Comfortable and Furious

Shaky Starts: Part Two

Jeff Goldblum in Death Wish (1974)

A gangly, grinning Goldblum is your archetypal goon in this vigilante classic, although I suspect he was a bit shame-faced if he ever escorted his mom to his movie debut. He’s introduced alongside his similarly retarded pals as they leap around a supermarket tossing a frozen chicken to each other while stuffing their faces with chips. From one glance you can tell these chaps aren’t too interested in gainful employment, helping the local vicar with a jumble sale or being productive members of society. Indeed, the somewhat OTT Goldblum can barely stand up straight or keep still, his anti-social brain seething with nasty impulses rather than possessing any sort of workable plan. No doubt every day is little more than a mission to annoy as many people as possible. This includes waggling his tongue at the unimpressed supermarket checkout girl while buying a can of beer and the slightly more serious acts of home invasion, sexual assault and murder.

“Goddamn rich cunt!” he yells at Bronson’s helpless wife as he smashes her across the face with a cosh. “I kill rich cunts!” Fair play, I bet Tom Hanks’ first lines weren’t quite as salty. This is a well directed, extraordinarily unsettling sequence, amplified by the way in which the absent Bronson neither claps eyes on Goldblum nor later tries to hunt him down. Goldblum simply disappears, a non-development that intensifies Bronson’s pain while being both apt and believable.

Steve Martin in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)

The dialogue-free Band is the sort of movie you stare at open-mouthed as saliva drips onto your chest. Essentially a fawning tribute to The Beatles, it’s nothing more than an overlong, cash-grabbing music video starring The (stupendously successful but never cool) Bee Gees and (that flash in the pan) Peter Frampton as members of the titular band. Plot-wise, they get their magical instruments nicked and have to go on the road to retrieve them. Band is supposed to be amusing, a goal it belatedly achieves because everything is so spectacularly misjudged. It’s also nice to see a whole bunch of famous people shooting the toes off their feet one by one.

Martin turns up as Dr. Maxwell, a mad, avaricious plastic surgeon in possession of the band’s cornet. He sings Maxwell’s Silver Hammer while transforming a load of ageing patients into boy scouts. He then gets into some sort of a lightsaber duel with Frampton as the Gibb brothers are overpowered and sat on by pretty nurses. And no, I’m not making this up. Martin’s wildly overacted five-minute cameo doesn’t make any sense so it fits in fine with the other cavalcade of crap.

Band is recommended if you wish to see a plethora of horrendous hairdos, a half-naked Frankie Howerd massaged by a pair of creepy robots, a bewigged, jewelry-adorned Donald Pleasence busting out some dance moves, and Aerosmith’s bad boy Steven Tyler getting thrown offstage and killed by the vanilla Frampton. As moronic musicals go it’s on a par with the same year’s The Wiz, although at least Martin managed to build upon his small part by playing a similarly mad dentist in 1986’s superior Little Shop of Horrors.

Jim Carrey in The Dead Pool (1988)

I’ve got time for Carrey as he eventually learned the power of restraint in The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine, but it’s fair to say he had a less than stellar eighties. Five times he rolled the dice in movies that failed to catch fire until he popped up in the fourth Dirty Harry sequel. Surely appearing in such a long-running franchise alongside one of the most iconic characters of 20th century cinema would change his luck?

Well, no.

Dead Pool is both the shortest and worst-regarded of the series, although I enjoy it more than the dreary, Sondra Locke-flavored Sudden Impact. It features a noticeably bulletproof Harry Callahan, always happy to demonstrate that a villain-hating persona coupled with a solitary handgun will get the better of a bunch of assassins wielding a variety of semi-automatic weaponry. Dead Pool also moves at a brisk pace while being filled with enough cheesy absurdity to make it memorable.

Carrey probably doesn’t have too much fondness for it, though, given he plays a drug-addicted rock star with the rather uncool name, Johnny Squares. He’s introduced in a bedroom praying in a black cape as the jagged, reverb-laden chords of Welcome to the Jungle kick in. There’s someone dead on the bed with a giant afro and a nightie all the way up to her neck. His mother, perhaps? His useless agent? Who knows? Whatever the case, we’re clearly on the set of the great man’s latest music video.

Five seconds in and Carrey is already reverting to type by mugging straight at the camera, enabling us to appreciate his teased hair, fingerless gloves and, er, dog collar. Now the cape’s been flung off and he’s doing an energetic Axl Rose cobra dance, although for some reason instead of miming he prefers sticking his tongue out and pulling faces. Honestly, it’s like watching a drunken college student letting off steam at the Hard Rock Society’s Tuesday night disco. Carrey rips open his black shirt, an apparently provocative act that causes his mum to sit up on the bed. Now her head is spinning. No, wait, it’s caught fire.

Oh, wait, that wasn’t planned.

“Cut!” the director Liam Neeson calls before wandering onto the set. Sporting a naff ponytail and an accent that wavers between Cockney, Scouse and Irish, often in the same sentence, it’s fair to say Neeson’s appearance isn’t a career highlight, either. Carrey, pro that he is, knows the take could have gone better. “How the fuck did I let myself get talked into this shit?” he asks.


Now I know this one-minute sequence is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but that’s unlikely to stop the average viewer staring glassy eyed at it and rewinding to once again savour its supreme corniness. Still, at least I have to applaud Carrey’s bid to salvage his dignity: he retreats to his trailer for a fix, clearly unable to face another minute of Neeson’s equally poor performance and the agonizing knowledge that the mega-success of Ace Ventura remains six years away.

Ray Liotta in The Lonely Lady (1983)

Few actors could equal the ferocity of Liotta’s stare. There was often something feral and faintly unhinged about his onscreen persona, although he rarely matched such an unsettling presence with a quality flick. Take his debut in The Lonely Lady. Here he goes for obnoxiousness and hits a one-note bull’s-eye from his first line onward. Mind you, no one in their right mind would ever call this much-mocked box-office flop anything other than overwrought drivel.

Liotta is one of the guests at a party thrown for innocent high school student Pia Zadora shortly after she’s won a trophy for creative writing. We first spot him sitting on a table smoking weed with his legs spread, a Valley Girl laying her head on his thigh, and a phallic beer bottle nestled into his groin. I think this is called foreshadowing. When he meets Zadora he points at her slim, foot-long trophy and tells the somewhat shocked girl that it looks like a penis. In the car on the way to a friend’s mansion Zadora can’t hide her discomfort as Liotta rolls around the back seat with the happily topless Valley Girl. A moment later he’s tired of titty-sucking and is reaching over the seat to help himself to one of Zadora’s breasts. “What is it?” he asks during a bout of manic laughter. “Friends share things, right?”

Oh, Ray, you prankster!

Once they get to the mansion, Liotta indulges in some skinny-dipping, eventually rising to the swimming pool’s surface to grab the unsuspecting Zadora’s ankles and pull her in fully clothed. Next he chases her onto the lawn, rips her dress open and tells her that he’s gonna teach her ‘to be more friendly’ as he picks up a nearby hosepipe. Somehow I doubt he’s gonna give the closely cropped grass a refreshing drink, but surely he’s not going to put the hose up her…?


And as he dementedly cackles, Liotta then achieves that rarest of cinematic treasures: the funny rape scene.

Unsurprisingly, Lonely Lady was savaged by all and sundry while poor ol’ Ray was forced to sit on the naughty step for two years before being allowed to take part in a movie again.

Dave Franklin’s latest movie book, Bunch of Snake Freaks! A Brit’s Take on Dead Pets, Sleazeballs and Other Fun Movie Stuff is now available.





3 responses to “Shaky Starts: Part Two”

  1. Goat Avatar

    Yes, to check for malware. I would really appreciate if you would stopping spamming my website. If you want to talk about a sponsored post, sent me a message via the contact email.

    1. Sky Masterson Avatar

      Goat, I suspect mister Tree Mail is simply a moron whose keyboard suffers from a defective Shift key. Or, perhaps one of his many creditors has broken his little fingers.

      PS Nice work, Dave.

      1. Goat Avatar

        Thanks for reading. I get hundreds of spam messages that go right in the trash. I let this one go. I’ll delete it soon.

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