Medicine Man Recap

Jamie

Dr. Rae Crane is tasked by her company to find Dr. Robert Campbell, who has holed up deep in the rainforest. When she arrives, he claims to have found a cure for cancer so she decides to give him a chance… but they may not have that long with a new road being built nearby. Can they find the cure (and perhaps love) before it’s too late? Find out in… Medicine Man.

How?! Dr. Crane is looking for Dr. Campbell at the behest of a pharmaceutical company. He has requested a new assistant and gas chromatograph deep in the Amazonian rain forest. When she shows up he’s all like “you aren’t qualified,” but that’s sexist and Dr. Crane ain’t having any of it. She shows her stuff and duly impressed Dr. Campbell shows her what he has: a cure for motherf’n cancer made from a rainforest flower, babbbby. So we all kinda forgive him for being a total asshole. Unfortunately he hasn’t been able to replicate his initial findings, called compound 37. In their quest to find the secret they learn to live and love again… but also that a logging road is getting dangerously close to the village and they don’t have much time. To add to the pressure, a child in the village gets cancer and needs the last sample in order to survive. Not willing to give it up Dr. Crane convinces Dr. Campbell to seek out the old Medicine Man. That Medicine Man totally gives them the secret, but they are a couple of dopes but don’t get the hint and use the sample on the child anyway. Just when everything seems lost they discover the secret: it wasn’t the flower at all but the bugs that lived in them (what a twist!). But then everything is still lost because a bunch of bulldozers come into town and start a fire and burn down everything. Noooooo! Not willing to give up Dr. Crane and Dr. Campbell go with the tribe in search of the flower and leave their lives behind. THE END.

Why?! Uh, to cure cancer, duh. Nice MacGuffin alert for Compound 37 here, but there is also the underlying theme of protecting the indiginous populations of the rainforest. Not only from the people building the road, but also from disease if too many people move into the area. That’s why, in the end, Dr. Campbell decides to be so secretive about the cure for cancer. Even though the company would give him everything he wants (and probably pay the logging company to stall the road building in the area) if they knew about it, he already knows from experience that it would be even more devastating to the tribe if he allowed that to happen. He had that happen before and the guilt he felt for bringing disease to the tribe destroyed his life and marriage. So basically he’s not an asshole at all, just a lovely curmudgeon looking out for the well-being of all. Hooray.

Who?! Very small cast and unfortunately Sean Connery doesn’t have to call up the Prez to get the road through Brazil delayed. Just him and Bracco chumming it up. The only truly interesting thing is that concurrent to its release it seemed like it was pretty well known that Tony and Academy Award winning playwright Tom Stoppard did uncredited rewrites on the script (which he did fairly frequently apparently). This normally makes its way into IMDb at some point, but not in this case. But by all accounts it’s true. 

What?! All of these latter categories are going to be so boring because the film is set in the middle of nowhere and is so tiny. Like obviously they aren’t snapping into some Slim Jims in the middle of a jungle. But for the low low price of $450 you can get the bird mask that Sean Connery is wearing when we are introduced to his character. Complete with a certificate of authenticity. Wonder why Planet Hollywood is willing to part with such a gem.

Where?! It actually isn’t explicitly stated that this film is set in Brazil, I don’t think. But it’s pretty obvious for a number of reasons. I’m sure based on some of the towns mentioned by Connery that it’s for sure (and obviously the location is somewhat necessary to the plot), so I’ll still give this a C.

When?! I actually think this might be the first film where I could honestly say that there might be absolutely no indication of when it takes place in the entire film… literally no chance of figuring it out. I just can’t even imagine why they would have needed to let you know what the date was… it’s in the jungle. Don’t even have newspapers. Time is totally irrelevant. I guess maybe if I got one of their prop lab notebooks. F.

I can totally understand why this film was made and why Sean Connery and Lorrainne Bracco made it. It’s a classic character study and actor-driven film in the same vein as The African Queen. Exotic location, main love interest (?) who is kind of a dick, and a strong woman protagonist who is a little bit out of her element (a fish out of water, you might say. I just coined that). So I can see why people wanted to make this film and really sink their teeth into a role like this. However… there are some flaws (gasp). FIrst of all, both of their characters are kind of caricatures. She’s a loud and brash New Yorker that is more stereotypical than necessary (given that she’s a very well qualified scientist) and he’s pretty much a bore. Second, and probably the most BMT thing about the film, the twist regarding the bugs being the actual cure is so airmailed and obvious that it borders on ridiculous. Other than those two things, though, I found the film to be pleasant enough to watch… the location in itself was interesting enough for me to be engaged throughout. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Let’s hop into a time machine to when people fundamentally didn’t understand cancer and thought we’d find just like … some random chemical that cures what is effectively like a hundred different diseases. Like that makes sense. Let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – I was very surprised to see this was a McTiernan film. Die Hard, Predator, The Hunt for Red October, he’s smashed out some classics in his time. As a matter of fact there are only three films he directed that I haven’t seen. The most interesting is Nomads which appears to be a horror film that was not released widely, only 500 or so theaters in total. But we are on track to finish his filmography, and this is just a step along the way. Quite a different project to his three famous films though, and not surprising that apparently audiences were annoyed that it wasn’t an action or thriller, but instead a romantic drama.

The Good – I think the first half of the film is very interesting. It is a pretty rare genre, the medical genre. Lorenzo’s Oil comes to mind. Concussion. I Already Work Around the Clock: The Movie (I think it was released as Extraordinary Measures in the States). If you can excuse the overacting from Bracco a bit, I actually think it is quite good. Inverts the White Savior trope as well. Instead of Connery ultimately saving the tribe, he is hoping the tribe can help him save humanity. I like the medical stuff even if it was all a bit nonsense.

The Bad – They completely telegraph the ending of the film, to the point that you wonder if these literal genius-level scientists are in fact dumb people. They aren’t, but the twist is. Also, I could be wrong, but I think the kid who got cancer near the end was eating ants earlier in the film, which, if I know my fake-Medicine-Man-biology means he should have been immune to cancer. Whatever. Bracco’s character is written to be incredibly brash, and I don’t think it works the way it was intended, instead it just results in Bracco yelling a lot for mostly no good reason. A more clever twist and I think this film would have been fine though.

The BMT – I think this is a very specific genre, and could maybe be mentioned alongside Extraordinary Measures eventually as far as bad medical dramas. At the same time I don’t think I would really recommend the film as a bad movie in any capacity, which is usually how I judge these things. I can’t even think of a scene I would show anyone.

Roast-radamus – This is certainly a Setting as a Character (Where?) for Brazil and the Amazon rainforest in general. And arguably a great MacGuffin (Why?), with the cure for cancer (all cancer!) being the Maltese Falcon that the protagonists are going for. And definitely a Worst Twist (How?) for the ultimate conclusion of ants being the cure for cancer … a full half hour after they give you a close up shot of ants crawling all over the magical cancer curing plant. Pretty good line up there, but nothing for good, bad, or BMT I think.

StreetCreditReport.com – Not surprisingly the only cred here is, again, from Siskel and Ebert’s worst of list for 1992. There is this bizarre list from IndieWire which puts it at the 52nd best movie of the 90s … that’s a stretch. I’m actually not sure if Reverse Shot is supposed to be a joke of some kind? Johnny Mnemonic at number 4 feels a tad bit high. I also found it on a list of Left-Wing films for its environmental message. Doesn’t seem to be on any worst or best of environmental lists either.

You Just Got Schooled – There isn’t really a good movie to do alongside this one, so let’s highlight a little fun fact. On the Medicine Man wiki page the first citation is an LA Times article concerning someone suing the production for stealing their film idea. The person suing was, in fact, Wilburn H. Ferguson, a 1930s Amazonian explorer and doctor who came back from the Amazon claiming to have found a cure for cancer (called the Jivaro Head Shrinking Compound, and indeed the Jivaro tribe is one of the few well known head shrinking tribes in the world). Ferguson alleged that he sat down with executives in 1988 and described his story Tsanza, which is the native term for head shrinking, but they passed and independently produced Medicine Man. Not surprisingly, there is no evidence that the concoction that Ferguson sold in the 50s treated cancer. Interestingly the wiki page seems to suggest the film is instead based on the exploits of Richard Evans Schultes, who is considered the father of ethnobotany.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Medicine Man Quiz

Uh oh. In addition to forgetting the cure for cancer, I also drank too much native Amazonian alcohol during the celebration last night. Can you help me remember what happened in Medicine Man?

Pop Quiz Hot Shot!

1) When Bracco finds Connery in the rainforest he’s celebrating with his Amazonian friends. He’s decided to get shit faced and dress up as an animal. What animal?

2) The problem is that Connery has forgotten the cure for cancer! Whoops! He keeps making the solution, but none of them have the mystical peak 37 which is, of course, everything. What is the serum made from? In the end what was the actual source of peak 37?

3) Connery is naturally a tragic hero. What is he beating himself up over, so badly that even his wife is like “for reals, get over it”?

4) In addition to the frustrations that forgetting the cure for cancer poses (again, whoops), there is also an increasingly pressing issue facing Connery and the tribe. What is it?

5) In the movie two people in the tribe get cancer, despite the fact that Connery specifically sought out the tribe because they had an unusually low cancer rate. Why did these two people get cancer then?

Answers

Medicine Man Preview

“My son?” Poe gasps as he gazes upon Jim McBrawn. Now that he’s looking closer he can see his own features reflected back at him and the features of… “my God, Teri,” he whispers. He looks up at Rich who nods. With that Poe and Jim McBrawn embrace, “I’ve missed so much,” Poe says with tears in his eyes. “There’s… there’s still time,” Jim McBrawn says, eyes glistening as he pulls out a baseball mitt. We see them play some catch. We see Poe teach Jim how to ride a bike. We see them team up to karate chop Dark Gruber into submission. With his dying breath he gasps, “you… you defeated me. I never thought you would discover my only weakness… the power of love.” No time to gloat, though, Rich needs their help. They hop onto the computer system and dual hack their way into the shuttle’s mainframe. “Rich, the shuttle is compromised. You’ll never make it back… unless.” They hack some more and discover that the shuttle has an onboard helicopter-submarine. “Rich,” Poe says, “you think you can drive this thing?” With that Rich smiles, “I can drive anything.” With that he begins an uncontrolled descent to Earth. Only through fancy maneuvers and Tokyo drifts is he able to aim the helicopter-submarine for the New Orleans aquarium. Putting on the reverse thrusters just at the right moment he is able to crash dive his way into the penguin tank and comes out unscathed. Worldwide heroes, Rich and Poe stand contemplatively, looking into the distance. “I think I kinda like this,” Poe says, “I might just unretire… partner?” But Rich shakes his head and looks back at Jade. “Nah, I think it’s time for a change myself. Jade and I are getting married… but I’ll give you a ring if I ever need any help… partner.” And with that they clasp their hands. THE END

Jamie and Patrick look at each other. The script is horrible. But a part of them is still worried. “We need something to make sure people hate this… you thinking what I’m thinking?” And Jamie nods, “let’s destroy some rain forest.” That’s right! We’re transitioning from Siskel and Ebert’s worst of the year into a cycle centered around Hackers. The cycle will feature actors from the film Hackers and starts with Medicine Man which features Lorraine Bracco. It was also one of Ebert’s worst of 1992. Let’s go!

Medicine Man (1992) – BMeTric: 28.3 

MedicineManIMDb_BMeT

MedicineManIMDb_RV

(Standard regression to the mean thee. And I think that is likely just because the film is mostly forgotten? Who in the world besides absolute lunatics is like “man, I want to see Medicine Man starring Sean Connery and Lorraine Bracco, I haven’t seen that in years!”?)

Leonard Maltin – 2.5 stars –  Connery plays a research scientist, sequestered in the Brazilian rain forest, who’s found the cure for cancer – but can’t duplicate it. Bracco is his brainy superior from the U.S. who’s come to check up on him. Connery carried this movie singlehandedly, and as usual he’s commanding to watch, but the film is weak, and Bracco’s abrasive performance (and poorly written character) practically sinks it.

(There are a lot of weird choices here. Not conjoining “rain forest”, and not splitting singlehandedly in some way in particular just seems odd. Connery carried this review, the odd spelling / grammar choices almost sink it (heyoooooooooo, love you Leonard).)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQs9NrHc7qo/

(Ooooo looks exciting. I’m not joking. I’m actually pretty excited to watch this weird film.)

Directors – John McTiernan – (Known For: Die Hard; Predator; The Hunt for Red October; Die Hard: With a Vengeance; The Thomas Crown Affair; Future BMT: Nomads; Last Action Hero; Basic; BMT: Rollerball; Medicine Man; The 13th Warrior; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Director for Last Action Hero in 1994; Notes: We’ve been kind of all up in John McTiernan recently with Jamie doing a submarine podcast (Submersion) and specifically The Hunt for Red October, and watching the Predator remake last year. And why not: notable for going to prison for a year for illegal wiretapping.)

Writers – Tom Schulman (story & screenplay) – (Known For: Dead Poets Society; Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; What About Bob?; Future BMT: Holy Man; 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag; Second Sight; BMT: Welcome to Mooseport; Medicine Man; Notes: Won an Oscar for Dead Poets Society, it was his former teacher, Sam Pickering, that was the inspiration for Robin William’s character.)

Sally Robinson (screenplay) – (Known For: A Far Off Place; BMT: Medicine Man; Notes: Mostly known for television work. Appears to have retired to some degree in 2014.)

Actors – Sean Connery – (Known For: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; The Longest Day; Highlander; The Rock; The Hunt for Red October; The Untouchables; A Bridge Too Far; Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; Goldfinger; Thunderball; The Name of the Rose; Dr. No; Murder on the Orient Express; Never Say Never Again; Diamonds Are Forever; From Russia with Love; You Only Live Twice; DragonHeart; Time Bandits; Zardoz; Future BMT: Meteor; The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; Family Business; Rising Sun; A Good Man in Africa; Entrapment; Just Cause; The Man with the Deadly Lens; Sir Billi; BMT: The Avengers; Highlander II: The Quickening; Medicine Man; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor for The Avengers in 1999; and Nominee for Worst Screen Couple for Entrapment in 2000; Notes: Y’all know Sean Connery. Former Mr. Universe turned actor, he is nearly 90 years old.)

Lorraine Bracco – (Known For: Goodfellas; The Basketball Diaries; Sea of Love; Riding in Cars with Boys; Someone to Watch Over Me; The Dream Team; The Pick-up Artist; Being Human; Sing; Death of a Dynasty; Future BMT: Even Cowgirls Get the Blues; Switch; Hackers; Traces of Red; BMT: Medicine Man; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Actress in 1993 for Medicine Man, and Traces of Red; Notes: Was married to Edward James Olmos for years. She moved to France to become a model at 20, and was once asked to pose nude for Salvador Dali (she refused).)

José Wilker – (Known For: O Homem do Ano; BMT: Medicine Man; Notes: An extremely accomplished Brazilian actor who is often cast in Soap Operas and brought in to comment on film festivals in his home country. I like when they snap up actors like this for American films when opportunity arises.)

Budget/Gross – $40 million / Domestic: $45,500,797

(Not nearly as bad as you would think … like how did Medicine Man manage to make $45 million again? That makes no sense to me.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 19% (4/21)

(Noice, let’s make one: Great vistas, fine Connery, awful Bracco. A weak rip off of Indiana Jones. Reviewer Highlight: If this had been some dumb adventure movie, it would probably have been terrific. Alas, it is a “relationship” movie, told along lines of timeworn weariness, and since that is not bad enough, it also throws in several Serious Issues for the characters to discuss. – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)

Poster – Romancing the Sklog (C-)

medicine_man

(Oh boy. I mean, that actually makes me sad. I can’t even imagine who this is meant to entice. Nice font though… unique font goes a long way for me.)

Tagline(s) – He turned his back on civilization. Only to discover he had the power to save it. (C-)

(Too long but has a small amount of cleverness mixed with plot. But are we sure this is the plot of the film? Isn’t more that he turned his back on civilization because he has the power to save it? The curse of having already watched the film.)

Keyword(s) – deforestation; Top Ten by BMeTric: 72.3 The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000); 52.9 The Green Inferno (2013); 37.5 Fire on the Amazon (1993); 37.1 Forest Warrior (1996); 34.4 The Hallow (2015); 32.9 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016); 32.8 The Green Berets (1968); 28.3 Medicine Man (1992); 23.8 Rio 2 (2014); 21.3 The Lorax (2012);

(Amazing this film is on this list. And amazing we haven’t seen any of the other films! Although I’m seen TMNT 2. Fire on the Amazon looks ridiculous … doesn’t qualify.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 16) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Sean Connery is No. 1 billed in Medicine Man and No. 2 billed in Highlander 2: The Quickening, which also stars Virginia Madsen (No. 3 billed) who is in Firewall (No. 3 billed), which also stars Harrison Ford (No. 1 billed) who is in Hollywood Homicide (No. 1 billed), which also stars Josh Hartnett (No. 2 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 3 billed) => 1 + 2 + 3 + 3 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 3 = 16. If we were to watch Rising Sun, Murder at 1600, and The Glass House we can get the HoE Number down to 11.

Notes – Sir Sean Connery’s hairstyle in this movie was based upon Composer Jerry Goldsmith’s well-known ponytail. Meeting him at a cocktail party, Connery started the conversation by saying, “I want your hair.” Goldsmith replied, “You can’t have it, it’s mine.” Connery, and even the producers, felt Goldsmith’s “pulled back ponytail” fit the character of Robert Campbell very well. (Noice)

Lorraine Bracco turned down the role of Catwoman/Selina Kyle in Batman Returns (1992) to do this movie. (Well … good, Michelle Pfeiffer is the greatest character ever put to screen in a Batman film. Fact.)

Sir Sean Connery’s salary for this movie was ten million dollars.

While promoting the movie on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962), Sir Sean Connery stated that he would start each day playing a round of golf. He carried his own club and played at such a pace that the younger cast and crew members playing with him could not keep up. (His own “club” … I hope that isn’t a mistake and Sean Connery literally plays golf using a single club. Probably what? A five iron?)

This script became the subject of a heated bidding war when it was simply titled “The Stand”.

Tom Schulman was paid three million dollars for his script.

Awards – Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Actress (Lorraine Bracco, 1993)