First on the tape, from Sky Movies, it’s Blind Fury. I can’t remember much about it, so I might not have watched it at the time. It’s from around the same time as films like The Hitcher and Wanted: Dead or Alive where Rutger Hauer was a popular leading man.
It’s directed by Phillip Noyce, who had just released Dead Calm, and interestingly, one of the producers is Tim Matheson – Vice President Hoynes from The West Wing.
The film also co-stars Terry O’Quinn, credited as Terrance O’Quinn for some reason.
It opens in Vietnam, with Hauer blinded in a mortar attack. Good thing he has the best medical care you can imagine.
After a training montage – for reasons left unexplained, the people who found him are able to train a newly blind man to handle a samurai sword so that he can slice a watermelon into quarters as it’s thrown through the air – we cut to 20 years later, and Hauer is in Miami, stepping over crocodiles at the edge of the road, and visiting a rough bar where they like to bully blind men by feeding them super-hot chilli burritos. But then they start hassling a young woman, and Hauer beats them all up, all the while pretending (badly) that everything he’s doing is accidental.
Cut to Reno, and some mobsters are dangling a chemist called Deveraux (O’Quinn) from a tall building to get him to make designer drugs for them, also threatening his wife and kids in Miami. And where does Hauer happen to be going?
He’s visiting Deveraux, with whom he served in Vietnam, so he meets Meg Foster, Deveraux’s ex wife, and her son Billy. They barely get a chance to enjoy a nice cup of tea when there’s a knock on the door, and two policemen barge in asking to see Billy, as he’s been a witness to a crime. They’re very surly for police officers, so I smell a rat, who then enters in the shape of Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb off of Raising Arizona, who we saw as one of the mob guys hassling Deveraux in Reno.
Naturally, mayhem ensues, starting with a genuinely shocking moment – Foster is gunned down by Cobb when she tries to protect her son. Then Hauer takes action, and his super-sharp sword is used to full effect.
With her dying breath, Foster entreats Hauer to protect her son and take him to his father. On the long road trip, they totally fail to bond, probably because this complete stranger has just taken him out of his family home, without any explanation of why. Cue some really annoying sparring between the two.
When Hauer does eventually tell him his mother’s dead, the boy runs off into a cornfield, and unluckily for them, that’s at precisely the same time that Cobb and his gang of scoundrels have found them, and follow them into the field. Cue another round of slice the bad guys.
Once they reach Reno, they’re both captured at Billy’s father’s house, where two good ol’ boys are waiting for them, along with Lisa Blount, who’s also working for the mobsters as a waitress, but doesn’t seem to be on their side very much.
They escape from the cowboys, taking their van, and the cowboys then demonstrate quite how evil they are by carjacking two old ladies.
It’s roughly at this point, when Hauer has to drive the van through a busy Reno while the cowboys are pursuing him, that you begin to feel the filmmakers aren’t taking this entirely seriously. And when he gets to the casino where Deveraux (O’Quinn) is being held, he’s able to first win a huge amount on the roulette, then, when a croupier arrives to fix the wheel, is able to reveal the scam by cutting a hole in the man’s jacket pocket and lifting the wheel out with his sword. I’m beginning to think this movie isn’t totally realistic.
That’s not even mentioning him menacing one of the mobsters by cutting his eyebrows off. “I also do circumcision”
It tries to get all serious when Hauer and O’Quinn are reunited. It was O’Quinn’s fault that Hauer was injured in Vietnam, but, as they both take a cable-car to mount a rescue of Billy and Blount from the head mobster, Hauer tells O’Quinn that he forgives him. I put money on O’Quinn sacrificing his life to save Hauer in the final sequence…
The film isn’t above putting Hauer in challenging situations – here he is having to crawl silently through a drum kit.
O’Quinn gets spooked again, and runs off – is this another repeat of Vietnam? Hauer is surrounded by bad guys with guns. How can he possibly escape? By O’Quinn pulling the fuses and plunging the room into darkness, then tossing homemade bombs to disorientate the now blind goon. “I can’t see!” “That’s where I live.”
Moving on to the main mobster’s room where he’s holding O’Quinn’s son, and Blount, Hauer then has to fight a Japanese swordsman, which definitely seems like an unfair fight. There’s a nice use of a mini trampoline during the fight, part of which takes place in a mini-gym.
Finally, there’s a last confrontation between Hauer and Cobb, and Cobb ends up the worse for wear – in fact, he goes all Darth Maul.
And confounding all my expectations, O’Quinn survives the encounter, and takes Billy and Blount to San Francisco. But Hauer doesn’t go with them, leading to a tearful farewell with little Billy.
And despite what he told Billy earlier in the movie, Hauer discovers he can, actually, cry.
After this, recording switches to BBC2, and a Screen Two adaptation of Simon Brett’s novel Dead Romantic. A serial killer is gruesomely murdering women. Our heroine is Janet McTeer, a teacher at a language school, who is in the habit of giving very sultry poetry readings to a young student, Johnny Lee Miller.
There’s an odd scene after this, when Miller returns home to find friends of his watching a porny horror film. Some of his ‘friends’ taunt him. “Bloody virgin’s convention. You’d be better off buying it. From a tart, stupid.” This is some of the worst dialogue I’ve heard in a long time, and I’ve just watched Blind Fury.
Miller is, obviously, in love with McTeer, and she obviously doesn’t realise. She’s interested in one of the other teachers, Clive Wood, who’s married, nursing a very sick wife, but fully up for a candlelit dinner with McTeer.
We see Miller buy a knife from a junk shop, so is that a clue or a red herring? Probably the latter, as he starts self-harming.
So, we have McTeer and Clive Wood, young Johnny Lee Miller, McTeer’s niece, who is seeing a man called Terry whom we haven’t met yet, Miller’s girlfriend and his horrible virgin-taunting friend, and the head of the language school, who appears to want to sleep with every woman on the faculty. I’m assuming at this point that one of these will be the murderer, who has been killing rather a lot over the course of the programme, but whose actions have not been the subject of a single discussion between any of our principals. It’s almost as if they’re happening in a different story.
McTeer arranges a romantic weekend with Wood in the country, while letting her niece spend time with ‘Terry’.
Miller follows McTeer in his mum’s car, while swigging whiskey from a bottle, but the police stop him after a chase. So it’s probably not him.
Then we see Wood making everything nice in the cottage for his tryst with McTeer – then a scene that I have watched three times now to try and understand. Wood is in the cottage, setting up. He pauses at the bottom of the stairs, looks up to the floor above, then the scene cuts to the (previously established) killer’s bag and trenchcoat. Then we cut back to Wood (at least I think it’s him) collecting some clothes and laying them out on a bed. He’s dressed differently, so I presume we’re seeing a flashback. Then he walks out of the bedroom and into another – the killer’s room with the bag and the trenchcoat.
Then it cuts back to Wood in the cottage – I presume we were seeing his recollection, but it’s confusing, especially when at least two of the men in this programme look very similar. So, unless the killer is actually Wood’s sick wife, whom we have never seen, I think McTeer might be in trouble. Well frankly, she’s in trouble whatever happens.
So the romantic evening leads to bed, and Wood is rubbish, being much too rough, and when she gets cross, he starts trying to strangle her, but luckily for her, unluckily for him, his murder bag is by the bed and she grabs a knife and stabs him. Quite a few times, actually. And then she goes into full CSI mode, cleaning the crime scene, removing fingerprints and traces of hairs, and chucking the murder weapon into the nearby lake.
A strange one this. Not much of a whodunnit, to be honest, and there’s a lot of brooding loners. Not a classic.
BBC Genome: BBC Two – 14th February 1993 – 22:00
Following this there’s a trailer for next week’s Screen Two, The Cormorant, starring Ralph Fiennes.
The recording continues with the start of Visconti’s Death in Venice. After a few minutes of this the recording stops, and underneath there’s credits for a movie on Sky Movies. It’s an 80s power ballad sung by Celine Dion and Warren Wiebe, and the credits are played over a picture of the US Capitol building. The copyright date is 1989. My guess was Murder at 1600 but that’s 1997. A little spelunking in iMDB reveals that it’s actually a movie called Listen To Me (the title of the Dion track) and starred Kirk Cameron and Jamie Gertz, so it’s no wonder I couldn’t place it.
There’s a trailer for State of Grace after this, then another movie starts, a Cannon presentation of a film called Storm. There’s a couple of minutes of this before the tape ends.