Blog 1684 – 05.01.2020
“I’m Still Here, Chief”
Today’s title is a favorite line from a favorite movie, Frequency, that is to me one if not the best father-son movies ever made. I have lost count of how many times that I have watched it and often find some aspect of it a launching pad for blogs. When I heard the repeated line, “I’m still here, Chief” again as I watched it yesterday, I had again a lump in my throat and I knew this morning that I would be writing about it again.
Dennis Quaid plays a dad Queens firefighter who died fighting a fire in October of 1969. His now thirty-six year old son, a Queens police detective, lives in the same house that they both did when he died when he his son was six. The son’s nurse mother, Julia, is still living and working but has her own apartment. There is in the movie story line both in October 1969 and the current time of the movie, October 1999, a solar flare event creating great aurora borealis visuals in the New York night sky and also a unique and special Ham radio connection across thirty years between the son and his long lost father.
In their first conversation over the same Ham radio set, across time, the detective son tells his dad how game one of the ‘69 Amazing Mets World Series plays out, that has not happened yet for him. He also learns from his son that he dies tomorrow, shortly after that game in a warehouse fire, his son warning him that Butch his crew chief had told his mother that had he not gone with his instincts but the other way he would have made it out. Then believing his thirty years in the future game predicting son he does go the other way, survives the fire, and that night with his soldering iron burns “I’m still here, Chief” on the desk where he keeps the Ham radio set. Oh, and I felled to mention that dad’s pet-name for Johnny, his son, is “Little Chief, because he wanted him to grow up to be a third generation Queens, New York firefighter.
Police detective John in the future now has two sets of memories, one where his father died in 1969 and the other set where dad lived till 1989 and died of lung cancer due to twenty more years of smoking. Though celebrating with his dad that night throughout another even longer radio conversation he warns his skeptical dad that though cigarettes did not get grandpa they would get him.
Since dad did not die that October night in 1969 the nurse Mom did not miss her night shift at the hospital and is now there to save a New York City undercover police detective who is also a murderer of nurses named by the New York press, the Nightingale Killer. He has already in October 1969 killed three but because now he did not die as he originally did he goes on to murder seven more nurses one of which is Julia Sullivan, the wife and mother of our father-son united team. Now they must work together to try to bring back mom, save the six other nurses, and bring the Nightingale murderer to justice.
The detective son has the father in the past surveilling the nurses in the order of their deaths from police report files in the future to find the murderer who is in his time still yet to be caught. The first additional nurse is spared because dad stays so close he scares off her would be killer but he is spotted and beaten up by the killer in a bar restroom the next night, has his drivers license stollen, and fails to prevent the murder of Sissy Clark, nurse and part-time bar hostess. The murderer leaves the stollen license under the nurse’s dead body, and now he knows where Julia lives.
From the killer’s finger prints on the tossed and retrieved wallet deftly passed from father to son across thirty years instantaneously through a hidey-hole beneath a loose floor board in the living room window seat. (I borrow “hidey-hole” from one of my favorite authors, Dean Koontz, who loves to use that expression and does often in his novels – thanks, Dean.) Quickly the police computer fingerprint files reveal the identity of the Nightingale Killer. A thirty-six year old John revisits the killer’s father now a widower with a surviving son and a long dead nurse wife, the reverse of his first visit when earlier investigating the recovered body of a thirty years long dead young girl’s body determined to be the daughter of the old man’s next door neighbors, deemed now to be another Nightingale murder. John tells the killer when he tracks him down to a nearby bar that he knows that he had changed his murder M.O. (method of operation) because he knew the police would have suspected him had he not. John also goes on to say he is planning to steal the killer’s life away, that he went down thirty years ago and just does not know it yet.
In yet another Ham Radio conversation across the years, John tells his dad to call the FBI anonymously and tell them the detective is the Nightingale Killer and also tell them where the young girl’s body is buried. But their conversation is interrupted as dad is arrested on suspicion of murdering Sissy Clark, his drivers license being found beneath her body.
Frank, the firefighter dad, is left alone in the interrogation room and the killer- detective confronts him to kill him but is interrupted. Before he tries again Frank devises an ingenious trap, knocks him out with an electrical shock, steals his drivers license, sets off the sprinkler fire suppression system at the police station, and goes to the killer-detective’s apartment hoping to find incriminating evidence to to clear himself and convict the true killer. He is caught by the cop with a box of the killer’s newspaper clippings and mementos of the murders that he had hidden in his closet. There is a chase with several near miss gun shots and at the docks a struggle in the water where the firefighter believes he has drowned the killer. The cops arrive quickly and figure out the true identity of the Nightingale Killer. They drag the waters near the peer and even with divers cannot locate the body.
Home safe with his wife and young son, Jules brings Frank a drink, something to eat and a pack of cigarettes though she too is after him to quit and he begins repairing the Ham Radio set damaged in the struggle when he was arrested earlier in the day.
Julia now know that it was Johnny her son in the future, this detective John that she too had spoken to over the Ham Radio waves. When it is fixed Frank reconnects with 1999 John in the future and says, “I killed him” to which John replies , “Then why is mom not here.” At just that time in both times the killer arrives in both houses (the same house, different times – I love time travel movies, though in this one only the wallet and Ham Radio signals actually travel across time.) There are harrowing struggles in both time zones involving everyone in the house, kidnapping, cop pistols, and dad’s shot gun. It seems for a moment like both John(s) young and old are about to be killed when boom the shot gun in the future goes off over John’s head killing the killer. He gets up and is hugged by his still alive and ten years yet older than he has ever known him father who says, you guessed it, “I’m still here, Chief.”
This is my yet longest retelling of this touching and favorite story. I do hope, if you have not seen the movie yet that you will give it a view – Frequency, starring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel. I think you will be glad you did.
Your friend and fellow traveler,
Through time and space,
When You Come Back To Me Again