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DEEP CORE (2000)

“Congratulations – you just triggered global destabilisation!”

Director: Rodney McDonald

Starring: Craig Sheffer, Harry Van Gorkum, Terry Farrell, James Russo, Bruce McGill, Wil Wheaton

Screenplay: Martin Lazarus (Jim Christopher), from a story by Phillip J. Roth

Synopsis:  Dr Brian Goodman (Craig Sheffer) confronts his employer and former friend Alan Morrisey (Harry Van Gorkum) over the misuse of the prototype model of the Ultrasonic Drilling Machine, or USDM, a vehicle capable of drilling through solid rock and travelling beneath the earth’s surface. Suspecting that Morrisey has ordered the vehicle used beyond the agreed upon limits in his pursuit of oil reserves, Brian warns him that doing so could have catastrophic consequences. Morrisey tries to reassure Brian, but he is not convinced. Returning to the control section of the facility, he makes a drastic decision…. Just as Darryl Simmons (James Russo) ushers a group of potential Chinese investors into the facility, Brian warns Alan that he should clear the building. There is a rush to evacuate the facility which, minutes later, is destroyed in a massive explosion, along with the prototype drilling-machine…. Two years later, Brian is wildcatting in the Sonoran Desert with his colleagues Sam Dalton (Bruce McGill) and Rodney Bedecker (Wil Wheaton). Meanwhile, deep beneath the PO-APOC drilling station on an island in the South China Sea, the pilot of a subterranean vehicle decides to stop short of his target oil reserve when his team detects a sudden lift in external temperature. When the pilot refuses to move, the head of the surface command centre contacts Alan Morrisey, who is flying towards the island in his private plane. Morrisey is patched through to the vehicle and angrily orders the pilot to proceed. At that moment, however, the temperature abruptly doubles to a level past the vehicle’s safety limit. The next instant, the vehicle is engulfed by magma, which continues to travel up the newly-drilled fissure, rupturing the ocean floor and triggering an explosion that destroys not only the drilling station, but the entire island…. In a local bar, Brian sees a newspaper report of a string of mysterious eruptions around the Pacific Rim, and leaves immediately for Morrisey’s re-built facility. Morrisey tries at first to brush aside Brian’s accusation that his recklessness has brought about the ongoing disaster, but is finally won over by Brian’s claim that the situation is not yet irreversible. He invites Brian to his research facility in Hainan, China. On the flight, Brian meets Dr Allison Saunders (Terry Farrell), PO-APOC’s head of Research & Development, who rebuilt and modified the USDM. Allison describes the seismic phenomena that have occurred so far, including a tsunami resulting from the destruction of the island, which has struck Japan. Brian reveals that his simulations indicate that the next region to be hit will be Central America, and within the next forty-eight hours. Brian and Allison then clash over how to deal with the situation, he insisting that her scheme for drilling holes to release the pressure within the earth will, rather, trigger more eruptions. Brian argues that they must instead use the USDM to plant a series of nuclear devices deep within the deadly fault line, and to set off a chain reaction that will quell the situation by literally re-positioning the earth’s tectonic plates….

Foreword:  My recent personal history with the film Deep Core has been a little, well, peculiar; hence the inclusion in this review not just of one of my regular footnotes, but this foreword as well. I hope you’ll bear with me.

I name-checked Deep Core during my write-up of Tornado!, listing it as an example of the “man’s hubris” school of disaster films. Finishing that fairly brief review, I sent it off for posting that Sunday afternoon, then wandered downstairs to see what was on TV….only to find one of my cable channels playing Deep Core.

As it happened, the screening was nearly over; but what the hell, I thought with a laugh, I’ll watch the end of it anyway. So I flicked over – just in time to see….something….that sent my jaw thudding to the ground. It was gone almost before its import had registered, and I was left in that unnerving state where you’re not quite sure if you’ve seen what you think you’ve seen, or if your eyes are playing tricks. It was almost a week before Deep Core screened again, and I was able to confirm that, nope, I hadn’t been seeing things.

My next action was to send out a cry for help to my fellow B-Masters. It was Will Laughlin of Braineater who answered the call, offering to take a screenshot of – it – if I sent him a copy of the film. I did so; and feeling that no-one who was doing me a favour should be punished by having to watch Deep Core, I also assured him that, “You don’t have to watch the film. Let me know when it arrives, and I’ll tell you what I want.”

Alas for Will, he didn’t realise that I meant those words, You don’t have to watch the film, quite literally: that what I wanted was in the end credits. Instead, he went ahead and watched it, gamely trying to spot the one particular piece of idiocy in a film overflowing with idiocy that had set me off; and, while doing so, sending me a series of e-mails, detailing his thoughts on the subject and demanding to know whether he’d “guessed right”.

And that, my friends, is today’s Extra Special Bonus: Will Laughlin’s Stream-Of-Consciousness Review of Deep Core.

(And, after all that, what was it that set me off? Oh, don’t worry: we’ll get to that….)

****************************

Will’s Review:  “….I'm about 15 minutes in, and this brings up an interesting point... I can only imagine that the moment you speak of must be very, very obvious, because so far I can't think of a moment that isn't completely ridiculous. The CGI airplane avoiding the inaccurately-depicted CGI tsunami is a riot, as is the "All Files Deleted" message on a computer that obviously has to have some files left, and the telecommunicator in the subterranean vehicle, and the wonderful laptop magma detector... I wonder how they beta-tested that software?? And then there's the laughably portentous opening music, with big BOOMs and chimes and stingers (can't get a screenshot of that, though), and the kid-with-a-camcorder roller coaster ride of dutch tilts, and the fact they "accidentally" left the "J." out of Phillip Roth's name in the credits... I can't wait to find out what the REAL howler is….”

“….So it's not the ludicrously inaccurate Chinese stereotypes, nor the hero's apparent fixation with the movie "Gorath", nor the company called "PO-APOC" (!), nor the fact that the oil guy who's supposed to be listening to Verdi's "Falstaff" is in fact listening to a synthesized and inaccurate rendition of Wagner's "Ride of the Walküre"... nor the fact that with no time to lose, the Chinese get pseudo-sp00ks to go all the way to Mexico to get some inexperienced help, one of whom is drunk... .”

“I don't know how much more of this my heart can stand….”

“…..What one thing could it have been? The heat suits that appear to have loose trouser legs? The obvious hole in Saunders's heat-resistant helmet? The ridiculous ship design that failed exactly where I thought it would (at least the writers realized what a problem those stupid outrigger wheels would be...)? The ludicrous river of lava? The big lump of white quartz that's supposed to be raw diamond? The fact that they go and sit on the steaming metal of the vehicle after it emerges, in spite of the fact it was just supposedly immersed in molten rock (though of course it should have been utterly destroyed...)? Or just the fact that they apparently navigate the entire Pacific rim, from Hainan to the US coastline, in only a few minutes, trailing a line of fiber optic cable behind them???….”

“I went into this thing consciously looking for mis-steps, with the result that my brain overloaded before I'd even reached the halfway point. They could have gone swimming in the magma and I probably wouldn't have noticed….”

****************************

Intermission:  Looking from Will’s succinct dismissal of Deep Core to my unnecessarily lengthy review notes, I am rather put in mind of Ken Begg’s pictorial mini-review of Jaws: The Revenge. As Dr Freex said at the time, after a summation like that, what need could there be for further expatiation?

Of course, Ken didn’t let the fact that there was really no need to say anything more stop him; and I’m certainly not about to let it stop me.

 ****************************

My Review:  It was even more appropriate than I realised at the time that I name-checked Deep Core in my review of Tornado! I took the latter film to task for trying to tell a story about the devastation caused by F5 tornados with an effects budget of $0.97; Deep Core, going one better, tries to tell a story about the cataclysmic end of the world on the proceeds of what the producers were able to fish out of a neighbourhood storm sewer using a piece of chewing-gum on the end of a stick.

As you would probably expect for a film dealing with the threatened end of the world, Deep Core opens….ominously. Flames in the background, pseudo-classical music, deep booms on the soundtrack, and everything in super slow motion. We follow a couple of luxury cars as they approach a sprawling building complex set in a rocky hillside. From them emerge Darryl Simmons, a thuggish-looking suited type who might as well have I AM PATENTLY UNTRUSTWORTHY tattooed across his forehead, and a group of equally suited if slightly less patently untrustworthy Chinese people….except that, you know, they’re Chinese. (Chinese! It’s the new Russian!) They proceed towards the complex in super duper slow motion, the scene cutting between shots of the group as a whole and shots of their feet in close-up. You get the impression that director Rodney McDonald was going for a Sam Peckinpah kind of vibe here, but by the end of this untenably drawn out sequence, he seems rather to be channelling Doris Wishman.

Inside the complex, meanwhile, things are a bit livelier, as we are introduced to Brian Goodman and his superior, Alan Morrisey. Brian is a clean-cut and square-jawed individual who, although wearing a white lab coat, has jeans and a coloured shirt on under it. Alan, conversely, has (i) a suit, (ii) a beard, and (iii) a British accent. You do the math. Brian makes a series of portentous statements such as, “The prototype is working too well!” and “We’re going beyond the agreed-upon limits!” While this is going on, possibly to convey that this is EXCITING!! and DRAMATIC!!, possibly to make an arty juxtaposition with the super-static nature of the outside shots (someone went to film school!), the camera executes a rapid series of tilts and swoops and swirls that is literally nauseating. It’s like watching something shot by the Wako Kid. With his shootin’ hand.

“I’m warning you, Alan!” Brian finally sums up, going for the big finish. “If you dig too deep, the ramifications will be irreversible!”

“Trust me,” says Alan.

These words have exactly the effect upon Brian that we might anticipate. With hardly an instant’s hesitation, he heads down into the complex’s control centre and sets about sabotaging his own work – which in the first instance involves turning a lever that looks like it was drafted in from a coffee-grinder, pressing four square red light-up buttons, and slamming his palm down on a bulge in the control panel. I just love it when low-budget films try to do “high-tech”, don’t you? Brian then turns to look through a couple of porthole-like windows into a gigantic metal enclosure, and we get a very indistinct glimpse of his baby, the thuddingly unimpressively named “Ultrasonic Drilling Machine”. He fires up its sonic laser, melts a solid slab of something or other with it, and shakes his head sadly. “At least we know you work,” he reflects, apparently forgetting for the moment that the fact that it worked too well was the problem in the first place. Brian then knuckles down to wiping all the program files for the USDM from the computer system – simply by hitting “delete” – at which inauspicious moment, the Untrustworthy Suit Brigade finally completes its snail’s paced trip across the walkway into the complex. Alan Morrisey hurries to greet them, and the head of the USB (Chinese Division) responds with, “May our future shine bright, with fortune!” – because that, of course, is how Chinese people speak. Thankfully, Brian – still busy at that computer, despite having wiped all the files off it – interrupts any further painful exchanges with a suggestion, rather casually delivered, under the circumstances, that Alan think about evacuating the building.

Reviewing any film always involves watching it at least twice. Sometimes, as in the present case, this can be a bit of a chore, but there’s usually some consolation, such as noticing details you miss the first time around – like the guy sitting about three feet behind Brian when he says distinctly, “I suggest you clear the area”, and when Alan starts bellowing, “Brian, what the hell are you doing!?” – and who doesn’t even look around….

Along with a distinct lack of security, either physical or electronic, it turns out that this marvellous research facility doesn’t have much by way of a warning system, either. In lieu of this, Alan starts waving his arms and shouting, “Clear the building! Get out of here!” Fortunately, this massive building housing an incredibly complex engineering project only has about a dozen employees, so evacuation isn’t such a big deal, no matter how many camera angles they show it from. Our Hero, his work done, takes a stroll almost as leisurely as that executed by the USB earlier, and wanders off. The entire complex then goes up in a massive explosion that….the film-makers couldn’t afford to show us; something that bodes more than a little ill for our tale of The End Of The World As We Know It. Instead, we fade to black….

….and fade back in two years later, to find Brian in the early stages of an extremely lengthy jail term, following his conviction for---

Oh, hang on. No, we don’t. Actually, we find Brian just as free as a bird, earning his living by wildcatting, and working in the Sonoran Desert. How stupid of me to think that his actions might have had some kind of legal repercussion!

(Even allowing for how standard a movie convention is the Designated Hero© and his concomitant Total Legal Exemption, I was so royally pissed off by this scenario that I forwarded a description of the preceding scenes to (ahem) a lawyer acquaintance of mine. Here is her partial list of the charges that could and should have been brought against Our Hero:

“If this were taking place within the reach of Australian jurisdiction, there are many potential breaches of the law: in contract, in tort, of statutory duties under the Corporations Act, and of criminal statutes.

These include:

·         breach of employment contract (assuming he has an employment contract)

·         breach of fiduciary duty

·         various economic torts (eg. causing economic loss to his employer, inducing breaches of contracts, etc.)

·         malicious damage

·         trespass to property

·         discharging a weapon in a public place

·         various (new) terrorist offences

·         reckless endangerment of human life

·         manslaughter (if he killed anyone)

·         assault occasioning grievous bodily harm (if they didn't die)….”

Bad enough, you’d think, but that’s not even what really got up my nose, but rather the fact that Brian makes no attempt to warn anyone before setting things to explode; that having done so, he simply walks out to his car, which is conveniently parked just outside (is it just me, or does this detail rather suggest premeditation?); that he therefore gets to drive to safety, leaving everyone else to do their best on foot; and that although Brian simply walks away, while Alan stays behind to clear the building, we’re still supposed, even at this stage, to find the latter unforgivably villainous, and the former admirably heroic!

But then, Alan’s got a British accent. So screw him.)

A few details later, and we are relieved to discover that however inefficient the American legal system might be, Fate is a little more on the ball. Brian is being punished, having been condemned to spend all of his time with two companions best described as….colourful. No, no – hold your shudders: there’s worse to come. One of the two, Sam Dalton, has a broad southern accent and speaks in nothing but “regional” similes; the other, Rodney Bedecker, is perpetually Walkman-ed, perpetually goofy, and frequently drunk….and, naturally, I may say consequently, is the team’s demolitions expert; because, really, who else would you want handling your explosives?

Oh – and did I mention that he’s played by Wil Wheaton?

You may now commence shuddering. Take as much time as you want. I’ll wait….

(It occurs to me now that by announcing via subtitle that Brian and his people are in “the middle of nowhere”, they might be trying to infer that he has fled from justice to another country; but really….)

Meanwhile, while Brian is experiencing partial justice in the Sonoran Desert, we get our first look at his resurrected baby. I would call it “Thunderbird-esque”, but that would be a gross slander on the talents of the Andersons. The USDM is tunnelling beneath an island somewhere in the South China Sea. Unfortunately for all concerned, instead of the oil it was (presumably) pursuing, the subterranean driller strikes magma. The tunnel it has opened up beneath the earth makes a perfect conduit to the surface for the magma and, well, bye-bye island. This causes some inconvenience not only for the people on the island, but for our old friend Alan, who is being flown towards it in his private plane. We learn here that Alan either keeps his employees on a very, very short leash, or he hires for looks rather than brains: he has to tell his pilot not to land! (“Hey, see that island blowing up in front of us?” “Ohhh, yeahhh….”) We also learn that maybe the film-makers knew what they were doing when they didn’t show us the facility blowing up earlier, as we get our first real taste of what will pass for “special effects” in this film, in the shape of a series of yellow CGI mushrooms popping up all over the island. The culmination of all this is an hilariously unconvincing tsunami, which requires Alan to shriek at his pilot – who, clearly, is no Karen Black – “Altitude! Altitude!!

The disappearance of the island is followed by a series of earthquakes around the Pacific Rim, news of which finally reaches Brian in “the middle of nowhere”, in the course of an utterly excruciating “character” scene set in a bar that seems to go on forever. I’ll spare you. The outcome is that Brian sets out immediately for Alan’s re-built research facility, which astonishingly looks exactly like the old one. That’s not all that hasn’t changed: there’s no security, allowing Brian to sail into Alan’s office and start hurling accusations. He also rattles off a list of sites where earthquakes will shortly occur, these prognostications being the outcome of the “simulations” he apparently knocked together during his trip from “the middle of nowhere” to Alan’s office. Remarkable. Alan – cowardly Brit that he is – quails under the verbal assault. Seeing this, Brian assures him, “There’s still time” – a statement that flatly contradicts what he said the first time he was arguing with Alan, but which serves to get Brian invited to Alan’s other research facility in China, where the “Series II” of the USDM is nearing completion.

And then it’s cute-meet time, with Brian remarking, as he climbs into Alan’s plane (you wouldn’t get me into that thing!), “I’d like to meet the guy who tried to duplicate my research, because whoever he is, he’s got his head up his ass.”

Her ass,” says the guy. And zing goes both the soundtrack and Brian’s heartstrings, as we meet Deep Core’s other Trek alum, Terry Farrell as Dr Allison Saunders, MIT graduate, expert mechanical engineer, and grade A idiot.

I’m going to skip lightly over the next few scenes, at least in this text (Thank God! I hear you cry), since they consist almost entirely of Brian and Allison sneering and sniping at each other in that way that’s meant to mean “uncontrollable attraction”, heaven knows why. I’ll simply say that Brian and Allison are flown to Hainan; Brian comes up with a scheme to save the world via the synchronised detonation of a series of nukes (it’s hard to believe that anyone could be so bereft of imagination as to rip off Deep Core, but having recently watched the mini-series 10.5, well….); and we finally get a good look at the legendary USDM. Also, Simmons finally shows his true colours, emerging from behind his Thuggish Underling façade to reveal himself as Primary Villain. (Note to eee-vil corporate types: when your supposed goon casually reveals himself as capable of getting his hands on nuclear devices, it’s time to re-think your hiring policy.) I do recommend, though, that you hop on over to “Immortal Dialogue” when you’ve finished here, not just to enjoy some truly first class pseudo-science, but for a look at what the illustrious Dr Saunders considers an appropriate way to behave when confronting the imminent end of the world.

At Hainan, Brian has a team of Chinese scientists “whose security clearance is more important than their training” thrust upon him, and rejects the arrangement angrily. In the ensuing argument, Simmons is revealed as being in on a dastardly Chinese plot, while Alan turns out to be his unknowing puppet – weak, not evil; issues with Daddy; you know the drill – so that later on he can redeem himself by giving his life to save Our Heroes. (Oops! Hope I didn’t spoil anything for you!) The first of Brian’s “simulated” earthquakes strikes; and I couldn’t possibly let this section of Deep Core go by without attempting to describe what passes for this earthquake: a shot of the city of Quito….and a shaking camera. And that’s it. Or nearly so. I have the feeling that in the first cut of this film, that was it; but it turned out to be too cheap and ridiculous even for the makers of Deep Core; so they CGI-ed in: one (1) crumbling building; and: one (1) small fire. I tell you, this stuff just warms my heart.

The Great Quito Quake struck earlier than predicted, however, meaning that there is even less time available to take action than realised. So, naturally, the whole project is put on hold while a couple of MiB are sent to track down Sam Dalton and Rodney Bedecker. They find them – boy, do they find them! – holed up in Mexico, the former trashed and singing opera, the latter trashed and drinking tequila shots off a prostitute’s abdomen. Because, as we all know, when it comes to saving the world, no-one gets the job done quite like a bunch of sleazy, drunken, irresponsible morons. Okay, so one of them is a cultured, sleazy, drunken, irresponsible moron; but the point stands.

And I’m sorry, but I have had it with this! – not just the convention that states that when a crisis strikes, the very last people you want in charge are the competent trained professionals (even if they’re not directly responsible for the crisis, which they usually are), but the inference that the sleazy, drunken, irresponsible morons who are called in to save the day are supposed to represent me, the “average viewer”, the “everyday person”; that I’m supposed to identify with them. I don’t know how the rest of you feel about this, but personally, I find it insulting.

Sam and Rodney are flown to Hainan, and spend the whole flight getting even more trashed. Habitual drunkenness: it’s so lovable, isn’t it? Simmons, furious with Morrisey for bringing in Brian’s “team” without consulting him (and really, who can blame him?), comes completely out of the closet, revealing that the USDM has been sold to the Chinese government and modified into a subterranean weapon. He orders the horrified Morrisey to make a part of the mission team and, when the job is done, to assassinate all the others. Who outnumber him. With a handgun. In a confined space. Yeah, that should work.

Meanwhile, watching the nukes loaded, it finally dawns on Allison what those “modifications” to the USDM that she didn’t see fit to question any earlier are for. “I can’t believe I was so stupid!” she cries. Amen, sister! But having no choice, the team of experts boards the USDM and sets out on its mission – and Deep Core enters a phase of deep tedium. Things go sequentially wrong with the machine; the team fixes them. (I may say that it is entirely unclear whether these problems are the result of the USDM being fundamentally unsound – having been, you know, built by a girl – or whether they are, as Bugs Bunny used to say, the result of sabotagey.) The nukes are deployed (about ten yards apart, from the evidence here). And then the USDM breaks down, right beneath the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, and right next to a magma spike like the one that wiped out the first USDM crew. Fortunately, the break is something fixable by two people with a Phillips head screwdriver, so Allison and Rodney pop out to take care of it.

(In a simply nauseating bit, when Allison reports to Brian that it will take about twenty-five minutes to fix the problem, he promises her, if she can do it in fifteen, that he will show her “his favourite magic trick” – causing Allison to simper, giggle – and speed up. The end of the world might be nigh, and all, but we all know that what it really takes to motivate a woman is the promise of a little sugar.)

The USDM fixed, Rodney then announces, for no readily apparent reason, “I’m gunna go back and take a look at the rear tread.”

Well, I said to myself, when watching this film for the first time, you’re dead.

And yes, indeed. That magma spike chooses this moment to break through the surrounding rock, and Rodney melts away under a stream of orange goop like the Wicked Witch of the West.

As Rodney is turned into his component parts, Allison shrieks, backs away, trips over, and knocks herself out – isn’t that just like a girl? – sending Brian rushing to the rescue. He scrambles into a heat suit and out of the USDM, grabbing Allison just as the magma is about to engulf her foot and hauling her inside to safety. She’s perfectly fine, of course, because if the movies have taught us anything, it’s that magma isn’t hot unless you touch it. She collapses in Brian’s arms. “Rodney!” she sobs.

“I know,” says Brian, and proceeds to speak for an entire generation: “It’s okay.”

(Well – maybe not an entire generation…. I have to confess, perhaps to my shame, perhaps not, that I have never travelled very far through the Trek universe. Consequently, I have never contracted the virulent hatred of Wil Wheaton and all his works that infects and motivates so many. I have many friends in the Anti-Wesley League, though, and you may believe me when I tell you that this scene brings them to a point of literally orgasmic pleasure.

As for me, well, even if I do eventually take a trip through that universe, I’m not sure I’ll ever really be a fully paid-up member of the AWL; not, at any rate, after finding the following quote from Mr Wheaton himself:

“Way back in the year 2000, I did an incredibly shitty movie called Deep Core, about a motley crew of misfits who head to the center of the earth to save the world from some . . . big . . . magma . . . something. It’s one of those embarrassing ‘I gotta pay the bills’ movies that all actors have on their resumes and would like to forget….”

Anyhoo….)

Inside the USDM, the return of Brian and Allison saves Sam, who despite orders has refused to go on without them, from a bullet in the head, courtesy of Alan. Brian hears of Pinatubo’s eruption, and announces, “We’re just about out of time!” And then we get one of those peculiar little “personal morality” scenes that do tend to crop up in disaster movies. When Brian reports that Rodney has bitten it, Simmons has the temerity simply to inquire after the vehicle – thus revealing himself instantly as a traitor both to his country and to humanity.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t a functional USDM necessary to the survival of the entire planet?? Yet Simmons is supposed to be worse than Hitler, just because he doesn’t break down into hysterics upon hearing of the death of someone he barely knows, but instead concentrates on the issue at hand. What makes this even more bizarre is that Brian and Sam are both doing the square-jawed, dry-eyed, no-time-to-grieve routine themselves! (Not Allison, of course, ‘cos she’s a girl.) So it’s all right for them, but not for Simmons!?

Anyway, despite Brian’s announcement about time running out, this is the moment they choose to shut down the USDM and have a little chat with Alan. It goes as expected: blah-blah, greedy, blah-blah, please believe me, blah-blah, lost sight of what’s important, blah-blah, never meant it to turn out like this, blah-blah. The upshot of all this is the revelation that the nukes can be set off from up top via the linking fibre optic cable; and that the cable itself has a dead man’s trigger, so that if they sever communication, the nukes will detonate automatically.

But more important matters press, like the USDM’s hilarious encounter with a miles-wide wall of what is supposed to be raw diamonds, but which looks like tinfoil, sparkles and plastic. The laser can’t cut through diamond, you see, so they’re forced to detour….and with the extra distance, here endeth the trailing fibre optic cable. This gives Alan his opportunity, and he locks himself into the bomb pod, which is jettisoned, buying the others twenty minutes by running a diagnostics program that prevents the immediate detonation of the bombs….and running down his own clock by playing computer solitaire. Oh, ain’t it poignant? Meanwhile, the other three are left to come up with some way of clearing the blast area – and then Sam notices those convenient nearby channels that carry magma to the surface. And yes, Our Heroes decide to plunge on in, and ride that magma to, uh, safety. The USDM breaks through into the molten rock (“It’s gunna get rough now!” Brian helpfully informs his colleagues) just as Alan’s diagnostics program finishes running, and the delayed detonation takes place. (“Hold on!” advises Mr Bleeding Obvious.)

And I gotta admit--- I’ve been terribly, terribly hard on Deep Core, but the magma-surfing sequence very nearly won me over. After all, I sat here last week confessing a love for Monster From The Ocean Floor based on its glove-puppet monster. How, then, can I not love a film whose big climactic scene features a Tonka toy bobbing around on a river of cartoon magma?

As the blast rips through the very planet, the USDM is hurtled to the surface, its crew dramatically – and briefly – losing consciousness. Brian comes to first, naturally, and blinks at the sunlight overhead. I wish it were Allison who was conscious: then I could ask her why her subterranean driller has a glass lid – and why the three of them weren’t consequently baked to death on the way up.

And sure enough, the USDM is sitting on the ocean surface, supported by rapidly-hardening magma….or lava, I guess it is now. Brian climbs out onto what still should be a killingly hot roof, Allison follows, and the inevitable clinch follows. Sam picks up radio signals to the effect that both the American and the Russian Coast Guards are hurrying towards them (because, of course, with the entire world crumbling under non-stop seismic catastrophes, they wouldn’t have anything more important to worry about); and the threat of the USDM being used as a weapon is entirely averted; because, as we all know, once the technology for a weapon becomes generally available, no-one ever bothers to use that weapon again – right?

Oh….hang on a minute….

Click here for some truly Immortal Dialogue!

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Afterword:  So – after all that fuss up top, what was it that sent me into such a fit of hysterics?

Just imagine, my friends, what it was like for me that Sunday afternoon, turning on my television and at that exact instant, seeing this in the credits for Deep Core:

It was, to say the least, a disconcerting moment. I guess now I know exactly how Homer Simpson felt, when he inexplicably found his own face on a box of Japanese dishwashing powder. At any rate, I reacted with precisely the same kind of panicky whimpering noises that he made.

Now, as far as I know, I haven’t done anything for which the good people at UFO might want to thank me – if anything, au contraire – so the only conclusion that I can draw is that, somewhere out there, I have a doppelganger; a doppelganger who devotes her time, her talent, perhaps even her money, to ensuring that films like Deep Core get made and released.

I hardly know whether to be thrilled or appalled….

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