Dennis Quaid gets around. Since the late '70s, he's appeared in more than seventy films and television shows, playing everything from a deep-space fighter pilot to an dragon-slaying warrior, and always with a certain swaggering charm. This Friday and Saturday at the Sie FilmCenter, Mile High Sci-Fi is tackling one of Quaid's early films, the 1984 sci-fi thriller Dreamscape. The group will be spending the film's runtime poking fun at its absurd premise and cheesy effects, but for us at Westword, it offers the occasion to look back at some of the strange and wonderful places he's visited in his long and storied career. From the dawn of man to the far-flung reaches of outer space, these are the fantastic worlds of Dennis Quaid.
See also: - Best of Denver: Best Talking Over a Film: Mile High Sci-Fi - RiffTrax's Kevin Murphy on Birdemic and Mystery Science Theater 3000's legacy - Kevin O'Brien on the These Things Matter podcast and Mile High Sci Fi
Prehistoric times Dinosaurs, an abominable snowman and being second banana to Ringo Starr were just a few of the things Quaid had to face in the antediluvian world of Caveman. The farcical film presented a farcical world that went on to form the basis of Creationist accounts of ancient times. Seriously, a visit to the dinosaur sections of the Creation Museum is eerily like watching this movie with all the sex jokes removed.
Dragon-infested England As we all learned in history class, 10th century England had a bit of a dragon problem -- at least until Quaid came along. Dragonheart is all about how he cleans things up, killing dragons left and right until he teams up with the last one to scam the credulous peasants and avoid getting laid off. Everything's going great until a stupid evil king starts stirring shit up. Way to ruin a good scam, evil king. Unfortunately, there's not a hobbit to be found anywhere, but hey, at least Sean Connery voices the CGI dragon.
The Old West The Old West lies at the heart of American imagination, and naturally Quaid is right at home there. He's made several visits to the wellspring of American myth, playing famous characters such as Sam Houston and Doc Holliday in forgettable trash (The Alamo and Wyatt Earp, respectively) and the much less famous Ed Miller in the unjustly forgotten gem The Long Riders. Suffice it to say, he looks right at home on horseback, armed with a six shooter.
Shark-infested SeaWorld A SeaWorld theme park isn't a particularly fantastical location, but how about a SeaWorld theme park with underwater tunnels? Still not impressed? What if we throw in a 35-foot long rogue great white shark and offer you the whole enchilada in glorious, '80s-era 3D? Now we're talking! That's the setting of the execrable Jaws 3D, which took the franchise to new depths of lameness despite having one more dimension than any other Jaws movie. Somehow, Quaid's career survived this thoroughly awful entry in the Jaws canon, which is more unbelievable than the shark attack on the control center in the clip above.
Inside Martin Short As test pilot Tuck Pendleton, the Quaid goes on a most fantastic voyage in Joe Dante's Innerspace when he's miniaturized and then injected into the ass of a grocery clerk played by Martin Short. That offers the chance to illustrate, via special effects, the old saw about true beauty being what's on the inside -- blood vessels and organs, mostly. Once he's in there, he can communicate with Short's character, tap into his optic nerve to observe the outside world and even change Short's appearance through some sort of sci-fi macguffin. That's all relatively believable, but naming the villain Victor Scrimshaw? Come on, now you're just fucking with us.
Dreams When it comes to strange places to visit, they don't get much stranger than someone else's dreams. In Dreamscape a young Quaid plays a psychic who goes spelunking in other people's dreams to help them out of various mental jams. In a kid's nightmare he faces a vicious, freaky snake man. Later, he goes on to assist the President, whose terrifying dreams center on nearly losing an election to someone as fundamentally unlikeable as Mitt Romney. Or, you know, nuclear war. Whatever.
Armageddon, at the Paradise Falls diner When God loses faith in humanity and decides to end it all, who's right there on the front lines? That's right: Quaid, here playing a diner owner who plays a pivotal role in the climactic battle to save humanity in Legion. The unlikely setting for the final battle for the future of mankind is a diner, owned by Quaid's character, situated at the edge of the Mojave desert. What, you thought Armageddon was supposed to be in Jerusalem or some shit? Clearly you weren't reading your Bible correctly.
New York City in the grip of an instant ice age If you prefer your end-times scenarios based in science (fiction) rather than the Bible, Quaid has you covered there too. In The Day After Tomorrow he plays a scientist who navigates an instant Ice Age caused by super-storms that freeze everything in their path. New York City is ground zero for this climatological clusterfuck, and Quaid's son is stuck there, so off he goes to save the day. As a bonus, Quaid's son is played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who stands a decent shot at becoming this generation's answer to Quaid. It's a regular passing of the torch!
Fyrine IV, an enemy-infested alien world What's worse than being stranded on an alien planet far from home that's periodically slammed by meteorites, infested with pesky predators and home to pirates? Try being stuck on that same planet with one of your mortal enemies as your only companion. That's the situation in Enemy Mine, but Quaid handles it like a boss, learning to cooperate with and trust his Drac enemy. They eventually become such good friends that Quaid acts as foster father to the Drac's alien spawn when the papa Drac dies during childbirth. See, we can all just get along, at least in outer space.
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Elysium, a colonization starship Or maybe we can't all get along in space, at least not when some of us are suffering from a form of space madness called Pandorum. That's the situation Quaid encounters in Pandorum, a convoluted sci-fi epic set aboard a dilapidated and failing deep-space vessel full of weird, semi-human creatures and fully human, but also fully insane, crew members. The movie's not great, and it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but the spaceship it's set in looks pretty cool, at the very least. So, kind of like Prometheus, then, but with more Quaid.