Extreme Cinema! “Inquiring Minds Want To Know”

This is interesting; it’s a VHS dub, Nelson Entertainment, even has the FBI Warning (remember those?) and we have Adam Baldwin and Roy Scheider in Cohen and Tate, music by Bill Conti, and it’s an unusual score, like old time horror, like Dead Heat – that’s what it reminded me of, but first I wanted to ask if you remember the movie, My Bodyguard, also with Adam Baldwin. I did a write-up of it recently for Vintage Cable Box. This is unusual in that we pick up mid-story, a nine-year-old kid witnesses the murder of a mobster, and he is under protective custody as the movie starts, right?

This is the kid from The Believers? The kid wants to know when he can get back to his normal life, but his Dad tells him that’s never gonna happen. Shifty agent George has sweat on his upper lip. He’s nervous. I feel like something’s about to go down. I think Mom is in the kitchen. This house is like the TARDIS from Doctor Who, it’s much bigger on the inside. Uh-oh, phone’s not working. This is bad news. Something terrible is about to happen, and everybody’s nervous when George takes off. The wife looks familiar to me. They sit at the dinner table and Bill Conti goes nuts on the soundtrack. They have a spoken prayer at the dinner table. I’ve always found that creepy. The family dog takes and the kid gives chase. Roy Scheider and Adam Baldwin enter and kill the kid’s family! This is weird. I always ascribe Scheider and Baldwin to good-guy parts, but not here. Scheider makes a phone call and says, “It’s done.”

So we’re discussing some of the select work of Eric Red, writer and filmmaker, probably more famous for his scripts, The Hitcher and Near Dark than his work as a director. We talked about Cohen and Tate, and we’re going to talk about Body Parts with Jeff Fahey, as well as talk a little about Blue Steel (written with Kathryn Bigelow) and The Hitcher (directed by Bob Harmon), but I would like to say I think I knew where you were going when you suggested Eric Red for the podcast. He has a style that is very similar to Larry Cohen, the writer/filmmaker we both have enormous respect for; Eric Red is very similar. He’s a very gifted writer, because I think he writes with an eye toward shooting. He’s thinking about making the movie as he is writing it. If it came down to it, if he had no financing or support, he could do it himself. That’s what I think.

So, Blue Steel comes out in 1989, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and I remember the critics hailing it as progressive, remember we were talking about Tyne Daly in The Enforcer last time, this affirmative action placing her character firmly in danger and she has to work to get the respect of Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan. This is a slightly different prospect with Jamie Lee Curtis, who, from a purely aesthetic sense, seems a lot tougher than Tyne. Isn’t that strange? That we can size people up (particularly females) in this way?

I miss the Tri-Star horse, don’t you? This takes me back, and I also remember that HBO produced the movie, and that The Hitcher was released by HBO on home video – Thorn/EMI HBO Video in the clamshell. We have another bit where a driver falls asleep at the wheel, like in Cohen and Tate, and I think he picks up Rutger Hauer just to keep himself from falling asleep. I could make a really terrible joke about Eric Red at this point, but I won’t. Remember when C. Thomas Howell was a teen heart-throb? He was all over the magazines in the early ’80s. And then came Soul Man. The movie was remade recently with Sean Bean in the title role. I love Sean Bean, but he’s no Rutger Hauer. Hauer is absolutely menacing, he’s just about perfect casting; he’s creepy, he’s inappropriate – the only problem is that he (and Sean Bean) are just too good-looking to be serial killers, don’t you think? Nine minutes in, he threatens C. Thomas Howell, right? Wow. You believe him. C. Thomas is kind-of a beta male up against an alpha male. It’s funny when the road worker calls them, “sweethearts.”

Opening credits for Body Parts, 1991 (with Jeff Fahey) are a collage of drawings of musculature, arms, legs, and torsos, which reminds me of some of Bronwyn’s drawings. As an artist, she’s constantly drawing hands and arms and feet. Frank Mancuso, Jr. ran Paramount for a time; he supervised several of Paramount’s franchises including the Friday the 13th movies. Fahey plays a criminal psychologist and a teacher. Can we stop for a moment to show Jeff Fahey a little love? He’s one of my favorite actors, ever since, I think Psycho III; he’s always interesting.

Written by David Lawler and Andrew La Ganke.
“Love Theme from Extreme Cinema” composed and performed by Alex Saltz.
Introduction written by Bronwyn Knox.
Narrator, “The Voice”: Valerie Sachs.
Artwork by Bronwyn Knox.
Head Title Washer: Ben Lauter.

Running Time: 1:33:36

This is a mini-bit tacked on to the end of the previous episode about Eric Red.

Eric Red was found to be at fault in a car accident that caused two deaths after he drove his truck into a crowded bar in Los Angeles on May 31, 2000. After the accident, Red apparently exited his vehicle, and attempted suicide by slitting his own throat with a piece of broken glass. Red survived the incident and was taken to the hospital under an alias and released weeks later. No criminal charges were brought, but a jury in a civil suit found that he had acted intentionally. The suit, which awarded over a million dollars to the families of the two men killed in the accident, was appealed to state and federal courts, which confirmed the original jury finding.

Andrew and I discuss the incident, and the L.A. Weekly article.

LA Weekly story: Death Race 2000, by Paul Cullum 01-13-2006, LA Weekly

Addendum Running Time: 15:27

Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All music clips appear under Fair Use as well. If you’re thinking of suing because you want a piece of the pie, please remember, there is no actual pie. We at BlissVille have no money, and as such, cannot compensate you. If anything, we’re doing you a favor, so please be kind. We do this ’cause it’s fun, and nothing else.

 

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Vintage Cable Box: “Silkwood, 1983”

“It doesn’t matter whether you work in plutonium or dog food because they ain’t gonna give you a thing, there’s nowhere left to go! You close this plant down and then what? You’re gonna be up in Washington, but we’re gonna be down here outta work!”

Silkwood, 1983 (Meryl Streep), ABC Motion Pictures

Karen Silkwood is a trouble-maker. At Kerr-McGee, she handles the processing of plutonium and uranium dioxide as it is converted into fuel pellets for nuclear reactors. The interesting idea about Silkwood and her co-workers is that they are not scientists, but technicians working on an assembly line. Nuclear power is a job of work, not ideals and definitely not science. They know enough to do their work, and very little more. She and her co-workers are overworked and underpaid; they complain about having to work extra hours on short notice and the power plant runs efficiently with no-nonsense supervisors and bitchy subordinates.

Though depicted as lazy and irresponsible with self-destructive qualities, Karen (as portrayed beautifully by Meryl Streep) is fiercely independent and defiant (even at the cost of her own safety and well-being). She loves her estranged children, her co-dependent lesbian roommate, Dolly (Cher), and her on-again off-again boyfriend, Drew (Kurt Russell). She almost seems to work hard at making terrible mistakes, which I find oddly fascinating, especially with regard to the way strong female characters are written in films these days. Women written today, by contrast, appear to be perfect, beautiful, patient, and unrealistically saintly creatures. By humanizing a character like Karen Silkwood, we can more readily identify with her and her struggle.

One day, Karen’s co-worker, Thelma, is “cooked”, meaning she’s been exposed to radiation, and is forced to undergo a humiliating cleaning process involving vigorous use of steel wool.  Karen worries about cancer as she relentlessly chain-smokes.  Boyfriend Drew has a plan to one day quit the power plant and set up his own small bait-shop dealership, but Karen thinks he’s just dreaming.  You get the sense most people employed in this part of the Country have very few options.  One night, after cleaning up, Karen tests positive for radiation and is required to provide urine samples for the next few weeks.  She begins to notice her supervisors are falsifying reports and re-touching photographs of faulty welds in fuel rods.  She checks her union manuals, does her homework, and figures out she and her fellow employees are being deceived.

As Kerr-McGee management clamps down on union meetings, Karen decides to take her complaints to Washington and the Atomic Energy Commission.  When she tells her representatives (Ron Silver, Josef Sommer) about the re-touched photographs, they realize they have a case against the plant.  Oddly, the narrative is broken up with episodic moments, such as Dolly’s latest girlfriend, a snooty funeral home beautician (Diana Scarwid), and Karen’s brief dalliance with Ron Silver in Washington and resulting break-up with Drew.  She gathers up enough physical evidence to meet with a reporter from The New York Times, but she never arrives for her interview.   She was found to have died in a mysterious car crash.

Silkwood, the movie, is a strange case.  The movie was given a DVD release, but went out-of-print, and has never enjoyed a Blu-Ray run, though it had been transferred to 1080p for HD broadcast television.  This is a movie that received five Academy Award nominations, including Best Actress, Best Director (Mike Nichols), and Best Original Screenplay (credited to Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen).  Nichols does his usual best (for the time) at letting his actors direct his film.  He gives enormous creative license to Streep, Russell (in his first dramatic role), and Cher in bringing the patina of the surroundings to life.  Rising stars Fred Ward, Craig T. Nelson, Anthony Heald, and David Strathairn all make memorable appearances in the film.

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.

Vintage Cable Box: “Lovesick, 1983”

Vintage-Cable-Box-Cover-Image

“It was a little experiment, that’s all. I never meant it to become an industry.”

lovesick

Lovesick, 1983 (Dudley Moore), Warner Bros./The Ladd Company

Mr. Zuckerman is a strange case. A homeless man with several shopping bags of garbage, he speaks into a 2-way radio, and is convinced aliens are beaming messages into his head from the top of the World Trade Center. Dr. Saul Benjamin (Dudley Moore) knows exactly what to do to assauge Mr. Zuckerman (David Strathairn). He gives him a piece of aluminum foil and tells him to wear it over his head like a helmet. This will block out the alien control rays. Mr. Zuckerman is satisfied with this.

Mr. Zuckerman is just one of Dr. Benjamin’s eccentric (and let’s face it – crazy) patients. Benjamin is quite frankly bored of listening to his wealthy, neurotic patients. He fantasizes about discussing modern psychology with the ghost of Sigmund Freud (Sir Alec Guinness – in serious competition with Strathairn for stealing the whole movie away from Moore). A colleague, played by Wallace Shawn, informs Moore he is falling in love with a patient (Elizabeth McGovern). When Shawn dies, Moore takes on the patient, and soon realizes (with the help of Freud, of course) he is becoming infatuated with her.

Though Moore’s character is married (to a beautiful art gallery owner), the marriage is only referred to twice in the film. He begins to stalk McGovern until he is finally caught in her shower. Soaking wet, he tells her can’t see her anymore because he’s in love with her, which seems just fine to her. Normally, this would all be fairly creepy, but again Moore has that gift of appearing likable even when he’s doing ridiculous and psychotic things. In fact, the most unlikable character in the whole piece is Ron Silver’s arrogant actor (an unusual part for him), Ted, whom is appearing in McGovern’s latest stage play. He is everything I hate about certain actors.

Later, Moore is about to confess his affair to his wife, but discovers she is having an affair with one of her goofy, somewhat perverted artists. Marshall Brickman’s script really doesn’t need this sub-plot. Perhaps he felt the stakes weren’t high enough for Moore’s character (even though he is in danger of losing his accreditation) and that he should also sacrifice his marriage to win McGovern’s love, but in the end, it isn’t necessary. Despite Moore’s borderline sociopathic antics, this is a thoroughly charming fractured love story about a man of psychiatric medicine who learns to care for his patients without the need for stuffing his bank account.

John-freaking-Huston
John-Freaking-Huston!

Late in the movie, Moore is called before a review board (comprised of Alan King and Selma Diamond) and headed by his mentor (John-freaking-Huston!). While miffed at his dalliance with a former patient, they seem more disturbed by the fact that he offers free psychiatric care to homeless people and that he refunds money to his patients because he feels he cannot care for them. They are concerned about the bottom-line and profit margins, and how they will be wealthy from the glut of schizophrenics flooding the city. At the end of this rather brilliant scene, Moore performs what he calls a “magic trick”. He swipes the linen from a handsomely-appointed dinner table without nary disturbing a glass or plate, which earns cheers from Huston, who claps his hands and chuckles enthusiastically.

As a fable about Manhattan neurotics, Lovesick is a charming song. New York City is lovingly photographed (as if it were in an old painting) and Phillippe Sarde’s score is magical. It’s unfortunate no widescreen version of this movie exists. Like Six Weeks, this is a very difficult movie to find. Not even my wily, resourceful friend, Andrew La Ganke, could locate this title, and it only exists as a very old full-frame title on DVD, so I pulled the trigger and bought it, and I’m glad I did.

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.