Couch Trip

Fox Film Noir

In making the tired and unnecessary point that the story in Boomerang is a small-time crime yarn that could have happened in any sleepy American town, the film opens with the kind of ironing-board-flat voice-over narration that has graced many a 1950s instructional short. It's so similar, in fact, that all that's missing in the movie's prologue are razor-sharp barbs from Joel Hodgson and his robot friends. But enough about what Elia Kazan's 1947 drama gets wrong. Using a mixture of noir aesthetics and true-crime verisimilitude, Boomerang would come to epitomize the emerging genre of "docu-noir." Following the execution-style murder of a beloved local priest in small-town Connecticut, the city faces schisms between the sloth-paced police force, the corrupt reform government and the ever-critical press. The one man that can forge some unity is state's attorney Henry Harvey (Dana Andrews), asked to prosecute the desperate, glassy-eyed war veteran (Arthur Kennedy), who the fuzz is finally convinced planted the .32-caliber bullet in the Rev. Lambert's skull. Great, except that Harvey happens to think the man is innocent — despite mounting eyewitness testimony to the contrary and even a limp confession signed by the accused. Anticipating 12 Angry Men, Boomerang turns out to be a more-than-meets-the-eye courtroom drama rather than a noir or a documentary, and it's handled by a young Kazan with a wise sociopolitical awareness and a firm ethical grounding. Initially released in 2006 but immediately withdrawn from circulation, the only extra on this once-rare Fox disc is an informative and entertaining commentary from film scholars Alain Silver and James Ursini. —John Thomason

The Wizard of Gore
Genius Products

The glut of horror film remakes in the 21st century has seen far more failures than successes. From The Fog to The Hills Have Eyes, these paltry reworkings of classic movies are a sad lot. Luckily, Jeremy Kasten managed to make an exception to the general rule with his 2007 work, The Wizard of Gore. Rather than going for scares, Kasten plays up the camp and viscera of the original Herschell Gordon Lewis classic.

Kip Pardue stars as Ed Bigelow, a hipster douche bag who lives off a fat trust fund and runs a weekly newspaper out of his posh loft. For kicks, he and gal pal Maggie (Bijou Phillips and her expansive forehead) check out a magic show featuring Montag the Magnificent (Crispin Glover rockin' a pompadour). The act consists of Montag disemboweling, cooking or chopping up random strippers (all played by actual Suicide Girls) from the audience. They're fine, of course. All part of the act ... or is it? The following day these same lovely Suicide Girl volunteers turn up dead.

The story is a neo-noir with its flashback structure and murder mystery plot. Bigelow's vintage wardrobe further emphasizes the retro style. The film hinges on Glover's gloriously unhinged performance as Montag. Forget subtlety — he knows it would be wasted here — Glover chews the scenery with aplomb, managing to outdo his fellow cult co-stars, Brad Dourif and Jeffrey Combs. Pardue plays Bigelow similar to Peter Weller in Naked Lunch: He's too hip to be empathetic.

Overall, The Wizard of Gore stands as a rare success in the horror remake trend, and really shines when Glover is on screen. —Mike White

Dallas — The Complete Ninth Season
Warner Home Video

People who complain that every episode of this controversial season never really happened forget that every season of Dallas never really happened. The Ewings? Southfork Ranch? All pretend! So it's no big stretch to think Pam Ewing dreamed up all of season nine when The Man From Atlantis was taking too long in the shower. That'd be actor Patrick Duffy, who had his character Bobby Ewing killed off onscreen so that he could pursue a film career that was also killed onscreen in three TV movies — and that's including providing the voice of a goat in an Alice in Wonderland cartoon. Needless to say, he wanted back on the show and since Dallas was losing ground to the glitzier, ditzier Dynasty, they brought dead Bobby back in pay-dirt "Jump the Shark" fashion.

In the 15-minute featurette "Seasons of Change," writer-producer David Paulsen justifies this lapse in credibility with "I never heard anybody come up with a better solution." At least he didn't have the entire series be the brainwave of an autistic child like those kooks on St. Elsewhere did. While you might expect a do-over season to be a totally useless watch, it is fun seeing Beastmaster Marc Singer poking around prime time, the ridiculously dressed Barbara Carrera who was briefly Dallas' resident Alexis Carrington, the return of Barbara Bel Geddes as the Ewing's matriarch Miss Ellie, and a season finale with more than its share of explosions and screen kills once the writers knew they won't have to follow through on any of it with logic. The season's biggest loser? Donna and Ray Krebbs' adopted deaf child. The pathos you originally felt for him is nothing compared to what you feel now knowing that the loving home he'd finally found was just a rich lady's dream vapors.

Even in a year when J.R. Ewing came dangerously close to being the show's good guy, he could still dish delicious invective like, "I want dirt on Kenderson. Go back to kindergarten if you have to. And Harry, the dirtier the better!"

Still, two troubling questions worthy of a S.A.G. tribunal remain: if season nine was a dream, shouldn't Donna Reed, who played Miss Ellie in season eight, play her again in season 10 instead of Barbara Bel Geddes? Seems only fair. And if Abby Ewing attended Bobby's funeral on the Dallas spin-off Knots Landing, couldn't that show's seventh season also be the intellectual property of Pam Ewing's overripe imagination? —Serene Dominic

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