Meteor (film)

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Meteor imp.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ronald Neame
Produced by Arnold Orgolini
Theodore R. Parvin
Run Run Shaw
Written by Stanley Mann
Edmund H. North
Music by Laurence Rosenthal
Cinematography Paul Lohmann
Edited by Carl Kress
Distributed by American International Pictures
Release date
  • October 19, 1979 (1979-10-19)
Running time
107 minutes
Country United States
Hong Kong
Language English
Budget $16 million[1] or $15.4-17 million [2]
Box office $8.4 million (domestic) or $4.2 million (US rentals)[2]

Meteor is a 1979 Hong Kong–American science fiction disaster film starring Sean Connery and Natalie Wood. The film, which was directed by Ronald Neame, was inspired by a 1967 MIT report Project Icarus.[3][4] The screenplay was written by Oscar winner Edmund H. North and Stanley Mann. It is about scientists struggling with international, Cold War politics after an asteroid is detected to be on a collision course with Earth.

The international cast also includes Karl Malden, Brian Keith, Martin Landau, Trevor Howard, Joseph Campanella, Richard Dysart and Henry Fonda. The film was a box office flop.[5]


After the fictional asteroid Orpheus is hit by a comet, a five-mile chunk of Orpheus is sent on a collision course towards Earth, which will cause an extinction-level event. While the United States government engages in political maneuvering, smaller asteroid fragments precede the main body, wreaking havoc on the planet. The United States has a secret orbiting nuclear missile platform satellite named Hercules, which was designed by Dr. Paul Bradley (Sean Connery). It was intended to defend Earth against a massive space rock, but instead was demoted to become an orbiting super weapon now aimed at Russia. However, its fourteen nuclear missiles are not enough to stop the meteor.

The United States discovers that the Soviet Union also has a weapons satellite. The President (Henry Fonda) goes on national television and reveals the existence of Hercules, explaining it was created to meet the threat that Orpheus represents. He also offers the Soviets a chance to save face by announcing they, too, had the same program and their own satellite weapon. Bradley requests a Soviet scientist named Dr. Alexei Dubov (Brian Keith) to help him plan a counter-effort against Orpheus.

Bradley and Harry Sherwood (Karl Malden) of NASA meet at the control center for Hercules, located beneath 195 Broadway in Lower Manhattan. Major General Adlon (Martin Landau) is the commander of the facility. Dubov and his interpreter Tatiana Donskaya (Natalie Wood), arrive and Bradley gets to work on breaking the ice between them. Since Dubov cannot admit the existence of the Soviet device, he agrees to Bradley's proposal that they work on the "theoretical" application of how a "theoretical" Soviet space platform's weapons would be coordinated with the American ones.

Meanwhile, more meteor fragments strike Earth and the Soviets finally admit that they are willing to join in the effort. It appears that the satellite has a lot in common with Hercules, with sixteen nuclear missiles to be used against a large space rock, but is now an orbiting super weapon aimed at the United States. The satellite is christened Peter the Great, and both satellites are turned towards the asteroid. Unfortunately, smaller fragments continue to strike the planet, causing great damage, including a deadly avalanche in the Swiss Alps and a tsunami which devastates Hong Kong. On Sunday morning, Peter the Great's missiles are launched first because of its relative position to the asteroid. Hercules's missiles are fired 40 minutes later.

Just after Hercules's missiles are launched, New York City is struck by a large fragment, destroying most of the city. Several workers inside the control center are killed when the facility is destroyed, and the survivors slowly work their way out of the control center by going through the New York subway system, which has become a trap due to water from the East River flooding the tunnels. Meanwhile, the two packs of missiles link up into three successively larger waves. The Hercules crew reaches a crowded subway station and waits while others try to dig them out.

Eventually, the missiles reach the meteor. The first wave of missiles strikes the rock, causing a small explosion, the second wave follows with a larger blast, and the third wave creates an enormous explosion. When the dust clears, the asteroid appears obliterated. In New York City, the radios broadcast the good news: Orpheus is no longer a danger to Earth. Just then, the subway station occupants are rescued.

Later, at an airport, Dubov, Tatiana, Bradley and others exchange goodbyes before Dubov and Tatiana depart on a plane for the Soviet Union.



The film was an American International Pictures co-production with the Shaw Brothers (HK) studio.[6] $2.7 million of the budget came from AIP.[7] The movie re-used footage from the 1978 disaster film Avalanche.


Meteor was received poorly by critics. In her New York Times review, Janet Maslin wrote that "the suspense is sludgy and the character development nil".[8] It holds a rating of only 5% positive from the online film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Marvel Comics published a comic book adaptation of the film by writer Ralph Macchio and artists Gene Colan and Tom Palmer in Marvel Super Special #14.[9]

Awards & nominations[edit]

At the 52nd Academy Awards in 1980, the film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound (William McCaughey, Aaron Rochin, Michael J. Kohut and Jack Solomon).[10] It lost to Apocalypse Now.

Scientific basis[edit]

A voiceover at the end of the film mentions "Project Icarus", a report on the concept to use missiles to deflect an earthbound asteroid.[11] The original Project Icarus was a student project at M.I.T. in a systems engineering class led by Professor Paul Sandorff in the Spring 1967.[3] It examined methodologies that could deflect an Apollo asteroid named 1566 Icarus if it was found to be on a collision course with Earth. Time published an article about the research in June 1967.[12] The results of the student reports were published in a book the following year.[3][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Buried Alive--in the Line of Duty Lee, Grant. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 29 May 1978: f5.
  2. ^ a b THE BIG THUDS OF 1979--FILMS THAT FLOPPED, BADLY Epstein, Andrew. Los Angeles Times 27 Apr 1980: o6.
  3. ^ a b c Kleiman Louis A., Project Icarus: an MIT Student Project in Systems Engineering Archived 2007-10-17 at the Wayback Machine. (M.I.T. Report No. 13), Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1968; reissued 1979
  4. ^ "MIT Course precept for movie", The Tech, MIT, October 30, 1979
  5. ^ "REVIEW: "METEOR" (1979)". Retrieved August 8, 2018. 
  6. ^ Cohen, Jerry; Soble, Ronald L.; 'Meteor'--How a Movie Came to Be: HOW 'METEOR' BECAME A MOVIE A Movie Is Born; a Meteor Is the Star A Meteoric Idea Becomes a Movie MOVIE-MAKING, Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 02 July 1978: a1.
  7. ^ Cohen, Jerry; Soble, Ronald L.; Film Casting: Finding the 'Horse for the Course': Casting: High Stakes Gamble Assembling 'Meteor' Cast: Ticklish Job in a Multimillion-Dollar Movie Project CASTING FOR MAJOR FILM--WAGERING IN MILLIONS CASTING FOR MOVIE CASTING FOR HIGH-COST FILM Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 04 July 1978: a1.
  8. ^ Maslin, Janet (October 19, 1979). "Screen: 'Meteor,' a Disaster Tale, Opens: Menace from the Blue". The New York Times. Retrieved July 9, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Marvel Super Special #14". Grand Comics Database. 
  10. ^ "The 52nd Academy Awards (1980) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-07. 
  11. ^ "Giant bombs on giant rockets: Project Icarus". The Space Review. July 5, 2004. 
  12. ^ "Systems Engineering: Avoiding an Asteroid". Time Magazine. June 16, 1967. 
  13. ^ "Review:Project Icarus". 1968. 

External links[edit]