Second Union

Second Union


In the future, the world has survived. Romance has not.
Pleasure is strictly business. But it will be possible to have the perfect mate…a Cherry 2000. Thoughtful. Desirable. She’ll never run out on him. Just short out.

The year is 2017 and the US has fragmented into post-apocalyptic wastelands peppered with pockets of civilization. Sex has turned from a social interaction to a bureaucratic business transaction, making some men give up on real women and turn to robots, known as Gynoids. When recycling executive Sam Treadwell (David Andrews) gets frisky in a wet kitchen with his Gynoid, she fritzes out, sending him on a trip through the treacherous, lawless Zone 7 with her memory disc to find a replacement body for her.
Teamed with unnaturally red-haired human female ‘tracker’ E Johnson (Melanie Griffith), and encountering Six-Fingered Jake (Ben Johnson) and Lester (Tim Thomerson), it’s a wild trip through the remains of Las Vegas to find…Cherry 2000!

Directed by Steve De Jarnatt in his feature film directing debut. His only prior credit was a 1985 Alfred Hitchcock Presents segment from the pilot episode of that series (unless you count the short film he wrote in 1978.) He later directed some television-ER, Nash Bridges, Lizzie McGuire.
Michael Almereyda, a writer/director I had never heard of but is now on my radar, wrote the screenplay. Looking through his filmography, he has several films with intriguing ideas. I want to check out his 2015 film Experimenter, about the famed Milgram Experiment; as well as 2017’s Marjorie Prime, which postulates a world where you can have your deceased loved ones recreated through a holographic representation; and the upcoming Tesla with Ethan Hawke…once we can have movie releases again.
The original story was by the late Lloyd Fonvielle (The Lords of Discipline, The Bride, The Mummy-1999.) Writing this, I realize Fonvielle showed up one Sunday morning along with Tommy Lee Jones to the movie theater I was working at to privately screen his 1988 film, Gotham. Fonvielle and Jones sat otherwise alone in the 319 seat theater and afterward, a stoic Jones hung out leaning on the concession stand munching on popcorn as patrons filed in, with nobody recognizing him. He had grown out a beard and his hair was all white for Lonesome Dove, then filming in nearby Brackettville, Texas.

The soundtrack was done by the great Basil Poledouris (Conan the Barbarian, The Hunt for Red October, Robocop) and at times seemed to emulate passages from Robocop, which ended up being released before Cherry 2000 was. The sappy love theme early in the film makes way for more familiar Poledouris- with vigorous drums, horns, strings, and wind instruments in an odd, even bizarre thematic mix which emulates the film’s themes.
Fun fact: due to the time this film sat on the shelf, the CD soundtrack was also shelved until later released by the Varèse Sarabande CD Club in a limited run of 1500 copies. Now a collector’s item, one reportedly sold on eBay for $2,500.

For a lower budget ($10 million) film that Orion never bothered to release theatrically in the US, the film brings up a number of interesting concepts as it presents its vision of a post-apocalyptic America. Due to an extreme economic breakdown with 40% unemployment, there is virtually no manufacturing, and the cities that have restored operations have a heavy emphasis on recycling and re-purposing everything, including aging 20th century equipment. The legal transactions entered into by prospective sex partners are reminiscent of the sexual consent apps already in use today…(this oral clause…seems a little sticky.) Far outside cities, vast areas of wasteland are ruled by despotic tyrants and those that follow them. I personally find this one of the more likely future scenarios we may face as soon as later this century as we deal with climate change and political extremism.

Miscellany: The film contains a lot of sexually related themes, references and situations for a PG-13 rating. It almost certainly would be slapped with an R today. Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet (1956) and Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) are seen in the robot repairman’s shop. E’s car is a modified 1965 Ford Mustang equipped with oversized Yokahama Super Digger off-road racing tires. Jake’s cave is filled with General Electric “Toast-R-Oven” boxes, with the company logo and the “R” in the brand name painted over. In a later wide shot, showing a wall of hundreds of them, the brand was not painted over and the product name can be read in full.

Cherry 2000 was shot entirely in Nevada and the list of locations reads like a summer road trip. The van plunging into an open pit was shot at the highly recognizable Three Kids Mine, which is seen in the trailer. The river-crossing sequence was filmed at the Hoover Dam. Scenes at the Sky Ranch were filmed at the Beehive group camping area in the Valley of Fire State Park. E and Sam’s first kiss was filmed in the upper reaches of the Las Vegas Wash. Adobe Flats was filmed at Eldorado Valley Dry Lake Bed. The town of Goldfield, Nevada stood in for the Zone 7 settlement of Glory Hole. (Cue Bortus: “Now entering Glory Hole.”) The Integratron building in Landers, California, was used as the casino that was the “abandoned manufacturing plant” holding a rare copy of the outdated Cherry 2000 Gynoid model at the end of the film. The fortress-like building featured in the film is in Commerce, California, at the location of a former tire factory, which was renovated and transformed into the Citadel Outlet Mall.

Produced by Orion Pictures, the film was in the can by December 1985 and originally scheduled for an August 1986 release. Since the film was a jumble of styles and genres, Orion kept postponing the release while trying to figure out how to promote the film. Finally releasing it at a Portuguese film festival in early 1988, the film was released in Europe; but Orion gave up on a domestic theatrical release altogether and just put it straight to VHS in North America at the end of the year.
The original 2001 DVD release is long out of print, but Kino Lorber did a decent Bluray/DVD combo version in 2015, which is still available.

Cherry 2000 is now streaming on Apple TV, Amazon Video, and Vudu.

Socially Distant Cinema is a column that will regularly point you to content from the 70s/80s currently available on various platforms that may bring you some entertainment during these periods of physical distancingand beyond.

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