Al Ramrus was a writer-producer with Mike Wallace. According to the Ayn Rand Sense of Life website: “[Ramrus] handled TV interviews with Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winners, Nobel laureates, athletes, gangsters, politicians, statesmen, and—most memorably—Ayn Rand, whose intellect, he says, towered above anyone’s he had ever encountered. Thereafter, Ramrus then headed west to Los Angeles to write prize-winning TV documentaries on historical and cultural subjects, as well as television movies and feature films, including GOIN’ SOUTH and WORLD WITHOUT SUN, winner of an Academy Award® for best feature documentary.”
Below are his comments on John Aglialoro’s “Atlas Shrugged Movie: Part I”:
I don’t remember exactly, but Rand either wrote somewhere, or personally told me, something that strikes to the heart of the movie’s failings. She said that her villains were too inferior, unworthy and impotent to generate really deep and compelling conflict in her heroes. Only someone the heroes loved could do that. And this is exactly what she dramatized in her three major novels.
In the novel, Hank Rearden, though heroic, is one of her most complex and conflicted characters, which makes the romantic subplot plot, his relationship with Dagny Taggert, so dramatic and compelling, filled with conflict. In large part, this was the novel’s personal, deeply emotional story. The movie version didn’t explore this at all. They meet, almost immediately become industrial allies and, in short order, happy Hollywood lovers, leaving the screenplay to wallow almost exclusively, and tediously, in economics, contracts, government regulation, etc.
This didn’t have to happen. The movie runs some 97 minutes, barely enough for an Adam Sandler comedy but not nearly long enough for a serious, epic story, which could’ve easily run another half hour, with sufficient time to develop the characters, including Francisco-Dagny, into flesh-and-blood human beings instead of puppets waving placards. There’s more character development in the “Batman” and “Spiderman” movies than in “Atlas Shrugged, Part 1,” an abortion which mercifully won’t generate a Part 2 or 3. [Ouch!]
After seeing it, at first I felt that the producer, Aglialoro, at least showed considerable courage, risking his own money, and I wished him well with his movie. I’ve changed my mind. A multi-millionaire manufacturer of exercise equipment, he purchased an option for the screen rights to the novel. Fine. But, not surprisingly, he couldn’t attract A-list stars or an A-list director. In fact, he couldn’t attract B- or C-list talent.
With his option-time running out, only a month or two left, he should’ve given up, which would’ve left the field open someday for an experienced, professional movie maker to tackle the project. Instead, hoping to protect his initial investment and make himself a real-life Randian hero, with a screenplay credit no less, he hastily threw together a dreary cast, an anemic budget, a first-time director and, worst of all, a lousy screenplay. He pissed in the well and ruined it in the future for everybody else.
Now, Aglialoro is issuing statements blaming the liberal reviewers for the disaster at the box-office. Maybe it’s not good sportsmanship to kick a man when he’s down, but it has to be said. The guy’s a schmuck.
Ayn Rand and her great novel deserved better.
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