Fantasies made in Maryland

Movies: Gritty city, idyllic and evil villages, there's no escape

our state is so photogenic.

August 03, 1999

THE ONLY summer movies that are not gross, immature or truly stupid are made in Maryland. No surprise. These are the box office smasheroos. Maryland is the star. The actors just decorate.

But get this: The whole thing is fake. These are not documentaries but acts of the imagination. Maryland is acting. Doesn't matter what role, Maryland can play it.

Here we were crying in our milk that "Homicide: Life on the Street," had died. The television drama portrayed Baltimore streets as the archetypal urban pathology in America.

But no sooner is "Homicide" over than rural Maryland pops up in cineplexes coast to coast. In each of the two biggest hit movies of summer, it is the antithesis of itself as portrayed in the other.

The blockbuster, "The Runaway Bride," is about the heart of small-town America, where an old-fashioned hardware store is run by a marriage-challenged woman who is just a little too skinny but has a smile lovely as all Julia Roberts. Her plight attracts a big-city news hound (yes, real male reporters have the looks and charm of Richard Gere; it's a fact).

That's Berlin in the lead, playing a fictional Hale, Md., where the eternal virtues of wonderful small-town America are stored.

The unexpected second-ranking hit, "The Blair Witch Project," is scary because the horrors are off camera in the viewer's imagination. This was made on a tiny budget by people just out of film school. Burkittsville stars as the fictional Blair, Md., a small town of such Gothic horrors as only an Edgar Allan Poe might have created.

The real Burkittsville is nothing like that. Site of the almost unknown Battle of Crampton's Gap in the Civil War, it is better known as the crossroad east of beautiful Gathland State Park, home of the memorial arch to correspondents of the Civil War. What a nice thing to be.

And Berlin, (the one in Maryland, not that other one starring in the German low-budget hit, "Run, Lola, Run,") is no fictional Hale. It is the center of a growing resort and retirement area across Isle of Wight Bay from Ocean City. Hardly Remotesville.

So don't mourn for the lost city that "Homicide" fled. Baltimore will rise again, on film.

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