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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Answers to My Movie Quiz with a Twist

In my previous post....

....I gave seven clues which all point to a famous modern movie, and I claimed that there was a hidden twist in my quiz, which gave it special interest to those who like to read beneath the surface of stories, and are attuned to shadow stories and covert allusions.

Now I will reveal all the answers!

First, my sharp-eyed friend Caroline was 100% correct in identifying the 1985 film Witness, starring Harrison Ford, and directed by the Australian director Peter Weir, as matching each of the seven clues.

However, I advised her that her answer was incomplete, and the reason it is incomplete is that.....there is ANOTHER film, ALSO starring Harrison Ford, which ALSO matches all seven of those clues, and that other film is (of course) the 1993 blockbuster The Fugitive, directed by the American director Andrew Davis (NOT to be confused with Andrew DAVIES, who of course has directed, among many other films, FOUR Jane Austen film adaptations--and hence my p.s. in my quiz about the totally coincidental Jane Austen connection in this quiz).

Here, then, are the answers to the seven clues which describe these TWO Harrison Ford star turns very distinctively, I will then conclude with my speculations as to the reason for this remarkable (and heretofore unnoticed, to the best of my knowledge after diligent search on the Internet) parallelism between these two films:

1. "The film begins with a brutal murder, a murder which is drug-related and which occurs in a large American city."

In Witness, the murder is over a supply of illegal street drugs connected to corrupt police racketeering; in The Fugitive, the murder is over the FDA approval of a hugely profitable new drug being unveiled by a large pharma company.

2. "The murder was performed by a thug or thugs hired by the main villain, a corrupt powerful man."

In Witness, the thugs were hired by the high ranking police official whom Harrison Ford's character does not at first suspect; In The Fugitive, the thug (a former cop named Sykes, the infamous one-armed man) was hired by the doctor running interference for the new drug being unveiled.

3. "The hero of the movie is the one who tries to discover the truth about the murder, and to keep alive the person or persons who know the identity of the murderer and the villain."

In Witness, that of course is Ford's character, John Book, who is not only keeping himself alive, but also the young Amish boy who, by freak accident, has witnessed the murder in a bus station. In The Fugitive, of course, Ford's character, Richard Kimble, is staying one step ahead of the FBI as he simultaneously gets to the bottom of the mystery of the murder of his wife by Sykes.

4. "The hero is subject to a desperate manhunt to prevent him from revealing the truth, but, in part thanks to the help of good samaritans (who help him recover from injuries suffered by him as a result of this case) and in part from his own resourcefulness, he survives and eludes capture and punishment".

Self-explanatory, I think, based on the answers to the first three clues.

5. "The hero is played by a big movie star."

Harrison Ford.

6. "The climactic scene is one in which the villain is faced down in public by the hero and other people."

This is the extraordinary parallelism that I first spontaneously realized as I was watching the climax of The Fugitive while watching the end of it on cable TV while exercising on the treadmill the other day. Even if the first four clues had not been in parallel as well, this one, together with Harrison Ford's being the hero in both movies, alone would be sufficient to be noteworthy. And I think it goes to the heart of the explanation for all this parallelism in the first place, which I will get to momentarily.

7. "The director of the movie is either American or Australian."

Please forgive my trickiness with this clue, because, as indicated above, Peter Weir is Australian, and Andrew Davis is American! ;)

So, how to account for all of the above extraordinary parallels between Witness (1985) and The Fugitive (1993)?

I don't have the DVD for either of these films at the moment, so I don't know whether the commentaries on the two films might shed some specific light on this point, but as I cannot imagine that Harrison Ford and Andrew Davis were both unaware of these parallels as The Fugitive was being made, the only alternative is that these parallels are completely intentional!

But why? A big clue to the answer lies in the comparative grosses taken in by the two films--Witness grossed under $100 Million, despite winning two Oscars, and being nominated for four more; whereas The Fugitive, only 8 years later, grossed well over twice as much as Witness, and also, for good measure, got a few Oscar nominations to boot!

So....I believe that when the idea to adapt the cult TV series The Fugitive to a movie, and the incredibly bankable Harrison Ford signed on, which made all the other pieces fall into place, I am certain that the creative team for The Fugitive got the bright idea of taking full advantage of the gravitas that Witness had garnered for Ford in 1985, by in effect morphing the TV series onto the essential dramatic elements of Witness, and the "baby" born of that synthesis was the movie The Fugitive.

And the best part of it all was that it was ALL hidden in plain sight, so that anyone watching The Fugitive who had seen Witness would experience a subconscious reinforcement of the characterizations in The Fugitive, courtesy of Witness, which was the more serious and artistic of the two by a fair measure.

There is more to say about this, but I will leave that for followup, first I would welcome comments on any part of the above!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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