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LOOKER (1981)

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Looker is an 80s mystery/thriller with some science fiction overtones that today, some of which, would be considered science fact. The film opens with the mysterious death of a beautiful young girl. She’s not the first to die like this and not the first to be a patient of high profile L.A. plastic surgeon Dr. Larry Roberts (Albert Finney). Roberts finds it odd that these beautiful women came to him with specific and practically unnoticeable changes in the first place, but now those same girls are winding up dead. Despite some evidence left at the crime scenes for police that Roberts is involved, he begins to investigate the deaths himself with the help of model and friend Cindy (Susan Dey). Roberts soon uncovers a possible conspiracy involving a shady research company called Digital Matrix and business tycoon John Reston (James Coburn). What is the Looker Project and why is Reston prepared to kill to keep it secret?

Written and directed by über-author Michael Crichton, Looker is a silly movie that does have some good ideas behind it. The idea of using computer generated actors and models was ahead of it’s time back in the early 80s, as is the concept of using computer generated imagery to place subconscious suggestions in viewers minds. Sadly these concepts are used in a film that starts out as an OK murder mystery, but gets increasingly silly as it goes along. The idea of this posh plastic surgeon turning all private detective is goofy enough, but to have him go complete James Bond in the last act, including sneaking into a pontificating villain’s lair and battling his thugs with futuristic weaponry, is almost laughable. Not to mention the actual reason for having the models killed is just borderline dumb to begin with. The last act is just plain wacky and not in a good way, and almost seems to be part of another far more campy movie. We’d actually have some fun with it on that level if it didn’t drag on for so long. Technically the film is well made and there is a cool 80s score by The Warriors composer Barry De Vorzon. The title tune sung by Sue Saad and the Next is probably the most memorable thing about the movie…though I do find it oddly charming, despite all it’s flaws, mostly because of how 80s it is.

Finney is a great actor, but doesn’t quite click as a sexy Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who beds woman more than half his age. He also looks outright uncomfortable during some of the action scenes. The legendary James Coburn is just going through the motions as a cliché megalomaniacal villain. Probably just a paycheck job, as his career was winding down at this point, as the 80s brought in a new generation of actors, like Harrison Ford and Sylvester Stallone, to steal the spotlight from the old school movie tough guys. Susan Dey is pretty as Cindy and actually comes off the most natural for the context of the film as Roberts’ somewhat ditzy romantic interest.

There is some cheesy 80s entertainment here and some good ideas mixed in with all the silliness. It starts off well enough, but gets increasingly goofy as it goes along. The usually excellent Finney is miscast and the last act really goes off the over-the-top deep end with a James Bond-ish finale set in a constantly rearranging television studio. It all occurs in front of a live audience…who are laughing as much as we are at this point. A misfire for sure, but not one without some nostalgic charm.

-MonsterZero NJ


Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) scanned lookers…earns extra points for being charmingly 80s.

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High Risk 1981 poster


HIGH RISK (1981)

This lesser known but highly enjoyable little 1981 action/adventure/comedy tells the story of four working class friends Stone (James Brolin), Rockney (Cleavon Little), Dan (Bruce Davison) and Tony (Chick Vennera) who are sick of working hard for nothing, or being out of work, and decide to solve their financial problems by robbing a South American drug lord named Serrano (James Corburn). They leave their family and friends under the facade of a fishing trip, but head into the jungle to Serrano’s villa with the intent of emptying his safe. When things go awry, the four find themselves separated and fleeing for their lives through the jungle…though it’s set in South America, it was filmed in Mexico…with not only Serrano’s army, but an armed group of rebels/bandits on their tails as well. Can these wannabe thieves get out with their lives, much less with their stolen booty?

Written and directed by Stewart Raffill (The Philadelphia Experiment), High Risk is a fun little action/adventure that has more of a 70s movie vibe…especially with Mark Snow’s lively but nostalgic score…and whose small release went fairly unnoticed especially once Raiders Of The Lost Ark  came out about a month later and became the next big thing in action. It’s an underrated little movie with a lot of heart and entertainment for it’s 90+ minutes and is actually one of the last of it’s kind before the big studio popcorn action flicks like Raiders, the Die Hards and the Lethal Weapons became the status quo for action movies and small, independent films like this, started going direct to video. It’s a fast paced and entertaining flick that seems to have fallen through the cracks and been forgotten due to it’s release at a time where the movie going landscape was changing and low budget films like this could no longer hope to compete against the big budget multiplex blockbusters that were a product of the success of Star Wars. And while it certainly doesn’t stack up against some of those big budget classics, it is a fun comedy/adventure movie and has it’s own share of chases, escapes and gunfire and certainly worth a watch if you’re in the mood for a light and breezy action flick…and one of the last to represent an era when films like this still saw the inside of a movie theater.

Obviously by the names mentioned, Raffill had a good cast to work with and they all have fun with their roles. That cast also includes Lindsay Wagner as Olivia, a woman Tony and Rockney help escape a local prison, Anthony Quinn as rebel leader General Mariano and Ernest Borgnine as an arms dealer named Clint. A sadly overlooked and fun little action gem that I had the pleasure of seeing at the Fox theater in Hackensack, N.J. which sat right across the street from my beloved Oritani. Movies like this have a wonderful added nostalgia for me as I feel I was privileged to have been able to experience it on a big screen when today’s audience must rely on home media to see the smaller and lesser known releases like this one.

3  bullets.

ex2 rating