'The Abyss' Screening: James Cameron Underwater Sci-Fier

The Abyss by James Cameron
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in The Abyss

The Abyss, the costly, special-effect-laden, deep-sea adventure drama about underwater aliens and a bickering married couple, will be screened at a special 20th anniversary event by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Tuesday, June 23, at 7:30 p.m. at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood.

This Academy screening will premiere a newly struck 35mm print from the Academy Film Archive. Considering that The Abyss boasts awesome underwater cinematography and first-rate visual and sound effects, this is a great chance to catch it on the big screen.

Pseudopod, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Ed Harris in The Abyss

Presented by the Academy's Science and Technology Council, the evening will be hosted by film historian and author Eric Lichtenfeld and will feature an onstage panel discussion on how film science and technology helped to shape The Abyss. Among the guests are members of the film's Oscar-winning visual effects team, John Bruno, Dennis Skotak and Hoyt Yeatman, and nominees Mikael Salomon (Cinematography) and Lee Orloff (Sound), in addition to John Knoll, the movie's computer graphics designer who specialized in the development of the Pseudopod (the alien) creature elements, the first use of digitally animated CG water.

Directed and written by James Cameron, The Abyss has plenty of gusto and imagination. Unfortunately, it lacks both maturity and narrative cohesiveness.

Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in The AbyssEven so, despite Cameron's ludicrous screenplay about a US team of oil-rig workers trying to prevent World War III after an American nuclear submarine crashes during the late phase of the Cold War, The Abyss is surprisingly enjoyable. That's not only because of the classy effects, but also thanks to the performances of Ed Harris and the underused Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (right) as the Battling Brigmans. The film's “romantic” finale is cringe-inducing, but what happens before that, however absurd, is a hoot.

Less funny were the headlines at the time The Abyss was being made, as the film's stars locked horns with Cameron, who by then had developed the reputation of being a despot on the set. Equally unfunny were the film's disappointing box office revenues.

Also in the Abyss cast: Michael Biehn (of Cameron's The Terminator), Leo Burmster, Todd Graff.

The print to be screened will be the original 1989 theatrical release, not the extended 1993 version that showed up on home video.

Tickets to The Abyss are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Tickets are available for purchase by mail, at the Academy box office (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), or online at www.oscars.org. Doors open one hour prior to the event. All seating is unreserved.

The Linwood Dunn Theater is located at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood. For more information call (310) 247-3600 or visit www.oscars.org.

Photos: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library

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