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post #331 of 347 Old 06-05-2015, 01:30 PM
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Time to demand a Blu-ray! Or perhaps insist on a correct aspect ratio DVD.

I don't know who owns this one. Lorimar was one of the producers; might Warner now have it? If so, maybe their Archive line could do it. Are music rights an issue?

Or any boutique label, please.

You don't see many reviews, and even fewer with appreciative notes. Here's one: Underrated 80’s Thriller: “Mary Lambert’s Siesta” (1987).

-Bill
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post #332 of 347 Old 06-05-2015, 04:39 PM
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Back in the day (a brief day perhaps, but boy was it a sunny, warm, memorable day), Ellen Barkin was your go-to sexpot, bedroom eyes, husky voice vamp. And boy did she deliver. She brought it for lunch, and you stayed for dinner if you were smart. The Big Easy, Siesta, others. There were some notorious Barkin flicks, and you didn't go see them for the set design.


Still has those eyes, I see (from Google Image search). Viva Ellen!
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post #333 of 347 Old 06-14-2015, 06:05 AM
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The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984), directed by W.D. Richter.

Quote:

Mission Control: Buckaroo, The White House wants to know is everything ok with the alien space craft from Planet 10 or should we just go ahead and destroy Russia?

Buckaroo Banzai: Tell him yes on one and no on two.

Mission Control: Which one was yes, go ahead and destroy Russia... or number 2?
When human experimentation releases moronic Red Lectroids trapped in the 8th Dimension, the rasta-like Black Lectroids of Planet 10 aren't having it. The always heavily armed Team Banzai has just a few hours to frustrate the plans of Dr. Emilio Lizardo -- who is possessed by Lord John Whorfin -- or it's curtains for the entire Earth.

And you know: it's always one damn thing after another. Super-genius Buckaroo Banzai has just discovered the twin sister of his dead wife, previously murdered by the head of the World Crime League. Love blooms again. Rescue her, save the Earth and get the band on the road again.

We were nuts about this when it was in the theater and have been quoting it ever since. The reviews were kind but somewhat befuddled about being dropped into an adventure with a huge backstory and no explanation, requiring the viewer to hit the ground running.

Well, yeah.

This was "meta" before it was cool. Superheroes who are actually pretty normal apart from intelligence, skills and warm loyalty to each other. They produce their own Buckaroo Banzai comic books and have a tour bus for their band which doubles as the World Watch One command center.

The conceit is attractive: these people come from truck stops and cheap lounges scattered across Nowhere USA. Any sincere viewer might imagine themselves as a Blue Blazer Irregular and part of the family. The plot summary sounds silly but is actually engaging, compared to something like Flash Gordon (1980), which is all silliness.

Great cast and abundant goofy charm. Ellen Barkin again: I'm on a binge.

Special effects and set dressing are pretty much hand-made and lots of fun to watch.

One criticism would be that the political satire with the President and his staff goes on too long.

(An aside: what is with the initials "P.P." for female sidekicks in fantasy adventure films? Barkin is Penny Priddy and her sister was Peggy Priddy. Gwyneth Paltrow is Pepper Potts in the Iron Man films and was Polly Perkins in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow).

The old special edition DVD has a lot of nice extras, but the video quality needs an upgrade. I see some Blu-ray imports are available, and a new Arrow Blu-ray appears in the UK in July 2015.

A commentary track on the DVD has the director with writer Earl Mac Rauch pretending that this is a filmed docu-drama of real events, with actors portraying their real counterparts. Rauch is supposed to be the real "Reno".



-Bill
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post #334 of 347 Old 06-14-2015, 09:32 AM
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Thanks for the review but as many times as I've watched this movie I can't warm to it. I know several people who love Buckaroo Banzai. Interesting that it has a big backstory that helps explain what's going on. Flash Gordon on the other hand is steeped in tradition and needs no explanation. It's dorky fun.

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post #335 of 347 Old 07-19-2015, 04:13 PM
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Krull (1983), directed by Peter Yates.

The interplanetary Slayers arrive on Planet Krull and kidnap the Princess. The Beast of the Black Fortress -- inexplicably -- wants to mate with her and make her ruler of this planet and others.

Her Prince picks up an Obi-wan type wizard and assorted outlaws and comic relief characters and sets out to rescue her. This takes time because the Quest always needs one more damned thing before they can get down to the real rescuing business.

I remembered nothing about this apart from the Princess gliding about in white. She picked up a sword once and I thought she might fight, but no: she threw it to a soldier who was instantly killed. She does a plot twist at the beginning, arguing for a political marriage, her father being against it. Usually it's the other way around.

We must be missing some backstory because the epilogue says her son will rule many planets; absence of a spaceship is not a problem somehow.

After Star Wars (1977) everyone wanted medieval-themed science fiction adventure/romances. This one is harmed by cheezy effects, poor dialogue, inconsistent tone and general silliness. Some of the mountain locations are very impressive and the large set designs are eerie and imaginative.

Early work for Robbie Coltrane and Liam Neeson, who often played hulking brutes in those days. They are among the good outlaws here.

James Horner score emphasizing John Williams motifs. The giant spider cavern sounds more like Bernard Herrmann.

Available on Blu-ray from Mill Creek. No subtitles.



-Bill
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post #336 of 347 Old 08-01-2015, 06:15 AM
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Scandal (1989), directed by Michael Caton-Jones.

A society doctor takes in a 17-year-old dancer and promotes her "career", which is partying with the rich and famous. He's not her pimp or her lover, just a friend whose pleasure comes from knowing and mixing with the elite set, doing them favors and getting favors in return.

A pair of inconvenient alliances draws attention from the authorities: she's been sleeping with both the Secretary for War and a Russian military attaché, probably a spy. Oops. That's a security problem.

This is the Profumo affair, the British political sex scandal by which all others are measured. Outraged, the establishment lashed out at the doctor and tried him for profiting from sex work. Which probably wasn't true, but it was an ugly proceeding. He committed suicide the last day of the trial and the Government resigned the next year, exhausted by scandal.

The film poster is adapted from a famous glamor pose by Christine Keeler, the key figure in the scandal:



This is not a thriller, either criminal or sexual or even political. It's more of a tragic romance, driven by fine performances from John Hurt and Joanne Whalley. It's a meditation on the nature of sex work: on those who provide the services, those who consume them, and those who facilitate.

Keeler is not actually a full-time prostitute, she just gets the society and some expenses. She doesn't mind the sex work, although we catch her yawning in bed with the Minister. The old story: in a man's world she gets plenty of sex, but needs something beyond that.

The early 1960s period detail is nicely done, and we constantly boggle at the orgiastic excess of the upper crust. What brought down Profumo was not his infidelity, but that he lied about it in Parliament. That was the unforgivable sin.

Quite a lot of nudity and passion from both Joanne Whalley and Bridget Fonda. I think Whalley, last seen in Willow (1988) and Kill Me Again (1989), is one of the most beautiful actresses of those years.

Ian McKellen is the hapless Profumo. The historically accurate balding pattern makes him look like a timid samurai.

I watched this again because of something I read in an obituary of Mandy Rice-Davies, the roommate played by Bridget Fonda in the film. After he resigned in disgrace, Profumo went to the poor part of town and volunteered cleaning toilets and doing other quiet good works for the rest of his life. He did not speak another word in public for 40 years. His wife, actress Valerie Hobson (The Rocking Horse Winner (1949), Contraband (1940)), stuck with him.

Folks: that's how you show contrition. Contrast with the modern "I take full responsibility" -- and nothing happens.



-Bill
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post #337 of 347 Old 08-04-2015, 03:32 PM
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Imagine my pleasure when one of my favorite films from the '80s, The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989), showed up on one of the Cinemax channels. It's still just as good as I remembered, filled with wonderful music and fine performances from all three of its stars, the Bridges brothers and Michelle Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer was a revelation. Not only did she turn in a fine dramatic performance, it turns out that she could sing too. She was nominated for an Oscar. Highly recommended, 8 Stars out of 10. If anybody is interested, it will be shown again on 5MAX at 12:10 PM on August 16.
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post #338 of 347 Old 08-04-2015, 10:34 PM
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Originally Posted by gwsat View Post
Imagine my pleasure when one of my favorite films from the '80s, The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989), showed up on one of the Cinemax channels. It's still just as good as I remembered, filled with wonderful music and fine performances from all three of its stars, the Bridges brothers and Michelle Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer was a revelation. Not only did she turn in a fine dramatic performance, it turns out that she could sing too. She was nominated for an Oscar. Highly recommended, 8 Stars out of 10. If anybody is interested, it will be shown again on 5MAX at 12:10 PM on August 16.

Or buy the Blu-ray release from Twilight Time.

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post #339 of 347 Old 09-04-2015, 02:27 PM
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The Razor's Edge (1984), directed by John Byrum.

Shaken by his experience as an ambulance driver in WW1, a man leaves his conventional life and becomes a seeker. After finding his enlightenment in India he returns and tries to repair the damaged lives of his friends.

This was made before as The Razor's Edge (1946). Neither version is entirely satisfactory. The strongest part of this one is in the final third, with Theresa Russell's heartrending portrayal of doomed Sophie, drunken and prostituting herself after the death of her husband and child. It's a dilemma without a solution: how do you save someone from themselves? Sometimes you don't.

Bill Murray had been all comedy before this. Like John Cleese and Phil Hartman he is so good at the comic mugging of seriousness that we don't quite know how to take him in a dramatic role. And yet: why can't "Larry Darrell" be a funny guy? Class clowns hurt, too. In the 1946 version he was played by a swashbuckling actor. Which is the more common type of character in the real world?

Murray has done more serious roles since then, perhaps making it easier to accept him in this one now.

I always kept a look out for Theresa Russell in those days. A beautiful woman doing dangerous things; she had a whole series of edgy, experimental roles. This was aided by her work with sometime husband and director Nicholas Roeg.

The dialogue is often cumbersome and Denholm Elliott's talent is wasted. Murray is our hero but he's no superhero and can't save the day. This gives the whole production a despairing tone.

It was a critical and commercial flop. The deal with the studio was that Murray could make this in exchange for appearing in Ghostbusters.

Available on DVD.



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post #340 of 347 Old 10-03-2015, 02:16 PM
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Edge of Darkness (1985), directed by Martin Campbell.

Quote:
It was the time of the preacher
in the year of oh-one
Now the preachin' is over
and the lesson's begun

--Willie Nelson
When a police detective's daughter is murdered in front of him, he goes deep into the rabbit hole to find out "why?" He never really comes out again. The "easy" mysteries are solved: is that a happy ending?

This is the best TV miniseries I know. Mysterious, intelligent and heartfelt, with every act it expands into larger circles of unexpected story, with strong mythical components:

  • First, the murder mystery. Was Craven the target and did Emma just get in the way?
  • But it seems she was into something dangerous. When going through her things he finds not only her teddy bear and vibrator, but a pistol and a radiation detector.
  • Spies begin contacting him. Wheels within wheels, everyone using each other.
  • Craven becomes aware of a vast secret plutonium economy, which is dangerous knowledge.
  • The supernatural intrudes, with the ghost of Emma visiting her father, trying to comfort him. Maybe she's just a delusion, but that's ok. And yet: a freshwater spring has appeared at the place where she died.
  • Hints in the end that the Gaia earth goddess is taking slow, decisive steps to correct the human infestation of the planet.
  • The largest circle of all: Craven's grief for Emma. From the beginning to the end, it is the foundation of the whole story, the engine driving everything.

I say the story goes in "unexpected" directions, because although it seems to villainize everything the 1980s BBC hates -- industrialists, nuclear power, Thatcher, Reagan, America in general and the CIA in particular -- it also trips up those motifs and surprises us. It must have been hard to admit that left activists could be police informants and Green organizations actually CIA fronts.

The greatest delight is Joe Don Baker, outstanding as Darius Jedburgh, CIA wild man from Texas, bigger than life and twice as complicated. Turns out he is the only one Craven can trust. They make a good team because neither gives a damn about the established order anymore and will pull it all down.

Bob Peck was never a big star, but I always enjoyed seeing him whenever he turned up. Because of him, Craven and his pain stay with us for a long time.

Joanne Whalley, age 24, so beautiful it kind of hurts. Her film career took off just after this.

Score by Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton with the latter on mournful blues guitar.

The director did a lot of UK TV before moving on to Zorro and James Bond films. He remade Edge of Darkness as a 2010 feature film with Mel Gibson; I haven't seen it yet.

Available on DVD. I originally imported a PAL edition but it is available on North American NTSC DVD now.



-Bill

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post #341 of 347 Old 10-04-2015, 09:40 AM
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Have never seen. Title sounded familiar and I see it was remade with Martin Campbell directing again but this time with Mel Gibson.

Fortunately my library has a copy of the BBC version. Will give it a look. Thanks for review.
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post #342 of 347 Old 11-09-2015, 04:39 AM
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Tin Men (1987), written and directed by Barry Levinson.

A mostly comic tale of rivalry between two hard-working aluminum siding salesmen in 1963 Baltimore. A fender-bender escalates into all-out war. Danny DeVito has a wife (Barbara Hershey) he doesn't deserve. Richard Dreyfuss can steal her away in revenge, but what if he wants to keep her? He's not used to this "feelings" business. And what is she going to do when she discovers his original motivation?

Aluminum siding was a scam business back then. It is a tribute to the film that by the end we like the scamsters more than the regulators who are putting them out of business. I used to do tech support for salesmen, and they all loved this picture. It spoke to their grit and comic appreciation of the human condition.

What's in store for our heroes at the end? BB has been talking about a dealership for those new VW Bugs, and we seen a Golden Arch rising on the skyline. The age of franchising looms...

Great ensemble cast and a fine time capsule look at the period. The second of the director's Baltimore series, with Diner (1982), Avalon (1990), and Liberty Heights (1999).

Fine Young Cannibals provide several tunes and appear as a club band. Did they pick out the other classic songs, too? I've been meaning to pick up some Jo Stafford: which boxed set?

Available on DVD with an edited commentary track with cast and crew. It seems to have been a happy, creative experience. Levinson insisted on no rehearsals or line readings: everything is fresh for the camera. I suspect that wouldn't work in a lot of projects, but it looks great here.



-Bill
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post #343 of 347 Old 11-23-2015, 01:49 PM
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The Hunger (1983), directed by Tony Scott.

Ah, to be rich, beautiful and immortal, living languid lives practicing chamber music, going out to clubs at night to find young victims, taking them to a hotel for some sex play, then heartlessly killing them and drinking their blood. Dispose of their bodies at home in a big furnace in the basement. Perfect.

Except: only the icy woman seems truly immortal, with memories stretching back to ancient Egypt. Her companions don't last as long; about 200 years in the most recent case. They age and became cadaverous in hours. But they don't die. They can't. They lie in boxes in the attic and just wait. She grieves and then quickly moves on to recruit another companion, man or woman.

Would everyone agree to that in advance? Anyone?

Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie are nicely suited as the vampire couple. She because she is like an ice queen, he because he looks carnivorous and slightly inhuman.

Impressive work by makeup artist Dick Smith, both in an aging scene for Bowie, and for the vampire cadavers at the end. The final transformation scene is remarkably horrific, but also dry. Terror does not require goo.

That's an unsettling sequence where Bowie ages decades in the clinic waiting room. A real horror metaphor for life: it flies by while you wait in boredom, doing nothing.

We have a hot sex scene with Deneuve and Susan Sarandon, also disturbing because it is about infection and vampire recruitment. Sarandon does her own nudity but Deneuve is clearly using a body double.

Scott's first feature film. For influences he cites Nicolas Roeg (particularly Performance (1970)), Kubrick, Polanski and brother Ridley.

The film was slammed from all directions, critics calling it arty, self-indulgent, esoteric. "True," said Scott, "but that doesn't mean it's not an interesting film." I recall someone describing it as looking like a 97m perfume ad, which is pretty bitchy, but you see the point. The brothers Scott did thousands of commercials and music videos and brought that visual styling to the screen, in this case with blowing curtains and flapping doves. We became used to the look later, but it was new back then.

Scott didn't get another film for four years: Top Gun.

My little circle liked this one quite a bit when we saw it in the theater. When we were young we were fascinated by youth, life extension and immortality. Oddly enough, now that I'm old I no longer care.

When we came out of the theater we told the manager how much we liked it and he did a double-take: "I've never had so many people walk out and ask for their money back".

Yes: too arty, too much chamber music, slow, nothing really explained, glimpses of gruesomeness but no proper action scenes. For general audiences it's a problem.

The intro was hard to see in the theater and is more visible on Blu-ray. At first I couldn't tell it was a vampire film; I thought they might be cannibalistically devouring their victims. The goth band in the intro is Bauhaus, doing "Bela Lugosi's Dead".

Set in New York but filmed in London to save money. A small part for Dan Hedaya as a police detective, and early glimpses of Willem Dafoe and Sophie Ward.

Available on Blu-ray with an edited commentary track by the director and Sarandon, carried over from the DVD. Scott's part must have been recorded around 2004: he mentions just finishing Man on Fire.

He says the scope ratio of the film is in the tradition of Barry Lyndon (1975). That must be an inside joke with his brother, because the earlier film isn't scope.

Regarding the lesbian sex, Sarandon says: "It certainly changed my fan base".

I'm not sure of the logic of the ending and she confirms: the studio insisted on mucking it up, perhaps thinking of a sequel.



-Bill

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post #344 of 347 Old 11-24-2015, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
The Hunger (1983), directed by Tony Scott.
Also of note: The film is based on a novel by Whitley Strieber (the 'Communion' alien abduction nutbag) which goes into a lot more detail about the Miriam character's backstory, with long flashbacks to ancient Egypt. The movie strips all that stuff to a bare minimum.

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post #345 of 347 Old 12-09-2015, 06:27 PM
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Witness (1985), directed by Peter Weir.

When an Amish boy witnesses a murder, a wounded big city police detective has to get him out of town and hides out with him among his own people in the country. They don't believe in violence. He does. You can't hide forever.

I'd forgotten how good is the visual composition in this one. Still, you can see Peter Weir making the transition to big-title Hollywood director. The experimental risk-taking of Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) and The Last Wave (1977) fade into the past.

The plot flows smoothly. Predictably? I can't remember what I was expecting when I saw this in the theater. The one sour note is when Harrison Ford beats up some rude yahoos. Yes, he is upset that his partner has been murdered, but the point of the incident is to show how much more satisfying revenge is than nonviolence. At the time I recall the film was shown to some Amish and that was the only scene they really objected to: he shouldn't behave that way when wearing those clothes.

Notes:

  • Non-violent resolution has only a 1/3 success rate in this story.
  • Laugh at them if you must, but the Amish have a little bit of paradise for those who can live it.
  • Kelly McGillis fan club.
  • Lukas Haas is age 9 here and performs very well. Those enormous eyes!
  • I was gratified that the Daniel character (dancer Alexander Godunov) did not turn out to be a bad guy, spurned lover or no.
  • Young Viggo Mortensen has a couple of lines as Amishman "Moses Hochleitner".
  • The setup is similar the John Wayne western Angel and the Badman (1947).

Maurice Jarre synthesizer score. Ah, the 80s.

Available on bare-bones Blu-ray (with about two dozen subtitle languages) and the result is disappointing. I hope the lab used up its black crush quota for this disc so that others don't suffer. So many Amish coats with so little detail. The package says 152 minutes, but they mean 1h52m.



-Bill

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post #346 of 347 Old 12-13-2015, 08:47 AM
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Review films of the 1980s here!

Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
The Hunger (1983), directed by Tony Scott.







Saw this at USC film school's 466 class with Scott as the guest. He looked very unhappy, perhaps the bad taste of studio meddling fresh in his mouth. Knowing his brother's work, I had high expectations. Tony Scott's films have disappointed me ever since.

All of my circle agreed, boffo opening with the Bauhaus song, club scene, sex, murder,then it spiraled into a very different, sedate, Barry Lyndon, soporific vibe. What happened to the movie we were watching? Pffft. Still, some very appealing actors on screen, giving it their best shot. And a monkey, if memory serves.....

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Black Widow (1987), directed by Bob Rafelson.

A smooth, no-mystery thriller of two strong women: a femme fatale who marries and murders rich men, and the federal agent who is on to her.

Debra Winger and Theresa Russell are both fine and when they get to Hawaii, Conrad L. Hall's photography makes lovely work of lithe, swim-suited bodies. Brief nudity by Russell: just enough for an R rating.

Russell (last seen in The Razor's Edge (1984)) is good at her work: the planning, seduction, invisible murder and cashing out. But she is not superhuman: we see her nervousness when her story is being checked out, and her screaming rages when she is frustrated. She cries after every death and probably loved each husband in her own way -- but she loved the money more: "Being rich is a problem. You never feel you are quite there".

Winger (last seen in Cannery Row (1982) is not as glamorous but she has her own appeal and we are hoping she can take charge of her life. She doesn't date and seems a bit nervous about sexual matters. Late in the story she gets laid and becomes more confident.

With two powerful female antagonists and all that scuba diving, sexual tension between them seems inevitable in a "neo-noir" thriller. Neither has satisfactory love lives. Why not engage with each other? You can see them thinking about it, but neither is willing to pretend there is no problem. Both know the truth and know the other knows, and neither is going to give in.

It's all about the duel. I think audiences wanted more action, of some sort.

Rich set of supporting actors: Dennis Hopper, Nicol Williamson, Terry O'Quinn, James Hong, Diane Ladd, Mary Woronov (the scuba instructor; I didn't recognize her).

Rafelson had been away for several years before this, as had cinematographer Hall.

Available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time, and pretty good looking. Commentary track by the usual pair: Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo. I've become quite fond of their work.

They point out that just as 1970s film had a fascination for the Great Depression, the 1980s "neo-noir" genre moved on to mimicking the 1940s.

They also suggest that "real" sex in film faded out after this period. Later it became more cinematic presentations of slamming people up against the wall and performing erotically aerobic exertions on them.



-Bill

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