As Operation Desert Storm winds down, a debate is cranking up in Hollywood about how to handle the historic Middle East conflict.
On one side are the low-budget independents, filmmakers such as Roger Corman and Menachem Golan, fast readying products that pit allied forces against Iraqi enemies. By spring, expect "Desert Shield" on a multiplex marquee near you.
On the other side are the nine major studios that, for the most part, are going out of their way to avoid dealing with the Persian Gulf crisis. In fact, Disney has gone so far as to change one of its forthcoming projects, "The Ultimatum," to eliminate the Arab-terrorist element that was a key facet of its original script.
"It's smarter for the Hollywood studios not to make such movies," says Martin A. Grove, film analyst and columnist for the industry trade journal, the Hollywood Reporter. "For one thing, there's the lead time: It takes 18 months to two years, from writing a script to the finished answer print ready for release."
Nonetheless, scrappy little independents such as Corman's Concorde Pictures and Golan's 21st Century Film Corp. are racing to get their war pics out there. A list of forthcoming gulf flicks includes:
* "Desert Shield." When this project, starring Rob Lowe and Gale Hansen, was first green-lighted, it bore the title "S.E.A.L.S." and dealt with two Navy SEALS who get caught up in the Iran/Iraq conflict. But when events in the gulf grew volatile, the movie's story line was updated. According to a 21st Century Film Corp. press release, "Desert Shield" now deals with two Navy officers whose mission is to destroy an installation where the Iraqi military "is stockpiling missiles and chemicals with plans to launch an attack on its oil-rich neighbors." It's slated for a late April release.
* "Target U.S.A." Starring Anthony James and Keiri Smith, the film, shot in Israel, Egypt, France, Belgium and Nevada, centers on Iraqi terrorists who try to take over a U.S. town. The Trans Continental Films release is due out, say its producers, this spring.
* "Shield of Honor." Executive producer Corman's combat drama, which stars David Carradine, originally featured Libyan nemeses. But the villains were recast as Iraqis following Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Late summer or fall release is likely.