Friday, August 14, 2015
'80s TV WORK - ABEL FERRARA
Miami Vice (1985)
"Home Invaders" - The only Tubbs-free episode in Vice's five year run. It involves a solo Crockett chasing down a group of hockey masked robbers headed up by David Patrick Kelly ("Warriors, come out and play-yay!") who are knocking off mansions with house keys lifted by local parking valets. There's a great sequence in a hair salon set to Sheila E.'s "The Glamorous Life" and a nifty cameo by the always reliable Sylvia Miles as, what else, a horny old society lady. Not bad!
"The Dutch Oven" - Yes, you read that episode title correctly. And, yes, the Urban Dictionary definition for that is most apt. Pew! This one's a Trudy (Olivia Brown) episode, and there are some howlingly bad flashbacks of her and her boyfriend set to terrible '80s music. Also, a very half-assed concert performance by David Johansen in a top hat doing "King of Babylon." However, there's a flashy early Giancarlo Esposito ("Gus Fring") performance at the center and, better still, Crockett gets a giant bag of cocaine thrown in his face at the end. He does a scene afterwards with the blow still clinging to his schnoze ala Scarface. I'd like to think this was Ferrara's input, but with TV who can tell?
Crime Story pilot episode (1986)
After doing some tenure on Michael Mann's more stylish cop show, Ferrara directed the feature-length pilot episode of this grittier '60s Chicago PD set crime procedural also produced by Mann. I'd never seen a single episode before, but this one was interesting enough that I may want to check a few more out. There's another howler of a flashback sequence, this one involving Lt. Torello mourning his dead partner's ghost. But any show built entirely around real life ex-Chicago cop Dennis Farina is mostly a good thing. There are some other snappy roles for a young David Caruso and, even better, a less bald Jon Polito (a Coen Bros favorite). The period soundtrack supervised by Todd Rundgren is chock full of golden oldies. Considering this was made for TV, there's a better than average handheld camera shootout in a shopping mall that almost makes up for those flashbacks. Nice shooting, Abel.
The Gladiator (1986)
Imagine Death Wish meets Death Proof meets an after school special about the dangers of drunk driving. That's how this 1986 vehicular vigilante made-for-TV feature starring Ken Wahl (Wiseguy) plays out. In other words, a semi-interesting but mostly failed effort that might have had more pizzazz were it not timeslotted somewhere between Mr. Belvedere and Dynasty.
Wahl plays a mechanic who soups up his truck and takes his vengeance out on the road after his kid brother gets killed by a joyriding driver in a muscle-bound "death car" (sound familiar, QT?). He says "hell" when he really means to say "fuck" but can't because it's network TV, rigs his flatbed with a ludicrous harpoon device that he shoots at other motorists. He makes a lot of citizens arrests and occasionally knocks boots with lady radio host Nancy Allen, who's doing on-air think pieces about this most mysterious crusader "The Gladiator." Like a low-rent Superman and Lois Lane, she also happens to be unknowingly dating him. This was obviously a money gig for Abel and bears little, if any, of his directorial stamp. Certainly not the parts that discourage drinking while driving.