The sequel to sequels: media-merger movies

If the follow-ups are winding up, what's next may be some rather unlikely combinations.

June 20, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Are the days of the sequel numbered -- or rather, Roman numeraled?.................... This summer film season, for the first time in memory, audiences have had to deal (albeit happily, say box-office receipts) with but a single sequel ("Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me") and a single prequel ("Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace").

"Lethal Weapon," the Mel Gibson vehicle that went from zero to IV in 11 years, will have no '99 model. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose most famous film line is "I'll be back," won't be: The Terminator's term limit was two. This die-hard genre -- indeed, this "Die Hard" genre -- appears comatose.

If so, audiences will never see Denzel Washington in "Malcolm XX" or Brad Pitt in "Seven 11." Then again, one lesson horror sequels teach is that the villain is never quite dead.

It takes little imagination -- and Hollywood executives have just that -- to envision the grim future. Inevitably, as more studios consolidate and media mergers proliferate, companies will comb their catalogs of successful sequels, gene-splicing different genres together to form lucrative new franchises. We understand the following already may be in development:

'The Thin Man With the Golden Gun'

In this unholy matrimony of film franchises wrought from the writings of Dashiell Hammett and Ian Fleming, the new Thin Man (Alan Thicke) and his even thinner wife (Calista Flockhart) founder in a much, much thinner plot entailing a solid-gold Beretta (Robert Blake) and peppered with product placements (Wheat Thins, Rold Gold pretzels, Gulden's mustard). The couple rubs elbows with The Man With The Golden Arm (a woefully miscast Hideki Irabu), head of the reviled organization Jobless, Obscure Ex-Performers Inflicting Senseless Chaos on Public Order (J.O.E.P.I.S.C.O.P.O.).

The Thin Man-James Bond franchises are revived; alas, the audience cannot be.

'Father of the Bride of Frankenstein'

You remember her: That twitching, lurching woman with a frightening muddle of hair and a scream like mating cheese graters. But enough about Diane Keaton, female lead in "Father of the Bride" I and II. This time, director John Frankenheimer stitches the 1991 lite comedy to the 1935 horror classic (and meta-sequel) "Bride of Frankenstein." Steve Martin once again plays the father.

Martin, whose toy canon of New Yorker "casuals" has become prescribed reading in Viennese sleep-disorder clinics, finds his long-lost muse, which has been in a federal witness protection program since 1986's "Three Amigos!"

Scheduled for 2002: "Godfather of the Bride of Frankenstein."

'Austin, Texas, Chain Saw Massacre'

A (con)fusion of "Austin Powers" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" in which Mike Myers, as the dentally ill British superspy, has his part cut. Fortunately, doctors are able to sew it back on.

'Bruce Wayne's World of Apu'

A Bermuda triangulation of sequel machines: "Batman," "Wayne's World" and "The World of Apu," Satyajit Ray's 1959 tour de force. A pirated copy of the soundtrack master tape has yielded an underground hit single in England: "My Pappadum Told Me."

Already in the can is an arranged marriage between Ray's 1955 feature "Pather Panchali" and Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau. The result is due out next summer: "Pink Panther Panchali."

'Sherlock Holmes Alone'

The Red-Headed League (lounge comics Red Buttons, Red Skelton, Redd Foxx and Shecky Greene) opens a British branch of the Friars Club at 221-A Baker St. Their relentless roasting, interminable toasting and Borscht-Belt-boasting exasperates the rabbit-eared resident of apartment 221-B, young Sherlock Holmes (MacCauley Culkin).

'2048 Hours'

This puzzling film is a sort of Rubik's Kubrick in which Kubrick's rubric is Confuse the Viewer. HAL, the murderous computer from "2001" and "2010," has been working malevolently at an airline reservation counter. He is really having computer problems: Ravaged by the Melissa virus, made anxious by Y2K hysteria, incompatible with the Apple of his eye, Hal (IBM's Big Blue) uplinks with Microsoft's mainframe and transfers $27 of Bill Gates' fortune to charity.

Outraged, Gates enlists Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, the buddy team of "48 Hours" and "Another 48 Hours," to help take a byte out of crime.

Chevy Chase, the self-styled "King of All Sequels" ("Caddyshack," "National Lampoon's Vacation," "Fletch") cameos in multiple alien roles: a Vulcan, a Romulan, a Talaxian, a Comedian.

Pub Date: 06/20/99

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