Thursday, February 28, 2008

Obscure Movie Of The Week: Runaway (1984)

There was a point in time -- and God knows you're never going to get the man to admit to this -- when KISS bass player and legendary money lover Gene Simmons was, shall we say, worried about what his little rock band was going to do sans makeup. I mean, KISS had already lost two founding members in Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, and staged a Live event on MTV to unveil the new band without their trademark makeup.

BTW, before I forget, Gene's been in the news a bit lately, and it really shouldn't surprise anyone that a video like this has surfaced. And there's a good chance that by the time you click on the above link, Gene's lawyers might have won and taken it down.

But Gene's sexcapades, which were already legendary, aren't the movies we're talking about here. We're talking about a forgotten little movie called Runaway, which is a Tom Selleck futuristic vehicle that had to pitched to Selleck along the lines of, "Think Blade Runner but scarier. It'll get you off that TV show of yours, you won't have to wear a Detroit Tigers hat anymore. We'll even cut your hair like Harrison Ford's...yes, you can keep the mustache, and we'll get Christopher Walken or somebody to play the very scary villain. And the guy who will one day write a film called Jurassic Park will write and direct it, so stop your sobbing and sign here..."

Instead of Walken, Simmons was cast in his first real movie role (No, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park doesn't count as his debut because, well, for one that was a made of TV movie where Gene is playing Gene Simmons of KISS, and have you even seen part of THAT mess of a movie?), and truth be told, he's actually very good as the villain. Just ask Gene, he'll tell you all about it. In fact, according to Simmons, director Michael Crichton's casting of him was based primarily on this: Crichton asked Simmons to stare at him for about a minute without making any facial expressions. Apparently, Crichton decided on this that Simmons looked menacing enough and cast him for the role of Dr. Charles Luther.

Not to say Gene was going to need to get his press folks to strike up a Supporting Actor Oscar campaign, but the movie was at least enough to warrant another role or two for old Gene. But as it turns out, the revamped KISS did well enough for about another decade without their makeup to sell enough records to keep that money grabbing bastard Simmons in silk pajamas. And I'm sure Gene isn't the easiest of folks to work with. I mean, this is the guy who when all four members of KISS released solo albums in the late '70's, ended his with an extremely faithful and un-ironic version of "When You Wish Upon A Star." In other words, Got No Spleen, Gene, was thinking he had leading man material coming his way. To which we need to be reminded of what Eddie Murphy said in his landmark standup movie, Eddie Murphy Delirious: "Rock stars get all sorts of pussy...all you gotta do is sing...because Mick Jagger is one of the ugliest mother fuckers in the universe." Sorry Gene, you just not the most handsome man one could put on a movie screen.

Runaway takes place in a far too distant future where machines are turning against man. Machines run by Simmons' character. And it's up to Tom Selleck and a little hottie played by Cynthia Rhodes (who sadly didn't do much film work after this) to save the day. Oh, and a pre-Cheers Kirstie Alley has a major role as well. I don't want to spoil all the fun here, but Simmons character kills her. Universal's HD channel has been replaying the movie probably more than they should lately, and there are worse ways to spend 90-minutes.

Selleck, it should be noted, has had an odd career. He did have a major hit with 3 Men and a Baby, was actually funny in his numerous appearances as Monica's older love interest on "Friends", and should have gotten a lot more roles by playing a gay TV reporter in the otherwise forgettable In & Out. Where did Selleck go wrong? Probably because he never got to be Harrison Ford. Turns out Steven Spielberg wanted him to play Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but he was still under contract for that little TV show that first made him a star. And he's probably pissed off that George Clooney is having the movie career of movie careers after getting his own start on television.


Mackenzie said...

I got nothing on this movie but I just wanted to say hats off to "Michael Clayton" for giving a spot to the dude who played seminal 80's nerds "Cole" in "Bachelor Party" AND "Kent" in "Real Genius" as a methodical thug w/a memorable scene where he basically says to Tilda Swinton, "Look Bitch, you want me to kill this guy or not?" w/out actually having to say it.

And extra props for giving Ken Howard AKA The White Shadow a pivotal role. Looks like the guys gone from coaching Salami to eating shitloads of the stuff

Dirtylaundry said...

UHM, how can you not forget the unexpected and frankly out of nowhere appearance of Danny Noonan in that movie?

mackenzie said...

god. you're right. add the dark haired kid from Weird Science and they'd 've hit the Grand Slam

Alex Abariotes said...

Did somebody say Weird Science?