Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception since 1987

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) makes 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 but coldhearted Hitchcockian rom-dram Big Chill-style alumni cross section Canadian momentum to terminal capitalist satire (from the days when malls were still new weird enough to be in science fiction), and then shoestrings it all along with the promise of gore and lysergically intense thrills and like a carny pitchman delivers the bare minimum. The tale of ten years-after swath of Stanford alums, all of whom dropped the 'Blue Sunshine' --a strong acid made and sold by a Stanford chemistry major in 1967, and a suddenly all now going bald and homicidal ten years after and naturally because of chromosomal damage or whatever. But what's unnatural is perma-scowler Zalman King as a guy named 'Zipkin' who has to run around stopping it all, single-handed, which means looking guilty holding the knife he took from his assailant before she fell to her death after he barged in on her and started yelling. 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, and to most sane viewers, no matter how much acid they've done, he's only slightly more irrational and wacko than the baldheads.

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 those other guys broke new cinema ground and flew into cult immortality, and have a body of work still trenchant and discussed, 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. Star Zalman King is such a Sean Penn-ish scowler he makes you annoyed and perhaps annoyed Lieberman as the film seems to dryly mock his martyrish spotlight hog (he was probably directing all his own close-ups and milking lines for every last ounce of method interirority.

"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.


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.