There was an older recording on this tape, with about a second of the ITV logo, and the announcer saying ‘Dirty Dancing’. I am not surprised I taped over that, as it’s not a film that’s really for me.
So instead we get a film that’s entirely for me. On The Movie Channel, it’s Darkman. Sam Raimi’s dark superhero/Phantom of the Opera mashup. Liam Neeson and Sam Raimi give a brief introduction to the film.
It opens with the villain, Robert Durant, played by LA Law’s Larry Drake, but a total departure from Benny Stulwicz. It’s a mobster with real estate ambitions, and we first meet him confronting a rival gang and blowing them away, with the help of one of his men having a wooden leg that turns into a machine gun. He also likes collecting fingers with his cigar cutter.
Neeson plays Peyton Westlake, a brilliant scientist trying to perfect artificial skin, but unable to get it to last longer than 99 minutes, because it’s affected by light.
His girlfriend Julie is played by Frances McDormand. She’s an attorney who has found an incriminating memo, the ‘Bellasarious Memorandum’ which shows some bribes being paid over a waterfront development project. If it’s named after the writer Don Belisarius, someone in the graphics department couldn’t spell it.
Durant finds out about the memo, and comes to Westlake’s lab to find it. He kills his assistant, badly mutilates Westlake, then leaves gas running, and a nodding bird toy which sets off a lighter.
The film is full of loopy visuals, like the shot of McDormand outside the exploded building, which morphs into a shot of her in a veil at Westlake’s graveside.
Westlake’s body is thrown into the water, and he’s rescued and taken to hospital as a John Doe. There’s a cameo from Jenny Agutter as the slightly scary doctor who is treating him, explaining that to prevent him suffering the pain of the burns, they’ve severed his pain nerves, but it has side effects. “Uncontrolled Rage is not uncommon.”
He escapes from the hospital, and sets up a new lab in an abandoned warehouse. And he starts going after Durant’s gang, his first victim being Sam Raimi’s brother Ted.
There’s a lot of great gags, like this shot as he’s made new skin for one of his hands but not the other.
He starts going through Durant’s men by impersonating them, so there’s plenty of ‘double’ gags. “Shoot that one!”
His showdown with Durant ends up with him hanging from a cable from a helicopter. But he manages to pull the helicopter into a bridge, killing Durant.
But it’s not over, because Julie has been kidnapped by the true mastermind, a man she thought was her friend (and whom she dated when she thought Westlake was dead). He’s played by Colin Friels, but he’s just a bit boring compared to Drake. However, it does effectively allow the film to have two final showdowns.
Julie, of course, ends up hanging from a great height.
After seeing off Friels and his men, Westlake says goodbye to Julie, as he can’t expect her to love him, now he’s the Darkman. We last see him leaving, wearing a new face – the face of Raimi regular Bruce Campbell.
This is a very silly film, but a lot of fun. It’s got a great Danny Elfman score, rooted in his Batman period, and some of Raimi’s visuals are totally bonkers. But it’s immensely enjoyable mainly because it doesn’t take itself at all seriously.
After this, recording switches to BBC1 and The Naked Gun. It’s not quite the brilliance of Top Secret, but it’s got plenty of great gags. Plus OJ Simpson gets beaten up a lot. His slapstick scenes are still genuinely funny, and now you can enjoy them more by imagining it’s really happening.
Ricardo Montalban plays the villain.
“They’re not here for you, they’re here for Weird Al Yankovic.”
Nancy Marchand plays the Mayor. Familiar to older readers as the owner of the newspaper in Lou Grant.
One of the many sight gags.
Priscilla Presley works for Montalban, but falls in love with Lt Drebin (Leslie Nielsen).
Weirdly, there’s the same actor playing a henchman in both films – Nicholas Worth.
Remember when Jeanette Charles was the number one Queen impersonator?
An accurate parody of a Variety headline.
This film is the source of the famous “Nothing to see here” gif.
The climax takes place in a baseball match, and therefore is incomprehensible to me. A bit like the climax to Trading Places. Reggie Jackson is a sleeper assassin, which would have been funny if I had known who Reggie Jackson is.
BBC Genome: BBC One – 20th April 1992 – 20:00
After this, there’s a couple of trailers, for The Whistle Blower and Thacker.
Then there’s the start of the news, covering the Labour leadership elections, and the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.
That recording stops, and underneath, there’s a short of of 21 Jump Street. After a few minutes of this, that recording stops, and underneath there’s another recording which is just a bunch of trailers from Sky Movies. Starting with Hidden Agenda, a film that was shot at the house where I worked, and which stars Frances McDormand.
The tape ends after a few minutes of trailers.
- trail: Hidden Agenda
- trail: Death Warrant
- trail: Sky Movies Plus
- trail: Sky Movies in May
- Coming Soon: Goodfellas