Thursday, August 3, 2017

Only now does it occur to me... STORYVILLE

Only now does it occur to me... a few things about STORYVILLE.

STORYVILLE is the only feature film to be written and directed by Mark Frost, co-creator of TWIN PEAKS. I watched it because I am a TWIN PEAKS die-hard. Here's what I learned:

#1. It can't decide whether it wants to be a John Grisham-style courtroom drama or a Cannon Film. Think that sounds ridiculous? Then just let me lay the plot synopsis on you, and you can tell me the exact point where Grisham gives way to Golan-Globus:

Clay Fowler (James Spader) is a young Louisianan whippersnappuh and ace lawyer running for Congress.

There's all sorts of corruption and family history and bayous and rockin' chairs and microfiche––

Most films of this kind make you wait about an hour for the microfiche montage sequence, but STORYVILLE delivers it in the opening shots of the movie!

and there're backroom deals and suspenders and an irascible performance by Jason Robards,

and pathos exuded by Woody Strode in browline eyeglasses,

but then––ladies and gentlemen, just when you think you're watching THE CLIENT or THE PELICAN BRIEF, James Spader finds himself in hot water (literally) when he is blackmailed after being videotaped having sex with a martial arts instructor in her studio's (ninja) hot tub:

And this is after they've already 'sexy-sparred' like Grace Jones and Christopher Walken in A VIEW TO A KILL.


Allow me to reiterate two things. One: I am not making this up. Two: ninja hot tubs are a staple of 1980s cinema, and I don't know why. I call them "ninja" hot tubs and not "martial arts" hot tubs (or even "jiu jitsu jacuzzis"), because they first appear in the Cannon classic REVENGE OF THE NINJA, where three separate hot tubs involving ninjas are made integral to the plot. In Cannon's NINJA III: THE DOMINATION, a ninja hot tub makes a notable appearance as a site of possessed ninja murder. In BLIND FURY (not a Cannon film, but starring Cannon's Sho Kosugi), there is a climactic martial arts and swordfighting duel over a hot tub. Later on in STORYVILLE, Spader returns to the scene of the ninja hot tub and battles a martial arts assassin. What does all of this mean? I was hoping you could tell me.

#2. If you're looking for TWIN PEAKS, you found it... (kind of).

There's a small town, quirky characters, and a dead body floating in the water in the opening scenes.

He's dead... Wrapped in... the clothes he was already wearing, I guess. 

It shares with TWIN PEAKS its casting director (Johanna Ray), cinematographer (Ron Garcia), production designer (Richard Hoover), set decorator (Brian Kasch), second-assistant director (Randy Barbee), and co-producer (Robert D. Simon).  It features a small, weirdo role for Catherine Martell herself, Piper Laurie:

and a villainous turn (obviously) by Renault brother Michael Parks:
who is sort of playing the same corrupt cop he played in THE HITMAN, though in this role he is permitted both the Cannon flourish of beating up James Spader while wearing a terrifying mask:
as well as the Grisham flourish of testifying in a courtroom that the judge "will not allow to turn into a circus!"
Michael Parks was a national treasure, by the way.

In closing, this is a strange (and, I'll be honest, often mediocre) little movie that may find appreciative viewers among TWIN PEAKS enthusiasts, hot tub fans, Grisham die-hards, and, I daresay, aficionados of the Southern Fried Crawdad-Lickin' Sleaze-O-Rama genre.

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