Vintage Cable Box: “Summer Lovers, 1982”

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“When there is not enough space, there is pressure.”

summer lovers

Summer Lovers, 1982 (Daryl Hannah), Filmways 

Good-looking young couple Peter Gallagher and Daryl Hannah take a summer house on the Greek island Santorini.  Fresh from college graduation, I gather Gallagher is itching to settle down, but he becomes infatuated with a French archaeologist named Lina, on assignment at a nearby excavation site.  He follows her around like a puppy dog, and pretends not to spy on her, which is totally what he is doing, and she is aware of it.  These days, that would considered some form of harassment.  Meanwhile, Daryl, obviously bored, reads up on advanced (and ancient) sexual practices and techniques.  She speaks to Gallagher of her bondage fantasies.  Later that night, he agrees to be tied up, while she drops hot candle wax on him.

Peter accompanies Lina to a nude beach.  She strips down.  Uncomfortable, he also strips, but very quickly hides his shortcomings, as it were.  I wonder if these people ever worry about skin cancer.  Ultimately liberated by his nudity, he jumps into the water and swims.  He and Lina swim to a secluded cove and make love.  He confesses to Daryl, telling her he’s confused, doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life.  Daryl is pissed.  She takes off, and heads to a bar where she lets a kid hit on her.  Meanwhile, Gallagher hooks up with Lina again.  The kid takes Daryl back to his house, offers her drugs, which she declines.  She fends off his advances and leaves.  She can’t bring herself to make love to another man.  While Gallagher firmly believes he has an “open” relationship with Hannah, her feelings are hurt.

Daryl rushes off to confront Lina, but this other woman is sweet and accomodating, she can’t bring herself to hate her.  She tells Daryl she doesn’t want to destroy her relationship with Gallagher.  They start hanging out together, as an unusual threesome.  Gallagher becomes uncomfortable (yet again!) at the prospect of his girlfriend and his lover becoming friends.  This film could be easily re-edited as a comedy.  I can’t help but feel sorry for Lina, who appears to be caught in the middle of good old fashioned American Jealousy.  A sexually liberated, young French woman, Lina doesn’t immediately understand their problems, nor does she seem to care.  Daryl tells Peter she likes the girl.  Songs by Tina Turner play in montage pieces in a foreshadowing of the kind of cinema for which the eighties would become known.

One night, the three of them share wine, kisses, and finally sex.  With the initial tension out of the way, they’re finally having fun to the strains of “I’m So Excited”.  Regardless of the heavy adult content, this movie feels like innocent fun, a call-back to a different time where everything seemed to be permitted, and nothing was particularly sacred.  The use of popular songs (disco, new wave, and rock) of the time, and the patina of early MTV-style cinematography and editing contribute to a wonderful yet dated appeal.  Indeed, once Gallagher and Hannah, shed their inhibitions and get with Lina, it finally feels like they’re truly enjoying their vacation, which is weird.  The three spend an enormous amount of time nude in the film, and enjoying each other’s company.  This is another case (as with Blame It On Rio) of a mainstream movie that would never be made today, or if it were, it would be severely neutered for the sensibilities of today’s audiences.

summer lover publicity still

Director Randal Kleiser had previously shown his skill at telling stories involving young people with 1978’s mega-hit, Grease and 1980’s The Blue Lagoon.  In 1984, he would direct Grandview, U.S.A..  The film is beautifully shot, but the youthful cast seem lazy and uninterested, and spend more time taking their clothes off than putting them on.  In a movie filled floor-to-ceiling with unabashed nudity, there are no sex scenes.  While a very interesting character study of post-college frustration, boredom, and rebellion, I would not classify Summer Lovers as romance.  Perhaps a Graduate-like drama about a different generation; the children of the first boomers in an era of prosperity and promiscuity, doing things they will one day regret but always remember.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

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“Brimstone & Treacle, 1982”

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“Almighty God, dear gentle father in heaven who sees all and knows all and loves all for the little sparrow falling in the sky.”

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Brimstone & Treacle, 1982 (Sting), United Artists

The Movie Channel was a cineaste’s dream, upon starting in the early seventies, it quickly gained a reputation for showing foreign films, obscure and bizarre work from filmmakers such as Bertolucci, Visconti, and Waters, retrospectives of Truffaut, Hitchcock, Bogdanovich, and Cronenberg, and sometimes movies with specific themes. Brimstone & Treacle was part of a month-long retrospective of musicians in movies. Other movies featured were Alan Parker’s The Wall, Ken Russell’s Tommy, and Quadrophenia, to name a few.

A very young-looking and amiable Sting exits a church along with a gaggle of angelic altar boys, plucks a carrot from the dirt and chews on it. His Martin Taylor is a clever con artist and pickpocket who worms his way into the lives of a writer’s (Denholm Elliot) troubled family. He lies that he was engaged to their crippled and feeble daughter, Pattie, and while he provides them with false hope and religious succor, his true intention is to destroy them.

The movie and Dennis Potter’s screenplay take great pains to avoid calling Taylor out to be the Devil, but there is an Exorcist-like correlation between the infirm invalidity of daughter Pattie and the need to believe she may be possessed by demons, and as The Exorcist, demonstrates, where science fails, people turn to scripture. Sting chews the scenery, the furniture, the windows, and the carpet as he summons up the Lord in prayer to cure the “touched” girl.

Denholm Elliot plays Tom Bates, a writer of sappy greeting cards. Joan Plowright is Norma Bates (cute), his clueless wife. I say clueless because she is blissfully unaware of what her husband gets up to most days: being principally the adventures of an older man whose interests are molestation, pederasty, and biblical text. The maudlin, overripe, and overdecorated atmosphere coupled with feverish, uncomfortable performances from the cast leads me to believe that the movie could be edited a hundred ways. What could’ve been a dark comedy, instead plays as a horror-infused MTV video (this was when MTV played music videos).

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Sting chews the scenery, and washes it out down with a glass of milk. It does a body good!

Dennis Potter’s work worries and intrigues me. As a playwright and television writer, he had always sought out irony at it’s purest, and he went out of his way to write unlikable characters with a tinge of talent to them; you can’t completely hate a Dennis Potter character. You’d have to hate the story, as the character propels the narrative so thoroughly. This is true for 1981’s Pennies From Heaven and later, The Singing Detective. A movie like Brimstone & Treacle could not be made today, or if it were, it would be quickly shelved in favor of something more antiseptic.

With a soundtrack that includes notable musical acts of the time like The Police, The Go-Gos, and Squeeze, the movie was publicized heavily on MTV, and several of the musical interludes in the movie look like standalone music videos, particularly Sting’s “Only You”. Director Richard Loncraine directed another favorite of mine, Michael Palin’s The Missionary. Denholm Elliot is known mainly for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as Indiana Jones timid colleague, Marcus, as well as Dan Aykroyd’s loyal valet, Coleman, in Trading Places. Joan Plowright won two Golden Globe awards in 1992, for Stalin and Enchanted April (for which she also received an Academy Award nomination). Sting, I believe, is some sort of musician.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

NEW PODCAST: “Tomorrow Is The Least Of Our Problems”

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This is “WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER: First Day Of Camp” and I wanted to jump on this right away. With me tonight is my wife, the incomparable, the venerable, the diminutive, brunette, silky-voiced, agnostic, Capricorn – Bronwyn G. Knox.

We were very much like the majority of the source movie’s audience – we didn’t see the movie in theaters when it was released, because it barely had a release. It wasn’t even a sleeper hit, over 10 years it gained a rabid cult following.

This was before we had Regan, so we could watch a movie like this without worrying she might pick up some, rather eccentric if not horrid behaviors. I brushed it off but then I started catching some of the jokes, not the least which culminate in a talking can of vegetables and a cook having sex with a refrigerator. This kind of humor was lost on me until I realized this was a “deconstructionist” and, if I want to sound pretentious, post-modern brand of levity. It was seriously left-field, because you couldn’t adequately call it a “spoof” or a “parody” because it wasn’t making fun of jokes and situations, it was making fun of narrative and structure.