Wednesday, October 21, 2009

'Twilight' isn't Robert's only starring role

There's a downside to being an actor who has become an "overnight sensation." It actually didn't happen overnight.

While everyone thinks he suddenly popped up on the scene because of that big hit movie, in reality the actor has probably been toiling quietly away at thankless, underseen, sometimes just plain embarrassing roles waiting for that big break. And, once that big break happens, the folks who own those little-seen before-you-were-famous films are only too happy to cash in.

That's what's happening with Robert Pattinson, best known as vampire heartthrob Edward from the smash hit "Twilight" and the upcoming sequel, "New Moon." "New Moon" doesn't come out until Nov. 20, so DVD companies know Pattinson's fans are getting anxious to see him in action. And they're only too happy to oblige.

Which is how a British movie called "The Haunted Airman" suddenly found itself with a major DVD release last week. It aired on British television on Halloween night 2006 and was never heard from again, until some enterprising folks realized that it could make some money off "Twilight" now. The folks at (incidentally, the domain name for is still available) noted that the original box cover art for "Airman" even used the same "Twilight" font.

To put it politely, the crossover interest for "Twilight" fans pretty much begins and ends with Pattinson's spectrally hunky presence. The rest of "Haunted Airman" plays like a bad Edgar Allan Poe knockoff, with little in the way of actual scares aside from some of the peskiest spiders this side of "Arachnophobia."

Pattinson plays a British airman named Toby Jugg who gets shot down during a bombing raid in the waning days of World War II. Paralyzed from the waist down and suffering psychological trauma, he's taken to the creepiest convalescent home imaginable, a remote British estate. Thanks to the magic of camera filters, the estate is perpetually dark, with the guests faces always shadowed, even, inexplicably, in direct sunlight.

Toby spends a lot of time smoking cigarettes and looking out into the distance, occasionally taking breaks to converse with the home's creepy doctor (Julian Sands). Toby starts having visions, including those spiders and war memories that look an awful lot like archival footage, and starts to wonder if he's going insane.

He wonders this for a long, long time, because nothing else really happens in "Haunted Airman," up until the abrupt ending. All props due to Pattinson, who is quite good as the patient who can't figure out if he's supernaturally haunted or just emotionally haunted. But he's given almost nothing to work with in a movie that screams "made for TV" in its quality.

And this is only the tip of the Edward iceberg; on Nov. 17, three days before "New Moon" hits theaters, we'll see the DVD release of "How To Be." It's another British film, this time a comedy starring Pattinson as a floppy-haired young man who hires a self-help guru to move in with him and fix his life.

Also floating out there without a firm DVD release date is "Little Ashes," a 2008 film featuring a pretty gutsy piece of casting - Robert Pattinson as surrealist artist Salvador Dali. Really? Twirly mustache and all? Kinda want to see that one.

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