Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, August 08, 2008

Bad Movie Month takes a gander at Looker

One of the best indicators that a movie is destined to be a classic clunker is if the director is someone who has excelled in one field of the arts and is tackling the wide world of film for the first time. While the artist being put up for target practice here wasn't a newbie when he was making this sci-fi stinker,that doesn't help his cause. In fact,it makes it harder to cut the guy some slack.

Extra double jeopardy points should be awarded if it's an author adapting his/her own work. Even the modern day master of horror Stephen King has such a listing on his extremely long resume(Maximum Overdrive)and literary giants like the late Norman Mailer are not immune to the lure of the director's chair(Tough Guys Don't Dance).

Which brings us to Michael Crichton,who attempted to dazzle Hollywood with Looker back in 1981. While most movie goers only know his books from Jurassic Park(and others from such earlier successful fare as Westworld and Coma),he's also had his share of misfires,both in book form and on screen.

Looker stars Albert Finney as plastic surgeon to the stars Larry Roberts,who has been having to make extremely minor changes to several TV commercial actresses who each have a list of their "defects". The gals also start mysteriously dying in ways that appear to be suicide but may also be murder,with Larry as a possible suspect. Sounds like a plot line from Nip/Tuck,doesn't it?

Just like Nip/Tuck,any excuse for a female to disrobe is taken(and believe it or not,this movie is still rated PG)and a sure sign that some lady is going to meet her maker is when she gets and/or stays undressed FOR NO GOOD REASON!

The first female to bite the bullet after the opening credits wanders around in her underwear even when she realizes that a stranger with a gun has entered her apartment. Does she grab a robe and a weapon as she heads for the door to escape?

Nope,Genius Queen decides to arm herself with Toto and totter out to the living room with the open balcony window to make it easier for the hired assassin to do her in. Talk about Too Stupid To Live(brief shot of bare chestage in this clip,you have been warned):

Dr. Larry then gets a visit from one of the other list ladies,who demands to have her surgery reversed,shrieking that "They're killing all the girls who are perfect!". After the doc tries to calm her down by letting her smoke in his office(that's something you don't get to see these days),she then sprouts more vague fears and demands to know if Larry has seen "a man with a moustache". Gee,that really narrows down the playing field of mysterious killers,doesn't it?

You don't see it in this clip but Shrieker then heads home to escape her pursuers but inexplicably pauses to change her clothes and winds up falling to her doom in her underwear. If you were running for your life,would you waste time by putting on a new outfit,I ask you?:

Dr. Larry decides to play Hardy Boys and hooks up with an unsuspecting Nancy Drew,Cindy(Susan Dey),the last live model on the list. Cindy is attracted to the good doctor and therefore doesn't mind him tagging along on her film shoots,which gives him plenty of opportunity to check out the mysterious digital technicians who are trying to match up all of the actors' on camera moves. It also gives Cindy plenty of chances to toss herself fetchingly into the sand,which I'm sure the director enjoyed having multiple takes of:

The vague conspiracy reveals a sinister plot to use digital enhancement technology in commercials to brainwash the public into doing the will of evil corporate titian John Reston(James Coburn). Actually,the details of the plan aren't really spelled out for anyone-there is a deleted scene that explains some of the wacky that has appeared in television cuts of the movie but is not on the DVD(but a intro and commentary by Michael Crichton is!).

Dr. Larry has to ultimately save Cindy from being erased by Moustache Man(that is the character's name in the end credits,folks. Beats being Non Descript Man,that's for sure)by arming himself with a L.O.O.K.E.R.(Light Ocular-Oriented Kinetic Emotive Responses) gun that you can use to zap people into hypnotic states where they lose track of time and are easy targets for kicks to the crotch.

Some of my favorite bits of this movie are the fake commercials that provide a bizarre background for the big showdown near the end of the movie and the insanely catchy theme song. Performed by Sue Saad,this tune is one of most memorable parts of the film-no doubt,I'll still be able to sing this song well into my dotage. To enjoy the best of both worlds,here are the end credits that provide both the song and commercial clips:

Looker did have a few good ideas about the dangers of the coming digital age. It's a shame that Crichton couldn't have presented them in a more coherent way,or at least a better acted one. Also,it could have benefited from adding some 3D effects in the scenes where the Looker beam zaps people. Oh,well,there's always a chance that a remake will correct some of these blunders someday. In the meanwhile,we can reveal in the cinematic blunder that Looker is and will be for all time:

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