I’ve always been a sucker for special effects thrillers. Ever since the first time I watched a city destroyed by earthquake and fire in the 1936 Clark Gable movie San Francisco I’ve been hooked by the genre. I’ll even suffer the humiliation of my husband’s merciless laughter as I sit transfixed watching a SciFi Channel disaster movie marathon.
One of my other fascinations is weather phenomena. Having grown up in the Midwest, I have experienced my fair share of severe weather. I’ve seen roofs ripped from schools, groves of trees uprooted, and have even experienced the terrible fright of having a large metal beam fly across the hood of my car (while I was sitting in it) and landing on the pavement two feet away while waiting for my son in a school carpool line. By the time I was 10, I knew how to identify every cloud type, and knew that “cumulo-nimbus” cloud formations on a hot humid day were very, very bad.
Twister merges my interests into one big gooey guilty pleasure. Oh yeah. And I love boy loses girl, boy fights with girl, boy gets girl romantic comedies. And the movie (pretty predictably from the outset) delivers on that as well.
Directed by Jan De Bont (Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, and Speed), the film stars Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as meteorologists with a passion for chasing tornadoes. Bill Harding has left the risky storm-chasing world of academic field work for the safer confines of TV station weather forecasting, while his estranged wife Jo manages a team of tornado-chasing graduate students doing research on these fascinating, but deadly, phenomena.
Her team is attempting to launch electronic sensors from a contraption called “Dorothy” (designed by Bill in his wilder days) into the funnel to obtain data and create an improved warning system. Along for the ride is Bill’s fiancee (although he still bears a well-lit torch for Jo), a psychotherapist (Jami Gertz) with no stomach for stormy field work, and a competing and better-funded team of scientists (led by the deliciously smarmy Cary Elwes) who’ve stolen Bill’s design (but who get their just desserts in the end — as villains must).
The real stars of the film, however, are the six killer tornadoes that pummel mid-America’s Tornado Alley. Industrial Light and Magic’s stunning visual effects used to create the cyclones were ground-breaking at the time, and still pack a punch 12 years later. The film is an appropriately wild ride, if entirely predictable in its characters and storyline (but, then again, what disaster movie isn’t?).
The special effects are awesome as the twisters get more and more destructive. The scene in a rural drive-in movie theatre, late at night when one of the cyclones hit is quite terrifying even on the small screen.
Originally released in 1996, it was the first movie to ever be released on DVD. This new Twister Two-Disc Special Edition, released by Warner Home Video, features a digitally remastered picture presented in 16×9 widescreen, and a full disc of bonus features, including:
- A commentary by director Jan DeBont and visual effects master Stefan Fangmeier
- "Chasing the Storm: Twister Revisited"
- "The Making of Twister" (an HBO First Look Special)
- "Anatomy of a Twister"
- "Nature Tech: Tornadoes" (a 2003 History Channel special)
- Van Halen’s "Humans Being" music video
The DVD was released earlier this month on standard and Blu-ray Disc, and will be released on HD DVD May 27.