[box cover]

Into the Night

A jumble of discordant tones, John Landis's Into the Night (1985) is an unsure attempt at black comedy that lacks the genre-melding exuberance of the director's excellent An American Werewolf in London (1981). Absent that film's unprecedented meshing of belly laughs with sheer, heart-stopping terror, this picture never comes close to bringing its elements of film noir and slapstick comedy together into a satisfying whole, but it springs to life frequently enough that, even at its most uninspired, it's never less than amiable. The plot concerns Ed Okin (Jeff Goldblum), a dull working stiff besieged with a crippling insomnia for which he cannot account. His self-involved wife (Stacey Pickren) certainly isn't concerned, and when she sends him off to work one morning with a blandly impersonal "Have a nice day," he begins to suspect something is up. Coming home from work early (when has that ever been a good idea in the movies?), Ed's suspicions are justified when he finds his wife sleeping with another man. But Ed doesn't act; at least, not immediately. He passively lets the indignity marinate until he begins to endure yet another sleepless night. Finally, he does something impulsive — he gets out of bed and drives to the airport, coming to a stop in the parking garage where he just sits as if waiting for something to happen. That "something" ends up landing on the hood of his car in the form of Diana (Michelle Pfeiffer), a beautiful social climber who has just narrowly escaped the clutches of a quartet of bumbling Iranian assassins (a portrayal that wouldn't go without a serious protest today). Sensing the immediacy of the situation, Ed whisks Diana out of the parking garage, thus beginning his bizarre journey into the unpredictable Los Angeles night where he'll contend with all manner of lunatics while simply trying to understand why it is he cannot sleep. One of Into the Night's most appealing aspects is the way Landis utilizes the city as a character, allowing its indescribable weirdness to get into the film's bones. He's also enlisted half of the DGA to contribute cameos ranging in size from Paul Bartel's brief appearance as a hotel doorman to Paul Mazursky's supporting performance as an extra-screwing hack filmmaker. But amusing as these little moments are, nothing can top the "huh" quotient of watching a knife-fighting David Bowie and Carl Perkins juxtaposed against a big-screen television playing Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein, a spectacle so flat-out ineffable it could've redeemed The Stupids. There's no denying the movie has its moments, but had Ron Koslow's script been tightened up, it might've amounted to more than an agreeable curiosity. Running way too long at 115 minutes, Landis should've found a way to condense the narrative into one night rather than letting it stretch out into two, which allows the tension to subside right when the film needs to be peaking. Universal presents Into the Night in a decent anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. The disc's sole extra is W.C. Handy's award-winning documentary "B.B. King 'Into the Night'" (26 min.) that, once it gets past the embarrassing '80s music-video inanity of letting comedic actors like Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin, and Dan Aykroyd mug shamelessly as his backup band, actually ends up being a fairly interesting look into the bluesman's history. Its inclusion is more than appropriate, as King's work on the film's score (with Ira Newborn) played a significant role in revitalizing his career. Keep-case.
—Clarence Beaks

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