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Bonus Reviews: Fire in the Sky (1993) and Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet the Killer Boris Karloff (1949)
Horror Bulletin Bonus for Week 176
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look two more very different films: The silly "Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet the Killer Boris Karloff" from back in 1949, and the much-more-serious alien abduction film, "Fire in the Sky" from 1993. You probably won't be mixing up the two.
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Fire in the Sky (1993)
Directed by Robert Lieberman
Written by Travis Walton, Tracy Torme
Stars D.B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick, Craig Sheffer
Run Time: 1 hour, 49 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Looking at it as a movie, it's quite good and well done. Looking at it as based on true events, it's pretty skewed. Travis Walton himself wasn't happy with it. Be entertained, just don't watch thinking you're seeing an accurate accounting of what happened
Credits roll as a pickup truck full of guys approaches. It's 1975, and the five men silently go into the bar. They all agree with Mike; it's time to make the phone call...
Sheriff Davis calls in Frank Watters over a missing man, Travis Walton. Mike Rogers and his friends are the eyewitnesses... of a very strange story that the sheriff halfway believes.
Mike tells the story as Watters records everything. Travis wanted him and Mike to open a motorcycle shop together, but Mike thinks Travis is crazy. Travis also wants to marry Dana, Mike's sister, but she's not ready. We see the six men ride to work in a very crowded truck. They drive out to Sitgreave National Forest to cut trees. We see that Allan Dallas is a jerk to everyone; he seems to be the "tough guy" of the group. Travis seems to be the dreamer who still acts like a teenager.
They worked until dark, and then on the ride home, they see a light in the sky. The radio goes berserk, and they stop in front of a flying saucer. Only Travis is dumb enough to get out of the truck to investigate. He's surrounded by a bright light that throws him across the field and the other men drive off in panic, leaving him behind thinking he's dead. There is much screaming and arguing about going back for Travis. Mike goes back alone, but he can't find Travis.
Watters asks several of the guys to add to the story, but they all agree on the facts. Watters shows the sheriff a copy of the National Enquirer, and the front page story is an alien abduction.
The next morning, there's a huge search party out looking for Travis. They don't find a hint of him out there. Mike and the crew get fired from their logging job. Everyone in town has a take on what really happened. The sheriff offers to give them each a lie detector test. Over the next four days, the international press gets ahold of the story, and things get wild in town. The guys finally agree to take a lie detector test.
They take the test, and it's inconclusive, which starts another fight. That night, Mike gets a phone call... from Travis. They drive off and find him naked and screaming at a gas station.
We see some of what happened in Travis's flashbacks, and he soon winds up in a hospital. Afterwards, he has various problems with PTSD. Travis woke up in a rubbery pod and fought his way out into a much larger ship. He finds some alien space suits, but then the actual aliens find him. Travis crawls away through a tunnel but gets caught and molested by aliens. They do lots pf nasty gross cringe-worthy stuff to him.
The sheriff is ready to let it settle, but Watters still thinks it's all a hoax. He can wait for them to slip up.
Years pass, and Travis has obviously recovered. He goes to see Mike, who looks like he's had a hard few years. They drive out to the mountain where it all happened and talk about how it won't happen again.
There were actually seven men in the pickup truck, but the producers didn't want to have so many characters, so some were conflated. Only Travis, Mike, and Dallas are based on real people. Travis Walton did not approve of the film, saying it was not like his actual abduction. The studio thought his story was "too fuzzy and too similar to other televised close encounters" so they hired a screenwriter to juice things up and make it more movie worthy for audiences. Invent a few characters, mash up some others, edit a little here and there and voila! It's (loosely) based on true events.
The film is actually quite good. We know from the start what happened, but watching Travis and the others figure it all out and deal with it is the fun part. The creatures, gore, alien torture devices, and other special effects are really well done.
Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet the Killer Boris Karloff (1949)
Directed by Charles Barton
Written by Hugh Wedlock Jr., Howard Snyder, John Grant
Stars Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Boris Karloff
Run Time: 1 Hour, 24 Minutes
It is a dark and stormy night at the Lost Caverns hotel. Amos Strickland is the number one criminal lawyer in the country, and he's coming here tonight, so something big must be up. Casey Edwards is the hotel detective, and Freddie Phillips is a bumbling bellhop, at least until Strickland has him fired. Betty Crandall is the owner's niece, and she says she'll get Freddie reinstated. Jeff is the front desk clerk, and he appears to be sweet on Betty.
Freddie goes to Mr. Strickland's room to apologize, and he finds him dead. Jeff spots Betty coming out of Strickland's room before all the others arrive. Soon, everyone knows what happened. Mr. Relia comes in and says he had a gun earlier, but it's gone missing. Almost immediately, they find the gun in Freddie's room. Casey doesn't believe that Freddie did it and wants to help. They put the gun back in Relia's room and run into Swami Talpur, who hypnotizes Freddie and convinces him that he didn't see anything.
When the inspector tells Freddie he can't leave the scene, he becomes a guest of the hotel and lives it up. He got a date with Angela, who is clearly in on the murder and is only there for information. She tricks Freddie into signing a confession.
The inspector calls in all the guests from Strickland's floor. Angela tries to poison Freddie, but he doesn't want any. He doesn't drink any, but they make him drink the antidote anyway. The cops know all about Angela, but it turns out there's no poison in the drink... this time.
Swami Talpur says he can take care of Freddie. He'll hypnotize him to commit suicide. Talpur sneaks into Freddie's room and does the job, trying to get Freddie to put a noose around his neck. It breaks. He tries a few other ways, but Freddie's too dumb to succeed at any of them. Casey eventually comes in and interrupts. Instead, they find Mike Relia's corpse in Freddie's closet, and they then fail miserably in their attempt to hide the body.
Before long, Freddie and Casey pose as husband and wife with two dead bodies as card partners. Later, Freddie finds the same two bodies in the elevator. Before long, Freddie finds themselves locked into a steam room booth as someone cranks up the heat. Freddie finally figures out that someone is trying to kill him, but the others think he's just trying to divert suspicion.
Freddie booby-traps his room in case someone comes in after him, but someone shoots through the window at him instead. Casey is overjoyed because this shows that Freddie is innocent, but he thinks everyone is just glad that someone is trying to kill him. The inspector shows up to check out the bullet holes and finds the other bodies.
The killer leaves a message for Freddie to meet him in the caverns tonight. The inspector and Casey this is a way to prove Freddie's innocence. They all get split up, and the masked killer tries to finish off Freddie. He soon finds a sign, "Beware of bottomless pit."
Naturally, both Freddie and the killer have hijinks in the cave. Once the guys rescue Freddie, they all rush to the hotel to find the handkerchief that seems to be the heart of the whole case. The inspector brings in everyone so they can have a drawing room scene where everything is explained.
Turns out, Mr. Melton, the hotel manager, was the killer. He pulls a gun on Freddie, but then backs into one of Freddie's booby traps and gets knocked out.
For a movie with the name Boris Karloff right in the title, Karloff doesn't appear very much. It's mostly Freddie finding one dead body after another, but they just keep moving the dead around. The character was originally going to be played by a woman, but Karloff was added to the cast only five days before filming began. Not only that, but Boris Karloff wasn't even actually the killer.
It really makes no sense. There was a scene early on where Karloff and several of the other characters talk about hypnotizing Freddie to kill himself. At that point in the story, they were all in on it, but at the end, only the surprise reveal of Mr. Melton amounts to anything.
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