Tom Jolliffe takes a look back at Orion Pictures…
There are several things that happen before a film begins. If you’re at the cinema, or if you remember watching through VHS in particular (and still with some DVD/Blu-rays), you’ll sit through some trailers. Then once they pass comes those recognisable logos from distributors and production companies.
Some of these come with a certain expectation. If the Disney intro pops up, you expect something that falls in line with the House of Mouse in terms of content. You also, generally, expect something that’s likely going to be big budget. Now of course, you’ll know what you’re watching on the whole anyway. You’ve picked the film, you’ve gone in with an expectation ready. Sometimes that studio part of the viewing experience isn’t always going to be obvious to you. Disney is Disney, you’ll rarely pop in a film not knowing they’re behind it. To a lesser extent, it’s the same with Universal, Warner Bros., etc.
Back in the 80’s and 90’s growing up in a wide and booming film market, it was a joy to be a young movie fan. I would recall with great pleasure slipping in the video to something that I either knew about beforehand, or had thrust upon me through recommendation, or that I’d gone for ‘blind.’ Up comes the logo. Carolco or Cannon as an example. The very sight would warm the cockles. ‘Oh…they did Rambo, this is bound to be good…’
Now, I tended to see certain films years before I should have. RoboCop, Terminator and The Silence of the Lambs as examples. Those three in particular, have something in common. They’re all from Orion Pictures. My predominant experience with them, given most of their iconic films were more grown up cinema, was either on TV or VHS. So I’d slip in the video. The Orion logo comes up. Then that connection and association with films that blew me away is formed. What I’m about to see, will probably excite me.
Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way, but regardless, as a VHS era kid, with a particular penchant for action, Orion were an important part of my cinematic upbringing, as were Carolco and Cannon. Those three in fact probably register with more affection for me because of the very fact they are long since defunct (at least in their original and classic forms). Disney etc. have stood the test of time. You almost take for granted they’ll be around forever, but further, there’s just something inherently culty about the likes of Cannon, Carolco and Orion. I mean RoboCop AND Terminator! That is a double whammy of absolute awesomeness right there.
As a company, Orion began in 1978, sprouting off from MGM. They rose to particular prominence in the 80’s, before dwindling by the mid-90’s. During that run though, they were no strangers to iconic cult cinema, nor Oscar success. Aside from The Silence of the Lambs of course, they can count Dances With Wolves and Amadeus in their arsenal of impactful Oscar fodder among a load of other acclaimed works (and a steady run of Woody Allen films too).
As happened with many companies, they couldn’t offset the amount of flops they were putting out. In the late 80’s into the early 90’s the company was suffering. Bomb after bomb. Even the success of Dances With Wolves, The Addams Family and Silence Of The Lambs couldn’t keep the company afloat. A slow death followed, in and out of Bankruptcy, and by a few failed mergers later, weren’t that same symbol they were during the peak of their powers. The company reformed as a production house more recently, and later moving back into distribution too. Most prominently, they were involved in the recent Child’s Play remake.
Orion lovers can look back with fondness to a company with their unmistakable logo introduction. It’ll always be their robotic twosome of Terminator and RoboCop I’ll most fondly remember, those prominent Oscar films and their involvement in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Of course it may not be quite the same, but Orion will be back as one of the companies behind Bill and Ted Face The Music. Certainly in a film that will undoubtedly be a warming retro nostalgia fest for someone my age, the presence of the Orion logo at the films beginning will no doubt be a significant part of the experience.
What’s your favourite Orion Pictures film? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due in 2020, including The Witches Of Amityville Academy (starring Emmy winner, Kira Reed Lorsch) and Tooth Fairy: The Root of Evil. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see here.