White Dwarf (film)
White Dwarf promotional image
|Directed by||Peter Markle|
|Written by||Bruce Wagner|
|Music by||Stewart Copeland|
|Edited by||Patrick McMahon|
White Dwarf is a 1995 science fiction TV movie written by Bruce Wagner, directed by Peter Markle, and produced by Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Halmi Sr. and Bruce Wagner for American Zoetrope. Originally intended as a television pilot, the film first aired on the Fox Network on May 23, 1995. While expected to be well received, the film instead garnered generally negative reception. Negative reception notwithstanding, the project received a 1995 ASC Awards nomination for 'Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography'.
In the year 3040, New York medical student Driscoll Rampart (Neal McDonough) is completing his internship on Rusta, a rural planet which due to it being tidally locked to its primary, is divided into contrasting halves of day and night with the halves separated by a wall. The two sides are involved in a civil war: The day side containing a Victorian-styled colony is at odds with the night containing a medieval kingdom. The differences between the two cultures leaves Rampart in a state of wonder. Rampart arrives from Earth for a six-month stint at the Light Side clinic run by Dr. Akada (Paul Winfield). Rampart's ambition is to eventually set up a private practice in Manhattan on Park Avenue.
Paul Winfield willingly accepted a pay cut to be part of this film. Said Winfield, "I thought it was a (feature film). I'm a real sci-fi nut. Even as a kid, that was my pleasure, reading science fiction. I read Heinlein, the big anthologies, Asimov. I've always liked science-fiction movies too. I like being in them, just to see how they do it." He expanded that during filming, the film "sort of started to have a life of its own."
Bruce Wagner claims his inspiration was drawn from the cover-art of science-fiction novels. Having a limited budget, the project was shot at multiple locations within 40 miles of Los Angeles: scenes of the prison were constructed in the same location where Los Angeles Herald-Examiner once housed its printing presses; outdoor scenes were shot at a ranch location north of LA; scenes of Dr. Akada's clinic were done at school in Arcadia, California; and the film's sea scenes were shot off the coast of Malibu with the ocean's red tint added in post production.
The film originally aired May 23, 1995 on Fox Network. Subsequent International releases include Brazil as Os Mistérios do Planeta Rustia (The Mysteries Of Planet Rustia ), Germany as Rusta - Planet der Tränen (Rusta - Planet of Tears ), Spain as Enana blanca (White Dwarf), Hungary as Fehér törpe (White Dwarf), and Sweden as Den vita dvärgen (The White Dwarf).
The film was reviewed as having promise, but received generally negative reviews. The New York Times wrote that the film began with a "shamelessly incredible premise" which "takes off into a wholly unbelievable stratosphere". They also observed that the film's collection of protagonists and antagonists do nothing to improve it, and while keeping track of them is "often exasperating", it "is hardly boring. The film's offers decent special effects, but the soundtrack by Stewart Copeland "is curiously inept", and its actors "give readings as lifeless as departure announcements for the Long Island Rail Road."
TV Guide granted the film offered a "broad panorama" with a "rich, detailed setting" but the setting was unable to "compensate for the lack of a coherent plot." They expanded that the film's representation of a split culture "is evenly handled, with neither side portrayed as wholly good or bad", but concluded that "the film's potential is badly marred by an incoherent plot which is unable to sustain the setting and characters. Dramatic conflicts are practically non-existent and the various plots are given too little time to develop." The film has action, but it is not relevant to the thin plot, and what few moments of potential momentum is lost with characters "who discover things too soon or resolve things too easily."
Baltimore Sun wrote that the film's premise of Northern Exposure set on a distant planet and dressed in the language of myth and fairy tale was "lame, tedious, tired, obvious." The film failed to live up to its potential, was "not quirky, clever, kicky or imaginative", and is determined as a "careless and uninspired attempt to rework the hero quest" from Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now) and Bruce Wagner (Wild Palms), "two executive producers capable of much better work".
Chicago Tribune noted Bruce Wagner joining with Francis Ford Coppola to create White Dwarf as a two-hour TV-movie and pilot for a possible series. They note the differences between the light and dark side cultures, with the light half mixing various culture's styles and periods, "with elements of the Old West, Victorian era and 20th century, including stagecoaches and radios. The dark half is medieval, with a king, a princess and an evil knight. They noted the film having "some spectacular computer-generated effects (especially the wall between the light and dark sides)", but according to Bruce Wagner, that was not an aspect upon which he wished to concentrate. Said Wagner, "The wall looks hot. The stuff that we did looks great, but I wanted to keep it limited. I didn't care so much about it. I wanted to create a template for our pilot where things were more emotional. I loved the stuff between Osh and Lady X. I'm enthralled every time I see those little scenes with Wagner playing in the background, this two-ton walrus alien obsessing over this gorgeous, ancient woman. And this whole scene where (Akada and Rampart) are examining her and she says, `Do you know what it's like to live forever?' I just love that stuff. When she elucidates what it is like to live forever... I really find that moving every time I hear her do that. There are little side stories that, to me, are really cool."
New York Daily News wrote that Bruce Wagner's "Futuristic White Dwarf is a fuzt dud." Their complaint was toward how illogical it was that in a time when interstellar travel was commonplace, dependence on stagecoaches and horseback was nonsense, and the "medical facilities, equipment and medications seem as primitive as the transportation system." They concluded the "participation of Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Halmi Sr. as executive producers with Wagner, as well as a fine production team, still doesn't make this movie worth more than about the 30 seconds it takes to watch one of Fox' promos for it."
Awards and nominations
- Received a 1995 ASC Awards nomination for 'Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Movies of the Week or Pilot'
- O'Connor, John J. (May 23, 1995). "Healing the Sick In the Stratosphere". The New York Times. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- Bierbaum, Tom (May 23, 1995). "Review: 'White Dwarf'". Variety. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
- Willman, Chris (May 23, 1995). "Review: 'White Dwarf' Takes Peek at 31st Century". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- Johnson, Allan (May 23, 1995). "Strange World: Quirkiness Infuses Fox's `White Dwarf'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- staff. "White Dwarf: Review". TV Guide. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- Zurawik, David (May 23, 1995). "Fox's 'White Dwarf' is light-years away from promised quality". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- Endrst, James (May 22, 1995). "Shortage Of Drama Distances Viewers From `White Dwarf'". Hartford Courant. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- Associated Press (May 22, 1995). "White Dwarf' Airs Tuesday". Rome News-Tribune. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- Jicha, Tom (May 22, 1995). "Fox Pilot Out Of This World". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- O'Hare, Kate (May 21, 1995). "The Light And The Dark Side Of `White Dwarf'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
- staff. "10th Annual ASC Awards — 1995". American Society of Cinematographers. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- Mink, Erik (May 23, 1995). "...BUT HIS FUTURISTIC 'WHITE DWARF' IS A FUZZY DUD". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 12, 2013.