Friday, September 14, 2007


Discussing my love of Stuart Gordon put me in the mood to revisit Fortress.

From, as I recall, Gordon's Re-Animator commentary, but possibly from one of the post film Q&As I've attended, Gordon states that this movie was originally developed as a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it certainly would seem a solid follow-up to Total Recall.

I have a general ambivalence about the change to Christopher Lambert in the lead. While I suspect that, like Paul Verhoeven before him, Gordon may have been capable of bringing more out of Schwarzenegger the actor than most, but I still suspect the performance he gets from Lambert is still more subtle here than Schwarzenegger could have managed. On the other hand, Lambert would move onto a series of similarly themed straight-to-video sci-fi movies, including Fortress 2: Re-Entry, that I believe ultimately color this movie in an unfair way.

Not that I think it's a flawless movie. The writing features a lot of good ideas and a strong set-up, but seems to peter as the story resolves. The female lead, played by Loryn Locklin, seems inconsistent in her characterization... much of this could be rationalized by the effect of her pregnancy on her physical and emotional state, but there's little in text of the movie, aside from her state itself, to support that.

The credibility throughout is held by the acting, a particularly an especially deft and sensitive performance by Kurtwood Smith as the prison warden. Not to mention supporting performances by Lincoln Kilpatrick and Jeffrey Combs.

Some of the satire is heavy-handed, although not without a knowing quality. I'm left wondering, however, how far the privatization of prisons had gotten at the time this movie was made.

This is a movie I'd definitely like to see get a better DVD, in the correct aspect ratio and perhaps with a commentary by Gordon, who is one of the most entertaining and informative commentators out there.


Adam Ross said...

Even though I haven't seen "Fortress" since it first came out on video, for some reason I was thinking of it this week. I don't think Arnie would have added much to this movie, because Lambert's character being "just a dude" made his idea of a breakout that more unlikely.

The early scene where a white collar criminal dies by accidentally moving into the "red zone" was a great exposition ploy, and a scene in "Shawshank Redemption" was eerily similar.

Neil Sarver said...

Actually, he's not "just a dude", he's a highly decorated member of some elite military group of some kind with residual guilt over an incident in which everyone under his command was killed. I suspect that's intended specifically to make his breakout merely unlikely rather than utterly implausible.

That said, I agree that dramatically Lambert probably works as well or better. It's merely the reputation of the movie that has some potential to be improved if the change had not occured.

And, yes, that scene is terrific. Very effective in showing the situation the prisoners are in while also showing while also being a nicely exciting scene in itself.

Adam Ross said...

Haha, guess it has been too long since I've seen it, I'll have to put it in my queue.

Neil Sarver said...

Obviously, I think that's a good idea.

Now, me, I'm considering renting Fortress 2: Re-Entry, and I'm less sure of my judgment.

Marty McKee said...

"Intestinate!!" I think the intestinator is one of cinema's great weapons. Gooey! I saw FORTRESS theatrically and thought it was great fun with a perfectly cast and perfectly perverse Kurtwood Smith leading the way.

I wouldn't bother with FORTRESS 2 if I were you. Despite the presence of Pam Grier, it's very tame and boring without the wicked humor and violence of the first film.

Neil Sarver said...

The intestinator is wonderfully clever and disturbing, I agree completely. I also think the execution of the mind wipe is quite good.

Lacking the humor and the violence of the first movie? What the hell is the point then? Thanks for the warning!

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