On this trip into the Siftin' movie vault, we check out a flick that features a former Daddy Warbucks as well as a member of the Partridge Family. And there's a neato-burrito light gun that's cooler than the one you'd end up playing Duck Hunt and Hogan's Alley with. What more could you ask from a movie? Nudity? Got you covered there, too, even though this is a PG-rated movie. God bless the 1980s.
The movie in a nutshell: A plastic surgeon who has performed oddly specific surgeries on models gets in over his head when his patients start ending up dead, and evidence points to a high-tech company.
The story: The movie begins with a fake commercial for Ravish perfume, which is followed by the pretty girl from the commercial, Lisa, asking Dr. Larry Roberts (Albert Finney) for very specific (and very minor) plastic surgery. He's done three actresses with lists already, but he agrees to perform this, his fourth. His colleague comments that's she's "really a looker."
I like movies that don't screw around. Just bam, and you're off and running. In very short order, the story is set up, one of the characters mentions the name of the movie and the theme song plays over a montage of the plastic surgery, which, for extra bonus points, includes gratuitous breastage.
Nudity in the opening credits is one of the signs of a good movie. To their credit, they do manage to wait until a whole 2:32 into the movie, and it is in the context of the story.
After the beginning credits, Lisa, post-op, answers her door, and expecting it to be her boyfriend (or maybe the pizza guy, because hey, who doesn't like a fresh Cheesy Bites Pizza?), does so in her bra and panties. She opens the door, and there's a flash, along with a whooshing sound, and she's standing there motionless.
When she snaps out of it, she finds a gun case on her bed. She wonders if someone is there. Another couple of flashes, and Lisa gets tangled in the curtains on her balcony. She falls over the side, and the mysterious gunman leaves a ballpoint pen on one of her chairs. He also leaves a button. You suppose this will mean something later?
The next day, Friday, Dr. Roberts arrives at his office and catches up on what's going on. He's got a fundraiser at Reston Industries for the pediatric burns unit, along with routine surgeries.
When this was made, they didn't have Discovery Health piped in 24-7, with such lovely programs as "Face-Saving Surgery" and "Organ Transplants from a One-Legged Pygmy Albino Wombat," so it wasn't common to see footage of plastic surgery. This explains the now-unusual focus on surgery footage in this movie.
Larry's secretary mentions that the police called, but he doesn't know what it's about. Another patient, Cindy (Susan Dey), is in his office waiting for him. She says she just got back from Tahiti.
Lt. Masters from the police department is there to ask him about two patients, Lisa Convy and Susan Wilson. They're both dead, and Masters is looking for information. Susan drove into a cement divider, and Lisa was our swan diver.
Larry asks for their files, and they're gone. Masters asks him if he'd ever visited any of his patients, and he says no. Masters offers him the pen that was found in Lisa's apartment. Oh noes! It's Larry's pen! Even more mysterious, after Masters leaves, he finds that all the files of the girls with lists are gone.
As if on cue, Tina, another former patient, comes to him and tells him that "they" are killing all the perfect patients. She wants to be changed back. She asks if a big man with a mustache has been there before wigging out and leaving.
She leaves her purse in Larry's office. He finds a vial of cocaine and a list from a firm called Digital Matrix Inc. He has his secretary call Lt. Masters to let him know he's going to Tina's apartment.
At Tina's, we see her get flashed with the light. Larry gets there just in time to see her land on his car (I gave her a 9.7. She would've gotten the 10 but her legs split near the end) while he's looking her up on the building directory. He looks up and sees the "big man with a mustache" (and white man's fro, I should add) wearing silvery wraparound sunglasses that look like the Oakleys the bemulleted jocks used to wear when I was in high school.
Lt. Masters arrives, and he doesn't believe Larry's story.
Larry realizes that Cindy is the next on the list of girls, so he goes to find her. She's at a photo shoot. He asks Cindy to go to the fundraiser with him.
Mr. Reston (James Coburn) is eager to meet Larry, and they chat for a while. Reston offers to donate $4 million to Larry's burn-unit project. Over dinner, Reston mentions that he heard about the models' deaths. Larry mentions the link they had with Digital Matrix, which, surprise surprise, is a subsidiary of Reston Industries.
Reston and the head of Digital Matrix, Jennifer Long (Leigh Taylor-Young) wonder if Larry suspects anything.
The next day, Larry hangs out with Cindy while she's on a commercial shoot, which is being directed by computer more than by the actual director. She does take after take, trying to match what the computer wants. Larry checks out the Digital Matrix truck that's on site. Two guys are monitoring where the computer is projecting where Cindy should be in the frame. When they see Larry, they shut the truck door on him.
The commercial director says that Cindy needs to be measured by Digital Matrix. Larry accompanies her, and whle he's waiting for her, Long shows him around.
One of the things they do, she says, is track viewers' pupilary responses to regular commercials. Larry tries it out. The computer recreates the commercial to reposition the product where he was looking.
Cindy is off to get scanned by the computer because she is "perfect in her category." She has to disrobe and stand buck-naked on a platform in the middle of a big room filled with a bunch of machines. The platform drops into one of the machines, and it's there that she gets scanned. This takes forever; she stands on the rotating platform like she's being microwaved.
They are trying to create computer-generated models based on live models. He watches the computer process the audio, and the CG-Cindy says over and over, "I'm the perfect female type, 18 to 25. I'm here to sell for you."
After Larry leaves, Long and Reston discuss Larry and the fact that he swiped a security card. Long says they should search his place with the Looker device. She adds that they already took his file, pen and button without anyone knowing about it (thanks for the pitch to us slower viewers). He agrees but tells her to be careful.
Back at Larry's place, Cindy finds out that she's the only Digital Matrix model who had the special surgery who isn't dead. Larry says he's going to take care of her, but she wants to visit her parents and get some things first.
Her parents are mesmerized by an I Love Lucy rerun.
Back at Larry's place, the guy with the white man fro (played by Tim Rossovich, the character is called Moustache Man in the credits. I will call him Fro-Guy) is back. He blasts Larry a few times with the Looker gun and a few hours pass.
It doesn't have anything to do with the plot, but one of the commercials in the background boasts the immortal line, "Constipation is nothing to sneeze at."
Cindy returns and asks him what happened.
They go back to Reston Industries to take a look at the Looker Lab, since that was the only place he wasn't allowed in. The security card he pilfered won't let him into the main Looker Lab. Fro-guy is hanging out with the guard, and he sees the access card being used. He goes to check it out.
After a close call with a janitor bot, they resume their search for an entrance into the Looker Lab. Larry suspects that the janitor bot is their way in. They hitch a ride on it through the door. He finds a binder on a desk, and sees that Looker stands for "Light Ocular-Oriented Kinetic Emotive Responses."
That reminds me, I'm starting a school. It's called Siftin' Central Randy Educators and Wombats University, or just, well, I think you can connect the dots there.
Cindy watches one of the commercials playing on a monitor in the lab, and after watching for a minute, gets hypnotized and starts chanting "I want it." Strangely, the commercial is not about me or the blog.
The light pulse in the commercial is also the basis of the Looker gun. While Larry is explaining the weapon, Fro-guy is preparing to strike. He blasts Larry with the gun and beats the crap out of him. All the while, commercials are playing in the background. There's a nice slo-mo shot of Larry flying through a window. Fro-guy goes to shoot him again, but he's wearing the protective shades. Larry takes the gun and shoots him. While he's stunned, Larry uses his years of extensive ninja training and kicks him in the nads.
Cindy comes to, and they leave, setting off the alarm. Reston is getting ready for his big show, and he orders Larry to be eliminated.
While Cindy rests back at his office, Larry investigates a mysterious noise, Looker gun in hand. He goes to his office to call Lt. Masters but stops. He hears a noise again. He opens a door and sees smoke, which can diffuse the Looker effect. Cindy has been taken by some guys with machine guns.
He grabs a scapel out of a drawer and waits for his attackers. He cuts one of them, and they leave.
Sunday: Lt. Masters surveys Larry's office. Larry is out on the road, and Fro-guy is trying to flash him with the Looker gun while he's driving. Larry is so intent on his attackers that he almost plows down a pack of nuns, because as we all know, nuns are always crossing the street. That's all they do, apparently.
They manage to get a shot on him, and he wakes up in a park fountain with a bunch of people staring at him. When the police arrive, he's already sneaking away. A lady rats on him, but not before he hops in to the back of a police car. As it turns out, it's a Reston Industries security car. Sugar Bear Security says they have to keep him quiet until the big reception.
Larry finds that they don't know about Looker, so he zaps them and steals a uniform. He walks by Lt. Masters, who sees him but doesn't do anything. He narrowly avoids being spotted by Fro-guy.
Meanwhile, Cindy is being held by Long in a control room.
Reston is making his spiel about his new commercials with computer-generated actors while Larry is making his way up. Fro-guy catches him, but he gets away quickly.
While the presentation is going, Reston and Fro-guy head upstairs to get Larry. Larry ends up in a computerized studio. Now it's a cat-and-mouse game while the commercials are on.
One of the commercials features a CGI senator who is a candidate for the presidency. Did they kill him and replace him with this CGI version?
Another commercial features Cindy as a housewife. Larry pops up, much to the audience's amusement. Fro-guy sees Long behind a screen trying to get to Larry. Not knowing it's her, he shoots her. Before she dies, goes back up to the control room.
Fro-guy shoots at everything that moves, including a camera. Reston shoots at Larry but hits Fro-Guy dead in the forehead instead. While a commercial is being shot and being fed to the audience.
Fro-guy falls on a table that is to be used in the next commercial, which provides a humorous bit in which the kids are complaining about having to eat the same old breakfast -- while there's a dead guy on the table. The dad in the commercial also played the dad in Small Wonder.
Reston finds Long dead and goes back out to look for Larry. There's some more cat-and-mouse-osity between the two of them. Meanwhile, Lt. Masters is looking for Reston. As Reston shoots at Larry, Masters shoots Reston, who dies during a commercial for Spurt Toothpaste.
Larry and Cindy walk off the set together, without Masters asking and questions or even appearing again. The end.
Afterthoughts: The announcer in the Ravish commercial at the beginning sounds an awful lot like John Erwin, who did the voice for Morris the Cat and He-Man. And I missed her, but Vanna White is supposedly among the Reston Industries girls. That means she's been in two movies on the Bad Movies From A to Z list, having also appeared in Graduation Day. Kudos to her.
You know, this isn't half bad. Well, okay, it's half bad. But it's still kind of a neat idea for the time. It probably doesn't seem like much of a stretch having computer-generated models now as much as it did when this came out. But here's my thought: If they can place the computer models in the real set, why don't they use CG sets, too? Wouldn't that be easier and cheaper? It's like they thought partly ahead but didn't go all the way with the idea.
Of course, if they didn't use real sets, they wouldn't have had the big chase/shootout at the end, would they?
The entry for this movie on IMDB says that there's 15 minutes of extra footage that features Larry and Cindy trying to figure out Reston's motives for killing the models. That would've been nice to include on the DVD, because there are a lot of unresolved threads like that.
What was up with Senator Harrison?
Since he was in a Digital Matrix-produced ad, is he dead or is it just an example of RI's technology? Are we to assume that if he won the presidency, Reston would essentially be in charge, controlling this puppet president? That might work for TV appearances, but somebody's bound to notice that the guy is never in the Oval Office or making public appearances. And how did they talk him into undergoing the scanning process? It makes sense for a model, but why would a senator do it?
And at the beginning, his office called Larry to (presumably) get some work done. Given that he shows up later in a Digital Matrix commercial, did he get the work done somewhere else so he could be scanned into the system? If he was calling Larry on Friday, there's no way he would've been able to get the necessary work done, let alone heal enough to be scanned, killed and in the system by Sunday.
I also am skeptical about making changes to the millimeter. I know surgeons are good, but isn't healing a relatively inexact science? I've obviously never gotten any plastic surgery done (why mess with perfection itself?), so I'm not sure.
The models in the commercials supposedly emit a hypnotic pulse from their eyes, similar to the one the Looker gun produces. I'm assuming it's slightly different, as putting viewers into a motionless trance would keep them from seeing the commercial, right? Cindy seems hypnotized when she sees one of the commercials, which makes more sense. I just don't see why the gun is necessary, other than -- again -- to serve the ending and have a neat gimmick.
This reminds me a lot in terms of tone and general meh-ness of another Crichton effort, Runaway, which starred Tom Selleck. They're both decent enough way to pass the time, and they have a handful of memorable gimmicks and scenes, but the futuristic aspect doesn't hold up after a moment's thought. They end up coming off as being a bit sloppy.
Bonus points, though, for casting Susan Dey as a model. There's a shot when Cindy is at her parents' house where she walks by a bunch of pictures on the wall that appear to be from her actual modeling days.
I can't help but think that with a little effort, this could be remade, at the very least as a Sci-Fi Original. It's got some good stuff, but there's not enough story to go along with it. That's why they added the nudity, presumably. Gotta keep you paying attention, right?
This is a technique used to much less subtle effect (there's a character billed as Knothole Girl because the main character sees her chestal regions through a hole in a fence, and that's pretty much all there is to her part) in the movie I'll be looking at next time, Microwave Massacre.
You've been warned.