Thursday, July 29, 2010

Television Review: THE HITCHHIKER- 'Striptease' (1985, Jerry Ciccoritti)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 24 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: John Glover (52 PICK-UP, GREMLINS 2, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS), Donna Goodhand (X-MEN), Jill Hennessy (CROSSING JORDAN, ROBOCOP 3), Victor Ertmanis (BRAINSCAN, STORM OF THE CENTURY), Frank Adamson (SHORT CIRCUIT 2, DOLORES CLAIBORNE), Lawrence Bayne (BLACK ROBE, GETTING GOTTI).

In my continuing series of HITCHHIKER reviews of episodes featuring some of my favorite people- I submit to you: STRIPTEASE, starring the inimitable John Glover.

A lot of these HITCHHIKER episodes abandon the 'horror' or 'thriller' setup entirely, settling for a straight-up character study, which, since John Glover is involved, is a real good thing. I'm not sure what the title refers to, unless it's a metaphorical 'striptease of the soul' that Glover is performing for us. It's certainly within the realm of possibility.

Playing a full-time troublemaker and semi-public recluse, Glover's Miles Duchet wanders through this episode, first clashing with whomever he can, and then backtracking and wallowing in self pity. It's a stunning portrayal of an artist at war with himself and the world, a sort of diary of a misanthrope. I really have no idea why this is a HITCHHIKER episode. ... Oh yeah!– it's so that the tale could be enhanced by the astute, nuanced musings of the Hitchhiker himself!

"Miles Duchet is a man steeped in the anger and bitterness of a life spent too alone. At some point in every life, someone will appear to crack our armor of loneliness. The trouble is, that person may be hard to recognize and the moment is often fleeting..."

Oh, you hitchhikin' sonofabitch. I'll bet this episode hit close to home for you. Solitude, loneliness, all that jazz. But I think all that highway wanderin' has rattled your brain– instead of listening to you, why don't I look at the face of John Glover, which renders everything you've said reductive and redundant:

Also- nice Confederate flag patch, Hitchhiker. Classy.

Anyway, the episode proceeds to show us Glover- rejecting the world and being rejected by it: a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Glover: despondent.

The boss: a real shitbag.

We see him berated by his boss ("Maybe that's from using that brain too much," "thinking isn't what you're paid to do," "we're runnin' a business here!," etc., etc.) and immediately spurning the nearest sympathetic ear.

Next, Glover calls up an ex and theatrically threatens suicide.

Failing in that noble endeavor, and not for the first time, he hits the mean streets and meaner dives, picking fights with brawny strangers and spitting repugnant, self-righteous venom.


Then, in a self-pitying 180-degree turn, he searches for companionship in the form of some old art buddies who know his asshole tendencies all too well. They allow him to accompany them because, well, they're assholes, too. And why pass up front-row seats to the most pathetic spectacle in town?

The most pathetic spectacle in town.

They're headed for drinks with the newest flavor-of-the-month-toast-of-the-art-world who happens to be involved with Glover's ex (Jill Hennessy). Yeah, his former buddies have a pretty good idea what'll happen. It starts off with the wounded puppy routine:

but ends, predictably, with an inappropriate makeout session between the smarmy new lovers

and a bitter outburst from Glover which ends with him, literally, on the floor, choking on his own bile. In a final humiliation, the grotesque extravaganza ends with Glover begging the ex for fifty dollars- which he actually gets- though, I suppose the subtext is something along the lines of 'this fifty dollar bill carries with it the unspoken promise that I never again have to see your raggedy ass.'

Moving on to the next bar (and the next bleary-eyed confrontation), Glover strikes up a conversation with a barfly (Donna Goodhand) who seems to find her current existence just as intolerable as Glover does his. In a rare moment of self-reflection, Glover explains his true outlook on life: he is the a dog who snaps at you when you try to pet him- an unfortunate specimen who inspires in others something of a 'reverse food chain' of regurgitation and contempt- truly the gift which keeps on giving.

But somewhere behind that mutual self-hatred is a kind of magnetism- and they end up connecting-

-until the next morning when Glover says "Thanks for a really hot night- leave your number and I'll pass it around."

While that in and of itself would have been a fine ending, there's still more- as she leaves the apartment, he has a change of heart and realizes, I suppose, that he is a human being after all. But it's too late- and, shall we say... tragedy strikes...

And now with the rebuttal- The Hitchhiker:

"Deep down, Miles Duchet longed for a connection. But he was so accustomed to pushing people away that he didn't understand when love had penetrated his defense and, sadly for him, fragile feelings treated once with scorn never allow for a second chance."

I have a hard time getting it up to be that angry at you today, Hitchhiker, but you're totallly killin' my buzz. I think I pity you. Or maybe I'm still just confused as to why this episode was entitled STRIPTEASE.

In closing, it's a fine character study and one which overcomes any weaknesses in the writing through John Glover's tour de force performance of anguished sleaze and oily discontent. He is the man who pounds his head against the wall... and then wonders 'from where does this sanguinary ooze flow?' I can't praise Glover enough- if an actor ever shared a complete connection to the material at hand, it's him.

-Sean Gill

1 comment:

Indiephantom said...

Fun reviews you have of this series. I own a couple of seasons on DVD and haven't watched any in awhile. I'm a huge John Glover fan, too, so I'll have to see if it's in an episode in my collection. I did like Verhoeven's episode (which you reviewed)and there was just such an offbeat quality to the show. It's very inconsisent but it's the ultimate surprise bag; never know what you're going to get. Jerry Ciccoritti did some interesting low budget Canadian horror films. One sleazy grindhouse type film about a cabbie who's a vampire that originally went under the title GRAVEYARD SHIFT.