VIDEO ROUND-UP / By the light of the tube: John Lyttle reviews new releases including Frankie & Johnny, Def By Temptation and Under Suspicion

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
FRANKIE & JOHNNY (CIC 15 113 mins). For sour sentimentalists. Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer, both spectacularly miscast, work as a short-order cook and waitress, each leery of emotional entanglement. After many misunderstandings and snappy one-liners and hesitations, the couple uneasily become lovers, just like the characters in the hoary old song. This is condescending Hollywood fakery with wafer-thin pretensions to realism, yet the essential artifice is what makes it, on some silly level, satisfying. You can giggle at the cliches and still be captivated by the prefabricated sitcom feelings. The story also works better on the small screen. Available 17 July.

ROVER DANGERFIELD (Warner U 70 mins). The animation isn't what it could be, the sound recording has a hollow ring and the songs are indifferent, but this animated feature provides a fair measure of fun. Much like the man behind its star voice, American comic Rodney Dangerfield, here transformed into a hip Las Vegas dog driven out of town (by gangster pooches) to the countryside, there to find love and friendship. Children should enjoy Dangerfield's blatant cheek, adults will appreciate his jaundiced world view. Available 22 July.

IRON MAZE (First Independent 15 98 mins). Thriller fuelled by America's current Japanphobia. Oriental billionaire plans to buy a Pennsylvania steel mill, only to be found badly battered. A racist attack or something more? Hiroaki Yoshida's film aims for complexity - practically all the cast members are given the opportunity to illuminate their version of events - and achieves complete confusion, leaving Bridget Fonda and flavour-of-the-month Jeff Fahey to pant their way through sub-noir sex scenes. On release.

DEF BY TEMPTATION (Troma/Orpheus 18 94 mins). An instant addition to the canon of so-bad-it's-good classics and, inadvertently, a fascinating glimpse into the contradictions of contemporary American black culture. The Devil is hanging around a grotty New York singles bar disguised as a lissome lovely, picking up arrogant black studs and guilt-ridden husbands and clawing them to death (while sweet soul music plays on the soundtrack). Then a young unsullied preacher (James Bond III) comes to Sin City, leading to the traditional clash between Good and Evil. Bond writes, directs and stars, and he wants to eat his cake. The plot establishes its victims as sexists or 'perverts' (ie gay), but, offensively, views female sexuality as evil: 'She's one hot bitch'. It speaks volumes that the heroine is a Bible-thumping gospel Grannie, the traditional face of black conservatism. Available 8 July.

QUEEN'S LOGIC (FoxVideo 15 100 mins). A group of friends come together again at a wedding in the old neighbourhood of Queen's, New York. Steve Rash aims for Big Chill territory and lands closer to a blue collar thirtysomething (Ken Olin appears as Ray, the token artist). Still, this deadpan mid- life crisis comedy-drama is undeniably compulsive in its simplified TV fashion, thanks to a cleverly worked script and some heartening acting from John Malkovich - playing a gay man who can't understand other gay men - Jamie Lee Curtis, Joe Mantegna and Kevin Bacon. On release. See Competitions.

MANNEQUIN ON THE MOVE (Warner PG 91 mins). Less a sequel, more a remake of the unexpectedly successful Mannequin, the story of a department store dummy (Kristy Swanson) that comes to life when love breaks an ancient curse. Quite a few ancient curses may come to viewers' minds as the first movie's gags are hauled over the coals again. On release.

BODY PARTS (CIC 18 85 mins). Straight-to-video for this uncredited, updated remake of The Hands of Orlac, directed by Eric Red, writer of vampire classic After Dark. The idea has juice - criminal psychologist Jeff Fahey loses an arm in a car accident, becoming the grateful recipient of a serial killer's reluctantly donated limb - but the execution is as slapdash as it is predictable, despite the series of rather prankish murders which bloodily reclaim the killer's missing extremities. On release.

UNDER SUSPICION (20/20 18 97 mins). Engaging Fifties-set English murder mystery provides the old-fashioned pleasure of figuring out whodunnit. Seedy Liam Neeson has been ejected from the police force - his sexual adventures accidentally led to a fellow officer's death - and now works as a private detective, specialising in divorce cases. Neeson's wife and a client, a famous painter, are brutally shot in a seaside hotel, and Neeson is suspect Number One. The film teeters on the verge of being more disturbing than it actually is (there's one coincidence too many before the end), but writer/director Simon Moore keeps you guessing. On release. See Competitions.

LIEBESTRAUM (Warner 18 108 mins). Hysterically overheated erotic thriller, a one-note exercise in 'style' at the expense of audience interest. An architectural expert (Kevin Anderson), visiting his dying mother, becomes involved with an old friend's wife, duplicating the circumstances of a 40-year-old murder. This may sound like fun. It isn't, not at this funereal pace. Available 22 July.

THE LONG WALK HOME (FoxVideo PG 92 mins). Moving - if a mite literal and liberal - recreation of the 1955 Alabama bus boycott that helped bring an end to segregation. Sissy Spacek and Whoopi Goldberg bounce beautifully off one another as well-meaning white lady and proud, put-upon maid, illuminating their roles with rare intelligence. Despite the historically accurate events however, there's a surprising lack of tension, as if the production team was being careful not to inflame present-day passions. On release. See Competitions.


Widescreen comes to the small screen with a vengeance this month. The 'letterbox' format offers advantages and disadvantages. Purists should enjoy seeing the full cinema image intact as opposed to the usual 'pan and scan' method employed for video and television (publicity material clams that 33 per cent more of the image can be seen). The unconvinced will complain that big action scenes can sometimes be rendered indistinct, imposing eye strain, and that subtitles, kept to their original projection ratio, become close to unreadable. Whatever, three major video distributors, FoxVideo, Columbia Tristar and CIC, are unleashing a variety of Widescreen fare, hoping to stimulate interest in older titles noted for visual sweep. Columbia Tristar offers Lawrence of Arabia (the restored director's cut), Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Kenneth Branagh's version of Henry V, canny choices with an emphasis on spectacle. Prices range from pounds 10.99 to pounds 14.99. The FoxVideo catalogue embraces a broader spectrum of genres. Musicals include Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, The King and I, Carousel and The Sound of Music. Sci-fi films are represented by The Abyss, Return of the Jedi and Alien. War and action fans will gravitate to The Longest Day, Die Hard 2 and Tora, Tora, Tora, though the latter proves that not even the latest gimmick can save a movie that was a turkey the first time around. Release date: 11 July. Retail price: pounds 12.99. On 6 July CIC unveil the Widescreen ET, backing up Born on the Fourth of July, Flight of the Intruder and Apocalypse Now. Prices between pounds 9.99 to pounds 12.99. Horror fans will doubtless shell out pounds 12.99 for Return of the Living Dead, available at the end of July. True movie buffs with cash to spare will think little of spending pounds 1,300 for Philips 28-inch widescreen television set, pounds 1,100 for the Nokia model and Grundig's deluxe monster, due for August delivery, a snip at pounds 3,500. Prices are approximate.


We have 10 copies of John Malkovich's Queen's Logic video to give away, plus 10 copies of Places in the Heart and 10 tickets to Malkovich's latest hit play, A Slip of the Tongue, now running at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Just name the play Malkovich brought to the West End last year. And who wrote the play?

Ten copies of the thriller Under Suspicion available. Name the movie in which Liam Neeson co-stars with Melanie Griffith. And name the co-star he lived with for two years.

Plus, 20 copies of The Long Walk Home up for grabs. Q: Sissy Spacek's first Oscar nomination was for which role? Whoopi Goldberg practises which profession in The Player?

Rules: one entry per household per competition. Multiple entries are not allowed. Entries must be on a postcard. Competitions close 10 July.

Address postcards to: Walk, Logic or Suspicion, Listings, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.