Best Defense (1984)

R | 94 mins | Comedy | 20 July 1984

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HISTORY

Onscreen credits include Eddie Murphy as “Strategic guest star,” even though his name appears above the title. End credits include the following statements: “The producers wish to give special thanks to:The Post Group; Flight Systems, Inc. (Rockets); Digital Equipment Corporation; P.D.A. Cinemation” and “Filmed on location in Hollywood, U.S.A., and Israel.”
       News items in 21 Aug 1980 DV and 31 Aug 1983 Var refer to the film by the working titles Easy and Hard Ways Out and Easy Way Out, respectively.
       On 31 Oct 1977, Publishers Weekly reported that actor Peter Falk purchased screen rights to Robert Grossbach’s novel, Easy and Hard Ways Out.
       A 21 Aug 1980 DV news item announced producer Danny Arnold was “readying” the production for Falk at Columbia Pictures. A 13 Apr 1981 HR brief stated the screenplay was to be written by Grossbach and Henry Bloomstein. However, Columbia, Arnold, Falk, and Bloomstein are not credited onscreen. Grossbach only appears as author of the source material.
       An 18 Oct 1983 HR article reported that Best Defense began principal photography 13 Oct 1983 in Los Angeles, CA, with Dudley Moore starring. Writer-producer Gloria Katz and writer-director Willard Huyck adapted Grossbach’s novel. A 10 Jan 1984 HR brief stated the production completed ten weeks of shooting at Paramount studios and locations around Los Angeles, and was scheduled to film for eleven days in Israel, including the desert near Jericho, the city of Acre, and the village of Nebi Samuel (An-Nabi Samwil).
       An 18 Jul 1984 LAT article reported that ... More Less

Onscreen credits include Eddie Murphy as “Strategic guest star,” even though his name appears above the title. End credits include the following statements: “The producers wish to give special thanks to:The Post Group; Flight Systems, Inc. (Rockets); Digital Equipment Corporation; P.D.A. Cinemation” and “Filmed on location in Hollywood, U.S.A., and Israel.”
       News items in 21 Aug 1980 DV and 31 Aug 1983 Var refer to the film by the working titles Easy and Hard Ways Out and Easy Way Out, respectively.
       On 31 Oct 1977, Publishers Weekly reported that actor Peter Falk purchased screen rights to Robert Grossbach’s novel, Easy and Hard Ways Out.
       A 21 Aug 1980 DV news item announced producer Danny Arnold was “readying” the production for Falk at Columbia Pictures. A 13 Apr 1981 HR brief stated the screenplay was to be written by Grossbach and Henry Bloomstein. However, Columbia, Arnold, Falk, and Bloomstein are not credited onscreen. Grossbach only appears as author of the source material.
       An 18 Oct 1983 HR article reported that Best Defense began principal photography 13 Oct 1983 in Los Angeles, CA, with Dudley Moore starring. Writer-producer Gloria Katz and writer-director Willard Huyck adapted Grossbach’s novel. A 10 Jan 1984 HR brief stated the production completed ten weeks of shooting at Paramount studios and locations around Los Angeles, and was scheduled to film for eleven days in Israel, including the desert near Jericho, the city of Acre, and the village of Nebi Samuel (An-Nabi Samwil).
       An 18 Jul 1984 LAT article reported that motion picture theater owners were displeased, claiming that Paramount exaggerated Eddie Murphy’s role when it pre-sold the film. A Paramount spokesman argued that the studio had been “extremely meticulous” in not overstating Murphy’s contribution, and attributed the misunderstanding to the enthusiasm of exhibitors and audiences to see the star onscreen again. On 26 Jul 1984, the WSJ addressed speculation that Murphy had been brought in to “save” the film, based on the actor’s unusual billing and his being onscreen for only fifteen to twenty minutes, as well as television advertisements that featured Murphy more prominently than Moore. However, Murphy’s manager, Bob Wachs, pointed out that his client signed to do the film in Aug 1983 and principal photography began Oct 1983. Katz stated that the parallel structure of the film was intended from the beginning. The 18 Jul 1984 LAT article noted Murphy and Moore’s lone scene together was cut from the final version.
       The 20 Jul 1984 NYT review stated the film was “of an awfulness to make one yearn to see such comparable clinkers as William Friedkin’s Deal of the Centry (1983, see entry) and Richard Brooks’s Wrong is Right” (1982, see entry). More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Oct 1984.
---
Daily Variety
21 Aug 1980.
---
Daily Variety
19 Jul 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Apr 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Oct 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jan 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 1984
p. 4.
LAHExam
20 Jul 1984.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Jul 1984
Section G, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
21 Jul 1984
p. 5.
Motion Picture Prod Digest
1 Aug 1984.
---
New York Times
20 Jul 1984
p. 10.
Newsweek
30 Jul 1984.
p. 80.
Publishers Weekly
31 Oct 1977.
---
Time
6 Aug 1984.
---
Variety
31 Aug 1983.
---
Variety
25 Jul 1984
p. 14.
WSJ
26 Jul 1984.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Strategic guest star
Tom Noonan
Featuring:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
In association with Cinema Group Venture
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
DGA trainee
Unit pub, Israeli unit
Asst dir, Israeli unit
2d asst dir, Israeli unit
2d asst dir, Israeli unit
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam person
2d asst cam person
Key grip
Still photog
Cam op, Israeli unit
Aerial cam op, Israeli unit
Israeli unit, still photog
Key grip, Israeli unit
Miniature photog by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Prod illustrator
Art dir, Israeli unit
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
Prop master
Mold maker
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Set dec, Israeli unit
Prop master, Israeli unit
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
Cost supv, Israeli unit
MUSIC
Mus comp
Supv mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom person
Supv sd ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd mixer, Israeli unit
Boom person, Israeli unit
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles & opt
Title des
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Makeup artist, Israeli unit
Hairstylist, Israeli unit
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Prod auditor
Unit pub
Transportation coord
Casting asst
Secy to unit prog mgrs
Asst to the prod
Prod supv, Israeli unit
Prod supv, Israeli unit
Loc mgr, Israeli unit
Extra casting, Israeli unit
Transportation capt, Israeli unit
Military adv, Israeli unit
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Easy and Hard Ways Out by Robert Grossbach (New York, 1974).
MUSIC
"Raiders March," written by John Williams
"A Future In Elevators," written by Richard Stone.
SONGS
"On The Road Again," written by Willie Nelson
"Moon River," written by Johnny Mercer & Henry Mancini
"Mona Lisa," written by Jay Livingston & Ray Evans
+
SONGS
"On The Road Again," written by Willie Nelson
"Moon River," written by Johnny Mercer & Henry Mancini
"Mona Lisa," written by Jay Livingston & Ray Evans
"Close To You," written by Burt Bacharach & Hal David
"Silver Bells," written by Jay Livingston & Ray Evans.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Easy and Hard Ways Out
Easy Way Out
Release Date:
20 July 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 20 July 1984
Production Date:
13 October 1983--mid January 1984 in Los Angeles, CA and Israel
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
20 August 1984
Copyright Number:
PA223163
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
94
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27409
SYNOPSIS

In 1984, At Camp Damsah, Kuwait, U.S. Army Lt. T. M. Landry field tests the XM-10 “Supertank,” aka “The Annihilator,” for American and Kuwaiti dignitaries. The tank’s navigation system malfunctions, runs over the grandstand, and crushes a sheik’s Mercedes-Benz automobile, before destroying a local family’s home. Two years earlier, in Seal Beach, California, Laura Cooper warns her husband, engineer Wylie Cooper, that he should not return home if he loses another job. At Dynatechnics, Inc., Wiley’s coworkers blame him for the company’s poor performance. His supervisor, Claire, stresses the importance of that day’s test of the Dyp-Gyro, a missile guidance system Wiley designed. While Wiley and his colleague, Sid Loparino, fantasize about Claire, the Dyp-gyro malfunctions and bursts into flame. Later, over drinks, Wiley tells Loparino he plans to lie to his wife about the failed test. After Loparino leaves, another engineer, Frank Holtzman, introduces himself to Wiley, and points out a man named Jeff, who Holtzman claims is a KGB agent. In ten minutes, Holtzman is to meet Jeff in the men’s room and pass him a floppy disk, but has lost his nerve. When Wiley pays his bill, Holtzman slips the disk into Wiley’s briefcase and leaves. Outside the bar, Wiley witnesses Jeff assault Holtzman, push him into a car, and drive away. The following day at work, Wiley discovers the disk and places it in a computer drive. The disk contains Holtzman’s Dyp-Gyro design for a rival company, Digical Technologies, but Wiley’s colleagues mistakenly think it is his work and treat him as a hero. He confesses to Loparino and wants to tell the truth, but his friend changes the authorship on the disk to give ... +


In 1984, At Camp Damsah, Kuwait, U.S. Army Lt. T. M. Landry field tests the XM-10 “Supertank,” aka “The Annihilator,” for American and Kuwaiti dignitaries. The tank’s navigation system malfunctions, runs over the grandstand, and crushes a sheik’s Mercedes-Benz automobile, before destroying a local family’s home. Two years earlier, in Seal Beach, California, Laura Cooper warns her husband, engineer Wylie Cooper, that he should not return home if he loses another job. At Dynatechnics, Inc., Wiley’s coworkers blame him for the company’s poor performance. His supervisor, Claire, stresses the importance of that day’s test of the Dyp-Gyro, a missile guidance system Wiley designed. While Wiley and his colleague, Sid Loparino, fantasize about Claire, the Dyp-gyro malfunctions and bursts into flame. Later, over drinks, Wiley tells Loparino he plans to lie to his wife about the failed test. After Loparino leaves, another engineer, Frank Holtzman, introduces himself to Wiley, and points out a man named Jeff, who Holtzman claims is a KGB agent. In ten minutes, Holtzman is to meet Jeff in the men’s room and pass him a floppy disk, but has lost his nerve. When Wiley pays his bill, Holtzman slips the disk into Wiley’s briefcase and leaves. Outside the bar, Wiley witnesses Jeff assault Holtzman, push him into a car, and drive away. The following day at work, Wiley discovers the disk and places it in a computer drive. The disk contains Holtzman’s Dyp-Gyro design for a rival company, Digical Technologies, but Wiley’s colleagues mistakenly think it is his work and treat him as a hero. He confesses to Loparino and wants to tell the truth, but his friend changes the authorship on the disk to give Wylie credit. Ex-astronaut Frank Joyner, president of Dynathechnics, is appalled to find that Wylie’s wife has to drive him to work every day, so he buys the Coopers a second car. That night, Loparino alerts Wylie to a television newscast and they learn that Frank Holtzman was found dead in his garage, an apparent suicide, though police have not ruled out foul play. Sometime later, Dynatechnics successfully tests the new Dyp-Gyro prototype and is awarded the government contract for the XM-10 Annihilator tank missile guidance system. At the ceremony announcing the contract, Wylie is lauded for his contribution, as Jeff lurks among the spectators. Afterward, at a party, Wiley receives the Dyp-gyro’s differential specifications from Harvey Brank, a junior engineer, and claims it as his own work to Claire, who is sexually attracted to Wylie’s “genius.” Wiley suggests he and Claire get a hotel room to “work,” while Laura unpacks boxes in the new home the company has bought for him. Back at the hotel, Jeff accosts Wylie and threatens to reveal the Dyp-Gyro is not his work. Jeff denies being a KGB agent, but reveals that people he works for are eager to get their hands on the missile guidance system and offers Wylie a $100,000 bribe. Wylie accepts a $10,000 down payment, promising to deliver the Dyp-Gyro specification, then meets Claire in the hotel room. She is ready to make love, but he is panic-stricken and suggests they leave the country immediately and change their identities. As Claire begins to seduce Wiley, FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) agents, with Joyner and Loparino, burst into the room. The agents ask Wylie to help them capture Jeff, who engages in industrial espionage and sells military secrets “behind the Iron Curtain.” When Wylie balks, the chief agent takes him to another room and asserts the FBI knows he got the disk from Holtzman and accepted a bribe from Jeff, and he is guilty of treason. Wylie changes his mind, and wearing a “wire,” waits in the parking lot for Jeff. A mugger steals the briefcase, but Jeff intercepts the thief. Realizing he has been set up, Jeff takes Wylie hostage. A shootout with the FBI ensues and Jeff wounds Wylie, but is killed by a visiting Latin American police official. As Wylie is placed in an ambulance, he confesses to Claire that he did not design the new Dyp-Gyro. Laura arrives, and the two women chastise Wylie for his misdeeds, before fighting with another as the ambulance drives away. Meanwhile, Harvey, the junior engineer chases down the ambulance and informs Wylie there is an unforeseen problem with the Dyp-Gyro and it will not pass final U.S. Army tests. Sometime later, when Wylie returns to work, Joyner offers him a promotion to chief engineer. Wylie is surprised because he had written Joyner a letter admitting he did not design the guidance system and warning him that it will not work in the final test. Joyner does not care and is only interested in pushing forward, ignoring the fact that in an actual tank, overheating could cause the missile system to fail. Joyner and Claire instruct Harvey to change the calibration on the machine that tests the gyro to pass the test, calculating that the odds of overheating are miniscule. Later, in the motel room where he is now living estranged from Laura, Wylie works to solve the problem, but realizes that Joyner has moved the test up two days. Wylie returns home to retrieve data pages he mixed up with his young son’s drawings, and Laura confesses that he did not ruin her life as she had earlier claimed. Wylie arrives at the Dynatechnics plant after the test is completed, but informs military officials of the potential problem. Joyner and his men attempt to silence Wylie, but he explains a solution he devised to cool the Dyp-Gyro. If the officials do not follow his redesign, Wylie threatens to go to Congress and the press. Two years later, in 1984, Lt. Landry inadvertently drives the XM-10 tank into a Kuwaiti-Iraqi war zone. A U.S. Army officer commands Landry and his inexperienced Kuwaiti crew to save a group of soldiers trapped behind enemy lines. When the tank reaches the men, they come under siege from an Iraqi helicopter. The tank overheats, but Wylie’s cooling system deploys, allowing Landry to rescue the troops. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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