Sunday, May 8, 2016

Doctor Detroit (Michael Pressman, 1983)

Awash with the kind of politically incorrect humour that would most likely get you banished from today's overly sensitive outrage-verse, Doctor Detroit was originally intended to amuse the people of the 1980s (blue collar slobs, closeted white supremacists, unaware yuppies, middle-class geeks and shiftless wastoids and dweebies). In other words, why would anyone in their right mind watch it now? I have two words for you, and I think you all know what I'm about to say: Fran Drescher! I was thinking about faking you out by saying, oh, something like, Nan Martin. Who, don't get me wrong, is hilarious, and, not to mention, pretty hot, for an "old chick." But let's get real, there's only one reason to watch this completely asinine tale about a dorky English professor who gets coned into becoming a cyborg pimp named... "Doctor Detroit," by a high class Chicago pimp (Dr. Johnny Fever himself), and that reason is, to bask in the otherworldly beauty that is Fran Meshuggahumpin' Drescher. Though, to be fair to the film itself,  the opening credits sequence, the one that features a spry Dan Aykroyd power walking across town while Devo's "Theme from Doctor Detroit" blasts on the soundtrack, is kind of amazing. Who am I kidding? It's lots of amazing. I don't know, there's something about the sight of Dan Aykroyd walking really, really fast in red short shorts to the sound of Devo that brings me a shitload of joy.

Now, normally I would say something like this: Well, things can only go downhill from here. And, yes, while it's true, things do go downhill. The prospect that I will get to see Fran Drescher (UHF) tarting it up as Karen Blittstein, the slinkiest, leggiest whore this side of Archer Avenue, allowed me traverse this film's idiotic landscape with a buttery, Cumberbatchian ease.

That being said, I seriously have to question the logic of not sheathing Fran Drescher's womanly curves in a dress that boasted a slit during the Players Ball sequence. And if that's the case, how do you expect Fran's floozy character to shimmy without a slit? (The Players Ball, in case you don't know, is an annual event where pimps and their hos alike get to strut their stuff in front of their peers.)

I mean, Jasmine Wu (Lydia Lei, Vice Squad), the Asian one (I love how she uses a fake Engrish accent when speaking to men), Thelma Carter (Lynn Whitfield), the black one, and Monica McNeil (Donna Dixon), the blonde one, all get slits. What gives, Doctor Detroit?

Oh, and please don't make me play the anti-semitism card, as I don't want this review to become a scathing indictment of Hollywood discrimination (Jews can never seem to catch a break in the movie business). But I couldn't help but think that's what was happening as I watched Fran Drescher struggle to bust-a-move in her slitless gown. It's more tragic than anything else.

Did I let the fact that Fran Drescher's dress had no slit ruin my enjoyment of an otherwise harmless piece of filmed entertainment. Of course not, as the film provided no real enjoyment in the first place.

Just kidding, it's not that bad. The montage where Howard Hesseman's "Smooth Walker," and the aforementioned foursome of high-end escorts (a walking, talking Benetton Ad in heels), take a nerdy comparative literature professor named Clifford Skridlow (Dan Aykroyd) out to every nightclub in Chicago, for example, is teeming with righteous energy. If only the entire film could have maintained that "righteous energy" from start to finish. Oh, well.

I think the biggest problem is Doctor Detroit himself. The quality of the film seemed  to take a nosedive the moment Clifford Skridlow becomes Doctor Detroit. Seriously, I don't know what they were thinking when they came up with the Doctor Detroit's voice, as it's beyond irritating.

The reason the mild-mannered Clifford Skridlow becomes über-pimp Doctor Detroit is a convoluted as you might expect. To deflect attention away from his own pimp-related problems, Smooth tells Mom (Kate Murtagh), a powerful pimp who rules Chicago's criminal underworld with an iron fist, that a pimp named "Doctor Detroit" is taking over her turf. And since Doctor Detroit doesn't really exist, Smooth convinces Clifford Skridlow to play the part.

First noticing him while he was out power walking to Devo, Smooth runs into Clifford Skridlow later that day while dining at an Indian restaurant. Using Fran Drescher and the other three ladies as bait, Smooth manages to win over Cliff over. It also didn't hurt that Smooth drowns Cliff's nervous system in drugs and alcohol.

After his crazy night is over, Cliff goes back to work at Monroe College. Little does he know, but Cliff's a pimp now. He even has a limo driver, played by T.K. Carter (The Thing), and access to a vulgar penthouse filled with utterly tasteless furnishings.

Even though Fran Drescher's legs are visible multiple times over the course of the film, Dan Aykroyd's legs are mentioned at least four times. As you might expect, this annoyed me like you wouldn't believe. Granted, it wasn't as annoying as the whole slit debacle during the Players Ball sequence, but it still irked me.

Did anyone else find it mildly interesting that Smooth refers to Mom's minions as the "Yul Brynner clones" and as a "cue-ball convention" at one point? The only reason I ask is because society viewed male baldness differently thirty years ago. Nowadays, you see men with shaved heads almost everywhere and no one seems to care. But back in 1983, it was still pretty rare. In fact, in some circles, male baldness was met with open hostility. Simply put, if you weren't a Buddhist monk or Yul Brynner/Telly Savalas you and your hairless dome were viewed with suspicion.

What the? Why am I talking about male baldness when I could be blathering on and on about Fran Drescher's wicked organic structure? Bizarre. Truly bizarre. Anyway, take special note of Clifford's dream sequence, as it's your best opportunity to see Fran Drescher in sexy lingerie in the entire film. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't linger on Fran's stocking encased gams for all that long, so you might have to pause the video to get the full effect. Which is a shame, because Frannies shouldn't have to resort to such flapdoodle to get an eyeful of Fran.

In a surprise twist, Lynn Whitfield gets a nice stocking-related close-up near the end of the film. Of course, you might miss it, as it takes place as T.K. Carter and Fran Drescher are on-screen (since actor Howard Hesseman collected his check and got the hell out of there, T.K. and Fran are saddled with doing the majority of the heavy-lifting, comedy-wise... which makes sense, as they're both talented comedians). At any rate, if you look at the left side of the screen, you will notice that Lynn is sheepishly putting her stockings on. I can't believe I almost missed this.

In closing, Doctor Detroit doesn't really deserve the amount of attention I've given it. If you're fan of Fran Drescher or even Dan Aykroyd, I guess you should watch it. On the other hand, you''re probably better off just watching Jekyl and Hyde... Together Again, as it as way funnier and way more politically incorrect.

Oh, and why is Glenne Headly (Making Mr. Right) listed in the credits as "Miss Debbylike"? She has no dialogue and she's only on-screen for a few seconds. I'm thinking there must have been a subplot involving Dan Aykroyd and one of his students, and it was obviously cut out of the movie.


  1. Is the porno they watch at Hessman's pad real, or simply made for the film? I have been wondering for 35 years.

  2. Heads Up Yum-Yum. Doctor Detroit gets a HiDef Blu-ray release on April 24th, 2018. Now we can check out a young Fran Drescher's legs in HiDef.

    1. "Young Fran Drescher's legs in HiDef"

      You have my attention. :D