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  Out of the Blue Sorry Doesn't Cut It
Year: 1980
Director: Dennis Hopper
Stars: Linda Manz, Dennis Hopper, Sharon Farrell, Don Gordon, Raymond Burr, Eric Allen, Fiona Brody, David L. Crowley, Joan Hoffman, Carl Nelson, Frances Ann Pettit, Glen Pfeifer, David Ackridge, Glen Fyfe, Louis Gentile
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Five years ago, Don (Dennis Hopper), a trucker from Vancouver, was drunk in his cab taking his daughter Cebe (Linda Manz) to school when he lost control of his vehicle and ploughed straight into a school bus, killing the children aboard. He has served his sentence for manslaughter, and Cebe hopes he will be out of prison soon, because if there's one thing she would like, even if she cannot admit it to herself, it's a stable home life. Her mother Kathy (Sharon Farrell) is currently having an affair with two men, and Cebe is lacking all direction...

Dennis Hopper's first film as director after The Last Movie debacle was this obscure Canadian effort, arriving over ten years after he had completed that famous folly and only being helmed by him because he took over from another director part of the way into production. Although by 1980 when it was made the Sex Pistols who Cebe idolises had split up, there was a strong degree of their punk spirit to the proceedings, lapsing into a post-punk nihilism as she begins to perceive the way out of her miserable life is rather drastic. No wonder she is forced into these conclusions after the degradation she has suffered.

Yet for most of this Cebe displays an energy which suggests she could find a way out of her desperate situation if she just managed to hang on for long enough. Raymond Burr had a small role as a counsellor who makes it plain he thinks the best thing for her would be to take her into care, and seeing the people around her every day, you can well believe getting away from them would be the best course of action. Manz never became a star in spite of appearing in a handful of cult movies which raised her profile, and apparently this was not something she lamented too much, preferring to bring up her kids rather than pursue a career acting, but you could well understand why fans of her movies felt a little saddened by that.

Manz is nothing short of excellent in Out of the Blue, under Hopper's guidance developing the semi-improvised scenes which are authentic enough to be very hard to watch in places. The opening crash, returned to in flashback, is genuinely alarming, and it's easy to accept that Don would never be able to return to a normal life after that with the community well aware of what he had done and unwilling to forgive. Not that his friends and family are much better, with best mate Charlie (Don Gordon) skin crawlingly creepy around Cebe, encouraging Don (who we discover was even less of the father he should have been) to violence, and Kathy a heroin addict who is the exact opposite of a reliable influence on her daughter's continuing peace of mind.

Cebe alternates between boredom, depression and fear, yet still has enough of her youthful vitality to represent a hope that she could get her act together. The boredom leads her to reckless acts, and she has trouble staying in school, with her Elvis Presley obsession taking up the father figure role in her life, notably because he is dead and therefore has "left" her much like her actual father did. Many scenes in this are slice of life, almost documentary style, as Hopper was content in places simply to allow Manz to wander the streets for want of anything better to do, and the atmosphere of urban decay is vivid enough to render all we see all the more convincing. Only at the end, where all that potential is wiped out, does it appear as if Hopper has gone too far, but arriving after a truly unsettling sequence where Cebe's parents try to get Charlie to rape her to stop her becoming a lesbian perhaps there was only one way this could have ended. Not exactly a barrel of laughs, but very well done if you can take it. Music by Tom Lavin, with Neil Young on the soundtrack (a pity about the Elvis impersonator).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Dennis Hopper  (1936 - 2010)

One of the biggest cult stars of all time, he began his career as an actor in the fifties, a proponent of "The Method" which was popular at the time, and a good friend of James Dean, who he appeared with in Giant and Rebel without a Cause. He gradually moved to larger roles - including Gunfight at the OK Corral, Night Tide, Queen of Blood, The Trip and Hang 'Em High - until the late sixties and his directorial debut Easy Rider. The film was a sensation, shaking up Hollywood and becoming an instant classic, but Hopper's increasing dependence on drugs meant he had trouble following up that success as his next work, The Last Movie, was a notorious flop.

He spent the rest of the seventies in more obscure fare like Mad Dog Morgan, Tracks and The American Friend until his appearance in Apoclaypse Now heralded a gradual return to the limelight. Soon he had directed again (with Out of the Blue), and the next decade saw him enjoy acclaim in Rumble Fish, O.C. and Stiggs, My Science Project, River's Edge, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, the classic Blue Velvet and Hoosiers. Into the nineties he directed more with Colors, Catchfire (aka Backtrack), The Hot Spot and Chasers among his credits, and he even started to appear in blockbusters like True Romance, Speed and Waterworld. He continued working right up to the end of his life, with such efforts as Land of the Dead, Elegy and thriller series 24 on his resume, and remained a knowledgeable patron of the arts.

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