January 4, 2011

Neon noir rescued from VHS ignominy

Better late than never: one of Alan Rudolph’s weirdest and most overlooked cult films finally sees the light of DVD

Also this week: Fubar 2, Catfish, The Last Exorcism 

Like the fluorescent signs that light up the fictitious streets of Rain City, Trouble in Mind (Shout! Factory)  is flagrantly gaudy. Stuffed with references to old classics like Casablanca and more recent ones like Blade Runner (released three years prior), Alan Rudolph’s 1985 neo-noir has for the most part lived a neglected video life here in North America, having only been obtainable on VHS. 

The setup is textbook noir: Kris Kristofferson plays Hawk, a weathered ex-cop who’s just been released from prison for manslaughter. As he makes his unwelcome return, a young couple (Keith Carradine and Lori Singer) shows up with their newborn and they all converge in a grungy cafe run by Hawk’s former flame. But there’s trouble in mind (natch), and it’s not long before Hawk sleeps with both women and the younger man falls into a life of glam and crime. 

"Cult appeal" doesn’t begin to define Rudolph’s gritty and glitzy backdrop, where zoot suits and pompadours frequently clash with trench coats and fedoras, and an out-of-drag Divine portrays the city’s deadliest kingpin. 

In one of many insightful nuggets on the DVD’s excellent hour-long making-of doc, Rudolph describes the film’s timeline as occurring “when the past meets the future, but it’s not in the present.” 

Another bizarre anecdote involves Kristofferson inadvertently punching Carradine in the mouth, then getting a hand infection and temporarily shutting down production. Also included is a cheery conversation between Rudolph and his longtime score provider, Mark Isham, in which they discuss their past collaborations. 

Also Available
Decide what’s real and what’s faux with a triple bill of dubious documentaries. There will be laughs in Fubar 2 (Alliance), a suck-free sequel that sees Terry and Deaner getting rich quick in oil town. Not your typical Can-com, Fubar 2 is the dramamockumentary that keeps on givin’r. Extras: commentaries, deleted scenes, “Terry and Deaner on Vacation.” 

Also on tap is that other Facebook movie, Catfish (Alliance), about a young man seduced by an older woman who resorts to pitifully intricate lengths to deceive him. If you enjoyed You’ve Got Mail, Fatal Attraction and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, this movie is for you. Extras: filmmakers interview (or, better yet, read mine). 

Last up is The Last Exorcism (Alliance), a frightening and frustrating found-footage horror film a la Blair Witch, in which a Reverend who falsely claims to perform successful exorcisms falls victim to the real deal. Extras: commentaries (one featuring producer Eli Roth), making-of, genuine accounts (pfft).