Thursday, June 11, 2015

Into the Night (John Landis, 1985)

As with most people, my initial thoughts after watching John Landis' Into the Night revolved around the unequaled chic-ness that is Michelle Pfeiffer's red leather jacket. If you find yourself not enamored with it after watching this film, check yourself in at the nearest morgue, 'cause you be dead, honey. Okay, maybe that's a tad harsh, but you should definitely seek professional help. I mean, it's red, it's shiny, it's fits her perfectly, it has multiple uses (it's used as a pillow at one point), and it's, well, you get the idea. However, as these thoughts eventually subsided, I started to debate with myself about whether or not the iconic red leather jacket would have looked better on Dedee Pfeiffer, Michelle's less famous sister. I know, I just got finished saying that the jacket fit Michelle Pfeiffer perfectly. Yet I couldn't help but imagine Dedee Pfeiffer wearing the much-ballyhooed garment. To make matters worse, Dedee Pfeiffer has a cameo as a prostitute turning tricks outside Frederick's of Hollywood. In case you haven't figured it out, when it comes to the Pfeiffer sisters, I'm on Team Dedee. While Michelle has the haunting eyes and the chiseled cheekbones thing going for her, Dedee has spunk-appeal.

Wow, are my priorities out of whack or what? In a movie that boasts at least a dozen cameos by famous directors, the cameo I decide to focus on is the one by the spunk-laden sister of the film's female lead.

Actually, if you think about it, my priorities are not out of whack, they're kinda in whack. Seriously, who would you rather grope in the backseat of your grandma's sister's cousin's Chevrolet El Camino? Dedee Pfeiffer or Paul Mazursky? (I don't think the Chevy El Camino has a backseat.) Okay, the front seat. Well? Who would you rather grope? Exactly, Dedee all the way.

Of course, if I had said Amy Heckerling (who has a cameo as a waitress) instead of Mr. Mazursky, the question becomes a real mind-scrambler, as Amy is a total babe. But I didn't. Besides, the majority of the directors are middle-aged white men. Not that there's anything wrong with being middle-aged, or white for that matter, it's just that...

Moving on, you could call this the L.A. version of After Hours, but I won't. Why? It's simple, really, all they have in common is that they both take place at night. Sure, Jeff Goldblum and Griffin Dunne (the star of After Hours) have similar character traits, and they both have tedious jobs, but other than that, they're totally different. And I think the main reason has to do with the fact that L.A. is a car town, while New York City is not.

Playing aerospace engineer Ed Okin, Jeff Goldblum drives or is driven in at least six different cars over the course of this movie. Isn't that fascinating? Anyway, the car we first see Ed in is as bland as he is. Stuck in traffic with a co-worker (Dan Aykroyd), Ed says that he hasn't had a full night sleep since the summer of 1980. While he's exaggerating to some degree, his lack of shut-eye is having a negative effect on his work. After blowing it in front of his boss (David Cronenberg) at an important board meeting, Ed decides to take the rest of the day off. When he gets home, he hears his real estate agent wife (Stacey Pickren) making sex noises in their bedroom.

Taking Dan Aykroyd's advice, a despondent Ed elects to hop on a board a midnight flight to Las Vegas. Getting as far as the airport parking garage, Ed meets a woman named Diana (Michelle Pfeiffer), who jumps on the hood of his car screaming for help.

What's that? Oh, the reason she's screaming is because four SAVAK goons (one played by John Landis) are trying to kill her. Why are they trying to kill her? Well, I don't know if they want to kill her, at least not right away. You see, they want what's inside her pussy. I won't say exactly what it is that the Iranians want, but trust me, to them it's worth what they go through to get inside there. And by "there," I mean her pussy.

At this point in the film, Ed makes multiple attempts to extract himself from this sticky pickle of a situation. However, you'll notice that he isn't trying very hard. The thing is, a lot of men find Michelle Pfeiffer to be easy on the eyes. And because of this, Michelle Pfeiffer is able to manipulate almost every man she comes in contact with. The reason I say "almost" is because Diana's Elvis-loving brother (Bruce McGill) is clearly not swayed by her sister's overt attractiveness.

I thought it was amusing that Michelle Pfeiffer tries to out bluster Bruce McGill in his Elvis memorabilia adorned apartment. Give it up, girl, you can't upstage Bruce McGill. He'll straight-up knock your dick in the dirt. Just ask Wings Hauser ("Wipe that smirk off your face!"). Or even Crocket and Tubbs, who Bruce mops the floor with in "Out Where the Buses Don't Run," one of the best Miami Vice episodes from season two.

"You wanna date? Do you want to party?" and with those memorable lines, we're introduced to Dedee Pfeiffer, prostitute, humanitarian. Her crimped blonde hair glowing in the neon slime, her Retail Slut belts zigzagging across her womanly waste with a clingy form of clingy desperation, her zebra print skirt practically begging to be hiked up during the throes of... Wait, where is she going? Why don't Ed and Diana want to "party" with Dedee Pfeiffer? This makes no sense.

Now, I won't say Into the Night goes completely downhill/off the rails after Dedee Pfeiffer exits stage left; after all, a well-built Kathryn Harrold is still to come. But I was somewhat crestfallen by her departure. That being said, on top of the luminous Miss Harrold, the film also boasts a scene where three extras playing beauty queens are getting their legs polished by a female crew member.

After surviving multiple attempts on their life, including one by an assassin played by David Bowie (it would seem that the Iranians are not the only ones who want to get their hands on what's inside Michelle Pfeiffer's pussy), Ed and Diana begin to... well, you pretty much know exactly what they begin to do. They begin to fall for one another. Despite this cliched turn of events, the movie is still a mildly entertaining mish-mash of comedy and action.

If you're not into comedy and action, you could always play spot the director, as the film, like I said earlier, features numerous cameos by famous directors, including personal faves like, Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), Paul Bartel (Eating Raoul) and David Cronenberg (Rabid).

Oh, and the scene where the four SAVAK goons drown one of their victims in the ocean is one of the most disturbing murder scenes in film history. Okay, maybe that's pushing it a bit. Nevertheless, I found the cavalier brutality of the scene to be quite jarring, especially since the film is supposedly a light-hearted buddy comedy.


  1. I watched this on Cinemax or The Movie Channel back in the 80s. All I really remember about it was that there wasn't as much nudity in it as I hoped there would be. I might have to watch it again.

    1. Yeah, except for some blink and you'll miss it Michelle Pfeiffer side and back nakedness, there's not nudity to speak of. But the film is an excellent mid-80s time capsule of affluent L.A. after dark.

  2. Nice review. I love this film mostly for what it conveys around the edges of the "wacky caper" plot - the excessiveness of it all, with the cars, the cameos, the sudden blood/gore, Landis's performance. It's a fever dream that must have been born of cocaine, it's that kind of movie, the perfect mid-80s comedy after Landis had done Vic Morrow in (Twilight Zone) and was on the brink of self-destruction.

    Second, it's a weirdly affectionate poisoned love letter to LA. The landscapes (suburban as well as neon-lit), the cars, the up-all-night aspect of it. Goldblum seems to sleepwalk through it (he has terminal insomnia in it which only adds to the dreamlike quality of his performance). The sincere if shiny-fake style shows the best of Landis's talents, as well as exposing the worst of it. It's too much and a blast.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Nice comment.

      I read that John Landis cast himself as SAVAK goon at the last minute because the actors playing his fellow goons weren't funny. Or, to put it another way, they weren't as funny as he had hoped.

  3. Yes, Roger nailed it, that's exactly what it is, his love letter to LA. When this first came out a friend of mine who crewed on it brought a VHS promo of the movie over to my house by Sunset Blvd, right behind the Palladium. He was so excited about the movie and said we HAD to watch it. He also had this huge bag of coke which wasn't my trip at the time but I remember him sitting behind my desk with all that blow and we watched the film and not 10 minutes into it I was sold. I think it is far more impacting for those that live or lived in LA. A masterpiece that will never get it's just due, I never tire of pulling this one off the shelf and might have to do it tonight, LOL - Thanks Yum Yum!!

    1. Coke was everywhere back then. In fact, if you look closely, you can see a cocaine shaker sitting next to the salt and pepper in the diner Amy Heckerling works. ;)