Daily Archives: September 1, 1987

Best Seller

While it may not add up to anything very profound, this paranoid thriller is put together with so much craft and economy that a significant part of its pleasure is seeing how tightly and cleanly every sequence is hammered into place. Brian Dennehy is Dennis Meechum, an incorruptible police detective who doubles as a successful crime writer; James Woods is Cleve, a hit man who doubles as a corporate executive, and who wants Meechum to write a nonfiction best-seller exposing his ruthless and respectable former boss — a philanthropist tycoon who has stealthily slaughtered his way to the top. Dennehy’s square and skeptical cop is an adroit reading of a dull part, but he makes a wonderful straight man for Woods’s fascinatingly creepy yet sensitive killer — modeled in part on Robert Walker’s Bruno Anthony in Strangers on a Train, with a comparable homoerotic tension between the two men. Tautly and cleverly scripted by Larry Cohen, crisply shot by Fred Murphy, and directed by John Flynn without a loose screw in sight, this is first-class action storytelling stripped to its essentials: no shot is held any longer than is needed to make its narrative point, and the streamlining makes for a bumpless ride. Read more

Amazon Women On The Moon

Virtually a sequel to John Landis’s Kentucky Fried Movie, this collection of comic sketches (1987), most of them TV and grade-Z movie parodies, was written by Michael Barrie and Jim Mulholland and directed by several hands: Joe Dante, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Horton, Landis, and producer Robert K. Weiss. Like most such ventures, it’s pretty hit-or-miss, with Dante and Weiss providing most of the energy; Horton is competent (in a single bit with Rosanna Arquette and Steve Guttenberg), Gottlieb routine, and Landis is OK with sight gags but somewhat adrift in satire. Overall, too many of the ideas –e ven some of the better ones — are paranoid derivations from either Sherlock Jr. (by way of Woody Allen) or Paul Bartel’s The Secret Cinema, and too many of the objects satirized are easy targets. The strongest aftertaste is left by Dante’s bad-taste rendition of movie critics reviewing a failed life, a sequence that eventually turns into a celebrity roast for the dead person, attended by Slappy White, Jackie Vernon, Henny Youngman, Charlie Callas, and Steve Allentoo sinister for comfortable laughs, but queasy in the best Dante manner. (Other stars in cameos include Ralph Bellamy, B.B. King, Griffin Dunne, and Michelle Pfeiffer.) Read more