Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Television Review: THE HITCHHIKER- 'Dead Man's Curve' (1986, Roger Vadim)

Stars: 2 of 5.
Running Time: 27 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Michael Ironside, Susan Anspach (CAGNEY & LACEY: THE RETURN, FIVE EASY PIECES), Michael Schoeffling (VISION QUEST, Jake in SIXTEEN CANDLES), Deanne Henry (DEAD LIKE ME).
Best one-liner: "I'll get you on foodstamps so fast it'll make your dick twitch!"

Roger Vadim. Director of ...AND GOD CREATED WOMAN and BARBARELLA. He was married or had love-children with the most beautiful women in the world (Brigitte Bardot, Jane Fonda, and Catherine Deneuve) and got a chance to work with Michael Ironside, so I guess he died a happy Frenchman. Now as far as THE HITCHHIKER goes (I wrote a brief introduction to the series in my first review) I won't lie– this episode is crap. And I don't think Vadim did any directing, aside from staging some poorly done softcore scenes starring Susan Anspach, who, by the way, is not Brigitte Bardot. "Dead Man's Curve" has got a few TWILIGHT ZONE elements- kinda "Ring-a-ding Girl" by way of "You Drive," but without anything remotely interesting or supernatural.

Anspach plays a romance novelist returning home to her high school reunion, where she proceeds to be involved in some rootin' tootin' driving scenes, some weak love scenes with 'bad boy' Michael Schoeffling, and then Ironside, the Sheriff 'from her past,' shows up to act all jealous and beat some people up in his dogged pursuit of Anspach's affections.

Ironside is flummoxed by the poor woman's Bardot and her cheap, garish blouse.

Then it's over. But wait– where is the oasis of meaning in the desert of this HITCHHIKER episode? Where is our font of perception and wisdom? Where is our Rod Serling? Ah, yes, there he is. THE HITCHHIKER.

Care to share any sage observations, Hitchhiker?

Ehh, that's alright, Hitchhiker, maybe next time.

Ironside's character is not very well-developed. Maybe Vadim was too busy with his harem of starlets or something, but it couldn't be more clear that Ironside has been given zero direction- they just needed a guy to pop up at random intervals, acting scary and jealous. Ironside does the best he can. He snarls a little bit, gets to whack Mr. SIXTEEN CANDLES around, flashes the toothy smile, and collects his paycheck.

Ironside does not fuck around. He fulfills every pitiful requirement he must, but always lets you know that he's better than the material (see above photo). This keeps Ironside sane. And he knew he needed to horde as much of that sanity as possible if he was going to survive the likes of SAVE ME or THE OMEGA CODE.

Anyway, our novelist hooks up with local greaser Schoeffling,

I shit you not- he reveals in this scene that his flask is full of "Tequila and Diet Lemon Lime." What a bad boy... Somebody better call Wham!

and a clichéd romance ensues which actually culminates in a roll in the hay.

Hoo boy.

Note Vadim's masterful use of shadow.

All of this is accompanied by music that seems to be the unholy fusion of The Manhattan Transfer and Bananarama. Annnyway, Ironside shows up- thank God- to bust up the party, and Anspach delivers the classic rejoinder, "Don't you know who I am!?...I'll get you on foodstamps so fast, it'll make your dick twitch!" Whaaaaaatt?! I applaud you, Roger Vadim, for continually pushing the PG-13 envelope.

Ironside beats the kid up again (I guess we can all find some cathartic pleasure in that),

there's a car chase guessed it...dead man's curve, Ironside gets to pull out his favorite creepy smile,

and since it is "DEAD Man's Curve," I guess somebody had to die, and though I won't reveal who, I'm pretty sure that you can guess. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Where is the meaning in this? I am drowning in a sea of uncertainty and innuendo. Won't somebody pleeeeez spell it out for me–

"She finally found what she was looking for...when she discovered the truth...and put the pieces together...and set things right."

Thank you, Hitchhiker– you've given me the closure I've so desperately craved for the last twenty-seven minutes. I am forever in your debt.

Two stars. At least there were no cardigans involved.

-Sean Gill

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