VHS Revival brings you all the box office and rental news from June 1993.
June 1993 was all about one movie: the long-anticipated adaptation of Michael Crichton’s prehistoric Techno-thriller Jurassic Park.
In hindsight, it is hard to imagine anyone other than Spielberg at the helm of such a big-money extravaganza, but everyone from Tim Burton to Richard Donner were clambering for the hotseat until Universal finally won out and snatched the rights. Naturally, they presented their prize asset to the man who gave birth to the summer blockbuster, who after years of lending his name to other high-profile projects was back with what promised to be his biggest movie to date.
With most of Hollywood queuing to take park in Spielberg’s latest groundbreaking attraction, the film would boast a colourful, all-star cast, including Sam Neill as a palaeontologist with an aversion to kids, Jeff Goldblum as a neurotic, fast-talking mathematician, and the gargantuan presence that was Sir Richard Attenborough as a mild-mannered industrialist with a naive disposition (quite the contradiction, no?).
But the real star of the show came in the form of the movie’s groundbreaking computer effects and a wonder of animatronics that would prove something of a last hurrah as CGI reared its carnivorous head and positioned itself for evolutionary devastation.
The tale of a prehistoric theme park with not-so-surprising consequences, Crichton’s novel had attracted the attention of Spielberg long before it was even published, and for a director with spectacle in his blood there was only ever one marquee attraction in mind: the Tyrannosaurus Rex. An awe-inspiring creation which stood 20-feet tall and 40 feet long, the lifelike T-Rex was front-and-centre for some classic Spielberg moments, including a nail-biting set-piece involving a deeply inquisitive beast and a couple of derailed theme park jeeps, but the pack-hunting velociraptors proved a mesmerising creation in their own right, and almost succeeded in stealing the show in a series of breathless sequences.
Still, nothing beats the entrance of the mammoth T, and Spielberg would even alter the screenplay to cater to the king of the dinosaurs, turning history’s most fearsome carnivorous beast into a quasi-hero for the movie’s epic climax, his marquee attraction inadvertently rescuing our beaten protagonists from a vicious raptor triumvirate (‘Inadvertently’ being the key word here, (Jurassic World).
Although the movie seemed to disappoint some critics who felt that the director was simply going through the motions, Spielberg was perhaps a victim of his own seminal standards, and for its target audience the movie more than lived up to the hype, grossing three times that of its closest box office competitor with an incredible $357,067,947 in the US alone.
Refusing to bow to the world’s biggest director, the world’s biggest actor would hit back the following week with action-comedy meta-flop Last Action Hero. His first starring role since returning as the T-800 in James Cameron‘s record-swamping sequel Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Arnie continued his pursuit of family-friendly roles as he looked to further ingratiate himself with political circles following his marriage to JFK relative Maria Shriver, becoming the hero for yet another cutesy kid cut from the Hollywood mould.
Reuniting with action director extraordinaire John McTiernan (Predator), America’s favourite import plays a fictional actor forced into the role of real-life tough guy after an assassin from his Jack Slater film universe slips into reality and threatens the life of a young fan. For all its potential and cute ‘reality altering’ images (particularly a moment when our hero walks past an image of Sylvester Stallone starring in T2 in his place), the movie comes across as somewhat half-baked and would mark the beginning of a downturn for both actor and director. If any movie is deserving of the modern reboot treatment, this is surely it.
Breezing into theatres during the third week of June was Nora Ephron’s crowd-pleasing romcom Sleepless in Seattle, and though swamped by dinosaur fever, for a relatively low-key love story, it did incredible numbers in its own right. Starring Tom Hanks as a grieving widower plunged into action by his concerned eight-year-old son (you’ll either want to hug him or punch him), Sleepless In Seattle‘s savvy brand of saccharine wish-fulfilment would earn it two Oscar nominations and a legion of teary female fans, thanks in large part to Meg Ryan’s turn as a lovelorn news reporter who sees her own An Affair to Remember in Hanks’ idealistic stranger.
Made at a time when a Nirvana-led Seattle was the hip capital of America, the movie is now regarded by many as the pinnacle of the sub-genre, and was so successful with audiences that it would even spawn a largely troubled musical adaptation that is yet to find a home, proving that some stories are better suited to the screen. The movie that would catapult Hanks to male lead superstardom, Sleepless in Seattle would achieve a worldwide gross of almost $230,000,000, with a domestic opening weekend of $17,253,733.
Comic book adaptations have become almost second nature to filmmakers in the 21st century, but comic strip adaptations remain a tricky proposition indeed. This is due mainly to the fact that comic strip characters are largely one-dimensional, simple plot devices for miniature tales that stretch no further than a couple of sight gags and catchphrases, and Nick Castle’s 1993 adaptation of Hank Ketcham’s Dennis the Menace was a trickier prospect than most.
To be fair, Castle did an admiral job of recreating that world. So did Walter Matthau as prime target and disgruntled neighbour Mr. Wilson, capturing the strange masochism of Kethcham’s hand-drawn nightmare, particularly in a scene in which Dennis catapults an Asprin into the curmudgeon’s mouth as he feigns sleep. Starring Mason Gamble as the tenacious little tyke who turns the idyll of suburbia into all-out domestic warfare, the movie was criticised for a heavy-handed approach deemed too explicit and sexual in nature for its peewee demographic.
Boy, how times have changed!
Closing June with a bang was Sydney Pollack’s tense law thriller The Firm. Based on the hugely popular John Grisham novel, it tells the story of Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise), a young go-getter who swoops after the American Dream and lands in a corporate community with a sinister underbelly. Another movie casting Cruise as the too-trusting whippersnapper forced into action, The Firm is a tapestry of twists and turns that that pushes all the right buttons in spite of a typically superfluous running time.
The movie also benefits from a whole fleet of superlative character performances, not least from a top of his game Gene Hackman as a flawed mentor who decides to aid the firm’s naive protege, leading to a labyrinthine race against time that sees McDeere finally prove his worth in a manner that his superiors could never have imagined. The movie also stars Jeanne Tripplehorn as Mitch’s long-suffering wife and Gary Busey as a fast-talking private eye who bites off more than he can chew. Sacrificing much of the novel’s meatier material for a Hollywood-friendly star vehicle, this nonetheless entertaining movie is very much a product of its time.
US Box Office Charts for June
||Total Gross / Opening|
|2||Sleepless in Seattle||Tristar||$126,680,884||$17,253,733|
|3||Dennis the Menace||Warner||$51,270,765||$9,331,139|
|4||Last Action Hero||Columbia||$50,016,394||$15,338,241|
|5||What’s Love Got to Do With It||Buena Vista||$39,100,956||$1,222,718|
The June 1993 rental charts were dominated by two high-profile, McClane-inspired action vehicles, but a few creative flops and sleeper hits made for a rather eclectic month. Two very different movies would lead the way, each spending two weeks in the number one spot. The first of those was Jonathan Lynn’s The Distinguished Gentleman. Starring 80’s comic powerhouse Eddie Murphy as a conman elected to congress on a fraudulent technicality, the movie would mark the beginning of a creative downturn for the once infallible comic.
A screwball comedy ideal for the funnyman’s inimitable style of delivery, the movie trudges along at a pace that prohibits the actor from shining. It also takes a by-the-numbers route with material that screams acerbic, a fact punctuated by a gutless romance and the kind of upbeat ending custom made for Hollywood’s billion-dollar treacle machine. An outright flop financially, The Distinguished Gentleman would rob Murphy of an edge we would rarely see thereafter.
The second of those movies starred a peak of his powers Wesley Snipes as a resourceful airline security official in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of two action blockbusters hogging the rental charts for the month of June, Passenger 57 is the story of a group of international terrorists who hijack a plane with the intention of freeing a fellow terrorist under FBI supervision, leading to your typical high-kicking antics and the cult one-liner “Always bet on black!”
After capturing the hearts of a generation as the star of Ron Shelton‘s bittersweet buddies-and-basketball flick White Men Can’t Jump, Snipes would take up the action movie mantle, eventually starring alongside Sylvester Stallone in sci-fi Juggernaut Demolition Man before landing the lead in the Blade comic book trilogy, and Passenger 57 was the movie that moulded him. The Die Hard on a plane production would also mark the Hollywood debut of British actress and future Austin Powers lead, Liz Hurley, having previously starred in Spanish films Remando al viento and El largo invierno.
Another Warner Bros. action extravaganza aping the McTiernan mode was Andrew Davis’s Die Hard on a boat Steven Seagal vehicle Under Siege. The story of (you guessed it) a gang of terrorists who hijack a Navy battleship, the movie is much slicker than its Snipes-led counterpart thanks to a smarter screenplay, superior cast, and, ultimately, bigger budget. It also piles on the irony by having our hero play a cook who manages to avoid neutralisation and sets about liberating his countrymen with the help of birthday-girl-in-a- cake love interest, Jordan Tate, played by former Playboy playmate, Erika Eleniak.
Perhaps Seagal’s finest achievement as an action star, the movie also benefits from two of action cinema’s finest bad guy actors in Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey, the former an embittered ex-CIA operative-turned-terrorist, the latter a wonderfully deranged executive officer who betrays the crew of the USS Missouri by serving as Jones’ inside man. Of Seagal’s role, screenwriter J. F. Lawton said, “We are trying to make him [Seagal] more mainstream . . . getting him out of the pure action genre and into an acting role.” A quarter of a century later and it’s safe to say that the industry gave up on that idea.
Another action thriller creeping into the top 5 for June of ’93 was Walter Hill‘s cruelly underrated crossover romp Tresspass. The story of two Arkansas firemen who go in search of gold inside an abandoned factory in East St. Louis, the movie would take the leap from treasure map adventure to Boyz n the Hood territory, as a group of gangbangers stumble upon their get-rich-quick plot and attempt to steal the spoils for themselves.
Previously responsible for superlative gangland movie The Warriors, as well as cynical buddy comedy 48 Hrs, Hill is a master of male-led action, and although Tresspass doesn’t quite live up to those lofty heights, the movie hits all the right notes comercially, thanks in no small part to some wonderful casting in the form of William Sadler and the late Bill Paxton as the movie’s backs-to-the-wall protagonists, and real-life rappers Ice Cube and Ice-T as their ruthless, streetwise aggressors.
June would also see a series of low-key classics creep up the rental charts. The most significant of those was violent gangster flick Reservoir Dogs, the debut of legendary director Quentin Tarantino. An almost scene-for-scene remake of Hong Kong director Ringo Lang’s 1987 crime thriller City on Fire, the movie would freshen the fold by introducing us to QT’s seminal use of dialogue as more than just a means for exposition, a style that was inventive enough to attract a whole host of screen legends, including Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, and an up-and-coming Steve Buscemi.
The story of a jewel heist gone wrong, the movie would also star Tim Roth as an undercover cop forced to sweat it out as word of a rat reaches the fleeing gang, leading to a series of excruciating scenes in an abandoned warehouse that would go on to make pop culture history. An exercise in style with the kind of seminal violence that turned all the right heads, the movie would prove a worthy platform for one of the most influential filmmakers of recent times, a promising precursor to the director’s subsequent masterpiece Pulp Fiction.
Another movie floating around the number 10 position was James Foley’s real estate drama Glengarry Glen Ross. An update on Arthur Miller’s Tony Award winning play The Death of a Salesman, the movie tells the story of a team of hapless salesmen on the verge of the corporate scrapheap as big business threatens to alter the sales landscape irrevocably, and when the firm’s office is burgled and lucrative leads for top real estate stolen, the temperature soon reaches boiling point in a crumbling community of claustrophobic distrust and self-preservation.
Adapted from David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name, the movie would feature a series of superlative character performances from some of cinema’s greatest, including Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin and Jack Lemmon as a once hotshot salesman teetering on the brink. Hovering over them like a noose around their futures is charismatic cutthroat Richard Roma (Al Pacino), a parasitic creature who survives the office arena like a bloodshot hyena guarding a bed of bones. Firmly in Scarface mode, the actor would receive a best supporting actor nomination at the 65th Academy Awards, but was pipped to the post by Gene Hackman for his colossal role in Best Director Clint Eastwood’s game-changing western Unforgiven.
Another relatively low-key masterwork pervading the top 10 was industry darling Robert Altman’s biting Hollywood satire The Player. The film stars Tim Robbins as Griffin Mill, a greedy executive whose luxury lifestyle comes under jeopardy after a hungry young competitor threatens to burst the haven of his corporate bubble, leading to a series of mysterious death threats and the accidental murder of a disgruntled writer.
Robbins is wonderful as Mill, who in the wake of the plot’s oddball death spends the rest of the movie in self-preservation mode, his increasingly desperate attempts to cover his tracks resulting in a borderline-repugnant character who is almost impossible to hate thanks to a clever screenplay with a keen and humorous eye.
Blessed with a series of high-profile cameos from celebrities lapping up the self-caricature, the movie would earn Altman the Award for Best Director at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival and a second run at Hollywood following years of monetary issues relating to a series of critically acclaimed movies lacking the correct box office appeal. An auteur who rejected convention for much of his career, the late Altman is now widely regarded as a master of the art form.
Video Rental Charts Week Ending June 5th
|1||Passenger 57||Warner Bros.||1992||R|
|2||Under Siege||Warner Bros.||1992||R|
|3||The Distinguished Gentleman||Hollywood||1992||R|
Video Rental Charts Week Ending June 12th
|1||Passenger 57||Warner Bros.||1992||R|
|2||The Distinguished Gentleman||Hollywood||1992||R|
|3||Under Siege||Warner Bros.||1992||R|
Video Rental Charts Week Ending June 19th
|1||The Distinguished Gentleman||Hollywood||1992||R|
|2||Passenger 57||Warner Bros.||1992||R|
|3||Under Siege||Warner Bros.||1992||R|
|4||A River Runs Through It||Tristar||1992||PG|
Video Rental Charts Week Ending June 26th
|1||The Distinguished Gentleman||Hollywood||1992||R|
|2||A River Runs Through It||Tristar||1992||PG|
|3||Passenger 57||Warner Bros.||1992||R|
|5||Under Siege||Warner Bros.||1992||R|