“Where the hell’s my man?” Harry Ritter hollers. “I thought he was back!” He’s right over there.
That’s how we’re introduced to project field supervisor Harry Ritter, who’s coming in hot. I don’t know if you know what a project field supervisor does, but whatever it is, it’s terrifying.
“What’s going on here?” He’s still freaking out. “Get those crates into the church! You men in the boat, what the hell do you think you’re doing? Get that damn thing outta sight! Lamebrains!” I thought this project was supposed to be hush-hush.
Ritter manages to simmer down long enough to shake hands with Cable, but you don’t solve a problem like this with a handshake.
“You know one of your sensors is reading malfunction?” asks Cable, and I guess they’re going to go ahead and keep that line reading in the film.
“Huh!” he gripes. “It’s not surprising. They rot in a week, in these damn swamps.” And then he motions to Charlie for a little walk and talk. I guess malfunctioning sensors aren’t a part of the project that Ritter supervises, probably because he can’t yell at them.
They have a little conversation, and naturally, it only takes three sentences before something happens that makes Ritter furious.
“Anything wrong that you know of?” he asks Charlie, who should be able to see a trap like this from a mile off. Anyone who’s worked with Ritter for more than a minute should know not to answer a question like that.
“A rumor,” Charlie answers, like a chump. “Somebody’s heard Arcane’s gotten wind of the project.”
“I thought Arcane was dead,” Cable says.
“He is!” Ritter snaps, in an aggressive act of agreement. “Who said that?” he asks, turning on Charlie. “Who said Arcane’s onto this?”
Charlie looks like a deer caught in the headlights of a car being driven by another deer. “Nobody’s taking credit for it. You know Washington.”
Ritter turns on them. “All it takes is one loudmouth to spill this to Holland,” he says, pointing an agitated finger, “and the whole project goes to hell in a handbasket! You know that?” Charlie knows it.
Then he looks at Cable, and snarls, “That goes for you too!” and Cable’s like, what the fuck did I do?
So if you’re playing along with the Joseph Campbell Hero’s Journey checklist, then Cable is currently Crossing the First Threshold into a region of supernatural wonder, where she will embark on a series of trials that lead to character development.
There are only three people who are allowed access to the Hollands and the spiritual wisdom that they possess, and Cable enters flanked by her two archangels, Charlie (the nice one) and Ritter (the blisteringly angry one). They accompany her into a fantasy playspace of imaginary animals and exploding plants, where she’ll make new friends and undergo a spiritual death and rebirth, as well as a literal one, later on.
Of course, fifteen minutes from now, we’re going to find out that this isn’t Ritter after all. It’s actually the devil dressed up in a Ritter skinsuit, so some of this unpleasantness may be evidence of buyer’s remorse on the part of the supervillain who stepped into the role without really asking himself if being a project field supervisor would make him happy. We don’t know exactly when Arcane got involved in Ritter cosplay, but later he says that Ritter is “long dead”, which could mean anything.
It’s tempting to think that the real Harry Ritter was a nice guy before Arcane took over, but I don’t think it’s likely. When you take over a guy’s identity, it’s best not to draw too much attention to your imposture, and turning into an unstoppable high-decibel volcano of constant fury is the kind of thing that people would notice.
I like to believe that Arcane actually toned Ritter down a bit, and the lamebrains around the camp have been wondering why he’s been in such a good mood lately, in the quiet moments when they’re not discussing how to frag him.
So far, Cable has drifted through the movie on a pink cloud of appreciation and mostly not being the person who’s getting yelled at, but once the archangels have ushered her through the portal to the hidden world, they’ll disappear, and she’ll be left to manage her transition on her own. I’m sure that whatever she does will meet with Ritter’s complete approval.
3.7: The Mysteries of Alessandro
Al Ruban, who plays Charlie, started out as an actor, editor and producer for some early-60s “nudie-cutie” sexploitation films: 1000 Shapes of a Female, Bunny Yeager’s Nude Las Vegas, Nudes on Tiger Reef and The Beautiful, The Bloody, and the Bare, which existed to show people what breasts look like outside of a film that’s explicitly pornographic. (His one director credit is for a nudie-cutie called The Sexploiters.) He also had a couple of very minor roles on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Kraft Suspense Theatre, but the bulk of his career from the late 60s through the early 80s was as a cinematographer and producer on a lot of John Cassavetes films like Husbands, Minnie & Moskovitz and A Woman Under the Influence. Charlie is one of Ruban’s biggest acting roles, which tells you how big his acting career wasn’t.
Don Knight, who plays Ritter, was an all-purpose television tough guy character actor, with guest parts in tons of mostly action TV shows from the mid 60s through the early 90s, including The Rat Patrol, It Takes a Thief, Mannix, Mission: Impossible, McCloud, Kojak, Hawaii Five-O, Voyagers and Manimal.
Bill Erickson was credited as “Young Agent”, the redshirt guy who was killed by a snake. (The character is referred to later on as “Ronnie”.) He was just getting started as a stuntman in the early 80s; his later work included Reform School Girls, The Lost Boys, Beaches, Joe Versus the Volcano, Flatliners and 3 Ninjas: Knuckle Up.
The guy who gets on the helicopter and says “What, they sent a woman out here?” is stuntman and actor Dick Durock, who we will be discussing quite a bit later on.
There are also a lot of uncredited people in the movie who have scattered lines here and there, including the guy on the boat and the guys on the dock. The film included a lot of “local actors” that they hired in South Carolina, which basically meant people who didn’t have agents, so they didn’t get credits.
3.7: The Mysteries of Alessandro
— Danny Horn