Portrait of an artist nonplussed by memories of mutilated Asians
I recently finished Outrageous Conduct, the story of director John Landis on trial for the accidental deaths of actor Vic Morrow and two Vietnamese children on the set of The Twilight Zone: The Movie. Here is a thorough, free and lengthy online piece detailing the incident.
Essentially, the prosecution got too cocky and made Landis & Co. look like sympathetic figures. The really damning evidence is the fact that Landis allowed the filming to happen without telling the parents that their kids would be around helicopters, AND that they shot in Florida to get around tougher safety restrictions in Cali. Coupled with testimony that Landis and the other producers were actually joking about the illegality of their actions, this should've been an open-and-shut manslaughter case.
You can't spell manslaughter without LAUGHTER, and John Landis has given us so many laughs over the years...how's that for a segue? It's perfectly legitimate to venture that the celebrity factor saved him from the noose. The jury didn't know who he was, but if he's a director on the production of The Twilight Zone The Movie, the prestige is self-evident. I loved hearing the guy talk about horror movies in the great IFC documentary
There's nothing wrong with that ethos until you're literally endangering people's lives. Landis was giddy about being a bad boy of filmmaking, like so many directors, and he felt an immunity to the very idea that anything would go wrong during a life-threatening stunt. Afterwards, when the body parts were strewn about, he felt an immunity from responsibility - it was some technician who didn't push the right button at the right time. Well, who hired that guy? And was it this one lowly technician's decision to be illegally filming the scene in the first place?
The buck doesn't stop below the line, you piece of slime. One of the worst aspects of American culture is our unspoken assumption that anyone in entertainment is above the law, and though Landis' manslaughter isn't as despicable as when a celebrity drunkenly kills someone with their car instead of being driven home - if you're a fucking MOVIE STAR who can afford CHAUFFEURS, why drive yourself ANYWHERE? - the thought of a director being even the least bit reckless with the lives of people who've entrusted their safety to him is abhorrent.
John Landis deserves no one's sympathies for whatever problems his manslaughter brought his career. There is nothing more glib than the affectation that an entertainer's work justifies their exoneration from justice, an instant free pass for redemption. Michael Jackson lives off that shit. He breathes it like oxygen.
The logical conclusion of such reasoning is that entertainment is as important than life itself, or more. Let that callousness only be spouted by art students who think frivolousness ennobles them.