Published on June 28th, 2012 | by HelloJoe2
Cloak & Dagger: The movie based on the game that never was
Want to make some nice fast money? Here are two bets you’ll win.
First: throw down some cool hard coin that R2D2 and C3PO once appeared on Sesame Street. Your pals will say stuff like “No way, man, that’s mixing the genres, and there’s no way you can bring things from a long time ago in a galaxy far far away into urban-ish America. The idea just goes entirely against the Lucasfilm canon.”
But then you’ll say “Way” and direct them to the YouTube clip of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOdFrqaCKzA which shows everyone’s favorite android pals interacting with Big Bird sometime between 1978 and 1980, and singing and beeping the less famous but catchy “Beep Beep” song. You’re welcome, Part 1.
Bet No. 2 is “Was there ever a movie based on a home video game that never actually released a home version of said game?”
And again, you’ll say “Way.” Way back in 1984, to be exact, there was a fine piece of cinema called “Cloak and Dagger.” The plot of the decent teen/spy thriller revolved around a boy who accidently discovers he’s hunted by Russian spies simply because he’s been given an Atari cartridge by a dying FBI agent.
Henry Thomas, who played “the main kid” in “E.T.,” now plays Davey, a pluckish 11-year-old who ends up with the “Cloak and Dagger” cartridge and finds out that it actually contains a microchip containing secret government plans. Soon, he’s running across Texas pursued by gangs of killers, and his main assistance comes from the coolest imaginary friend since Hobbes – Jack Flack, a suave spy persona played beautifully by Dabney Coleman.’
Entertainment fans know that Dabney Coleman is almost as good/bad as Ted McGinty in delivering the kiss of death to TV shows, but in this movie, he’s pretty good at dispensing spycraft advice to keep Davey out of trouble, up to and including killing dudes. He also has a dual role as Davey’s dad. (Yes, there’s probably some Captain Hook/Mr. Darling father figure stuff going on if you want to get all analytical.)
But we’re here to talk about video games, and they sure are prominent, starting with the movie’s title – early coin-op fans may remember that “Cloak and Dagger” was originally a sort of average sort of game where you play a spy who has to locate the secret documents on every level. After the plans are found, you’re supposed to detonate the bomb and move to the exit/elevator before the bomb goes off.
The levels get increasingly crowded with fellow spies shooting at you and other obstacles, plus a shorter countdown for every bomb.
According to Hollywood insiders at the time, a semi-secret agenda of the movie was to subtly promote a home version of “Cloak and Dagger” in the film for the Atari 5200. But it wasn’t ready in time for the movie so any scene where characters play the game on their Ataris, it’s actually screen shots from the coin-op.
And the official 5200 “Cloak and Dagger” cartridge that causes so much trouble wasn’t real either – they took “Super Breakout 5200” and put the C&D sticker over it.
Classic game scholars also point out that the 5200 games on the shelves in the background of the games store were actually titles that were never released. Right around the time the movie came out, Atari and some of the other early game systems were tanking pretty hard financially, so displayed titles like “Battlezone” or “Tempest” never were released.
But the biggest game-oriented fail from the film was that the home version of “Cloak and Dagger” never was finished.
According to AtariHQ.com, a site dedicated to commemorating the whole “Behind the Music”- style arc that was Atari home games — you know, soaring high, crashing and burning, personal reflection and redemption — “Cloak and Dagger” for the 5200 was partly programmed when the bubble burst and half the company was laid off.
Dave Comstock, the developer on the project, said in a 1994 interview that the 5200 version even had the ambitious goal of being Atari’s first 32K game, which makes its final decline that much harder. A 2600 version was even considered but rejected since everyone agreed the game would benefit from extra processing power.
He said the company even considered a 2600 version but realized it would need the extra processing power of the 5200.
So will anyone else pick up this mantle or maybe even a sweet bigger-and-better reboot a la Fallout? 1994, Comstock said no. And it’s probably longer odds now.
But if you missed the film the first time around, it’s still out there and still worth watching – heck, Amazon still sells new copies of it on DVD.
It harkens to a time when Russia was our enemy, foreign spies ran amok on American soil, airports were much less secure, kindly old people shouldn’t be trusted, and your dad will always look out for you. Oh, and playing too many video games can get you killed.