In 1982, a “documentary” was released warning the planet that doomsday would occur in 2000. Thirteen years after the end of the world (and 30 years after the movie was released), I decide to revisit the hysteria….
You know, the Mayan doomsday that didn’t happen last year wasn’t the first time a bunch of apocalyptic dingbats ended up with egg on their collective faces. There’s one doomsday theory in particular that I would like to turn your attention to - one that, while completely proven false more than a decade ago, remains something I have deep recollections and remembrances of.
Picture it: metro Atlanta, 1994. I’m in the third grade, and my mom - who, for whatever reason, is going through her survivalist, Book of Revelations phase - brings home this VHS cassette called “The Jupiter Menace.” I honestly can’t tell you how many times I watched this stupid thing during my elementary school years - and since I was like eight years old and therefore an impressionable moron, I sincerely believed that a grand alignment of the planets in six years’ times was going to trigger a tectonic shift that reversed the earth’s polarity and kill us all.
So, um, maybe a super-conjunction of ring planets DIDN’T result in an automatic ice age back on May 05, 2000, but that still doesn’t mean that the video doesn’t have at least SOME inklings of value today. Looking back on it, it’s downright amazing how naïve I was, and since we have this thing called the “Internet” that allows us to fact check shit, revisiting the movie 30 years later becomes a TRULY entertaining experience. If you haven’t had a bunch of pseudo-apocalyptic junk science dropped in front of you in a while, then I reckon this here “Jupiter Menace” VHS will give you your fill until you’re able to uncover a used DVD of “What the Bleep Do We Know!?” on sale at GameStop.
|"I'm George Kennedy, and I needed the money."|
The film begins with some tribal dancing 5,013 years ago, with Indian warriors sacrificing this one dude while everybody moshes while dressed up like Putties from “Power Rangers” and wearing severed coyote heads as toboggans. Unfortunately, an earthquake interrupts the quacking duck-techno music, as the opening credits for the “documentary” begin to scroll.
Our narrator for the evening is George Kennedy, as in…that George Kennedy. I’m not really sure why he agreed to be in the film, outside of probably owing some mean back taxes in the 1983 fiscal year, so five minutes in, and your mind ought to already be effectively blown. This leads to a scene back in the days of the Old Testament, with some ambassador of the Abrahamic faiths mocking a bunch of idol worshippers playing flute music for their statue monkey god. The Judeo-Christian dude makes some rocks explode, which is a nice segue into a vignette about the Dome of the Rock, and how it’s destined to be torn apart for a third time, per biblical decree.
From there, we meet this one church dude that sits around a bunch of old computers and prints out spreadsheets that he believes predict a Jupiter-triggered, worldwide earthquake that would rattle the Dome of the Rock off its foundations - and yeah, kill most of humanity in the process, too. According to Kennedy, a gaggle of unnamed “reputable scientists” all agree that an alignment of the planets in 1982 was to trigger a 20 year cycle of “cataclysmic” events, culminating with DOOMSDAY, FOR REALZ YA’LL in 2000. By the way, the movie was released in 1982, and based in part on a theory published in a book printed ten years before that. To the uninitiated, it’s the year 2013, and yeah…still waiting, guys.
|Professor John Holmes demonstrates the Chandler Wobble/turns an invisible doorknob.|
Next, Kennedy takes us for a tour of the San Andreas fault line, which leads to a bizarre sequence in which 1980s CGI takes us INSIDE an earthquake, which apparently, looks kind of like “Tempest 2000” on the Atari Jaguar. A brief interview is conducted with the author of a book called “We are the Earthquake Generation,” while one of the co-authors of “The Jupiter Effect” - the aforementioned tome from the '70s that served as the inspiration for this movie - says that sunspots and solar flares are responsible for triggering most of the planet’s earthquakes. Meanwhile, a second opinion from an actual scientist reveals that claim to be kinda’ bullshit.
Tokyo, New York City (which rests on seven crisscrossing fault lines per the producers, even though this much more reliable Wiki article says it’s just four) and especially Los Angeles are royally screwed, says the movie. Which somehow transitions into a montage of people frequenting a “survival store,” complete with an elderly women flipping through the pages of a kung fu manual.
From there, we take a tour of Stelle, Illinois, a close-knit community of survivalist weirdoes that teach their children to be math geniuses so they can float away from the apocalypse on homemade zeppelins (no, seriously.) And because the creepy factor needs to be ratcheted up a bit, we then visit the C.S.A. Zarephath Horeb compound in Arkansas, where religious fundamentalist militia men practice for when the Antichrist comes to power and turns on the big Earthquake machine. By the way, the C.S.A. there stands for the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord - as in, the white nationalist organization that’s probably best known for having a throwdown with the ATF in 1985.
|Ask any domestic terrorist, white nationalist apocalyptic Christian radical: homeschooling works.|
We’re in dire need of some B-roll, so cue a lengthy scene with a dude buying an amphibious tank and an even longer sequence featuring a televangelist that may or may not be Jerry Falwell yammering on and on about false messiahs, the prospects of World War III breaking out in Europe and a “scientific” report indicating that 90 percent of the world’s population was destined to starve to death by 2000. Cue footage of Mount St. Helens erupting and body bags in Algeria and Naples, and it’s time for a chit chat with a psychic, who predicts that by 1999, half of California would be submerged underwater while an additional 400 million people die in earthquake-related events across the globe.
The next sequence is definitely my favorite part of the movie, as state of the art computer graphics (read: an Atari 5800) shows us what the world will look like in 2000, after Japan, the U.K. and California gets submerged. After that, some scientists using cutting edge Tandy 1000 computer software simulate what a 12.0 earthquake would look like - and admittedly, it looks kinda’ awesome.
Next, we’re introduced to a shaman, who says some folksy sounding bullshit, and then we hear about Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky, a researcher that decided to invent his own dating system so his completely stupid “catastrophic evolution” theory would sound plausible despite staggering, overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
|Man, I can't wait to visit West South America next summer!|
After that, we meet ANOTHER psychic, this time around a dude that claims that he astral projected himself to Atlantis one time. He talks about the Bimini Road ruins off the coast of Florida, citing the find as PROOF that the planet has experienced a catastrophic “pole shift” in the last 10,000 or so years. This, despite the fact that radiocarbon dating pretty much verifies that the LAST major pole shift of the like happened AT LEAST 200 million years ago, but, hell, who needs things like “facts” at this juncture, anyway?
More pseudo-scientific “evidence” of recent pole shift activity follows. Did you know maps from the 1500s PROVE that explorers knew about Antarctica before the 1800s? Never mind the fact they were almost assuredly describing “South America” instead, but what about all of those “flash frozen” mastodons in Siberia? Once these guys figure out what “continental drift” is, expect some befuddled looks a plenty.
|Apparently, a 12.0 earthquake would cause "Tron" to happen.|
And so, all of that to bring us to the film’s conclusion, in which numerous “experts” say that a “grand alignment” of the planets on May 5, 2000 would trigger a massive, global earthquake that would destroy the holy hell out of humanity. Following an excerpt from the Book of Luke, Kennedy concludes the “documentary” by saying “all we can do…is wait,” all dramatically and ominously, as awesome, spooky synthesizer music rolls over the scrolling end credits.
Well, I guess I don’t have to tell you how astoundingly off the mark just about every prediction in the film was. A good thirteen years after Judgment Day, we’re still all here, kicking and keeping it real, while most of the people involved with the movie are dead, unemployed or in jail. A quick YouTube search indicates that instead of ushering in global ruin, the only thing that seemed to happen on May 05, 2000 was a Steely Dan performance on “The Today Show,” which, I suppose, is a fate only SLIGHTLY more desirable than the complete destruction of civilization by earthquakes.
In a bizarre way, it’s actually kind of fun to go back and watch “The Jupiter Menace,” miring in all of the absurd hysteria therein. It’s not everyday that you can say you watched the dad from “Wacko” drive around the California desert in a jeep, talking about the Chandler Wobble while professors from the College of Metaphysics (believe it or not, a real thing, in, of all places, Indiana) prophesize that the Great Lakes will merge into a new ocean and drown all of Chicago. And if absolutely nothing else, you have GOT to hear the movie’s score, which was performed by unheralded synth icon Larry Fast under the non-existent band name “Synergy.”
“The Jupiter Menace” is batshit insane, semi-scientific paranoia at its most entertaining, and a captivating look at early 1980s fringe culture, with all of the uncertified professors, wannabe clairvoyants, TV evangelists and soon-to-be domestic terrorists you’ve come to expect telling us all a whole bunch of bullshit that was destined to never happen, with the sort of radical, reality-be-damned gusto that even the craziest Alex Jones supporter couldn’t muster. If you’ve got a hankering for agitprop utterly unassociated with anything even remotely resembling reality, then this is video cassette well worth tracking down - and in case a cataclysmic pole shift ever DOES go down, well, you’ve got something neat to show off to all of your friends once the planet thaws out, too.