Sunday, January 8, 2017

I, the Jury (Richard T. Heffron, 1982)

How am I supposed to learn how to apply makeup in a tarty manner if they don't show it being applied? (What the hell are you babbling about?) The sexual deviant/serial killer/C.I.A. assassin, played by the striking Judson Scott, at the centre of I, the Jury likes to slather his female victims in heavy makeup before killing them. (Yeah, so?) So? We never see how he applies the makeup. And another thing, does he carry around the makeup with him? It's revealed later on in the film, directed by Richard T. Heffron (the film's writer, Larry Cohen, was set to direct but was apparently fired for some reason), that he carries around a bag that contains a red wig and a switchblade. So, I can only assume he keeps the makeup in that bag as well. Either way, I would have liked to have seen him put the makeup on the women he murdered. I know, there are literally thousands of videos out there that can help you apply makeup to your face. But those videos are mostly about cis women applying makeup in a competent manner. I, on the other hand, want to know how to apply makeup in an incompetent manner. What can I say? I'm a tart at heart. In case it isn't obvious, the Judson Scott subplot of this film, loosely based on the novel by Mickey Spillane (his debut, if I'm not mistaken), was my favourite aspect of this NYC-set detective movie.

Unfortunately, Judson Scott doesn't appear in the film right away. Sure, you get to see some of his handy-work in the early going (a tarted up, red wig-adorned woman is found dead in the park). But the film is mostly made up of car chases and Armand Assante's [thankfully] always clean shaven Mike Hammer whining about his pet fish dying (every time he enters his office, one, or some times even two, of his fish are lifelessly floating in his fish tank). Actually, I kind of liked the dead fish gag.

Anyway, I would say a good chunk of this film, especially the first half, had the feeling of an expensive TV pilot. However, that all changes when the orgy gets underway. Yep, I said, orgy. Investigating the murder of a one-armed army buddy (they served in Vietnam together), Det. Mike Hammer, with the help of his sexy secretary Velda (Laurene Landon), uncovers a vast conspiracy involving the mafia, the C.I.A., serial killers, sex clinics and mind control.

As you might expect, the serial killer/sex clinic plot line scratched me where I itch the most. What can I say? I'm a... deviant, I guess.

I don't know what this says about me, but I was rapidly losing patience with this film during the early going. And it didn't help that the Al Pacino-lite macho asshole vibe Armand Assante was repeatedly putting out there rubbed me the wrong way. Granted, I grew to accept, and eventually admire, Armand Assante's brutish performance as Mike Hammer (he is someone you don't fuck with... big time). But I wasn't having any of it at the beginning.

While the orgy scene I alluded to earlier is an obvious indicator that the tone of the film had changed. I would say the scene where Mike Hammer and a fellow detective played Paul Sorvino stand over the dead body of that tarted up woman lying at the base of the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central park was the exact moment I started to realize that this film might have some sleaze potential. I mean, the way the camera lingered voyeuristically (that's a word, right?) on her dead body was definitely exploitative in nature. And I dug that.

What? You don't think I watch movies to see finely woven plots unfold in a semi-clever manner. Uh-uh. I want to see the bloated, pockmarked underbelly of humanity exposed, warts and all. And I want to see bright colours and fashion. Sadly, there isn't that much fashion in this film. Nevertheless, the sudden uptick in this film's sleaze factor not only pleased me, it guaranteed that it would be worthy of a review.

And judging by the words I've typed so far in correlation with I, the Jury, it's clearly being reviewed.

I don't want it to seem like I'm obsessed with the orgy scene, but I think I would remiss if I didn't mention that the bulk of the orgasm faces used in the close-ups were provided by porn legends Samantha Fox (Her Name Was Lisa) and Bobby Astyr (Corruption).

The actual plot, in case I forgot to mention, involves Mike Hammer investigating the murder of... No, wait. I already mentioned that. Nevertheless, the part of the plot where we learn that the C.I.A. has employed/brainwashed a sex-crazed serial killer to murder America's enemies is kind of interesting. Think about it. The C.I.A. can kill anyone they want without it being connected to them. Just as long as the killer can get his victims to wear a red wig and tarty makeup and get them to profess their love for him in a sincere manner, they're good to go... murder-wise.

A prime example of what can happen when 1970s-style grittiness/paranoia is mixed with together with the burgeoning urbanity of the 1980s, I, the Jury is the best of both worlds: a glossy action-thriller with enough sleaze to satisfy fans of both 1970s and 1980s cinema.

1 comment:

  1. The convergence of porn and Mike Hammer in the casting of Samantha Fox was fortuitous.

    Many readers of Mickey Spillane probably thought but would never acknowledge in public, Mike Hammer novels could have been easily adapted to "porn with plots"