Cocaine: One Man's Seduction,
and a few more films

Cocaine: One Man's Seduction (1983)

Streaming free on Tubi

This is a TV movie about cocaine, secretly underwritten by the DEA, I'm sure.

Times are tough for Eddie Gant (Dennis Weaver), a California real estate agent who's going gray, and isn't making as many big deals as he used to. A co-worker offers cocaine, and Eddie says just says no, but soon he changes his mind, and then everything goes wrong.

After the first snort he's wired in five seconds, and headspinning rock'n'roll takes over the soundtrack. In five minutes Eddie has endless sniffles, and he's sneaking away from big-money clients to take a toot in the kitchen, doing lines in his son's bathroom, and he gets a suddenly deviated septum in the middle of an important meeting at work.

As absurd as all this is, the actors take it seriously, which seriously adds to the fun. Weaver is believable, because he was always one of cinema's great underrated actors. Karen Grassle from Little House on the Prairie plays Eddie's wife, James Spader is baby-faced but already sexy as their squeaky clean son, and Jeffrey Tambor plays a balding buddy and recovering addict who tries to talk Eddie down. 

Verdict: YES, as overwrought schlock.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Cocoon (1985)

#250  [archive]
MAR. 2, 2024

Space aliens come to earth, but they're not here to kill us or eat us. They're nice aliens, just trying to bring back some of their compatriots who'd been left behind in 'cocoons' eons earlier.

The aliens recover the ancient cocoons from the ocean, and store them in the swimming pool of their rented house, where the waters have been infused with what's only called 'life force'. But senior citizens from the rest home next door go swimming in the pool, and the 'life force' rejuvenates them.

As an idea and as a movie, this is OK, but the script and studio make sure that nothing even slightly uncomfortable, odd, technical, or thought-provoking makes it into the story. It's nothing but nice aliens and old people and the kid from Neverending Story.

These space aliens are never a threat, never even the slightest worry, only nice, very nice, and supernatural. They might as well be magic fairies of peace and love and understanding.

Brian Dennehy, usually a tough guy on screen, plays one of the nice aliens, and he's nice. Tahnee Welch, daughter of Raquel, is the only other alien with anything to do, and her assignment is be very pretty, which she pulls off along with her skin.

The blandest actor of the 1980s, Steve Guttenberg, radiates his usual glibness. For the old-timers from the nursing home, Hollywood veterans were called back to active duty: Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Jack Gilford, Maureen Stapleton, Jessica Tandy, and Gwen Verdon. The women get seriously short-shrifted in the script, and black old-timers are an afterthought.

Again, the movie is OK, but the swimming pool is the deepest thing in it. If you're hoping for science fiction, you'll feel like Chinese visitors wandering into Panda Express for lunch.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Company of Wolves (1984)

Streaming free at Internet Archive

"My, what big arms you have."

Based on a short story that was itself based on the legend of Little Red Riding Hood, the basic plot and some of the dialogue in The Company of Wolves certainly feels familiar.

Angela Lansbury plays Granny, who tells stories of werewolves in the woods. Sarah Patterson plays Rosaleen, the granddaughter, who's gifted a lovely red full-body shawl midway through the film. Some of the wolves appear to be played by dogs, but this was not a big-budget film.

There's a lot of plottery, subplottery, and sideplottery, most of which is inside Rosaleen's nightmares, fueled by her grandmama's stories. The whole thing is a coming-of-age allegory for the girl's fears over sex, but it's so British and allegorical a 10-year-old could watch this and see only a scary movie.

And remarkably, despite being a story you've known since you were in diapers, it does have scary moments. It's classy, enjoyably atmospheric and always watchable, sometimes magical. 

Splendidly directed and co-written by Neil Jordan.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Compliance (2012)

A fast-food restaurant gets a call from someone saying they're a cop, accusing an employee of crimes. The caller asks the manager to 'investigate' by doing more and more outrageous and illegal things to the 'suspect', eventually strip-searching her, and worse.

This is a horrendous hoax I remember reading about a looong time ago — the early 2000s? The caller isn't particularly convincing to my ear, but people are obedient idiots and there's no doubt that many or most of us would obey an official-sounding voice on the phone. 

It's a modern Milgram experiment, with heavy dramatic music. It's unsettling, but there is a point to it: Don't be so damned obedient, America.

But it's unpleasant to watch, so once the storyline established itself, I fast-forwarded to the point where the manager figures out she's been criminally fooled.

Compliance is a well-made film but icky, and I'm not sure it's worth enduring all the ickiness. It's also troubling that all the story's women do whatever the fake-cop on the phone tells them to do, and only the men have any suspicions or objections.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Cool Breeze (1972)

Streaming free at YouTube

Sidney Lord Jones (Thalmus Rasulala) is released from prison, almost dancing out of his cell to great funk music by Solomon Burke, the Bishop of Soul. 

Unfortunately, then comes the story, loosely based on The Asphalt Jungle, but don't get your hopes up.

This is lesser blaxploitation, produced by Gene Corman, brother of Roger. 

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Cornbread, Earl, and Me (1975)

Streaming free at Internet Archive

Cornbread is a good kid in a rough Chicago neighborhood, and an outstanding basketball player. He's two weeks from going to college on a scholarship, and there's no doubt that pro ball is in his future. 

But he's black, and wearing clothes the same general color as a burglar who's running from the cops. They shoot him dead. 

This is a story as old as cops and black people in America, but Cornbread, Earl, and Me might've been the first time it was told in a mainstream movie. It's told quite well, too, including the cops' cover-up/investigation, the unlikeliness of winning a lawsuit against the city, and police intimidation of witnesses. 

The music alternates between funk and operatic choirs, the cops are portrayed more sympathetically than they deserve, and the film's mildly optimistic ending feels like wish-fulfillment. Still, it's powerful, infuriating, and sometimes sweet, and five decades later the film still makes an audience angry. At least, this audience.

Other than the 1970s clothes and cars and slang, and the film's aura of surprise that cops could get away with killing the wrong kid, this could've been filmed yesterday. Has there been any progress in cops' forever mistreatment of black people?

The cast includes Bernie Casey, Rosalind Cash, Antonio Fargas, Moses Gunn, Thalmus Rasulala, Madge Sinclair, introducing Laurence Fishburne, and future NBA All-Star Jamaal Wilkes as Cornbread. 

Verdict: YES.


• • • Coming attractions • • •      

Cosmos (1980)
Countdown to Looking Glass (1984)
Crime Wave (1985)
Crime Wave (1985)

 ... plus schlock and surprises

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. I like cocaine

  2. Dennis Weaver's character in *Touch of Evil* coulda been the grandfather of the Jerky Boys' Sol Rosenberg.

    1. Dennis Weaver, king of the TV Movies. Got several more I'm sending Doug's way. He's like a less smug Alan Alda.

      Also, Jerky Boys ROCK (first two discs, anyway) but Call To Okies is where it's at:


    2. Weaver was seriously one of the best actors of his time. I saw him in some shitty movies, but never saw him turn in a shitty day's work.

      I am laughing, and there goes my Jerky Boys virginity. Guess they were killed by *69, and cell phones that announce the caller's number.

  3. The best thing about '80s anti-drug movies is the certainty that at least half of the cast was wired as fuck when they were making it.

    1. I'll wager Karen Grassle had white powder up her schnoz.


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