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The 'DIE HARD' appreciation thread.

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125 replies to this topic

#1 of 126 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted April 03 2007 - 08:47 PM

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40 Stories of sheer adventure indeed.

On July 15th 1988 an action film exploded into theaters and, almost literally, blew the doors off all that had come before it, one that redefined what the word 'excitement' meant in terms of cinematic escapism, one that to this very day embodies and exemplifies what it's title implies moreso than any other...that film was Die Hard.

Up until that date, action films were quickly running out of steam in terms of coming up with something fresh, it almost seemed as though we were out of ideas, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Shwarzenegger and Chuck Norris had by that time cornered the market on cinematic mayhem but as great as they were they didn't really bring anything new to the table, the action was great but storylines were often thin, only getting exciting when the bullets and explosions began.

That was until director John Mctiernan and producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver turned Roderick Thorp's action novel Nothing Lasts Forever into the screenplay for Die Hard, a new breed of action film that would display all of the aformentioned bullets and explosions but would up the ante considerably for suspense, danger, drama and high stakes risk taking on the part of the films hero.

This film to me is one of what I call Mctiernan's 'lethal three' which also includes Predator and The Hunt for Red October...the man was on a role during this period, a period which abruptly ended with the release of Medicine Man.

Never before had there been an action film that would be as large, as daring and as tear-your-balls-off hard hitting as this one would turn out to be and the results were, in a word, THRILLING!

One of the many things that set Die Hard apart from all others was the casting of Bruce Willis as Detective John McClane, in addition to the fresh direction this character went, ie a regular joe who is thrust into a dangerous situation that he wants no part of as he slips away from the terrorist round-up and spends the rest of the night making things very difficult for these Yule Tide bandits, he simply didn't look like any other hero who came before him, he wasn't particularly mucsle-bound but had the swagger and physique of an ordinary guy you would see anywhere.

Willis, whom at that time was known mainly for his role as David Addison in the popular show Moonlighting, brought a sly, smart-assed sense of humor to his character, he was flawed, vulnerable and knew that the odds were against him but hung in there to both keep himself alive and to save his wife and he used his poilce training to do what he had to do to stay alive from hiding in air vents, elevator shafts, running through broken glass in his bare feet or leaping from the roof of a 40 story building all the while keeping his "What the hell am I doing!?" sense of humor about him.

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His nemesis, Hans Gruber as played by Royal Shakespearian Company actor Alan Rickman was a truly suave villain, one who thought that he had all of his bases covered when he and his team of heavily armed thieves including Karl, his right hand man and the more vicious of Han's men, crashed the party at the Nakatomi building on Christmas eve in an effort to make off with the contents of the buildings vault...this would be a night no one would ever forget.

One of the things i've always loved about this film and still do to this day is the production design, no matter where in the building we were, everythng looked and felt very real, from the half-completed floors, elevator shafts lobby and of course the rooftop which would see much of the films most exciting action scenes, and of course I cannot leave out the Fox Plaza Office buidling which served as the exterior and is what gave the building a personality all it's own.

The cinematography which was the brilliant work of Jan DeBont who would later go on to add some much needed kineticism to the action genre with his genre defining Speed was just the thing that this film needed to give it it's polished and steely look. As a big fan of the anamorphic process the use of Panavision is every bit an important part of this film as the characters themselves were, with it's soft focus and bold lens flares it gave the film a large scale cinematic look that just isn't offered with other shooting processes IMO.

Another element that I appreciate about the film is it's quieter moments, in particular the moments between McClane and Al, played by Family Matters star Reginald Veljohnson, a fellow cop on the ground with whom McClane forms a reassuring bond with over CB communications, it's this bond that gives Die Hard it's emotional anchor and really gets across the notion that these men are real, they aren't comic book superheroes who can't be hurt or killed.

Al is supported by a cast of on the ground supporting characters that lend a sense of fun to the proceedings including the irreplacable performance of the late Paul Gleason as police chief Dwayn Robinson who added some much needed comic relief when the action began to heat up, which was often needless to say.

I cannot submit this thread without acknowledging the amazing model and miniature work by Richard Edlund and his talented group of craftsmen at Boss Film Studios who really brought the house down with their work here, they really bring home the illusion that this building is slowly being blown to bits from McClane dropping a C-4 rigged chair down an elevator shaft blowing out an entire floor to the ever dramatic detonation and destruction of the Nakatomi's rooftop during the films breathless climax, Die Hard wouldn't have hit as hard without him and his team.

Yet another element that one must mention is the score by the late Michael Kamen, both original and bold he bought a heart to the film and I was sad when we lost him but the film stands as a testiment to his brilliance as a composer, just an invaluable element to this great film.

I hope I haven't put anyone to sleep with my lengthy ramblings Posted Image but as we approach the opening of it's third sequel Live Free or Die Hard I felt compelled to take a moment and observe this great film we call Die Hard, whether one watches it on Christmas eve or just any old time of the year we can be assured that when the lights go down in our home theaters the roof will come off as we witness one of the greatest action spectacles ever produced...Die Hard.

There was never one like it before it and there has never been one quite like it since, so throw it in, crank it up, sing a verse or two from 'Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!' and YIPPIE KAI YAY MOTHER FUCKER!

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#2 of 126 OFFLINE   BrettV


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Posted April 03 2007 - 10:29 PM

Come out to the coast, we'll get together .. have a few laughs ... Classic.

#3 of 126 OFFLINE   Sam Favate

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Posted April 03 2007 - 11:47 PM

I think all three movies are terrific and they transcend the genre they helped to create. Whether the fourth film lives up to the others remains to be seen, but I think each of the three Die Hard movies outshine their many imitators. I have trouble choosing a favorite among them, although my favorite line has to be from With A Vengeance, when Sam Jackson first meets Bruce Willis on that street corner while the teenagers are playing in the background. The basketball rolls into the street, one of them goes out to get it, sees the sign McClane is wearing and says "WHAT the fuck --?!?"

#4 of 126 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted April 04 2007 - 01:33 AM

Most excellent John. Posted Image

I loved how Gruber with his perfect diction pronounced John M_c_C_l_a_i_n.

Such a great performance. One of the best action films EVER. Ever. Posted Image

#5 of 126 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted April 04 2007 - 02:16 AM

Yahoo movies has a new trailer of 'Live Free or Die Hard'. I must say that it is one of the Summer flicks that I am most looking forward too. Great franchise filled with great action moments, great lines and, so far, great bad guys!
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#6 of 126 OFFLINE   Brent M

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Posted April 04 2007 - 05:30 AM

Easily the best action movie ever made IMHO. It's been copied countless times, but nothing will ever top the original Die Hard. Posted Image
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#7 of 126 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted April 04 2007 - 06:24 AM

Incidentally I missed Die Hard when it was in theaters, back then I was heavy into sci-fi and horror and a friend and I went to see Childs Play one Saturday and my dad said he was going to go in and see Die Hard. Well DH was longer than CP so he didn't see it but another friend of mine did and he described the atmosphere in the theater towards the end of the film as that of a football stadium, he said the crowd went freakin' nuts for DH lol.

Man, if I knew then what I know now I would have seen DH instead of CP!
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#8 of 126 OFFLINE   dailW


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Posted April 04 2007 - 06:47 AM

i saw it in the theaters. 2 times. the day it came out and then thanksgiving weekend. the first time was a theater i practically grew up in. this huge auditorium it wasn't 70mm 6 track just dolby but what a huge big movie and that third act so much fun i was 15 at the time. it came out on a wednesday and saw it that night.their was maybe 10-20 people in the theater.not a lot of cheering but i didn't care i loved the movie. then on thanksgiving weekend i went and saw it again as a double feature with of all movies cocktail those two for 1.50 how i miss those days. mono sound the place was packed and people cheered . the one thing people don't talk about the movie is how its shot anaimorphic not a lot of tight close-up shots lets the movie breathe thats what i love about the movie.

#9 of 126 ONLINE   TravisR


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Posted April 04 2007 - 07:56 AM

Yeah, that's a line that is elevated to comedic heights by the way its read. I could hear it a hundred times a day and always laugh. Posted Image

#10 of 126 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted April 04 2007 - 09:11 AM

Yep, love that, too, i'm ashamed to admit that my first introduction to this fine film was on pan and scan vhs back in 89 (BLECH!), but that was before my awakening to OAR and i've been struggling like hell to erase that time of my life. Posted Image Man I wish that pan and scan would just go away and burn in hell for all eternity.

One of the lines I love, and there are many, is when John signals for the fire department, looks out the window and sees them coming down the street only to stop and turn around, there's just something funny about the way he screams "Oh you stupid mother fuckers no no!! Turn the fucking truck around!!", he just sounds so desperate and disappointed there lol.
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#11 of 126 ONLINE   Greg_S_H


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Posted April 04 2007 - 09:27 AM

I was just thinking about that part. "C'mon, baby! Come to papa! I'll kiss your fucking dalmatian!"

#12 of 126 OFFLINE   Quentin



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Posted April 04 2007 - 02:55 PM

In my opinion, the second best action script EVER. Only second to North by Northwest. Just a classic of the genre, and it turned Willis into a mega-star. I watch it at LEAST 3x a year!

#13 of 126 OFFLINE   Francois Caron

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Posted April 04 2007 - 04:12 PM

I also saw it twice when it came out, the second time with my dad. The theater (now closed) had an almost-new sound system and the sound was really fantastic!

The best line for me was when Gruber was naming the terrorist groups that were to be released. When he said "Liberté Québec", the audience laughed out loud! It's as if the existence of Canada and Quebec were acknowledged by Hollywood for the first time in history! Posted Image

#14 of 126 OFFLINE   Michael_K_Sr



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Posted April 04 2007 - 04:18 PM

I must have missed 60 Minutes...

#15 of 126 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted April 04 2007 - 09:27 PM

"Hans, boopie! I'm your white knight."

Ellis, that poor misguided bastard lol.

BTW, back in the late 80's early 90's when I still had an audio tape deck I used to have lots of fun with the audio from this film, I had my Hi Fi VCR connected to the deck and I made a mix tape of nothing but the gunfire and explosions into one long loud and violent montage and I used to put it in to piss off the people next door lol.

The cool thing is that Die Hard is really the only film that you can do this with and have it work, I tried it with the Lethal Weapon and Terminator films and it just didn't turn out well.

I wish I still had it, I may track down a good used deck and make another one, I would use a CD burner but I need the ability to make very precise and clean transitions with the editing and CD burners aren't that precise.

I'm just sick aren't I? Posted Image
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#16 of 126 OFFLINE   Kevin Grey

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Posted April 05 2007 - 01:57 AM

I really think that the McTiernan/DeBont combination was a match made in heaven. McTiernan's work has never looked as good or as distinctive since Red October. Also kind of interesting that Die Hard wasn't exactly a megahit. 80 million wasn't anything to sneeze at in 1988 but that's only half of what Rambo did three years before or what Lethal Weapon 2 would do the following year.

#17 of 126 OFFLINE   Chad R

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Posted April 05 2007 - 05:25 AM

No, it wasn't the biggest moneymaker, but considering its considerable handcaps it did very, very well. When the trailers first hit most people didn't buy the "Moonlighting" guy as an action star. The marketing tried to overcome that, but Fox didn't feel confident enough to open it wide. It opened limitedly for a week to get some solid reviews behind it -- which it got -- before rolling it out to more theaters. Their strategy worked. Whereas it didn't make tons of money in one weekend as is the norm for today, it had legs and held on to a top ten spot well into October. Word of mouth was the reason for this. When it hit video the next year (January I think) it was a huge rental hit. That's why a sequel was greenlit. I didn't see it until well into September because I too didn't buy David Addison as an action star. But, when I did see it I saw it in 70mm and it did "blow me through the back of the theater."

#18 of 126 OFFLINE   DavidPla



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Posted April 05 2007 - 06:00 AM

Exactly. It was one of those films that opened pretty small but just kept going and going week after week. It's legs I think were amazing. Which is also why "Die Hard 2" opened pretty big when it opened. A better comparison would be to the first Rambo or the first Lethal Weapon.

#19 of 126 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted April 05 2007 - 08:57 AM

I can't believe that I never mentioned the fine performance by Alexander Gudunov as Karl, I liked him ever since seeing him in The Money Pit with Tom Hanks, it's particularly eerie that he was found dead the night before the opening of Die Hard with a Vengeance if I recall correctly.
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#20 of 126 OFFLINE   Geoff_D


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Posted April 05 2007 - 10:14 AM

Die Hard is my all-time favourite movie because it's the perfect actioner. No beat feel out of place, no line is wasted, the photography is outstanding, the acting is superb, the music is incredible (how many scores lump together Beethoven, Singin' In The Rain and an unused cue from Aliens and still manage to sound fresh and original?), the action is gloriously ultra-violent and the special effects are magnificent.

The shot at the end, when the camera tilts down from the burning roof of Nakatomi Plaza to the devastation below, is meat and drink for today's CG whizz-kids. But to do a dissolve from a miniature to the real thing in a shot of that scale 20 years ago was incredibly audacious, and the fact that it looks so good even now (as does the model work in general) is a testament to the abilities of all those involved.

A bonus for me is that every time I watch Die Hard on DVD or DVHS it feels like some sort of director's cut, because as a kid I memorised the awful TV version and it still lives on in my noggin. And I love the Die Hard series so much I just bought a laserdisc boxset of the trilogy from Japan. Can't wait for Live Free or Die Hard!! Posted Image

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