Saturday, February 6, 2010

1985 - INTO THE NIGHT, the poor man's version of The 39 Steps.

Driving around  Los Angeles one night, an insomniac picks up a hot blond who is being chased by four Iranian gunmen.  This starts a series of Hitchcock like adventures around the cultural landmarks of the city.

The director John Landis, straddles his film between old Hollywood and new Hollywood.  His earlier film,  Kentucky Fried Movie was a send up of Hollywood genres.  He made a lot of money for Universal with National Lampoon's Animal House where he was able to combine college nostalgia with raunchy humor.

John Landis a greater admirer of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, which mixed comedy with horror attempted to update that genre in films like An American Werewolf in London and Innocent Blood.

Into the Night was his shot at a Hitchcock type of chase thriller/comedy while mixing the then fashionable 1980's trends of violence and nudity.  He doesn't pull it off.  He documents a gag with a  curiously distant manner, afraid to bring the camera in close to show it.  The script isn't really very clever or funny, it mostly seems to be a collection of situations designed to move the "couple on the run" from one LA location to another.

Jeff Goldblum's performance as the insomniac is very tentative and laid back.  The idea's that Goldblum will come into his own as a hero like Cary Grant in North by Northwest. Goldblum seems more bored than tired throughout.  A young Michelle Pfeiffer the cute little bundle of trouble Goldblum hooks up with can't seem to work up any couples chemistry with him.  Since this was one of Pfeiffer's first major roles she was probably coerced into doing the nude scene that shows up in the picture.

What the film's known for are the number of in-joke cameo appearances of Hollywood film directors.  Alfred Hitchcock put himself in his films but I don't think a major mainstream film ever saw anything like this.  Listed below are just some of the filmmakers and personalities appearing in this film:

  • Jack Arnold, director of  Gilligan's Island,  as the man with the dog in the elevator.
  • Rick Baker, make-up artist on An American Werewolf in London, as the drug dealer.
  • David Cronenberg, director of Videodrome, as Goldblum's supervisor in the boardroom.
  • Jonathan Demme, director of  The Silence of the Lambs , as the federal agent with glasses.
  • Richard Franklin, director of Roadgames, as the aerospace engineer sitting next to Goldblum in the cafeteria.
  • Carl Gottlieb, who co-wrote Jaws , as the large federal agent with mustache.
  • Amy Heckerling, director of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless, as the clumsy waitress.
  • Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets, as the man on the phone talking to Burt.
  • Colin Higgins, who wrote Harold and Maude,  as the actor in the hostage film.
  • Lawrence Kasdan, writer and director of Body Heat, as the police detective who interrogates Goldblum.
  • Jonathan Lynn, writer of Yes, Minister, as the tailor who fits the Iranian killers.
  • Paul Mazursky, director of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and An Unmarried Woman as, the beachhouse owner and accused drug dealer.
  • Carl Perkins, performer and composer of 'Blue Suede Shoes', as Mr. Williams.
  • Daniel Petrie, director of A Raisin in the Sun, as the director of the hostage film.
  • Dedee Pfeiffer, actress and sister of Michelle Pfeiffer, as the hooker.
  • Waldo Salt, Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Midnight Cowboy and Coming Home, as the derelict who tells Goldblum his car having been towed.
  • Don Siegel, director of Dirty Harry, as the man caught with a girl in the hotel bathroom.
  • Roger Vadim, director of And God Created Woman and Barbarella , as Monsieur Melville, the French kidnapper.
  • Clu Gulager, a veteran character actor as a federal agent.
  • Vera Miles, one time protege of Alfred Hitchcock.
  • David Bowie, as a professional killer who gets in a fight with Carl Perkins (probably the only real clever scene).  

John Landis even sticks himself in the film as one of the Iranian killers  (he's second from the right .  Landis appears to have put all of his energy into thinking up funny little bits for his director buddies.


This seems to be the real reason Into The Night was made, an excuse for Landis to party with his director buddies on Universal's  dime.

 115 minutes.

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