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The Towers live on ... in movies & television, that is

Jim Hill

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The Towers live on ... in movies & television, that is

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I wonder if you've ever had an experience like this:

The other day, I was feeling blue. Alice had just gone home after spending almost the entire summer up here in New Hampshire. And I was missing my daughter something fierce. Which is why I decided that I'd try & cheer myself up by watching a little Jay Sherman.

Copyright 1994 Sony Pictures. All Rights Reserved

So I dropped Disc 1 in the DVD player and settled back on the couch. But then -- as the opening sequence of "The Critic" begins -- what's the very first thing you see? The New York skyline with the Towers still standing tall.

Copyright 1994 Sony Pictures. All Rights Reserved

And then -- just for a moment -- my own personal funk was replaced by a duller, deeper ache.

Alright. I know. In the 30+ years that the World Trade Center existed, if you wanted to prove that your motion picture or television show was set in and/or had been shot inside of modern Manhattan, you made sure that the Towers were part of your backdrop.

Which means -- if you're a media maven like myself -- there's just no getting away from the World Trade Center. The Towers pop up all the time on TV or in movies. And often in the most unlikely of spots. They made an appearance in Disney's 1988 animated feature, "Oliver & Company" ...

Copyright 1988 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... And even though Woody Allen is obviously more of a fan of old New York, he still had to include a glimpse of the World Trade Center as part of "Manhattan" 's opening montage.

Copyright 1979 United Artists. All Rights Reserved

To be honest, stuff like this -- seeing the Towers off in the distance -- isn't all that hard to take. It just makes you feel sad or nostalgic for a moment.

But when you come across a motion picture where the World Trade Center is actually a principal location, like Dino De Laurentiis' 1976 remake of "King Kong" ...

Copyright 1976 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved

... that's when things really start to get uncomfortable. I mean, have you watched "Escape from New York" lately? Especially that action sequence where Snake Plissken flies into that city ...

Copyright 1981 MGM. All Rights Reserved

... and then lands his glider on top of one of the Towers ?

Copyright 1981 MGM. All Rights Reserved

Watching that scene now ... The feeling that you get is really hard to describe. Other than to say that it sort of borders on sacrilege.

To be fair, when John Carpenter made "Escape from New York" back in 1981 and / or when Ronald Neame blew up the World Trade Center as part of "Meteor" 's action-packed finale ...

Copyright 1979 MGM. All Rights Reserved

... they had no idea that the Towers would eventually become the site of this national tragedy. Carpenter & Neame were just out to make exciting motion pictures. Which is why they did want they did.

That said, if you look around, you can actually find far more hopeful versions of the World Trade Center's future. Take -- for example -- "Deep Impact." Which shows Manhattan about to be swallowed by this enormous tsunami ...

Copyright 1998 DreamWorks. All Rights Reserved

... But because the Towers are so tall & so strong ...

Copyright 1998 DreamWorks. All Rights Reserved

... these 110-story buildings can actually withstand that impact. Indeed, they're the only things still above water as this cinematic cataclysm passes.

Copyright 1998 DreamWorks. All Rights Reserved

Other film-makers also made this same assumption. That the World Trade Center was such an imposing structure that -- long after the seas rose (seen here as depicted in Steven Spielberg's "A.I.") ...

Copyright 2001 DreamWorks. All Rights Reserved

... and the next Ice Age came ...

Copyright 2001 DreamWorks. All Rights Reserved

... the Towers would still be standing.

I genuinely wish that that were the case. That the World Trade Center had had the chance to withstand the test of time. More importantly, that all of those people who were working at the Towers that morning would have had the chance to live out their natural lives.

But then reality intrudes on that fantasy. And I'm stuck back here in the real world. Surrounded by all of these cinematic reminders of what used to be.

So does this same thing ever happen to you ? Do you find yourself being pulled out of a piece of entertainment -- a TV show or a motion picture -- just because you catch a glimpse of the Towers in the background ?

Your thoughts?

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  • I like spotting the Towers like that. I even had the first Spider-Man teaser in my computer until very recently. Seeing them is comforting, reminds me of better, simples times.

    And hey, if I can watch movies about wars, if I can watch Band of Brothers, stuff that takes place in Vietnam or Japan or Europe during times of great distress, I sure won't stop watching Escape From New York, King Kong, Deep Impact or even Friends, for that matter, simply because they feature the towers. It's not like I'm watching the scenes from 7 years ago.

  • As the 7th anniversary loomed during my summer stay in NYC, pretty much every business that had the pre-9/11 skyline in its logo has kept it. Some of them have added a red, white, and blue ribbon around the towers.

    And then there's Mars 2112. I last went maybe a year or two back, and its simulator ride still had the WTC in view.

  • It does make you said to think about the WTC and its fate.

    Weren't the Towers digitally entered on the final scene of the Gangs of New York?  Someone please correct me if I am wrong.

  • They were in the original cut, but the movie got held back a year. Reportedly, Scoresse(sp?) kept 'em in because he wanted the movie to be about the people who built NY, not the ones who destroyed it. Still, their presence adds a whole other layer to the movie's ending.

    Which is why Zoolander hit theatres with 'em digitally removed. I remember almost taking a flyer for a preview screening for it scheduled for 9/11/01, so I'm sure if it had screened that night (kinda doubt it) the WTC would've been in it.

    Another worthy mention: Episode 3 of Gargoyles, where Elisa and Goliath tour Manhattan. Standing on top of the Empire State building, overlooking the WTC. In '94, the scene was all about Goliath's culture shock and amazement. It's much more bittersweet to watch now.

  • I think it is garbage to digitally remove ANYTHING from a film, whether it be to replace guns with walkie-talkies or remove buildings that are no longer standing in order to be politically correct.  A film, just like a picture or any other kind of archival media, is a slice of space and time that is a precious representation of history.  To edit it is to attempt to rewrite history...and THAT is sacrilegious.  

    And in Disney's case, to keep something from publication for political reasons is even MORE sacrilegious....I wish Disney would release the ABC docudrama "The Path To 9/11".  It was a brilliant miniseries that evenhandedly dealt blame on both sides of the political aisle, but Bill Clinton didn't like it so it was censored.  But that's me on a soapbox.  ;)

    Sure I get a little lump in my throat when I see the twin towers.  But we're never going to forget, so why pretend to by editing media?  

  • Yeah, sometimes when I watch "The Critic" that opening shot of the skyline depresses me a little...but then before long the gags start up, and the life-affirming power of fantastic comedy cancels it out.

    You gotta move on somehow.

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