Monday, April 14, 2014

"Hey Good Lookin' "(1982) d/ Ralph Bakshi

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Following the success of Heavy Traffic the previous year, Ralph Bakshi began work on tonight's review, a feature that would incorporate animated main characters who would interact with a live-action supporting cast, initially completing the film in 1975 for Warner Brothers, who repeatedly postponed and pushed the project back for various reasons, until it was finally granted a limited release seven years later as a much different film than the one it began as. I remember excitedly snagging a VHS copy off the shelves at Wyoming Valley Video, a favorite hole-in-the-wall shop of mine at the end of an avenue strip mall in the eighties, only to walk away feeling mostly indifferent about the entire experience in the end. I really hadn't watched it in thirty years or so, but since we're on a Bakshi kick here of late at the Wop, and my recalcitrant Libran values demanded a revisit before casting a final judgmental stone, here we are...

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Oblivious to Mr. Kotter's pleas, Barbarino prepped for the big rumble with Boom Boom.
We see a garbage can and some trash having an existential debate before the trash hears an epiphany or an approaching garbage truck, and hops on, shouting "Fuck this city!". What an opening. In 1980's Brooklyn a shadowy figure rendezvous with a washed-up-on-the-beach (Eyyy-yo, Slade!) dame under a streetlamp, throwing her a chunk of biker leather, which she sobs over as he takes us back to the fifties, and the coat's origins. Vinnie (Richard Romanus) is the leader of a gang called The Stompers, his best friend is a Joker-esque cat called "Crazy" Shapiro (David Proval) whose homicidal father is a badge named Solly (Angelo Grisanti). When Vinnie's attempted coitus with a local kosher dish named Roz (Tina Bowman- later Romanus) is interrupted by her smothering papa (he chains her to her bed), the guys score some hookers and crash on the beach, waking up in the middle of a mafiosi beach party that Crazy eventually beats to death in a bloody brawl. On the run, Vinnie bumps into none other than Boogaloo Jones (Philip Michael Thomas), the head of the Chaplains, on the black side of the beach, leading to an inevitable rumble.

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"When Milton Berle Ran with Street Gangs" will return after these messages...
After Crazy ices a couple of Chaplains while on a double date with Vinnie, Roz, and Eva, his father investigates the murders and is pointed towards the Stompers by Boogaloo. Roz tells Crazy that his best pal is ditching town, making him the new head of the gang, entitled to her goodies as such, and he breaks himself off a warehouse piece upon hearing the news. Solly makes the scene and beats his son like a rutabaga until he sells Vinnie down the river over the double moidahs. As Vinnie's about to break the eff out like the measles, he unwittingly bumps into his old crew as they're about to rumble with the Chaplains. Crazy lives up to his nickname and busts wild shots from a nearby rooftop just as his old man is about to arrest Vinnie, and in a surreal swirl of psychedelia, swan dives on top of the detective, killing them both. As a heartbroken Roz makes a song request for her lost love, Vinnie leaves the city. Back in the eighties, the overweight has-been reveals herself as Roz and fingers the shadowy stranger as Vinnie, who decides to stick around this time, bringing the story to a happy ending of sorts...

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I think you know which side of the beach towel I'd be on.
There are a lot of good ideas and nice visuals here, but they seem disjointed by time, and further hindered by an unflattering, mismatched score that wears a synth-soaked eighties stamp even when recalling sounds from three decades earlier. Bakshi probably should have paid the licensing fees for the original tunes he wanted on the soundtrack, for better results. I would have liked to see the live action sequences with Yaphet Kotto and the New York Dolls that were ultimately cut from the film, too. When talking about this one, I find myself saying "I would have liked" more often than any of the other Bakshi films, and that ought to tell you something. On the scale, Good Lookin' earns a pair of Wops; not entirely unattractive, by anyone's standards, but far from gorgeous.

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"Somebody dosed Kid Creole's drink! Get the Coconuts, he's freaking out!"
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