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Badham, John

Entry updated 6 December 2022. Tagged: Film, People.

(1939-    ) US film-maker who showed a penchant for sf as far back as his early television work on Rod Serling's Night Gallery (1970-1972), for which he directed adaptations of stories by Basil Copper ("Camera Obscura") and Fritz Leiber ("The Girl with the Hungry Eyes"). For the portmanteau television film Three Faces of Love he directed Kurt Vonnegut Jr's "Epicac", a forerunner of Badham's big-screen involvement with Computers and Robots which develop human characteristics. His first feature-length genre piece was Isn't It Shocking? (1973), a well-done made-for-tv movie about a gadget-wielding murderer preying on the elderly.

Badham's first theatrical feature was The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings (1976). He followed up the enormous success of Saturday Night Fever (1977) with a lush, romantic, somewhat shallow version of Dracula (1979) and the soapy Who's Life Is It Anyway? (1981). Then in the 1980s Badham turned out a commercially successful trilogy of borderline sf films on mechanist themes: Blue Thunder (1983), WarGames (1983) and Short Circuit (1986). All three deal with superweapons – a police helicopter, a vast military computer and a military Robot – that turn against violence, through, respectively, human intervention, logical reasoning and a divine lightning bolt. These are Machine movies, dependent on the glamour of robotry while distrustful of Technology without a "heart", suffused with impeccable liberal sentiment of an increasingly stereotypical and less thoughtful variety. This is indicated by the change from the hard-edged Blue Thunder, a paranoid conspiracy movie, to the childish Short Circuit, which is essentially a reworking of Disney's The Love Bug (1969) with a robot instead of a Volkswagen. Subsequently Badham directed professional, impersonal thrillers like Stakeout (1987), Bird on a Wire (1990), The Hard Way (1991), Point of No Return (1993; vt The Assassin UK) and Another Stakeout (1993). [KN/PN]

see also: Cinema; Villains.

John MacDonald Badham

born Luton, Bedfordshire: 25 August 1939


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