Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tuff Turf (Fritz Kiersch, 1985)

When Jack Mack of Jack Mack and the Heart Attack sings the line, "T-U-F-F, you're so tuff," he ain't talking about the guys in this film. No way, man. He's referring to the vision of loveliness in the black fishnets sporting the gigantic mane of recently crimped hair. Now, those of you who have already seen Tuff Turf know exactly where this is going. In other words, let's stop jerking each other around, shall we? You know, I know, hell, even the blind guy* who panhandles near Bloor and Spadina knows, the bulk of this review is going to focus on the inspirational performance given by Kim Richards as Frankie Croyden. To pretend otherwise would not only be frightfully dishonest, but it would be an insult to all those who depend on my aura to ooze pure righteousness around the clock. I don't know why I'm acting all defensive and junk, everything that occurs in this film is a direct result of Frankie Croyden. And why wouldn't it? I mean, look at her. No, seriously, look at her! In order to justify the drastic actions being carried out by the two young men currently fighting for the privilege to be with with this goddess in lacy fingerless gloves, the actress who inhabits her specific skin must have a certain quality about them to warrant this kind of attention. And? And what? Does she have what it takes? You better believe she does. To put it another way, Kim Richards rules! That being said, imagine if she didn't? Ahh, I don't want to think about it. Though, you have to wonder: How did such a cool chick end up with the kind of guy Clint Eastwood and/or Charles Bronson usually blows away at the end of most of their movies. Huh? I don't get that reference. He's a scumbag who doesn't deserve to breath the same air as her. Gotcha.

And while you're getting that, get this, this unworthy pustule uses her fishnet adorned gams and wavy strands of recently crimped hair to lull the victims of his switchblade-assisted brand of petty larceny into thinking their special before he, and his unctuous band of sycophantic goons, rob them of their valuables. I know, what an asshole.

I don't know 'bout you, but I think Kim Richards needs a little James Spader in her life. What I think you meant to say was, Frankie (Kim Richards) needs a little Morgan Hiller (James Spader) in her life. First of all, Frankie doesn't need anyone. And secondly, her fashion-forward sense of style is the stuff of legend at her Los Angeles high school. Meaning, actually, I don't really know why I added that second part; I guess I just wanted to emphasize the magnitude of her role as her school's resident trendsetter.

It's true, she doesn't need anyone. But this is James Spader we're talking about (put a wig on him, and I'll fuck him in a heartbeat - you know what, forget the wig, let's get it on right now). Oh, she's well aware that this Morgan Hiller fella, a recent transplant from the wilds of Connecticut, looks like James Spader, she's just not in that much of a hurry to jeopardize her cushy position as the girlfriend of the school's toughest hoodlum.

If you're wondering why the school's resident trendsetter needs to date the school's toughest hoodlum, look no further than the clothes on her back. Let me give you an example. Do you see those kooky belts that decorate the midsection of her many outre outfits? How do you think she pays for them? That's right, Frankie's expansive wardrobe is made possible thanks in part to petty crime. And wouldn't you know it, Frankie is about to help facilitate one of these petty crimes as we speak.

Leaning against the wall of the Reseda Yarn Shop, Frankie, who is using her left foot (which is wrapped in a red pump) for yarn shop leaning leverage, is stalking her prey.

Slowly approaching her victim, Frankie stands next to a man waiting at the bus stop (Francis X. McCarthy) and makes sure he gets an eyeful of her shapely black fishnet stocking-adorned legs and wavy strands of crimped hair. Meeting his penetrating gaze every so often, Frankie toys with the hapless rube for a few minutes. Convinced that she has him right where she wants him, Frankie goes in for the kill. Asking the man if he has change for a five, Frankie, when she notices that he's carrying a wad of cash, signals to her friend Ronnie (Olivia Barash), who, in turn, signals to Nick Hauser (Paul Mones) and his gang, who are browsing the magazines at a nearby all-night newsstand.

Springing into action, Nick and the boys bolt across the street, opening and closing their switchblades for dramatic effect. However, as their robbing the bus stop guy, Morgan Hiller comes rolling by on his bicycle. Disrupting their criminal act by spraying beer at the would-be robbers (you'll notice not a single drop of beer lands on Frankie), Morgan temporarily blinds them, causing the bus stop man to get away unscathed. Even though they still got their loot (the aforementioned wad of cash), Nick is not amused by this ill-conceived act of bike-based heroism/tomfoolery.

On the other hand, Frankie is clearly impressed by this brazen display of ill-conceived, bike-based heroism/tomfoolery. It's still early, but the look on Frankie's face as Morgan peddled off into the night spoke volumes. What I mean is, she's probably thinking to herself: Who was that striking blonde man on the bicycle? And why am I hanging around outside a yarn store on a Sunday night with a bunch of two-bit lowlifes?

I'll admit, I was also quite taken with the sight of James Spader riding his bike at night, especially when they show him peddling to the strains of "Love Hates" by Marianne Faithfull.

The reason I called Morgan's brazen display "ill-conceived" was because he had to know that he would run into Nick and the boys sooner or later, as it's the first day of school tomorrow. Did it ever occur to you that maybe Morgan doesn't give a shit? Wow, I didn't think of that. And besides, you can't woo a woman like Frankie by being timid.

In order for you to get noticed by someone like Frankie, you need to stand your ground, or, this film's case, stand your turf. Which he does when Nick and Frankie start messing around with Morgan's bike after class. He might be new at this school, but he already has an ally in the form of Jimmy Parker (Robert Downey, Jr.), who offers to let Morgan borrow his switchblade to defend himself. Of course, Morgan doesn't need no stinkin' switchblade. No, he simply confronts Nick in the parking lot. Sure, his bike is wrecked during the confrontation, and, not to mention, gets sprayed in the face with red spray paint for his troubles, but Morgan made his point.

The moment when Frankie's smirk slowly disappears from her face as a direct result of Morgan's hunky parking lot leering reminded me of the scene from Rebel Without a Cause when Natalie Wood loses her smirk under similar circumstances. Oh, and while you're enjoying the similarities between the two films, make sure keep an eye out for the extra in the Repo Man t-shirt. Out of all the people he could have befriended on his first day at a new school, how did Morgan end up becoming best buds with the drummer for The Jim Carroll Band?!? It's true, Jimmy Parker is the one who pursues Morgan. But still, talk about dumb luck. Either way, Morgan is invited to check out Jimmy's band, who are playing a warehouse near a row of porno shops later tonight.

How's he going to get there, his bike was wrecked, remember? I'm sure he'll figure something out. In the meantime, The Jim Carroll Band, with Robert Downey, Jr.(!) on drums, are in the middle of performing "It's Too Late" for an enthusiastic audience. While a lot of the credit has to go to the charismatic Jim Carroll, who seems to be channeling The Thin White Duke, major kudos have to go to choreographer Robert Banas for the amount of energy he brought to the dancing in this scene.

Reminding me of films like, West Side Story and Streets of Fire, the warehouse concert sequence in Tuff Turf is probably my favourite scene in the entire movie.

Wearing a tight grey dress, lacy fingerless gloves, a red headband, and an unamused sneer, the moment the stylish Frankie, with her equally stylish gal pals Ronnie and Feather (Catya Sassoon) in tow, enters the warehouse with a new wave thud, is when this sequence solidified its status as my fave scene. No-one, and I mean, no-one, makes an entrance quite like Frankie. I'm surprised everyone continued to dance, as I would have thought the sight of Frankie, in all her chic glory, would have caused a rift to occur in the space-time dancing to Jim Carroll music continuum.

The choreography goes into overdrive when Morgan grabs Frankie, who obviously doesn't want to be grabbed at this particular juncture, and forces her to dance with him. On several occasions, Frankie does attempt to flee his grasp, but the extras seem extra determined to prevent her from doing so.

After some mildly convoluted circumstances involving a stolen Porsche, Morgan and Jimmy take Frankie and Ronnie to a country club in Beverly Hills. Are any of them members? Nope. But thanks to his experiences living Connecticut, Morgan knows the lingo, and manages to talk his way into the club.

And, yes, I'm well of aware of the irony of this scene. You see, apparently, Kim Richards is now best known for being on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. So, to see James Spader give Kim Richards a tour of Beverly Hills (set to "Breaking the Rules" by Lene Lovich) was kind of prophetic. Anyway, I tried watching an episode of that loathsome franchise once, I think it was The Real Housewives of Orange County, and, let's just say, it didn't go well; the show slowly sapped my will to live.

That being said, no matter what Kim Richards is up to nowadays, I will not allow it to taint my view of her. As, in my mind, she will always be the new wave hellcat who causes James Spader's guts to go gooey in Tuff Turf. End of story. I mean, the scene where she cuts loose to the music Jack Mack and the Heart Attack is how I want to remember her.

As expected, Nick is not too pleased when he finds out that Frankie has been spending so much time with Morgan. Culminating with a showdown at the warehouse where the Jim Carroll concert took place, Morgan and Nick settle the Frankie issue once and for all.

You'll notice that Frankie's hair is shorter and no longer crimped during the film's final third. Now, was I disturbed by this unexpected change? Of course not. In order to remain on the cutting edge of fashion, you must be willing to change your look every so often. And judging by the look she sports near the end of the film, she has obviously decided it was time to go in a different direction. More power to her, I say. I want to say, "You go, girl!" But I'm trying to exorcise that expression from my vocabulary.

Make sure to stay through the closing credits. And, no, not just because Jack Mack and the Heart Attack perform another song, but because of the credit: "Synthesizer Realization by Jonathan Elias and Michael Morris." I love the idea that this film has "synthesizer realization."

* Oh, and I think the blind beggar on Bloor might be faking; I saw him sifting through the trash the other day and he was clearly looking at the items he was sifting through.


  1. As much as I hate romance films, I think I need to just watch this one. The leads, set design, and atmosphere are just too hot.

    And if we are going to forget the kind of soul crushingly evil television programing that Kim Richards in engaged in nowadays, its probably also best to forget about what James Spader now looks like. I didn't even recognize him in "Lincoln."

    I always thought Spader was cool, even though he's been in some silly films. The first time I ever saw him on screen was in Cronenberg's "Crash," engaged in the most sensible thing anyone can do.

  2. It's romantic but not in schmaltzy sort of way. It's like Rebel Without a Cause with a new wave sheen.

    The promo pics of James Spader from his new show The Blacklist are quite un-Spader-like.

  3. "Rebel Without a Cause" is probably something I should revisit. Its been a long long time since I've seen it.

    Will have to check this out then. I remember loooooving crimped hair back in the '80s. I was only a little thing, but already knew what I liked. I know it super damages the hair. But is hot.

  4. Lea Thompson in Howard the Duck and Mews Small in Thank God it's Friday are two of my all-time faves when it comes to appearing in movies with crimped hair.

  5. I love 1980s James Spader. I remember this flick used to be shown on frequent loop on HBO back in the day.

    Who am I kidding? I love 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s James Spader, too. He was the best thing about Lincoln and the Steve Carrell-less Office. And yes, I have been watching The Blacklist.

  6. I'm currently eyeballing the 1985 flick "The New Kids" as my next James Spader foray.

  7. Please please please check out The New Kids. More Spader is advised.

  8. Thanks for The New Kids reminder.