Into the Night (1985)
Directed by John Landis
Written by Ron Koslow
Produced by George Folsey Jr., Ron Koslow
Starring Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfeiffer, David Bowie, Kathryn Harrold, Paul Mazursky, Bruce McGill, Clu Gulager, John Landis, Michael Zand, Hadi Sadjadi, Beruce Gramian, Carl Perkins, Jake Steinfeld, Irene Papas, Roger Vadim, Richard Farnsworth, Vera Miles, Stacey Pickren, Domingo Ambriz, Dan Aykroyd, Carmen Argenziano, Reid Smith
Boredom and frustration quietly distress a cuckolded, insomniac aerospace engineer (Goldblum) until he’s swept into the caper of a smuggler (Pfeiffer) pursued by a bloodlusty, Iranian quartet (Landis, Zand, Sadjadi, Gramian), a British hitman (Bowie), and his nefarious French employer (Vadim), who’re all voracious for emeralds from the Iranian shah’s defunct fisc that she’s conveyed from Switzerland. Limitless danger harries them across Los Angeles in their search for a safe recipient.
Violence and comedy are shrewdly balanced in Koslow’s story, the former of which is almost too harsh to be countered by the latter. Packed with action, slapstick, sight gags, compelling characters, and soundly shared exposition, it’s an ideal screenplay for….
….Landis, who directed this whilst charged with five counts of involuntary manslaughter for his part in the lethal disaster that plagued production of his segment in Twilight Zone: The Movie. His uncompromised craftsmanship is visible in plenteously pulchritudinous close-ups, and satisfying shots of palatial exteriors and sumptuous interiors in swanky locations through Ellay, or in a terrific opening shot descending to a runway at LAX shot from the undercarriage of a landing airplane.
Robert Paynter’s photography is rich in detail and color, especially its eye-popping reds.
Cuts by Malcolm Campbell are inevident, except those slickly brisking every accelerated chase.
Miscast Goldblum and Pfeiffer personably play off of each other as a refreshingly pre-romantic couple. As much appeal and nuance was conferred by Goldblum as Koslow to his nice nerd, an inadequate vessel for his famous peculiarities; Landis’s subsequent star Chevy Chase would’ve been shallower but funnier. Ice queen Pfeiffer thawed charmingly to abnegate her usual glamor, but her flighty conspiratress would’ve fit Kathleen Turner or Jennifer Jason Leigh like a glove….were the latter not a plaintiff in one of numerous wrongful death suits against Landis, Warner Bros., et al. during production.
A few supporting players swipe specific scenes: resurgent Bowie’s smarmily squirrelly when menacing the protagonists, a covetous federal agent is risibly rendered by perennially grumpy Gulagher as irately as McGill’s fraternal Elvis impersonator, and lanky Landis flails feistily as the clumsiest of the wantonly destructive Persians. Mazursky finally learned how to act in the ’70s, and he’s in his element as a lecherous movie producer lusting for one of his shapely supernumeraries (Harrold). Dissimilarly uncomfortable Vadim’s charisma can’t quite overcome a lingual barrier that stilts his delivery. Aykroyd, Ambriz, Farnsworth, Miles, and Papas animate passing yet pivotal people.
As in his contemporaneous Spies Like Us, Landis affordably, efficiently peopled nearly every scene with more fellow filmmakers (David Cronenberg, Jim Henson, Richard Franklin, Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan Demme, Amy Heckerling, Don Siegel, Paul Bartel, Jack Arnold, Andrew Marton, Daniel Petrie), more musicians (Carl Perkins, Lou Marini), screenwriters (Waldo Salt, Carl Gottlieb, Colin Higgins), members of his crew (DP Paynter, assistant director David Sosna, camera operator Christopher Dunn George, sound mixer William B. Kaplan, stunt coordinator Eddy Donno, costumer Sue Dugan, makeup artist Wes Dawn, unit publicist Saul Kahan), and others (makeup wizard Rick Baker, fitness guru Jake Steinfeld, Pfeiffer’s sister Dedee) in congruous cameos for the observant cinephile.
Orchestrations by Alf Clausen contribute to a greater depth in Ira Newborn’s score than that heard in his music for John Hughes’s pictures. It was composed to complement three good but gratingly misproduced tracks by B.B. King.
This odd flop from Landis’s fertile heyday is one among plenty of good, half-forgotten, mid-budgeted movies churned out by major studios in the ’80s that deserve reassessment, if only for its dash, sensational sites, and superabundant notables.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Spies Like Us or Romancing the Stone.