tolerance, the rigidity of gender roles, war profiteering, and institutionalized hate.  Like Peterson's prior THE NEVERENDING STORY– which trumpeted the power of imagination in a period of rank consumerism– ENEMY MINE has a big heart, and it's in the right place, too.  I was about to ask why this film isn't more widely known, and I think I just answered my own question.

#3. Dennis Quaid with a beard.

Like Kurt Russell, he's one of the rare actors who fits his beard like a glove.  Which just gave me the wild thought that this could have easily worked as a Kurt Russell vehicle with Keith David as the Draconian.

#4.  Brion James.

 'Cause it's just not a sci-fi actioner without him.  Playing a savage slaver/bandit kingpin, he's directly responsible for more than 90% of the crazy-eye in ENEMY MINE.

 James menaces Dennis Quaid.

Above, he's even 'replicating' (pun intended, I suppose) the pose and delivery of the famous "Wake up, time to die" scene in BLADE RUNNER:

James menaces Harrison Ford.

And though this film is more intellectual than the usual mainstream genre fare, it still manages to embrace the subtle joys of, say, Brion James dangling a child from a cyberpunky catwalk above a stream of lava, or whatever.

Also, Brion James probably should have been in TERMINATOR 2.

 Anyway, I suppose my point is this:  come for the social commentary, stay for the Brion James.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Only now? Kidding. That's all fascinating. Loved the juxtaposition of the images and you have me really intrigued about an Enemy Mine revisit. Hmmm. Always enjoy the love for these characters like Brion as well.

Excellent. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Ironically, I re-watched this recently and didn't enjoy it as much the second time around... much of the movie was engaging and even touching but towards the end, the plot grew stranger and stranger into laugh-ability. The Draconians makeup was spectacular, however.

I haven't been on in a while as I'm still waiting for the countdown to finish... :)

I'd love to see a review of "They" which I recently watched and enjoyed a lot and immediately thought of this blog. Also Jennifers Body.


Jack Thursby said...

Haven't seen this in ages. It's a great sci-fi update of Hell in the Pacific.

I love the rumour that Peterson had to include a plot about an actual "mine" in the third act because stupid movie execs didn't get what the title meant!

Sean Gill said...


I had seen this film on late night television as a kid and couldn't really remember the big picture, but some of the vivid details really stuck with me. It was nice to revisit. And of course Brion James is terrific.


Good to see you!
I mean, the final act gets a little ridiculous and action movie-ish, but in a way that made me like it even more.
I do plan to return to the countdown– by the end of the summer there will be new installments!
I haven't seen THEY or JENNIFER'S BODY, but I may have to stick 'em in the queue.


Ah, yes– HELL IN THE PACIFIC is a great one, too. I had heard the "mine" rumor as well, and I definitely would believe it. Perhaps it could have all been alleviated with a comma (ENEMY, MINE) but that might have confused people too. Ah, well.