‘Twilight Zone: The Movie’ and the Deadly Accident That Plagued It

When the anthology film The Twilight Zone: The Movie was released on June 24, 1983, reviews were mixed. Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it “a slack, small-minded giant corporation,” which was a pretty representative view. It’s been a mediocre box office, but if it weren’t for another piece of news related to it that broke the same day, the film might have been completely forgotten. It was the release of a grand jury indictment against five filmmakers, including director John Landis. , for being responsible for a stunt that went horribly wrong and killed three people during the making of the film.

It happened at 2:20 am on Friday, July 23, 1982. In Landis’ corner, there was one about the Klan-era South, Nazi Germany, and a picky bigot (Vic Morrow) who knows the taste of his own medicine once he sets foot in Vietnam. The war was to be misinterpreted by the people he once mocked and culminate in a spectacular display of stunts and firepower. Morrow’s role was to carry two Vietnamese children across a river to safety while being chased by a military helicopter and a village exploding behind them. However, the sequence was poorly planned and poorly rehearsed, and the explosion damaged the helicopter’s rotor blades and caused the pilot to lose control. The helicopter crashed into the river, dismembering Morrow and her two children, Maika Ding Le, 7, and Lenny Xingyi Chen, 6, according to an early Times report.・It was spelled Chen).

Investigators investigated the crash and found that it was illegal because the children were just on set. Child Labor Law regulations prohibited children from working that late hour. Furthermore, child welfare officials on site would not have allowed working near an explosion or a helicopter. So Landis and one of his producers, George Folsey, Jr., deviated from the rules, casting children of mutual acquaintances, not putting their names on the production company’s official papers, and paying them in petty cash. The production secretary recalled Landis joking about the plan, “We’re all going to jail!”

That bluntness carried over to the Twilight Zone set. Landis is prone to throwing tantrums and rants, and is therefore portrayed as a “shrieker man” who resists concerns raised by the crew about the safety of that scene – or which Landis achieves through fake gunfire. The first scene, not satisfied with the effect produced, ordered the use of live ammunition.

Communication between the director, the special effects crew and the helicopter pilot was almost non-existent that night. When a stunt performer pointed out that previous helicopter footage had shown the blast to be stronger than expected, Landis reportedly replied, “If you think it was big, you haven’t seen anything yet.”

It took another three years for the case to go to trial after the indictment was opened on the film’s opening day. Landis, Folsey, and three other defendants were charged with manslaughter, a felony. The trial was a media sensation, and was expected to be “the flashy drama of a Hollywood movie about guns and action.” But thanks to a somewhat botched prosecution and a seemingly star-studded jury, the defendants were acquitted of all charges.

The filmmakers and the studio that produced the film, Warner Bros., had several repercussions, including fines and fines for labor law violations. Settlement of civil litigation submitted by the family. But despite his on-set death and disturbing tales of his actions and decisions leading up to it, the industry rallied in favor of John Landis. Sixteen key directors, including Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, John Huston, George Lucas, Sidney Lumet and Billy Wilder, have signed an open letter of support to the filmmakers. Several of his fellow directors also made cameo appearances in Into the Night and Spy Like Us, two films Landis made between his death and his acquittal.

Landis also directed the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the feature comedies “Trading Place” and “Three Amigos” during the same period. Dan Aykroyd, who starred in Landis’ Twilight Zone prologue, Trading Places, and Spy Like Us, described the tragedy as “it was a work accident and nothing more.” and denied. After the trial, “Trading Places” actor Eddie Murphy hired Landis to direct the 1988 comedy “Coming to America,” but the two clashed during production. While promoting the film, Murphy was asked if he would ever work with Landis again and replied, “Vic Morrow is more likely to work with Landis than I am.” However, the film was a hit, and six years later Landis directed Murphy again in Beverly Hills Cop III.

Landis’ career eventually slowed down, not because of his death, but because his films stopped making money. At the hearing after the Twilight Zone deaths, Art Carter, director of the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health, said while speaking to industry veterans and union representatives about tightening safety restrictions on sets: I can’t remember anyone,” he said. Examples of certain movies or TV shows that could not be produced for safety reasons. Rather, it was a matter of disbursing the necessary funds to secure protection. ”

Following the death of The Twilight Zone, the Directors Guild of America announced: Formal and stronger safety guidelinesYet, budget cuts continue to put the lives of actors and crew at risk. On the very day the verdict was handed down in the “Twilight Zone” case, a helicopter crashed at the Manila filming site of “Bradock: Missing III”. Killed 4 Filipino soldiers. Camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed in 2014 after being hit by a freight train while filming the low-budget movie Midnight Rider. Actor Brandon Lee was shot dead during the production of “The Crow,” due to apparent negligence on set. Pictures of cinematographer Halina Hutchins on set of The Last in 1993 and 2021.

Questions of authenticity, safety, and what kind of risk is acceptable in the creation of a work of art remain 40 years after the release of The Twilight Zone: The Movie. However, the only official statement on the matter from Steven Spielberg, who directed another part of the film, remains upbeat. His name was apparently absent from the filmmaker’s open letter in support of Landis, and in April 1983 he summarized his experience in an interview with the Los Angeles Times: I think people are going up against more demanding producers and directors than ever before. It is the right and responsibility of every actor and staff member to yell “cut!” if something is unsafe. ”

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