Monday, May 25, 2015

Blue Sunshine - 1978

Wow, before we get to the movie, it literally feels like just yesterday I was writing my first review this month and saying the reviews would be in small amount this month.  And, they will be, I mean here we are this month is almost over and this might be my last review.  Okay, on to the movie.

I revisit actor Zalman King in this 70's thriller about LSD.  Zalman King was in that Gorehouse Greats film Trip with the Teacher, and he greatly impressed me in that as a creepy weirdo that was completely insane and brutal- yet balanced, intelligent, and human.  Here, he plays the star of the film Jerry Zipkin.   Jerry is in a house when a close friend randomly loses the wig he was wearing, goes crazy, and starts killing people.

Jerry escapes and begins to investigate why this might have happened.  He uncovers that his friend was involved with a local politician when they went to Stanford University together.  The words written on a picture of them is "Blue Sunshine".  So Jerry goes around investigating what this Blue Sunshine is, and in the meantime a couple more people lose all their hair and become murderers.  Jerry is close by when a woman goes crazy and attacks some children, he is then suspect for the murder and has to evade the law.  Jerry also discovers that Blue Sunshine is the name for a type of LSD that the politician, Edward Flemming, sold while at Stanford.  Jerry's hunch now is that the LSD is the thing that made these people go crazy and become killers.

This movie is probably almost entirely forgotten.  It was made in a strange era, the movie has some of the 70's disco scene, it has those remnants of the 60's drug scene, and it has that 70's drug fear built into it, there were a couple of films that came out around the 70's all about creepy drug experiences gone wrong, and this is a prime example.

The movie succeeds in a astounding amount of ways.  The movie is I guess a mystery/ suspense/ thriller by genre and in that way it succeeds in being all of the above.  The mystery is interesting enough, even though it's solved pretty early on, it makes us interested in seeing how it will play out and it makes us wonder how Jerry will stop it.  As a suspense movie it's done very well also.  The atmosphere gives a very edgy feel of anything-could-happen-at-any-time.  When Jerry is investigating people that are potentially killers-to-be, we are as intrigued as he is about whether or not they "took the acid".  As a thriller this movie blows a lot of others away.  Like I said the atmosphere is tense.  Zalman King turns in a very great paranoid/antihero performance, being all of crazy, sane, paranoid, guilty and innocent.  He was a really good actor, and electrifying man to watch, and it's a shame he was not better known.

This movie was genuinely really interesting and good.  I didn't know what to expect, probably just some bland drug fear film, but the mix of suspense and even horror was really well done.  I realized after I finished this and looked it up on IMDb I have seen two of this director's other works, his most recent film, 2004 film Satan's Little Helper, and Squirm from 1976.  Both of those films showed a lot of promise and had a high interest factor as well.  Despite being lampooned on MST3K, I think we could all agree Squirm was at least well executed, with decent effects and a high production value.

This movie is kind of similar to Squirm.  Yeah, sure you could probably riff on this, find the scenes involving the disco bar scenes and the sometimes pretty poor wig make up funny - or you could look past that and get caught up in the eeriness of the film.  It's made cheaply, low budget, and sometimes that really works in the favor of the movie maker.  I think it makes people use more of what they have and not reach for too many high cost shots.  They make better use of things like atmosphere, acting, and then they add in weird original music to really get the creep factor up.

I would recommend people not to drink, smoke, or riff on this movie.  Okay, you could smoke.  But not get too silly.  I might've been a little high when watching part of this, and it made it better in my opinion.  I think I got sucked into the story more.  It's just got a creepiness factor I really appreciated.  They did a good job with that paranoia:  has the whole world gone crazy or is it just YOU?

The acting was great, the music was weird and fit the film perfectly, and the production value was awesome.  The pacing was good, everything.  Which led me to want to rate this really highly, but I also realize that it will only get less and less known.  And partially I understand and realize why.  Despite the fact that this movie made me want to see everything director/writer Jeff Lieberman had done, this movie does belong lost in the sands of time.

It's weird to think that, but it's true.  I couldn't even say why, for sure.  However, those factors all concerned, I still think this movie deserves 4 stars.  It's my website, after all.

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