In August of 2012, I was fortunate enough to work as an extra in Into the Storm. I've always thought working on a disaster movie would be fun and it was (albeit being soaking wet for a couple of days was a little uncomfortable).
While Hollywood's fascination with disaster comes and goes, the current crop of disaster films all revolve around tornadoes. Why, I have no idea.
The closest a lot of us will ever come to a tornado is the one which transports Dorothy to Oz in The Wizard of Oz but during the disaster craze of the mid '90's tornadoes were literally coming from the sky in 1996.
It started on Valentine's Day when the TV movie, Night of the Twisters was shown on The Family Channel. This movie was based on the book by Ivy Ruckman and was about a stepfather and stepson who are at odds which each other in a small Nebraska town.
John Schneider starred as Jack Hatch, who was on the verge of losing his business and disappointed that his stepson Dan (Devon Sawa) wasn't the jock he used to be. Of course Dan has other things on his mind and the fact there's a baby in the house doesn't make life any better for him.
The movie takes place in the fall (when it's a really ripe time for tornadoes) and with an unusual weather pattern towns north of their small town are hit first. It takes all day for the storm to hit but in the beginning a family (mother, father and daughter) have to seek refuge when a tornado drops from the sky a few feet away from their house.
It's a good thing a meteorologist happens to be close by so he can warn the family. The family's pretty dense since they couldn't see it coming.
So life goes on and finally the tornado hits the town (its funny their Canadian accents weren't blown away) and the family's scattered in different parts of the city doing their bad acting.
But a couple of days before Twister hit theaters, a poor man's version was shown on TV called Tornado! which also had equally bad acting and a plot like Twister.
Ernie Hudson starred as a scientist who has hopes of releasing his tornadometer into the air but those pesky winds never seem to be in the area. His government funding is about to be cut off by Samantha Callen (Shannon Sturges) known in Washington as the "hatchet lady" since she has no problem cutting off funds.
It's up to Dr. Branson's former star student, Bruce Campbell, to convince her about the program and why it's a necessary to keep the money coming in for the research.
Well Samantha has a heart after all as she gets hyped up over tornado chasing. She's ready to give it a couple more days and guess what? There's a few hit and misses before the big one finally hits.
But wait! Bruce's grandfather, L.Q. Jones, is able to predict when a twister will be dropping from the sky and as luck would have it one hits the farm, but, the tornadometer can't get sucked up into the sky and they're stuck in the eye of the storm (which gives them enough time to reset everything up).
And say goodbye to L.Q. as he gets blown away.
Which brings us to Twister and the explanation of the Fujita Scale which is probably the only thing the movie taught us.
When the movie starts an F-5 is getting ready to hit a farmhouse (which we learn is young Jo's house) before the Fujita Scale was ever invented. Jo's father tells her mother an F-5 is on it's way but the scale didn't come out until 1971.
Anyway, after Jo's father is sucked away it's her obsession to chase and learn more about tornadoes. The adult Jo (Helen Hunt) is a signature away from divorcing husband Bill (Bill Paxton) but with weather changes she's on the move and Bill comes along for the ride along with his fiance' Dr. Melissa Reeves (Jami Gertz).
So they chase a couple of twisters and Melissa starts to see that the two are still in love and she knows Bill won't be happy with her or in his new job as a meteorologist. So, after another close call later that evening and overhearing Jo and Bill on the CB radio, she decides to call off the relationship.
This frees the way for him to continue chasing twisters and Jo (plus rival scientist Cary Elwes) until the end when the REAL big one hits.
Again our heroes are trapped in the eye of the tornado and just like in Tornado! the tornadometer (this time called Dorothy) manages to get off the ground with the help of Bill's spanking new truck.
But there's one thing to watch out for following a tornado: love and forgiveness.
Love brings everyone together in Night of the Twisters, Samantha and Jake (Campbell) discover love, and Jo and Bill get back together while forgiving one another.
Ahh, Mother Nature. You sure work in mysterious ways.