Movie Report: Enemy Mine (1985)

Book coverI saw this film over and over again when it was on Showtime and we lived in the trailer. Many times, I’ve said that a small set of films played on those long summer days when we were not supposed to leave the trailer when my mother was at work (and we obeyed infrequently). Not only were we limited to a 12′ by 60′ metal box–a very small mobile home even then–but the nature of premium movie channels in the 1980s gave us plenty of opportunity to watch the same film numerous times in a short time frame. You might not remember, gentle reader, but premium movie channels in those days would get a couple of new movies every month and would play the hell out of them that month, running them two or three times a day interspersed with some of the older movies–that is, the movies that had debuted a couple months previously, which were still getting a lot of play, available several times a week to view. It’s hard to imagine it in the 21st century, where the premium movie channels offer a couple of movies and a pile of original series, so their playlists, if you will, are far greater than what they were then. So my brother and I watched Enemy Mine a couple of times in the span of a couple of months, and I’m not sure that I have seen it since. But when I asked my brother about it before watching it, he said he’d watched it a couple of months ago.

It’s a pretty simple plot. Dennis Quaid is a human space fighter pilot on a space station when the lizardian Drac attack. When a Drac fighter blows up one of Quaid’s squad mates, Quaid wounds his ship and pursues him into the atmosphere of a harsh planet, which leads them to both crash on it. They’re alone on the planet and have to team up to survive, working from hostility to friendship. The Drac, played by Louis Gossett, Jr., (wasn’t he a gamer? He would play anything in the 1980s) becomes “pregnant” and delivers a baby drac (I will have to check my style guide to see whether I should be capitalizing Drac when I don’t capitalize human), he dies, leaving Quaid’s character to raise the boy. He does, but when Scavengers, human illegal miners who use Drac for slave labor, return, it leads to a confrontation that culminates in a shared understanding, Quaid liberating the slave labor while hunting for his young Drac charge, and eventually peace between the races.

A fairly simple storyline with special effects of the era. As my youngest is taking a bit of an involuntary sabbatical from electronics, he joined me in watching the film, and he thought it was good. Even in 1985, though, it bears some elements of what we would later call “woke”: The humans are the bad guys, as they started the war with the Drac by trying to seize some of their star systems (mentioned in the prolog voice over) and they’re the slavers in the climax, and the Drac are nothing but noble. But you can’t build too much nuance into a simple film like this. But that sort of inversion has become the norm in fictional themes to the point of being beyond irritating.

I told the young man that, to get the real flavor of living in a trailer in Murphy, Missouri, in the 1980s, we were going to watch it again the next night. We did not, and it might be another forty years before I pop this one into the last remaining VCR on earth to watch it again.

But the film did have Carolyn McCormick in it as the about the only female role who was not an extra, one of Quaid’s fellow pilots.

Of course, in 1986, I recognized Carolyn McCormick as she played Rita Fiore in the middle season of Spenser: For Hire.

According to IMDB, this was her first role. She has remained busy with parts in films and bit parts in television except for a couple seasons on Law & Order. But she’ll always be Rita Fiore to me.

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