Friday, January 15, 2010

Fortress (1986)

I think that the reason many viewers stumble back across this movie is the immense fear they encountered viewing it as a child. Picture upstate New York, late 80s, and my sister and I are shreiking wildly and shielding our eyes because of "Father Christmas" and the rest of his merry gang. A decade where kidnappings were abundant and I was at an impressionable age, this movie was downright terrifying. Years later, I tracked down this movie on the internet and purchased it for some ridiculously inflated price.

Fortress aired on HBO in 1986. This Australian film was loosely based on the 1972 Faraday School kidnapping of a teacher and her class by Edwin John Eastwood and Robert Clyde Boland. The movie kicks off with a small family living in the Australian outback, including the teacher for the local school. It's truly a one-room school where everyone from kindergarten to the twelfth grade learns together. They are literally out in the middle of nowhere and even have an outhouse for a bathroom.

The quiet and idyllic day comes to a quick halt when the classroom is taken hostage by a group of creepers in weird masks. This was seriously the one aspect of the movie that seemed to stick with all of the babies of the 80s - the kidnappers wearing duck, mouse, platypus and Santa masks. They load the whole class into a van (luckily allowing them to take their backpacks -- "cases" to the Aussies) and drive them to a remote area of the "bush." (love Australian vernacular!)

The kidnappers dump the class of kids in an underground cave, seemingly to go make ransom arrangements and return for them later.  However, the resourceful kids and their teacher, Miss Jones, have other plans.  They make their way out of the cave (ugh, that swimming scene still gives me the shivers) but unfortunately their little adventure has just begun.

The masked men chase the class through the Australian outback, but they're obviously not aware of who they are messing with.  The kids trick the kidnappers, set up booby-traps a la the Goonies, and just behave as all-around badasses.  When I watch this movie, I just think that if these were American children, they would just sit down and cry for Nickelodeon and McDonald's.

The ending is awesome, especially the little follow-up/investigation part.  You're probably not going to find this movie in any Blockbuster, but maybe they still show it on HBO late at night.  Definitely a little-known classic with an original story.


Unknown said...

One of my favorite movies, GREAT REVIEW!