CampBlood Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy


Looker Michael Crichton 1981

America's Next Dropped Model

You know that you’re not in Haddonfield anymore when you mention a movie to two separate people in the same week and have both of them start screaming the awesomely bad theme song at you over your dinner.

Such a movie is 1981’s colossally misguided “superficiality is bad!” sci-fi “thriller” Looker. When I mentioned that I had recently seen the flick at dinner last week with the charming Patrick from Dallas, he dropped his fork and wailed, “She’s a lookaaaaaaaaaah! That’s what they saaaaay!” and nearly gave me a coronary. And just last night, after a party for Elle Décor (yes, Margaret Russell was there, and yes, she’s a hot little bug), my dear friend Bradley-Michael Markuss similarly nearly split my eardrums with the boisterous chorus over my Cowboy Omelet.

Folks, it’s not just any bad movie that burrows its theme song into the minds of young gay boys like so many pinworms. It’s gotta be Looker-bad.
Looker tells the story of a rapidly dwindling group of perfection-obsessed models and the cosmetic surgeon who tries to find their killer. Yes, it’s the first Plastic Surgeon with a Heart of Gold in Peril movie. Peppered with hilarious fake television ads that could very easily fallen in with the Charlie perfume and L’Eggs hosiery ads of the day and anchored by two of the most fantastically bizarre murder setpieces I’ve ever seen, Looker is like a recipe for soufflé that – after falling into the hands of an epileptic chef in a strobe light showroom – quickly becomes soup.

The problem is that the plot makes absolutely no sense. Yes, I know that I review horror movies and really am not one who should be complaining about my films lacking just a bit in the logic department (Dead guy in a hockey mask? Sure!), but this crap is even beyond what I can stomach. Let me see if I can walk you through this…
We start out with a hot fake ad for a perfume called Ravage, which stars Playboy Playmate (of the time) Terri Welles. We then see Welles speaking to Noted Plastic Surgeon Dr. Larry Roberts (Albert Finney, the same year he did Wolfen and a year before he earned a cool million smackers for Annie), telling him to the millimeter exactly why her face isn’t perfect and what needs to be done to fix it. On the way out of the office, she passes another doctor, who notes that “she sure is a looker” – WHAM! Only 2 minutes into the movie and we’ve already had the title spoken aloud – and by a character who will hardly appear again.

No worries, though – it’s also the music cue for one of the hottest theme songs in history. Performed by Sue Saad and the Next (and later covered by Kim Carnes on her "Voyeur" album), the Putting on Makeup in Underwear Theme from Looker is pure bad movie song hotness on par with such greats as Tokyo Convertible (from Slumber Party Massacre II), These Are the Best Times (of Our Lives) (from Killer Party), Fade to Black (from Prom Night) and Santa Monica Boulevard Boy (from Nightmare Sisters). The lyrics alone sound like they were written in a high school poetry class: "The magazines always show her smiling/So perfect in every way/But in the night I hear a young girl crying/She's got it all; she's got it made". Wow -- the beautiful girl that everyone loves is really a scared, misunderstood little child inside. Deep shit, Sue.

We then watch Lisa (Candy? Sally? Jenny? Trish? I’ve already forgotten.) get ready for a date as her theme song plays. Her apartment looks like a Barbie Dream Apartment – pink and lavenders interior, low ceilings and everything. It also features more glass furniture than I’ve ever seen in my life – but don’t get your hopes up, as none of it is going be crashed through or anything. It’s likely just there for the cast and crew to do lines off of in between takes.

Anyway, as the gorgeous theme song plays and girlfriend puts her face on (while her little doggy runs around), her doorbell rings. No, it doesn’t sound like Jennifer’s on WKRP in Cincinnati, but it should. She goes to the door (checking herself in the mirror before opening it in an odd echo of Tawny Kitaen in her dream sequence in Witchboard), opens the door, and is blasted with light. She stares at the empty hallway, with her dog barking at nothing. After a minute she turns and walks back into her apartment – underwear and heels, mind you – on deep pile carpeting! – without even closing the door.

She goes to the closet and opens it, and her dog pops out. But wait – wasn’t he just next to her? And wait – what’s that odd case on her bed, that looks like it held a gun? She touches it, because that’s how models process information. She picks up her doggie and walks back into the Pepto Den, where the balcony doors are open and the sheers are blowing in the evening wind. Another blast of light and a silhouette through the sheers – suddenly, and for no apparent reason, she starts spinning in the sheers until she is wrapped up like a model-in-polyester approximation of a very large burrito.

She drops her dogs as she spins, and before you know it the model in a blanket careens out onto the balcony, where she runs into the railing, topples over it, and falls to her presumed, screaming death. Gentlemen, get out your scorecards and pencils, and note One Dropped Model.

I don’t need to explain that this is one of the hottest opening scenes in movie history. But unfortunately, you can pretty much just stop watching there unless you want to sit through scene after scene of people telling Cindy (Susan Dey) that she’s the hottest thing since Solid Gold and wince at an unconvincing romance between her and Finney (I know, I’m sorry – I should have warned you that was coming. And you just ate and everything…).

Luckily, there is one more glorious modelcide to make Looker more than just a one-corpse pony. One of the other “perfect” girls that Roberts has worked on (is it Lisa? Or Candy? Or Cindy? Or Tina?) is also in danger, as two of the surgeon’s models have died in mysterious accidents in one week! Roberts races to her apartment but before you can say “Let me just grab my shawl from the balcaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”, model number two has toppled out of her window and – get this – onto a parked car. Now, I know that when Dinah Manoff came sailing out of that window in Child’s Play and flattened that parked car, it was pretty awesome – but this one is twenty times hotter, because A) the model is only wearing her underwear; and B) it’s in slow motion and close up – this is a real stuntwoman hitting this car, and you can hear every vertebra crack. She seriously almost snaps in half and goes ass-over-elbow – it’s really quite amazing.

Anyway, Two Dropped Models.

After this there’s a pretty hot scene where Cindy (or is it Trish? Or Tina? Or Sally?) does a Hawaiian Tropic ad (or something similarly trashy) on the beach that essentially consists of her falling over in the sand over and over for about 8 hours. See, the sinister advertising imaging computer media video computer advertising company is trying to get her to jump in an exact way so that they can do some computer thing on the computer to her, so they keep making her do it over and over – so we get lots of slow-motion shots of Susan Dey landing on her left asscheek in the sand. If you hated her keyboard-playing ass on The Partridge Family, this is your comeuppance.

The biggest problem with Looker – other than that it stops dropping models out of windows after 20 minutes – is that it makes absolutely no fucking sense whatsoever. Seriously – absolutely none. It’s a murder mystery that never explains why the murders were happening – and in fact, there’s no indication that Susan Dey – the last “perfect” girl – is in any danger anyway until Roberts sticks his nose in. Why would this company be scanning models and then killing them off in highly-covered murders if they planned on using their likenesses? Won’t someone notice that dead women are showing up in commercials? And wait – they had TOLD the models that was what they were doing anyway, so what the hell? Why should the models care if they’ve been paid for their image to be used? Why the need to kill them? And wait – if they’re scanning them into the computer and animating them anyway, why make the girls go and get plastic surgery to alter millimeters of their features – can’t they just fix that on the computer? I hate to see these girls just getting dropped off of buildings for nothing. Oh fuck, who am I kidding – I love it.

Sure, the fake commercials and hilarious “robots” and technology are fun, but without anything even resembling a coherent plot to keep things together, it winds up feeling like an incredibly long 93 minutes. I’d recommend just watching this 4-minute clip of the opening scene 23 consecutive times instead – once you look, you’ll find it hard to stop.

Rating (out of 5):