By far the most inspired of Dario Argento’s many incoherent, illogical and visually splendiferous films. Skinny, gloomy Jessica Harper is manipulated and terrorized by a secret society of witches for reasons that make absolutely no sense, but each little set piece of crashing Euro-rock (all hail Goblin), funhouse lighting and bright red gore pleasurably invokes the sensation that the acid is kicking in and it’s gonna be a real bad trip. The WI rip is from a very clean widescreen copy and looks terrific (albeit not HD).
A noisy thrill ride with pretensions of social commentary that never really gel and a sci-fi plot that falls apart whenever you get a minute to think about it—which fortunately isn’t too often in this wall-to-wall action film. The initial breathless fake-u-mentary style works quite well, but when this convention makes it too hard to tell the story, it is unceremoniously dropped. The debut performance by Sharlto Copley, as the man morphing into an alien, is notable for its frenetic authenticity. He pretty much saves the film.
Like Carol Reed’s film The Third Man (set in and shot in post-war Vienna), some of the genius of Smithereens is due to its ephemeral real-world backdrop. As one Netflix reviewer pointed out, “the world in which it was shot no longer exists.” That would be the world of early-80s New York City, when punks and New Wave hipsters roamed free and there was still such a thing as a vacant lot in Manhattan. The downbeat tale of Wren, a teenage escapee from New Jersey who has burned all her bridges, offers some raw performances, black humor, and manages to end even more hopelessly than it starts. Desperately Seeking Susan (Seidelman’s next film) this ain’t.