After the 1970s recast film noir in shades of nostalgia (Chinatown, 1974, The Late Show, 1977) and private eye revisionism and cynicism (The Long Goodbye, 1973, Night Moves, 1975), the eighties gave it a burst of color and energy with Neon Noir. John Landis’s Into the Night (1985) doesn’t have the self-consciously chiaroscuro lighting we associate with noir (Landis uses light for clarity, not atmosphere) but otherwise he takes a classic noir story—the middle-class innocent jolted out of his protected but dull existence and plunged into a nightmarish odyssey into the urban underworld—and treats it right. It was a commercial disappointment in its day and tends to be forgotten in the annals of post-noir crime cinema but if anything it looks better today than it did in eighties.
Jeff Goldblum is our married suburban everyman Ed Okin, an aerospace engineer whose dreams of space have been grounded in cubicle land, sleepwalking through his days and unable to sleep at night. “My life is a dead-end,” he tells his carpool coworker (Dan Aykroyd), “I feel like I’m from another planet,” and things don’t improve when he finds his wife having an affair (but slinks away rather than confront her). This isn’t a man bored by his compromises to conformity, but a man unsure why he is so unfulfilled after doing everything right.
John Landis had his finger on the pulse of pop culture – and in particular the intersection of comedy, horror and music – from the late 1970s through the 1980s: “Animal House,” “The Blues Brothers,” “An American Werewolf in London,” the epic music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” This week “¡Three Amigos!” (HBO) debuts on Blu-ray, a film that was (at least by Hollywood standards) a “disappointment” upon original release but found an audience on home video.
All these years later, this affectionate tribute to old Hollywood and innocent matinee westerns is just as funny, thanks to a knowing script (by Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels and Randy Newman), engaging performances (by Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short) and Landis’ savvy direction, which is larger than life in all the ways that those original westerns were. Landis has a real affection for this film and shared in a brief interview where we discussed the film, his love of horror movies and what he’s been watching.
JL: It’s magnificent. I was really blown away by it.
MSN: Comedy is such a product of its time. In the eighties, you and Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis dominated with madcap antics and energized comedy. Now there’s a whole new comedy aesthetic, which is focused on gross-out humor and arrested adolescence. What do you think has changed?
JL: A lot has to do with the movies the studios are making. It’s a different time and they won’t take the risk that they used to take. Things are a lot more conservative. But having said that, I thought “Bridesmaids” was funny. I mean it wasn’t perfect but it made me laugh and that’s what you want from a comedy.