Tuesday, December 22, 2015

This World, Then The Fireworks (1997) - White Trash Noir

Directed By Michael Oblowitz with excellent cinematography by Tom Priestley Jr. 

Written by Larry Gross; adapted from a story by Jim Thompson, edited by Emma E. Hickox; a complimentary soundtrack by Pete Rugolo. The film stars Billy Zane (Twin Peaks TV, Dead Calm (1989)), Sheryl Lee (Twin Peaks TV, Wild At Heart (1990) Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) Mother Night (1996)), Gina Gershon (Bound (1997) Palmetto (1998)) looking like a dead ringer for Ava Gardner, Seymour Cassel ( The Killers (1964) Dick Tracy (1990)), Will Patton ( After Hours (1985) Romeo Is Bleeding (1993), William Hootkins, and Rue McClanahan (Angel's Flight (1965)).

A circa 1950s period piece This World, Then The Fireworks (the title, a Southern colloquial expression translating to basically "here and now then Hell") absolutely wallows in stylistic Noir atmospherics without the hinderance of the old Hollywood Hayes code censorship. It's a wide open anything goes story of a quite possibly genetically deficient, inbred, murderous screwed up family.

In a flashback sequence Marty Lakewood (Zane) narrates the traumatic event of their life.  On the occasion of his and his twin sister Carol's (Gershon) 4th birthday party they, along with their Mother (McClanahan) follow their neighbor into his house where he finds their father Mr. Lakewood naked in bed with his wife. During the heated confrontation Marty's father pulls a shotgun from beneath the bed and blasts the man in the face before his neighbor can pull the trigger of the gun he's brandishing. Marty's mother standing in shock is also hit by some stray buckshot and brains. Marty tells us how funny things looked especially his nakedfather and the naked neighbor lady and how the man had only half a head. Marty concludes telling us that his father was executed for murder and the neighbors wife committed suicide. All this left Marty, Carol, and Mom, what you may call seriously not quite right in the head. 

Back in the present we learn that Marty has become a successful investigative reporter for a Chicago newspaper. He leads a somewhat normal life with a wife and two children, but he gets his info on police corruption underhandedly and illegally, from pushing morphine to informants. The corrupt police get wise, they gun down Marty's informant and almost trap Marty in a Chicago Blues Bar. Marty decides to skedaddle out of town and head to California where his mother and sister have moved.

Chicago Noir

In a seaside town in California, Marty finds his mother an increasingly hopeless bible thumper and his recently divorced sister now a successful prostitute. In another flashback Marty relates the story of when a bunch of his cousins tried to gang rape Carol dragging her out behind the barn and holding her down on the ground. Marty came to her rescue with a two by four. Marty and Carol become close, real close, incestuously close. Marty's arrival and his renewed relationship with Carol under her own roof sends his mother very close to the edge.  

Carol Lakewood (Gina Gershon channelling Ava Gardner) 

Carol hooking at Clair's Cocktail Lounge
Carol and Marty

Marty gets a job at a local paper, his big city journalist career expertise soon increases circulation, but Marty is at heart a flake, he quits his job in quite spectacular fashion and soon becomes involved with a sexually frustrated police woman Lois Archer (Lee) who is a masochist. Marty happily dominates her and hatches a scheme to get her to sell the seaside house she owns with her brother (who is in the military and stationed in Hawaii) and abscond with the cash. Lois becomes sexually insatiable.

Lois Archer (Sheryl Lee) the cold fish gets moist for Marty

Before Marty can put his scheme to sell Lois Archer's house into action. He gets side tracked when he spots a detective tailing Carol. Following the detective back to his office Marty pretends to be interested in hiring him for a job. Once the detective is at ease Marty brutally kills him.

The director explains in the Bluray extras that he assigned the warm red and orange palette for Marty and Carol's incandescent immorality, while he used blue as the motif to emphasize the "Ice Queen" aura surrounding Lois Archer 


screwed to death

The film's main flaw is that Billy Zane comes off as a touch too modern for the 50's, and not hard boiled enough for either the genre or the time period. Still the film is entertaining enough to keep you interested and its now a visual treat with a decent Bluray restoration fro Kino Lorber,  8/10 

No comments:

Post a Comment