ON DVD & BLU-RAY
Into the Night (1985) Blu Ray & DVD (101 Films)
The tale of an insomniac
Jeff Goldblum plays Ed Okin, an insomniac with a dull job at a recording studio in Los Angeles. After his affliction causes him to lose focus during a team meeting he decides to go home early. However, when he looks through the window he sees his wife Ellen (Stacey Pickren) having sex with another woman. Rather than make a fuss, he decides to slip away and return at his usual coming-home time. That night, while his wife has drifted off, he quietly walks out of his front door and drives his car to LAX airport - perhaps contemplating leaving her behind.
While at the airport he happens upon a beautiful woman named Diana (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is fleeing for her life from four members of the SAVAK - the Iranian Secret Police. She has six stolen Persian emeralds in her possession which they want to get back.
In the heat of the moment Ed decides to help her escape. Their relationship develops as he drives her to various locations around the city in order to find a safe place to stay away from the various heavies after them - and get to the bottom of the convoluted emerald-smuggling plot.
Watch a trailer:
The forgotten John Landis movie
The 1980s is easily the most fondly-remembered decade of director John Landis’s career. It started with a couple of genre-blending cult classics (action-comedy-musical The Blues Brothers from 1980 and horror-comedy-romance An American Werewolf in London from 1981) and finished with a slick Eddie Murphy hit (Coming to America in 1988). Nearly all of his seven films (plus his segments from the Twilight Zone and Amazon Women on the Moon movies, along with Michael Jackson’s Thriller video) were big hits and/or enduring cult favourites. Into the Night is the one exception.
I seem to remember it getting a promotional slot on some TV programme or other at the time. Since then, however, it just seemed to sink without trace - reportedly having taken just $7.5 million at the U.S. box office. Unfortunately, it’s easy to see why it has been so neglected. While ostensibly a comedy-thriller it’s rarely funny and rarely thrilling.
The film tries to homage Hitchcock’s cat-and-mouse thrillers but the 115-minute runtime just feels draggy and padded when it should be sprightly and economical. A lot of the scenes are just dull and go nowhere. Looking over Landis’s filmography, it seems that this one and Beverly Hills Cop III are the only times he has aimed at overt thriller material, and considering the results (the latter is even worse than this) it’s not surprising.
The comedy doesn’t work either and largely ends up being more offensive than hilarious. The portrayal of the four SAVAK members (one of whom is played by Landis himself) as alternately clumsy and fanatically violent is pretty racist. The film also has the habit of having them doing something blatantly unfunny once and then repeating it later on in the film. For example, in one scene when they are startled by a barking dog they shoot it (not funny - just mean-spirited), and then in a later scene one of them goes the same when they are startled by a squawking parrot (even less funny and even more mean-spirited). In another scene they ransack a home by smashing a lot of expensive-looking objects (again, mean-spirited rather than funny) and then do much the same in another home later.
Another thing: what’s with all of the extreme and blood-splattered violence here? It’s not that this doesn’t work in a comedic context - a classic example being Monty Python and the Holy Grail with its Black Knight dismemberment and killer bunny rabbit scenes. However, there has to be a certain sense of over-the-top absurdity for it to work. Here, it’s just unpleasantly realistic.
An impressive cast list
As with many of Landis’s films, Into the Night boasts tons of easter eggs and cameos including appearances no less than 17 different directors. As well as Landis himself I spotted Paul Bartel and David Cronenberg. Many others just passed me by but the whole list can be found on IMDB here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089346/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2. There are also some old hit songs and bits of movie memorabilia for eagle-eyed (and eagle-eared if that’s even a word) buffs. The trouble is that it the level of extreme nerdishness becomes the film’s whole raison d'être at times.
On the other hand, some of the larger cameos are fun, in particular, Dan Ackroyd as Ed’s best buddy at work and David Bowie as a smirking British hitman. The film’s main saving grace, however, comes in the form of the two leads. Jeff Goldblum’s scatty, gawky, half-stuttering act has long been overused in his roles over the years, but here he’s perfectly cast as someone who quite naturally would be that way considering that he suffers from insomnia. Michelle Pfeiffer is an appealing mix of cute and assertive, and it’s lamentable that she’s no longer the big star she became during the 1980s due to Hollywood’s rather sexist attitudes towards aging actresses. The pair have a great on-screen chemistry together that makes you wish it wasn’t wasted on this film.
Occasionally redeems itself
Even though Into the Night isn’t a good film there are occasional moments which do work. A few scenes effectively capture that dazed, dreamy feel of going without sleep for a long period - such as one where Ed is sat on the couch with his wife watching a long, zany informercial which cuts to extreme close-ups of the screen. While there isn’t a lot of action the scenes we do see are quite well staged, particularly the climactic shootout.
On the whole, however, it’s a movie you could recommend to its own main protagonist. It will quickly cure his insomnia.
Runtime: 115 mins
Dir: John Landis
Script: Ron Koslow
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfeiffer, Stacey Pickren, Kathryn Harrold, John Landis, Dan Ackroyd, David Bowie, Richard Farnsworth, Clu Gulager, Vera Miles, Irene Papas, Roger Vadim, David Cronenberg, Paul Bartel
Blu Ray Audio-Visual
It’s an attractive and bright print (even if those mid-80s colours do look a little too gaudy at times). The neon-drenched nighttime streets look particularly great. The audio is solid and particularly effective during the jumpier sound effects.
A poster and nothing else.
A rather anally geeky, misjudged and dull comedy thriller despite good performances by its two leads. The disc’s audio-visual quality is excellent but the lack of extras is a shame.