Something of a tv staple when I was growing up, Meteor is a wannabe disaster movie that turns into a real catastrophe for a well-heeled cast who really should have known better. If the scenario of a meteor heading for earth has been successfully mined since in movies like Armageddon, Deep Impact and the recent Don’t Look Up, it’s perhaps instructive to see how the same idea can play out abysmally, despite the safe pair of hands offered by director Ronald Neame (The Poseidon Adventure). To create a Meteor sized flop, take tatty special effects, incoherent scripting and minimal plot development, garnish with lots of stock footage from other films and add a slumming cast not giving a monkeys about anything but their cheque; Meteor is the kind of film that could get cinema stopped.
Sean Connery plays Paul Bradley, the designer of an orbiting nuclear missile station who gets word of the impending catastrophe and is persuaded to help Karl Malden and various American generals come up with an appropriate response. For Connery, who clearly put a lot of time and research into his role as a top astrophysicist, this seems to involve wearing a trilby, a Ron Manager camel coat and demanding ‘a large Scotch’ everywhere he goes; rather than the expected tech-talk, Bradley comes out with belters like ‘Why don’t you stick a broom up my ass and I could sweep your carpet while I’m at it?’ Since Bradley’s plan, to fire all American and Russian nuclear missiles at the meteor simultaneously to generate sufficient ‘megatonnage’ can only happen in the last few seconds, there’s 106 minutes to be filled with rubbish until the cast gather round video monitors to chew their fingernails, and this ramshackle vehicle is more than up to the task.
What else could be stuffed in here? Simon Cadell from Hi di Hi as a BBC reporter? Henry Fonda as a remarkably Joe Biden-esque low-energy President? Brian Keith wildly miscast as a Russian scientist who loves baseball? Discussion about whether the Wimbledon tennis tournament can go ahead? A Sybil Danning-on-skis cameo? Some repurposed footage from 1978’s equally laughable Avalanche? A lousy role for Natalie Wood as Russian translator Tatiania? ‘That’s a very pretty scarf; says Bradley, making small-talk as the sciencey folk seek refuge in an secure underground bunker beneath Manhattan that seems to be crammed with pinball machines for no obvious reasons. ‘How did you choose astrophysics?’ Bradley asks tenderly. ‘It chose me…’ she replies. Bradley only has so much time for such frivolity, quickly order another ‘large one’ on top of a few rounds of vodka shots and soon starts barking out the kind of scrupulously detailed orders like a real scientist would in this situation ‘Tell this a___hole once and for all…get rid of it! Get the big one!’
Meteor ends with the entire cast being splattered with mud as if they’re in the gunk tank at a children’s tv show, while we get glimpses of worldwide chaos cliches, including children dropping dolls in the street to be trampled on by rampaging crowds and cute dogs getting lost and then found in the panic. An absolutely laughable endeavour, Meteor is a can’t miss prospect when a sitting target for derision is required; as top boffin Paul Bradley puts it. ‘If you think you can prevent this by burying your heads in a blanket of sh_t….I’ll be in the bar across the road.’