Peter Hyams


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

7.0 Capricorn One (1978)
5.0 Outland (1981)
6.0 2010 (1984)
6.5 Running Scared (1986)
6.2 Narrow Margin (1990)
7.3 Stay Tuned (1992)
6.6 Timecop (1994)
6.3 Sudden Death (1995)
6.0 End of Days (1999)
5.0 A Sound of Thunder (2005)
4.5 Peter Hyams: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009)
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Peter Hyams (USA, 1943) debuted with two TV movies, Rolling Man (1972) and Goodnight My Love (1972), which were followed by mediocre films such as Busting (1974), Our Time (1974) and Peeper (1975).

Capricorn One (1978) is a science-fiction political film in which three astronauts are forced to simulate a Mars landing in front of cameras while they never left. The whole world is fooled but then the man who came up with the plan decides to terminate them. They flee in the desert, where two of them die. The survivor is saved by a journalist.

Hanover Street (1979)

Outland (1981) e` un altro fantascientifico, ma la storia e` quella di un tipico duello dei film western (High Noon). La differenza principale sono le costose scenografie. La trama e` di una banalita` imbarazzante.

Humans have built a space colony on a distant moon that is important for its mines of titanium. One day a young miner dies after a spider enters his spacesuit and he loses his mind. Sean Connery is a marshal who has just been assigned to maintaining order on the moon. He is welcomed by a man, Sheppard, who has influence over everything and seems to warn him not to get in the way.
Connery learns of the accident and orders an investigation even if nobody seems to show much interest.
His wife leaves him for accepting the job on the godforsaken moon.
A miner goes crazy and takes a woman hostage. Before Connery can convince him to surrender another officer kills him. The autopsy reveals that the miner took a powerful drug, a drug that makes the workers work harder (which means they get higher bonuses) but also slowly destroys their brains. As he catches people handling the substance and finds huge quantities hidden here and there, Connery understands that the mining company is happy that the workers take the drug so they produce more. So much so that Sheppard discourages him from continuing the investigation. Now Connery is alone, determined to clean up the space station but also disliked by everybody (except the middle-age female doctor). Connery overhears the conversation between Sheppard and his boss in which Sheppard asks for a "man" to eliminate Connery. The man arrives and the duel begins. The two men chase each other in the labyrinth of the space station until Connery prevails. Then he hits Sheppard in front of all the miners. Then he can go home with his wife.

The Star Chamber (1983)

2010 (1984) was a follow-up to Kubrick's 2001, another political sci-fi movie with pacific overtones.

Riprende da dove è finito 2001. Sia i sovietici, sia gli americani stanno progettando una missione su Giove per scoprire cosa successe alla missione Discovery e cosa sia il grande monolite nero. I russi vogliono arrivare prima, ma hanno bisogno della collaborazione del responsabile della vecchia missione, silurato dopo il fallimento. E' in corso una crisi internazionale nel Centro America che complica tutto, ma lo scienziato americano, sorpreso dal fatto che l'astronave Discovery stia uscendo dall'orbita in cui si era arenata, convince il nuovo responsabile (quello che ha preso il suo posto) a intercedere con il presidente. Al tempo stesso, un altro scienziato vuole andare su Discovery per scoprire cosa successe ad Hal, il computer. Il presidente autorizza una missione congiunta con i sovietici. Durante il viaggio verso Giove, la crisi fra USA e URSS peggiora, compromettendo la collaborazione fra gli scienziati sovietici e quelli americani dell'astronave. Arrivati al Discovery due astronauti vanno a ispezionarla e riattivano Hal. Poi dirigono verso il misterioso monolite. Intanto il tecnico, esaminando le memorie di Hal, scopre la ragione per cui Hal impazzì: i servizi segreti della Casa Bianca avevano alterato il programma per garantire la segretezza dell'operazione. A terra sta per scoppiare la guerra fra USA e URSS. Pertanto il presidente ordina ai tre americani di rinchiudersi nella Dscovery e impedire l'accesso ai loro colleghi sovietici. Tramite Hal uno degli astronauti scomparsi riappare, vecchio e deforme, per avvertire lo scienziato di scappare, ma senza spiegare perché. Lo scienziato viola gli ordini e convince la capitana sovietica a tornare sulla terra unendo le loro forze. Mentre sulla terra scoppia la guerra atomica, gli astronauti si preparano freneticamente alla partenza facendo affidamento su Hal. Ma all'improvviso compare una nube di monoliti in rapida espansione e Hal si rifiuta di procedere al conto alla rovescia perché il fenomeno è troppo importante per ignorarlo. Il tecnico gli spiega la situazione e lo convince ad aiutarli a partire. Alla fine, mentre l'astronave è in viaggio verso la terra, il fantasma, per bocca di Hal manda un messaggio di pace ai presidenti di USA e URSS.

Running Scared (1986) e` un comico poliziesco.

Filmetto d'avventura imperniato sulle avventure comiche di Gregory Hines e Billy Cristal nei panni di due poliziotti non molto ortodossi di Chicago. I due usano mezzi poco leciti, ma riescono a portare a termine le loro inchieste senza troppa violenza. Riescono soprattutto a catturare un pericoloso druglord. Purtroppo nel farlo mettono i bastoni fra le ruote della potente DEA, che aveva infiltrato due agenti nella sua gang, e vengono costretti dal capo a prendersi una vacanza in Florida. Tornati, apprendono dal capo che il druglord e`di nuovo in liberta'. Si fanno beffa degli agenti della DEA, a cui il capo deve attribuire ogni sorta di imprese per ragioni politiche. Rintracciano il druglord di nuovo e riescono quasi a prenderlo mentre riceve una valigia piena di cocaina da un prete e una suora, ma dopo un accanito inseguimento sulle rotaie della ferrovia sopraelevata del Loop lui riesce a dileguarsi. Gli rubano persino l'auto, ma lui cattura l'ex moglie di Cristal, che lo ha divoraziato ma che lui ama ancora, e intima a Cristal di restituirgli la cocaina. Cristal va a consegnargli la borsa nel grattacielo, mentre il suo partner lo scala dall'esterno tramite un lungo cavo. Quando il druglord tenta di uccidere sia Cristal sia la donna, si scatena l'inferno: Cristal fa fuoco dall'ascensore, il partner irrompe nell'edificio alla Tarzan, gli agenti in borghese della DEC attaccano dal basso. I quattro uccidono i gangster uno per uno e alla fine hanno la meglio anche dell'irriducibile druglord. La donna si rappacifica con Cristal. Sempre in allegria.

Presidio (1988) action poliziesco catastrofico.

Narrow Margin (1990), a loose remake of Richard Fleischer's classic, is one of his best high-suspense police action thriller. The plot is wildly different from the original.

A classy woman has a date with a businessman and, while she's in the bathroom, she witnesses, unseen, his murder by a gangster he owes money to and his hitman.
Detective Archer finds out the truth and realizes that this is a unique chance of frame the gangster who has always eluded justice. The chief of police is a political animal who is reluctant to take the risk of taking the gangster to court without the certainty that the witness will cooperate. But Archer ignores his desire to follow the proper procedure and flies an helicopter to the isolated place where the woman is hiding. The woman does not want to cooperate. Archer and his partner are just explaining to her that sooner or later the gangsters will find her and kill her when another helicopter flies around the house and starts shooting at them, literally demolishing the house. Archer and the woman barely escape, while Archer's partner is killed. They run away on the woman's car through the woods, still chased and shot by the helicopter. They reach the train station and jump on a train. They are in the middle of nowhere and the nearest airport is one day away, but they have no choice. Two gangsters have seen him and board the same train. The gangsters find out quickly the compartment where he hides, but Archer reassures the woman that they may have not seen her.
During the cat and mouse chase on the train, Archer meets an attractive divorced woman and a nice fat man. At the first station, Archer calls his police station and asks for help, but somebody must be tipping the gangsters, because Archer is met by two fake police officers who try to kill him. He barely manages to jump on the train again. The gangsters offer him money, but he makes fun of them. The gangsters see him with the divorced woman and think she is the one. The fat man identifies himself as a security guard and offers to take care of the divorced woman, but the gangsters find them. Archer takes his woman to the roof of the train and manages to throw both killers down the train. But, surprise, the divorced woman shows up and she is with the criminals. Luckily for him, she doesn't bend when the train enters a tunnel and is beheaded by the rock. Archer's mission is complete and the witness testifies at the trial.
The remake is marred by a sentimental perspective. The original was all action and suspense.

Stay Tuned (1992), his best film, is a hilarious and delirious Faust-inspired satire of the middle class. The devil is playing a game with God about the souls, and the game played by the devil consists in playing a game with his souls to see if they survive. The ordeal of the souls consists in something like an amusement park whose rides are twisted horror versions of famous sitcoms and quiz shows plus ridiculous imaginary commercials; it becomes a whirlwind of imitations and parodies of famous moments in the history of TV viewing. It's all meant to debase and shame the TV junkies showing them how ridiculous their lives are.

A boy, Darryl, tells us that his father Roy (played by John Ritter, the star of the TV sitcom "Three's Company") is the quintessential "coach potato" who watches television nonstop. He is also a former fencing champion. The child is an electronic genius: he built a device that allows him to project himself on the family's TV set. His mom Helen is a successful advertising executive while his father Roy is a humble salesman in the middle of a midlife crisis. One evening Roy is watching TV as usual, flipping through channels. The children (the boy and his older sister) find excuses to leave the house so that their parents can be alone. Helen switches off the TV set and tries to talk to Roy about their communication problem, but he only cares about the program on TV. To get his attention, she smashes the TV set. Roy simply replaces it with the child's smaller TV set. A mysterious man walks to the house, promising that he is going to change Roy's boring life. Spike offers Roy the "ultimate television adventure", a satellite dish system with 666 channels of entertainment and a large-screen TV set. He jokingly tells Roy that some people would give their souls for such a system, and it's free for Roy. A giant dish is installed in a few minutes in his backyard and Spike leaves laughing out loud while lightnings light the road. Helen packs her things and prepares to leave the house. Roy is too focused on watching TV to notice. On the way out, Helen damages the dish with a hammer and finally Roy realizes that she's leaving him. A Strong wind emanates from the dish and sucks them in. Roy and Helen find themselves on the stage of a TV quiz show. Each question of the host forces Roy to tell the truth about lies he told Helen. Then the film moves on to the control room of a large operation where Spike is watching on monitors the adventures of his victims (the souls he lured). Spike's staff is dropping real people into TV shows. New intern Pierce sees a scoreboard that summarizes the status of each soul and witnesses Spike causing the real death of a real woman inside a horror movie. Spike tells the intern that these real people constitute the entertainment extravaganza for just one customer of theirs. TV junkies are lured by Spike into a deadly game and then killed within 24 hours: if they survive, they must be released. Spike gets annoyed by his witty assistant, who keeps cracking jokes, and uses a remote control to send him to do "field work": the poor fellow is sucked into a vortex and disappears. Meanwhile, Roy and Helen are still playing the game on TV and they win a trip. The trip consists in being catapulted on a boxing ring, all dressed in white where they have to wrestle with a Satanic couple. Spike watches live on his monitor as Roy is being beaten to death. Helen outsmarts the Satanic wrestlers and Helen and Roy get to live to another show. Meanwhile their children have found the giant dish in the backyard and the giant TV set in the living room. The boy turns on the TV and doesn't realize that the characters in the film are his parents: they are inside some kind of Arctic film, chased by wolves in the company of their real-life neighbor, and cannot save the neighbor from the wolves. The children are happy because they think that their parents went away on a romantic vacation instead of having the usual arguments. The boy, however, makes the mistake of activating the giant dish and his bicycle gets sucked into it. The boy turns on the TV and sees all sorts of funny adverts... and someone riding his bicycle. Next, they are turned into the mice of a cartoon. Their boy is watching just that cartoon and realizes that those mice in the cartoon are his parents. The mice are chased by an android cat armed with a machine gun and hide in Grant Wood's famous painting "American Gothic", but Roy outsmarts the cat by guessing how a cartoon character would survive. The boy who is watching the cartoon on the home TV-set flips through the channel to find them again and finds Roy in a zombie show titled "Duane's Underworld" (a parody of Wayne's World). Roy escapes again and finds himself in a black-and-white film in the role of a private detective who has to solve the case of the missing Helen, who has been kidnapped by a mobster. The boy sees more weird adverts, including a woman who is capable of rotating her head 360 degrees. He switches channels and finds the channel where his father is the private eye. Seeing that his sister is practicing her cheerleader act with her friends in front of the giant dish, the boy walks outside to warn her to stay away from the dish: since they don't listen, he takes a hose and waters them so they run away. He finally convinces his sister that their parents are inside the TV set. Meanwhile inside the TV set, Roy finds Helen in a restaurant just when a massive shoutout erupts between rival gangs. They manage to escape and enter another channel, where they are plunged into the French Revolution and meet again their neighbor, who actually managed to escape from the wolves although he lost and arm and a leg to them. The neighbor encourages Roy and Helen to lie low: only two hours to go and they will have survived 24 hours. Their daughter Diane, however, is watching the TV show and knows that it heads with the beheading of Roy's character. Darryl, the electronic wiz, builds a device that projects his voice into the program. His father is about to get guillotuined but the crowd thinks that Darryl's voice is the voice of God. Darryl orders the crowd to release his parents and so they survive the 24 hours. Spike has been watching from his monitor and is furious that he failed to kill Roy... but then realizes that Helen is not covered by the same agreement. Roy is released (he disappears in front of the astonished crowd) but Helen remains in the middle of the French Revolution: Spike knows that Roy will not abandon Helen. Roy reappears in his living room, hugged by his children, and immediately sees Spike on TV introducing a western film in which Helen gets dismembered by a train. Roy, still holding his remote control, jumps into the dish and enters the TV program as a Clint Eastwood-style gunman, mimicking a famous scene from Sergio Leone's spaghetti western. During the ritual duel with the evil Spike, Roy accidentally touches the remote control and is istantaneously ejected into "Star Trek" and then to a car race and then to a hockey game and then to a scene of "Driving Over Miss Daisy" and then (in delightful touch of self-referentiality) to a scene of "Three's Company" (the sitcom that made Roy's actor, John Ritter, famous), while Helen is abandoned to her destiny, impotent to escape a train that is about to hit her. Just when Spike is about to finish him in a "Three Musketeers" kind of scene, his children, who are watching the scene on TV, throw Roy's sword into the giant dish which then gets swallowed and projected into the scene so that Roy can fight Spike back. Another click on the remote control throws him into a hip-hop video (Salt-N-Pepa), always holding on to his remote control, always pursued by Spike from channel to channel. In the middle of the video the dancers and singers play with the remote control. Finally Roy points it at Spike and cancels him out. Then he sends himself back into Helen's western movie just before the train hits her. Helen tells him to switch the TV off and Roy presses the button on the remote control to switch it off: they are ejected back into their own backyard and the giant dish self-destroys. Spike finds himself in a medieval dungeon, derided by Spike's witty assistant, and it's all controlled by the laboratory's new director, intern Pierce, who is therefore Satan's new soul-crushing operative. Darryl ends the story telling us that Roy stopped watching television and is no longer a salesman but a fencing instructor.

Timecop (1994) and Sudden Death (1995) were vehicles for action movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The Relic (1997)

End of Days (1999), his biggest commercial success, is a horror film set at the turn of the century when Satan decides to come to Earth looking for a bride.

The Musketeer (2001) is an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' novel.

A Sound of Thunder (2005) was another science-fiction movie.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009) was a terrible remake of the 1956 classic.

He directed again Jean-Claude van Damme in Enemies Closer (2013).

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