Sunday, May 04, 2008

Timing is everything... a Michael Biehn tribute

If there's one minor disappointment connected to my August wedding to Marisa, it's that I'm missing my first HorrorFind Weekend since 2002.

Hey, they have two every year, and you only get one honeymoon! (If you're lucky.)

What really bums me out, though, is that, for the first time, one of my favorite actors of all time will be appearing there:

Michael Biehn.

For the first time in years, I'm actually dying for an autograph and to get my picture taken with an actor... but, hey, when it comes right down to it, I'd rather be snuggled up on a plane with my honey on our way home.

(Editor's Note: It must be love.)

For those unfamiliar with Biehn's work, and shame on you if you are, he's a rugged action supporting man best known for showing off his fearsome intensity in many James Cameron films, among others.

For you non-Biehn-philes, let's review some of his greatest hits:
The Terminator(1984): This is the film that made James Cameron famous, put Linda Hamilton on the map and gave Arnold Schwarzenegger his trademark "I'll be back" line. But it also starred Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese, sent back in time to protect the mother of the leader of the revolution from the Terminator sent to kill her. Biehn, still a young man, showed his stuff with one line: "Come with me if you want to live!"

Aliens(1986): The greatest movie ever made, the greatest sequel ever made. (Well, maybe I exaggerate, but my favorite movie ever, in any event.) This time, Biehn plays the laconic Corp. Hicks, the third-in-command of the Colonial Marines sent to Acheron with Ellen Ripley. Although Weaver got an Oscar nomination and Bill Paxton stole the show as the comic relief, PFC Hudson, it's Biehn who gives the survivors steadfast leadership and even a bit of dry humor. All due respect to James Remar, who dropped out of the picture early on, but I can't imagine the movie working with anyone but Biehn in the lead. He just oozes quiet leadership you can't help but respect. Maybe that's why he would go on to play so many officers and team leaders.

The Abyss(1989): In his first major villain role (since The Lords of Discipline, anyway), Biehn plays Lt. Coffey, the leader of a Navy SeAL team sent to an undersea drilling platform to recover nuclear warheads from a doomed submarine. But as Biehn's character succumbs to pressure sickness, he grows more and more fervent, more and more crazed, and yes, more and more intense. The mustache may not work for everybody, but it's tough to find a more menacing "regular guy" than when Biehn is hissing orders through his teeth at the Roughnecks on the rig.

Navy Seals(1990): This time, Biehn's SeAL team leader Lt. Curran is a good guy, but it's also the start of a disturbing trend: Biehn playing second fiddle to a bigger-name actor, in this case Charlie Sheen. It's not so much an ensemble piece as some of Biehn's other films, but he still gets his share of intensity and spotlight, as when the drunken lieutenant informs his subordinate Sheen that the younger man is raising a toast to a teammate he got killed. Sure, it's a B movie, but it's not a bad one.

Tombstone(1993): George P. Cosmatos' modern Western is the classic, quotable guy's movie, and Val Kilmer, as the anti-hero Doc Holliday, and Biehn, as psychotic villain John ny Ringo, are far more memorable than Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Powers Boothe as Curly Bill Brocius. They duel with words - in Latin! - with sneers and, inevitably, with guns. "Why, Johnny Ringo, you look like someone just ... walked over your grave," is one of Kilmer's best lines, but without the fearsome Biehn standing just behind the showboating Curly Bill, it would never come to pass. You know Ringo's a memorable man from the opening scene, when he guns down a priest, then translates the Latin oath the man was cursing them with.

The Rock(1996): Michael Bay's hit movie starred Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage, but for my money, there's no more powerful scene in the movie than Biehn's confrontation with the equally intense Ed Harris when Biehn's Cmdr. Anderson leads his men into Harris' Gen. Hummel's trap. Biehn, outnumbered and outflanked, attempts to reason, then attempts to intimidate, in a brief soliloquy and back-and-forth, then goes down shooting. "I will not repeat that order!" "I cannot give that order!"

In recent years, Biehn seems to have drifted away from the soldier type as he's gotten older, and settled into another role, that of the local sheriff, which he played in 2002's overhyped and ultimately disappointing Cherry Falls and most recently, in Robert Rodriguez's half of the "Grindhouse" experiment, 2007's wildly over-the-top Planet Terror.

Biehn uses his reputation as well as his acting chops in those movies: He's a man who commands respect, must be obeyed, and yet can carry off secrets (in Cherry Falls) or satire (in Planet Terror) well, thanks to his acting skill.

In short, when you see Michael Biehn's name in the credits, you know what you're going to get. Sadly, this August, I'm not going to get to see Michael Biehn at all.

Well, what can I say, it's better to have loved, and lost a photo op, than never to have loved at all.

1 Comment:

Aric Blue said...

No way is getting married a better deal than seeing Michael Biehn! Postpone the wedding! :)