Thursday, December 1, 2011

Speed – The LAX Version

Returning to Los Angeles International Airport, known to frequent flyers as LAX, can be a daunting experience. The other day, I boarded a shuttle that was supposedly heading to my off-site parking lot. Instead I was stuck in airport limbo, on what looked to be a bus to nowhere. After what seemed like hours, the situation became clear. L.A. had been deluged by rain earlier in the day – almost two inches! – and so the airport was in chaos. The tunnel leading to my lot was flooded, and because I was in a bus, not an ark, the going was slow indeed.

That’s when my imagination kicked in. Hey. I teach screenwriting, so shouldn’t I be thinking like a screenwriter? And, given my Roger Corman experience, it was only natural for me to adapt our situation as a low-budget thriller, perhaps a sort of Speed in slow motion, with a villain holding a small cluster of travelers hostage aboard an oversized van. I studied at my fellow passengers, and decided I’d hit the mother lode. Across from me sat a very Hollywood young couple, both of them tall, slim, and casually but expensively dressed. She was blonde, and a little bit pregnant. With elegantly tapered fingers (one sporting a large diamond) she kept delicately patting her belly. They were perfect, the two of them, as my leading man and lady.

Then I spotted an Asian-American man with an amiable, amused face. Yes! Here was my salt-of-the-earth character, who would warm hearts with his wit and wisdom in the face of danger. Unluckily for him, I saw a sudden death in his future. He was just the guy to ramp up the viewers’ emotions with his dramatic demise. My husband and I would serve as the comic-relief older folks, prone to bickering as the tension rose. Since the casts of today’s Hollywood movies skew young, we two would naturally be incapable of heroics. Instead we would merely be hindrances to the good guys’ efforts, earning ourselves a few sardonic chuckles. (Of course, Shelley Winters helped save the day in The Poseidon Adventure, but swimming was never my strong suit.)

That left me with some slightly more enigmatic characters. In the very back of the van sat a young man of uncertain ethnicity. Who knew what was going through his head? Was he a political terrorist? An ex-military man gone rogue? Or just your common-garden-variety demented killer? And then there was our driver: competent, quiet, polite . . . or was he not what he seemed? Was there, in fact, a conspiracy afoot?

That left me with only one more passenger, and I came to see her as the key to the whole story. She was a mousy young thing, slight of build, wearing a ponytail and thick horn-rimmed glasses. What fascinated me was that throughout our ride to nowhere, she was deeply immersed in reading a book. I caught a glimpse: it was a fat library copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Aha! I didn’t spot any tattoos on this young woman, and she certainly didn’t sport thick boots and a mohawk, like Lisbeth Salander. Still, who knew what she was capable of? I suspected that at the first sign of danger, she’d fling aside her glasses (a disguise, of course) and show her true colors. Then – watch out! (Just the role for a young Sandra Bullock.)

Fortunately, when I was at this point in my story, the shuttle arrived safely at the parking lot. Everyone emerged, unscathed, and I went back to being a mild-mannered blogger with a rampant imagination.


  1. Very funny! A great blog post to start December!

  2. Thanks, Hilary. I'm always happy to provide a few chuckles on a cold (and windy) day.

  3. Nicely detailed and fun post as always, Beverly.

    Speaking of SPEED, have you ever seen Toei's BULLET TRAIN from 1975? It's this 155 minute disaster picture about a group of terrorists who have rigged a bullet train to explode should it drop below 45 mph. They may not have had Reeves and Bullock, but they did have two big guns in Ken Takakura and Sonny Chiba!

  4. Didn't see it, but it sounds great. I assume it was set on one of Japan's wonderful high-speed trains. It would be worth watching the film just to relive the Shinkansen experience.

  5. Yes, it is. The film is episodic in nature, too. A chunk of the film concerns the plight of the crew and passengers aboard Ikari 109; another portion is Ken Utsui and his crew in the control room dealing with the terrorists and attempts to stop the train via computer without killing everyone; the third chunk is the backstory of the trio of criminals which paints them as sympathetic. The US release cut the film down to a painful 90 minutes if I remember right. That version eliminates most all of the exposition.

    But concerning the train itself, wow, I'd love to ride one of those things. I can only imagine what it must be like to be aboard one of them.

  6. Great stuff - I do this sort of thing from time to time too - it's a lot of fun. And I'm really intrigued by Venom's Bullet Train movie - heck of a lead duo, 70's Japanese action - it's right up my alley!