The Right Stuff

  • Directors: Philip Kaufman
  • Producers: Irwin Winkler
  • Writers: Philip Kaufman, Tom Wolfe
  • Genres: Adventure, Drama, History
  • Actors: Fred Ward, Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Sam Shepard, Barbara Hershey, Lance Henriksen, Veronica Cartwright, Jane Dornacker

Muroc Army Air Field in 1947 sets the scene for the start of the movie. This dusty, arid air force base is where high-speed aircraft are being tested in secret including the rocket-powered X-1, poised to fly at supersonic speeds. When a number of test pilots have died in the attempt to break the so-called “sound barrier,” the base liaison officer, war hero Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) is offered the chance to fly the X-1. While on a horseback romp with his wife Glennis (Barbara Hershey) through the underbrush surrounding the base, Yeager collides with a tree branch and suffers a couple of broken ribs. Refusing to admit defeat, he triumphs (with the aid of a sawed-off broom handle) in flying the X-1 faster than the speed of sound, beating the “demon in the sky.”

The film travels forward to 1953, where Edwards Air Force Base (renamed for one of the test pilots killed at the base) remains the place to be for the “prime” pilots with Yeager engaged in a contest with test pilot Scott Crossfield (Scott Wilson).[1] Crossfield and Yeager were fierce but friendly rivals for speed and altitude records. Edwards is both a very different place and yet remains the same with the celebrated Happy Bottom Riding Club run by Pancho Barnes (Kim Stanley) still the gathering place for those with the “right stuff.” New pilots such as Gordon “Gordo” Cooper (Dennis Quaid) and Virgil “Gus” Grissom (Fred Ward) are part of a constant stream of “pudknockers” as Barnes characterizes them. Cooper’s wife, Trudy (Pamela Reed) questions the need for pushing dangerous boundaries to the limit, but is resigned to the fact that her husband like all the others, is driven by ambition as well as chasing fame. Other wives that share similar feelings have to learn to suppress their fears. By that time, the press are a familiar part of the background, recognized as the key to ensuring that essential funding never dries up.

The films concludes with Cooper’s successful launch in May 1963 – the last in which an American flew alone into space.

The Birds

  • Directors: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Producers: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Writers: Short story, Daphne du Maurier, Screenplay, Evan Hunter
  • Genres: Horror, Romance, Thriller
  • Actors: Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Veronica Cartwright

Beautiful and young Melanie Daniels (“Tippi” Hedren), a wealthy socialite whose father is an owner of a large newspaper, visits a San Francisco pet shop to pick up a myna bird she has ordered for her aunt. There, Melanie meets Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), a lawyer who is looking for a pair of lovebirds to give to his young sister. Mitch sees Melanie and then pretends to mistake her for a salesperson. Melanie acts out the role believing that she’s fooling Mitch until he reveals that he knew all along that she was not a salesperson of birds. Melanie, infuriated, inquires as to the reason for Mitch’s behavior and he then mentions a previous encounter that he had with her in court when he had first seen her.

Intrigued by him, she buys the lovebirds and finds the address for Mitch’s home in Bodega Bay, a small coastal village up the Pacific coast. Melanie drives to Bodega Bay and delivers the birds by sneaking across the small harbor in a motor boat to the Brenner residence. Melanie walks right into the house and leaves the birds on a foot stool with a note. As Melanie is heading back across the bay, Mitch observes her through a pair of binoculars, then circles around the bay in his car to meet her. Just as she is about to pull up to the dock, a seagull swoops down and gashes her head.

Melanie and Mitch’s family ultimately take refuge in Mitch’s house, boarding up the doors and windows. In the evening when everyone else is asleep, Melanie hears noises from the upper floor. She investigates a closed door only to find that the birds have broken through the roof. They attack her, sealing her in the room until Mitch comes to her rescue. Lydia and Mitch bandage Melanie’s wounds, but determine she must get to a hospital. In a surreal and apocalyptic scene, a sea of landed birds ripples menacingly around them as they leave the house, but do not attack. The car radio (the uncredited announcer is Ken Ackerman, longtime San Francisco radio personality) gives reports of several smaller attacks by birds in a few other communities in coastal California. The sea of birds parts as they slowly proceed toward the road and pick up speed. The film concludes with the four driving away from the farm, down the coast road and out of sight, as thousands of birds watch them.

Alien

  • Directors: Ridley Scott
  • Producers: Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill
  • Writers: Story, Dan O Bannon, Ronald Shusset, Screenplay, Dan O Bannon, David Giler, Walter Hill
  • Genres: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
  • Actors: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto

The commercial towing spaceship Nostromo is on a return trip from Thedus to Earth, hauling a refinery and twenty million tons of mineral ore and carrying its seven-member crew in stasis. Upon receiving a transmission of unknown origin from a nearby planetoid, the ship’s computer awakens the crew.[11] Acting on orders from their corporate employers, the crew lands the Nostromo on the planetoid, resulting in some damage to the ship. Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt), and Navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) set out to investigate the signal’s source while Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Science Officer Ash (Ian Holm), and Engineers Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) and Parker (Yaphet Kotto) stay behind to monitor their progress and make repairs.

Dallas, Kane, and Lambert discover that the signal is coming from a derelict alien spacecraft. Inside it they find the remains of a large alien creature whose ribs appear to have been bent outward from the inside. Ripley, meanwhile, determines that the signal transmission is some type of warning. Kane discovers a chamber containing numerous eggs, one of which releases a creature that attaches itself to his face. Dallas and Lambert carry the unconscious Kane back to the Nostromo, where Ash allows them inside against Ripley’s orders to follow the ship’s quarantine protocol. They unsuccessfully attempt to remove the creature from Kane’s face, discovering that its blood is a potent acid. Eventually the creature detaches on its own and is found dead. With the ship repaired, the crew resume their trip back to Earth.

As she prepares to enter stasis Ripley discovers that the Alien is aboard the shuttle. She puts on a space suit and opens the hatch, causing explosive decompression which forces the Alien to the open doorway. She shoots it with a grappling gun which pushes it out, but the gun is caught in the closing door and the Alien is tethered to the shuttle. It attempts to crawl into one of the engines, but Ripley activates them and blasts the Alien into space. The film ends with Ripley and Jones entering stasis for the return trip to Earth.