Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Hot Spot (1990) "I can find it in the dark"

Directed by Dennis Hopper (Colors (1988) as actor, Blue Velvet (1986), River's Edge (1986), Black Widow (1987), Red Rock West (1993), True Romance (1993)), based on a hard boiled 1952 novel "Hell Hath No Fury" by Charles Williams, with a screenplay by Charles Williams and Nona Tyson updated to 1989. Cinematography was by Ueli Steiger. An outstanding bluesy soundtrack by John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis, Taj Mahal and many others.



Wind. We see an incandescent sun rising. The gust patterns ripples on naked sand. Broiling heat, a parched desert, enveloping dunes, a topography of the bottom of an ancient evaporated ocean. A silent inferno scored by wind. Our desolate view is pierced by a fleeting raptor. But this raptor is a '50s relic, a sleek, black mechanical sled, chromium trimmed with tail fins. Genus Studebaker, Species Silver Hawk. It cruises. A mirage shimmering down a two lane blacktop. A highway being erased, swallowed by sand and sagebrush. It's driver, a drifter named Harry Madox (Johnson) occasionally stops to take a leak. Dust devils swirl across the landscape. The place Dog Dick, West Texas, the town Landers, the time 1989. So begins The Hot Spot.

A glimpse of the Hawk

Sensuous Dunes

Harry Madox, Don Johnson

The film stars Don Johnson as Harry Madox a cool, suave, shady, drifter. He's a silver tongued devil Don Juan, who makes one too many pit stops in the road movie of his life. Madox, with just C-note in his pocket, blows into Landers for gas. In short order he gets a fill up, a cool beer at a strip joint, a full eyeball of Gloria Harper, and slickers his way into a used car salesman job at Harshaw Motors.

Dog Dick, West Texas

The Hawk and Madox

Madox having a beer at the Yellow Rose with Jack Nance as Julian Ward

 a vision of innocence 

Harshaw (Jerry Hardin ) and Gulick (Charles Martin Smith)

Jerry Hardin bulls about as George Harshaw a town big shot, a wheeler dealer businessman and used car czar. Charles Martin Smith nails Lon Gulick a nebbish, numbnuts used car salesman, in the kind of part that in Classic Noir would have been reserved for Elisha Cook Jr. or Strother Martin. Jack Nance (Blue Velvet (1986), Barfly (1987), Wild At Heart (1990), Lost Highway (1997)) is Julian Ward a goofy, frail, bank manager by day and a salacious tittie bar lounge lizard by night. Barry Corbin plays the Sheriff.

Jennifer Connelly as Gloria Harper

Jennifer Connelly (Once Upon A Time In America (1984), Mulholland Falls (1996), Dark City (1998) Requiem For A Dream (2000)), plays the sweet nineteen year old Gloria Harper a doe eyed, demure, damsel in distress. She's the townie girl next door with a past. Frank Sutton (William Sadler) is an oily sidewinder who scratches out a living at his backwoods shack doing Landscaping, Oil Field Service, Deer Processing. He's a squirrel eating, desert pack rat, dirtbag.

Desert Rat Frank Sutton (william Sadler) 

Sutton  with Gloria
A slick squirrel eatin' blackmailing dirtbag

Sutton, an amateur photographer, is also supplementing his income slinking about as a window peeper and voyeur taking nudie pics and beaver shots of the members of Landers Ladies Club making him a squirrel eating, desert pack rat, BLACKMAILING dirtbag.

Sutton's blackmail photos

Dolly Hardshaw (Virginia Madsen) about to pounce on Harry

Harry and Gloria watching Dolly

Dolly the tease

Virginia Madsen torches this hicksville down as Dolly Harshaw the round heels trophy wife of George.  She's a split tail, sausage jocky, that cruises the main drag in a hot pink 59 Caddy convertible passing out nookie tickets everywhere she goes. As soon as Dolly sees Harry she's dripping ready to play hide the salami.

Dolly Harshaw: There's only two things to do in this town. You got a TV?
Harry Madox: Nope.
Dolly Harshaw: Well then, you're down to one. Lotsa luck!

Only Harry, an accomplished ass wrangler, has already been scoping out his drilling prospects with Gloria. Giving Dolly the impression that she's getting the brush for Gloria sets up a classic "hell hath no fury as a woman scorned" plot point. Dolly doubles down on her seduction of Harry who's all to happy to do the tube steak boogie with her while chipping away at Gloria. Dolly invites Harry to visit after dark.

Dolly's Lair Sex Game Sequence

While all this burying the bone with Dolly is going on at night, Harry is scheming during the day about robbing the Landers bank. You see back when Harry was a "just got in town Jasper" there was a fire at the local burger joint. The whole town went to watch, and the tellers were all volunteer firemen leaving the bank empty save for Julian Ward (Nance) the manager who was taking a dump. Harry had stepped in to open an account, and talky Julian revealed that they hadn't hooked up the surveillance system yet. From that day on Harry began cooking up a plan to set another fire and clean out the cash.

Empty bank

Julian Ward with a copy of Juggs Magazine emerges from the bank restroom

As Harry gets closer to Gloria gaining her confidence, she reveals that her step sister recently committed suicide the result of Sutton discovering that she had a lesbian relationship with a town teacher and was threatening to tell her mother and the School Board. On top of all that, Sutton also took candid photos of Gloria and her sister skinny dipping together, and implying that Gloria was also in a lesbian relationship with her sister and that he "could just imagine what them two were doing together all those nights they were in their shared bedroom".


Harry's actions with Gloria leaves Dolly stewing and she begins upping the ante with more sex. One night Harry, all steamed up, leaves the Yellow Rose and passes by the car lot. Dolly is lying in wait in the backseat of one of her husband's sedans displaying to Harry everything she's got and looking for some tongue in groove action.

Back Seat Action Sequence

On another occasion Dolly sets up a rendezvous at an old defunct sawmill, for a session of "lust in the sawdust." Harry succeeds at freeing Gloria from Sutton"s clutches but at a terrible price. As in the best Noirs events go spiraling out of control for Harry. Dolly proves to be more than his match, she's better and more ruthless at it, and in the end they both reach their own level. Torrid sex, lustful losers, sleazy insinuations, along the highway of broken dreams. Bravo Dennis 9/10


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