Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I dunno man, I took the Blue Sunshine and I feel fine

It doesn't really have all its marbles together, but Blue Sunshine (1978) is an interesting composite of low-rent 70s filmmaking that's roughly comparable to De Palma's Sisters, Romero's The Crazies (both 1973), and Cronenberg's Rabid (1977). It melds approximated Hitchcockian romantic comedy momentum to terminal capitalist 70s politically-tinged horror, then shoestrings it all along with the promise of gore and lysergically intense thrills and like a carny pitchman delivers the bare minimum. The plot involves people randomly going bald and homicidal in a swath of Stanford alums, all of whom dropped the 'Blue Sunshine' acid ten years earlier, in glorious 1967 - the psychedelic peak and naturally, year of my acid Jesus-birth, but why? And why does perma-scowler Zalman King have to run around stopping it all, single-handed? He didn't cook it up, or sell it, or even take it. He's just a narcissist martyr who wouldn't share a chance to be the hunted hero in a million years.

Like its leading character, Sunshine can never figure out where it wants to go; it lacks the nerve to take two tabs like everyone else, so just takes a half, and so 'misses the party' that Hitchcockophiliacs like De Palma, druggy clinicians like Cronenberg, and blue collar Swifts like Romero all raged at in the approx. same time and with the approx. same film stock and interior decor. So while they all broke new cinema ground and flew into cult immortality, director Jeff Lieberman was left behind, too nervous to follow them into the deep end. For a movie about the effects of LSD, has Lieberman even ever done any? The only person you know for sure is lit up is Leon the replicant (below) and the guy in the poster at top. And alas, star Zalman King is such a Sean Penn-ish scowler he makes you annoyed. He likes to barge in on people and then not explain what's going on, just stand there and almost formulate sentences while refusing to explain himself or volunteer one iota of information to anyone who might use it to some universal benefit.

"wake up, time to fly!"
Meth, I hear you callin'
The plot sets in motion when at a druggy party a guy is revealed to be bald and wearing a wig. When the wig comes off he gets mad and kills three women. King takes it on himself to run like an outlaw, presuming in his self-centered martyrdom that the cops will automatically suspect him of the murders. He never deigns to clarify why it's so important he finds out who the political candidate about to be elected sold blue sunshine (acid) to ten years ago at Stanford. Apparently the guy was a kind of local Tim Leary, but he's now a Mitt Romney, as unlikely a transformation as you're liable to find with a budget this low. Still, the murderous freak-outs are pretty hilarious, with the victims apparently all right until someone rips off their wig and exposes them as bald and they go apeshit with superhuman strength. King has to race around Canada (standing in for CT) and reach these crazy baldheads before they go on their rampages, as if it's exactly ten years after they took the stuff to the day. Seriously, no human central nervous system has that kind of Swiss watch accuracy.


As for the rest of the cast: Deborah Winters is cute and alert as the girlfriend who King uses for odd jobs and leaves in the dust of parking lots. She seems ready to be beamed up into a marginally better De Palma film, and deserves a much cooler lading man. She's sassy, sweet, and able to manipulate big dudes into her sway. Adriana Shaw (above and below) however, is not so lucky, but she does look like my old college flame and gets the scariest scene when, in her blazing red bathrobe one morning, she finally snaps and attacks some neighbor's kids she's watching. The blocking is a little clumsy but it's great to see a director other than Spielberg dare to 'go there' sweet childocide-wise - and to paraphrase William Carlos Williams, so much depends / on a bald lady in a red robe / with a butcher knife / chasing small children.

My doctor added Abilify
While I expected more from a film named after a brand of blotter acid, there are various points where it almost all comes together, like it's a few feet shy of 39 Steps... let's say 22 Steps. It never, if you'll forgive the expression, gels. Still, I'm glad it's around, in the freezer, waiting for just the right time to blow--or at least divert for a hair--the world's mind. Just don't invite old sullen, sulky, self-righteous King to the party, at least not until he gets his Red Shoes laced.

May also induce Jason Patric scowlingitis


  1. Heh. To find a reference to that poem about the white chickens in a review of Blue Sunshine is pretty trippy.

  2. Awesome review. Such an odd movie.