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MARTIN SHEEN WITH KIRK DOUGLAS IN 'THE FINAL COUNTDOWN'

Lightning strikes upon THE FINAL COUNTDOWN Year: 1980
THE TWILIGHT ZONE didn't work in the hour format, and THE FINAL COUNTDOWN is basically a Zone episode that lasts two hours, yet isn't bad except for a few dated special effects when the giant aircraft carrier goes from the ocean off Pearl Harbor in 1979 and winds up right before the Japanese attack in 1941...

While Kirk Douglas gets top billing as the captain, Martin Sheen takes the lead as an ambiguous, non-military observer whose purpose isn't entirely clear until the inevitable twist ending, and he's alongside likeable James Farentino, an intrepid flyer sharing a few intense scenes at-odds with Sheen's Lasky, actually an efficiency expert hired by a reclusive, mysterious millionaire, and at one point he's even a culprit when the weird stuff begins happening: like Jack Benny on the radio and photos from jets showing the U.S.S. Arizona fully intact...

A good Martin Sheen moment in Countdown SCORE: ***1/2
It's a good role for Douglas too. Instead of being granite cool, he's human, down to earth, and is even unsure what course to take: Sheen wants to change history with action vs historian Farentino protecting the time continuum, so the dimple-chinned veteran doesn't try outshining an ensemble that also includes an intense ("goddamn" spouting) Ron O'Neal and James Coleman as Kirk's faithful seaman sideman...

And then the plot thickens with Charles Durning as a good old fashion politician shot-at from his yacht with professional secretary Katherine Ross (and pet collie), who, despite acting like an enlightened 1970's feminist stuck in the 1940's, has a genuine purpose and not just a token love interest. Meanwhile, there are some cool dogfights above and below a deadly hijacking Japanese captor, mostly for the sake of second-act urgency, but THE FINAL COUNTDOWN is a better talky science-fiction/time-travel thriller than what seems like a mainstream action flick involving war. The only downturn is the cop-out climax right before the creative twist, which makes you forget about the random flaws either way. Pay-off, after all, pays off.
Martin Sheen, Ron O'Neal, Kirk Douglas and James Farentino in The Final Countdown
James Farentino in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Katharine Ross and the dog that lives in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Katharine Ross and the dog that lives in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Jet fighter heroes vs Jap Zeroes in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Action sequences in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Action sequences in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
The Jap Zero moves in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Martin Sheen and James Farentino in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Kirk Douglas with James Coleman in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Action sequences in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Action sequences in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Action sequences in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
The dog that lives, Katharine Ross and Charles Durning in The Final Countdown
Charles Durning and Katharine Ross in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Zero Attacks Yacht in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Zero Attacks Yacht in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Soon-Tek Oh takes Katharine Ross captive in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
James Farentino and Martin Sheen in THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
The troops prepare at Mos Eisley to take down the... Japanese Troops
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DANA ANDREWS & MÄRTA TORÉN STARRING IN 'SWORD IN THE DESERT'

Sword in the Desert Year: 1949 Rating: ***1/2 Although approved by the British Film Board, SWORD IN THE DESERT was banned in England, and it...

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