A few years ago, Blue Underground released a spiffy edition of The Final Countdown. At first glance, the move seems counterintuitive. The premiere specialist in grindhouse flicks putting out a special edition of an big-budget effort with major stars? What’s going on here? In fact, the release makes sense in more ways than one. In the first place, the associate producer is none other than Mr. Troma himself, Lloyd Kaufman, here involved in a film whose budget probably exceeded that of the entire Troma catalogue….Secondly, there’s the wacky nature of the movie itself.
The nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz is on a routine (what else?) exercise mission out of Pearl Harbor. The commanding officer is Kirk Douglas, so we can feel sure that the decision making is in capable hands. Also on board, for no very clear reason, is civilian efficiency expert Martin Sheen, who has been sent on this trip by the reclusive industrialist who in large part designed the ship. The mission has barely been underway when a mysterious storm comes out of nowhere and a vortex (whose effect is somewhere in between Disney’s The Black Hole and TV’s TimeTunnel) sucks the Nimitz back in time to December 6, 1941.
There’s a fair bit of dry with that ensues as Douglas and crew try to figure out why they can’t raise the authorities, and why the radio is only playing oldies. A recon flight reports a civilian yacht as being “old but in mint condition.” On board that yacht is Senator Charles Durning and his assistant Katharine Ross (of The Swarm, The Legacy and The Stepford Wives fame, so you know this is going to be good), and they are mightily surprised to see a flight of supersonic fighters go by, believe you me. At any rate, Douglas &co. eventually figure out what is happening, and they have to decide whether to screw around with history or not and annihilate the approaching Japanese fleet. The resolution, as one might expect with what is essentially a bloated Twilight Zone episode, is a cop-out, but there is a nice little temporal loop presented in the closing shots.
There are all sorts of things wrong with the movie. Yes, it does paint itself into a bit of a corner. Yes, Martin Sheen’s character has no real function in the film, and even his opinions on what to do are inconsistent and self-contradictory. But it’s hard to hate a movie that marries even this kind of half-baked SF with full-on techno-porn. And this is the real hardcore stuff. Barely a minute goes by without some glorious shots of hot machine action. Years before either Top Gun or Tom Clancy appeared on the scene, here was a film that had exactly the same kind of slobbering approach to military technology and can-do-ness, but tied up in a completely daft package. It’s almost a parody of a genre that had yet to be born. How often does that happen?
Two editions of the DVD were released, a single and a two-disc set. In either case, the picture quality is termendous, and the sound is nothing short of lavish: 6.1 DTS-ES, 5.1 EX and 2.0 Surround. But even if this were a mono release, it would be delightful viewing for all connoisseurs of the cracked and crazed.