Into the Night

A while back, when I reviewed INNOCENT BLOOD and got into a bit of a John Landis run, I realized I’d never seen his 1985 movie INTO THE NIGHT. Didn’t even know anything about it. I guess you could say it’s kind of a thriller, but of the happening-over-one-night variety, and with some humor. Ed Okin (Jeff Goldblum, DEATH WISH) is a regular boring aerospace engineer guy who’s unhappy and doesn’t know why. He hasn’t been able to sleep for a long time and he feels disconnected from his wife (Stacey Pickren, RUNAWAY TRAIN). Then he starts dozing off at work, getting himself in trouble, so he decides to go home for a nap, and I think we are all familiar with what happens in movies any time somebody goes home in the middle of the day when their spouse doesn’t expect them. It’s just like in TOY STORY how the toys are always having meetings and playing games and shit whenever you’re out of the room. Similar thing with movie spouses when you’re at work.

But he doesn’t confront her. He keeps going through the motions. Then at night he gets up and drives to the airport. He’s probly thinking of going to Las Vegas, something his dickhead friend at work (Dan Aykroyd, RAY) told him to do when he has insomnia. Actually that might be a good idea, but before he can get that far he finds something else to do.

Diana (Michelle Pfeiffer, SCARFACE) comes running through the parking garage, falling on the hood of Ed’s car, running from a bunch of gunmen in suits. He lets her in and drives her out of there and then is stunned when she doesn’t want to tell the cop at the security gate that anything is going on. But he ends up giving her a ride.

His night turns into a series of helping-against-his-better-judgments, reluctantly giving in and agreeing to get dragged further and further into a mess he has nothing to do with, until after he’s finally dropped her somewhere she thinks is safe, when he makes a conscious decision to stay and make sure she really is safe. That’s a classic turning point in many action or horror movies, but this one is precipitated by the hottest innocent-hug-and-kiss-goodbye I ever saw. So he may have ulterior motives. Pfeiffer is so fuckin cool in this, a tough and persistent lady who has gotten in with a bad crowd of rich people and made some poor choices but is a good person and wears a cool red leather jacket.

Vincent Canby’s review at the time has a good line: “It may say something about the priorities of ‘Into the Night’ that its production notes carry more biographical material about Deborah Nadoolman, who designed the ”red Napa calf jacket” Miss Pfeiffer wears much of the time, than about Ron Koslow, who wrote the screenplay.”

I found said notes on a Michelle Pfeiffer fan sight and he’s correct, because there’s nothing about the writer other than his name. About Nadoolman it actually doesn’t say that she’s Landis’s wife, but gives the more important information that it’s “the third leather jacket created for the screen by costume designer Deborah Nadoolman. She designed Indiana Jones’ aviator’s jacket for ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark‘ and Michael Jackson’s red and black jacket worn in ‘Michael Jackson’s Thriller.'”

But since he asked, screenwriter Ron Koslow’s previous work included LIFEGUARD (starring Sam Elliott as a lifeguard) and FIRSTBORN (the Michael Apted thriller starring Corey Haim). He’d soon create the TV series’ Beauty and the Beast (starring Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton), Roar (starring Heath Ledger and Moonlight (about a vampire P.I.).

Anyway, my point is that she looks cool in that jacket. Its power has not waned over time, so I believe Nadoolman has prevailed over Canby’s comment.

For a while Diana is secretive about what she’s into and where she’s trying to go. So he sorta gets dragged along for a tour of Hollywood weirdos as she desperately searches for friends and acquaintances who can help her and tries to hide whatever it is she has that they want. She brings him to a film set, where he is awkwardly in the way and breaks some things. She also tries going to an ex’s yacht, but fitness icon “Body By” Jake Steinfeld (HOME SWEET HOME) is using it. I love when she brings Ed into an apartment that she acts like is hers and it’s decorated from floor to ceiling in Elvis memorabilia – as if she could be this into The King and not have shown any signs before. Turns out she’s staying with her brother (Bruce McGill, TIMECOP), and he’s an Elvis impersonator. There’s a good gag where they need a vehicle to escape in and it cuts to them in a Cadillac convertible with “THE KING LIVES” emblazoned across the side in giant gold lettering. Might be conspicuous.

I could not have correctly guessed the vibe of this one. The original poster exudes kind of an L.A.-version-of-Miami-Vice-atmospheric-night-time vibe with cool ’80s paint brush script kinda like CAT PEOPLE or FLASHDANCE. This doesn’t necessarily lead me to picture that it has a soundtrack with B.B. King performing “Into the Night,” “In the Midnight Hour” and “Lucille.” And I didn’t know it had a gimmick of taking Landis’ fondness for director cameos into overdrive. I can’t think of another movie that has more bit parts for famous behind-the-scenes Hollywood people. There are the ones you’d expect: Landis himself is one of a group of Iranian hitmen in suits and shades. David Cronenberg is Ed’s supervisor. Paul Bartel is a doorman. This doesn’t have Frank Oz, like so many Landis movies, so instead they have a much rarer Jim Henson cameo. Honestly I didn’t recognize most of the other ones, but they include Jack Arnold, Rick Baker, Jonathan Demme, Richard Franklin, Carl Gottlieb, Amy Heckerling, Colin Higgins, Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan Lynn, Paul Mazursky, Daniel Petrie, Waldo Salt, Don Siegel and Roger Vadim. You also have Carl Perkins in there and, most memorably, David Bowie as a hitman.

There’s also a good appearance by Richard Farnsworth (HIGHWAY TO HELL) as a bed-ridden millionaire who’s central to the whole thing, and Vera Miles (PSYCHO) plays his wife.

INTO THE NIGHT was Landis’ first box office failure. I was surprised and a little perplexed by the negative reviews. It has a 38% on Rotten Tomatoes, and many critics at the time complained about the numerous cameos. Roger Ebert (who gave the movie one star) called it “a home movie,” a “family reunion” and “cinematic auto-eroticism.” I guess if you recognize all of them you might be more distracted than I was, but to me it just seems like a fun added gimmick to an already enjoyable (if slight) movie.

I suspected some of this was bad will toward Landis by people who felt him responsible for the fatal accident on the set of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, which Landis was ordered to stand trial for three weeks into shooting of INTO THE NIGHT. A friend of mine pointed out that this could also explain the harshness toward the cameos – he remembered people assuming those directors appeared as a gesture of support for Landis. Which makes sense.

On the other hand, TRADING PLACES came out less than a year after the accident, got great reviews and was a big hit. So maybe it’s just the movie. And it’s not in at the top of my list of Landis movies – that would be THE BLUES BROTHERS running simultaneously with AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, obviously. Still, I enjoyed INTO THE NIGHT. Watch it some time on a red eye flight to Vegas.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 16th, 2019 at 10:34 am and is filed under Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

22 Responses to “Into the Night”

  1. Out of all movies that were directed by John Landis’ dark side, this one is my favourite. Might be because I love “one crazy night” movies (although it’s actually two nights) or because this one is the most successful in blending his trademark comedy with surprisingly harsh violence. (The scene where the Iranian assassins drown the woman always went a bit too far IMO, especially because it started with the bad guys acting more like the Keystone Kops and you suspect that she will get away.)

    And sitting at 3am in the train home while the theme song is playing on your headphones, is definitely a wonderful experience.

  2. I saw this movie for the first time not too long ago, fully expecting to love it since I’m a big fan of Landis’ 80s output, I love Goldblum and Pfeiffer, and I loooooooove a good “one crazy night” set-up.

    I ended up hating the goddamn thing to a measure that frankly surprised me. Outside of some of Bowie’s bits, not a single joke lands, Goldblum is off-putting rather than empathetic, and the never-ending string of one-off appearances is distracting as hell. But the really weird part of the movie is the strain of sudden, brutal violence that gets sprinkled liberally throughout what seems like it’s meant to be an amiably shaggy adventure. The massacre in the hotel room, the long, drawn out scene where Pfeiffer’s friend gets chased down, tormented, and then drowned? What the hell are those scenes doing here? I’ve read explanations that this was Landis trying to get back on his feet after the TWILIGHT ZONE incident, and if that’s the case he picked a really odd film to try and exorcise that imagery with.

    Don’t know if any of you guys listen to the 80’S ALL OVER podcast, but they recently had one of their bigger divides over this one, with Drew advocating strongly for the film while Scott was unimpressed. My tastes tend to run closer to Drew’s, but I’m with Scott in being baffled and vaguely disgusted by it.

  3. Fucking love this one. Might be my favorite One Crazy Night movie of all time, and that’s a genre I always respond to. It’s so MEAN and yet so funny and sexy. It’s got that perfect deadpan camerawork I love about Landis putting you right in the mindset of Goldblum’s emotionally detached insomniac character. Comedy and tragedy are beheld with this same gormless perspective, which causes the tonal confusion that some viewers hate and I fucking love. Landis’ camera never tells you how to feel. It just shows you things and let’s you make of them what you will. Is this a nightmare? A caper? A romance? That’s up to you to decide.

    This might be the best non-classic Landis ever made (and certainly better than at least one of his “classics.” I’ll let you all decide which one I mean). I could pretty much watch it whenever.

  4. I think I meant “guileless” instead of “gormless” but I’m not sure. You make the call.

  5. I found this one disappointing. Goldblum and Pfeiffer have anti-chemistry, the tone is all over the place . . . it just made me want to rewatch AFTER HOURS.

  6. I too am a big fan of this one. I was surprised to see that it actually premiered 8 months before AFTER HOURS (the Rolls Royce of One Crazy Night movies). And even if Landis is no Scorsese, I have watched this over and over again. Any movie that has David Bowie fighting Carl Perkins to the death must be good, right?

  7. AFTER HOURS and SOMETHING WILD get all the love but this one always worked the best for me. Goldblum’s Ed Okin is a deadpan masterclass and his confrontation with Bowie’s hitman is especially hilarious. I’m sure twenty-something me only really recognised Don Siegel, Jim Henson and Rick Baker in the cameos so they didn’t really distract, and if Korean cinema has taught us anything it’s that wild tonal shifts from slapstick comedy to romance through sickening violence needn’t be a bad thing.

  8. I love the treatment of Landis and the other goons in this movie. They are clumsy morons who fuck up everything they touch, but they have guns and no respect for human life, and that’s all it takes to be dangerous. As the past few decades have taught us, an idiot with a firearm and malicious intent is as scary as a criminal mastermind. Probably more so. A criminal mastermind will probably only kill you if he needs to, but these vicious dullards will do it simply because they have no other ideas. There’s something deliciously cynical and unromantic about these goons. They represent the banality of evil taken to new lows.

  9. I’m with the haters like Brendan on this one – it’s not funny, it’s not particularly romantic, and the violence is nasty and mean-spirited in an off-putting way which I guess you could say is the point but all it did was put a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t even notice 90% of the cameos but I did think *SPOILER* Landis’ uber-violent onscreen death seemed to be some weird meta reaction to the whole Twilight Zone debacle, like when Vince McMahon books himself to get beat up real good and he thinks you’re going to get some satisfaction out of it but you’re more like “eh, this kinda doesn’t mean anything because it’s fake and this asshole is still in charge”.

    So yeah, this is probably my least favorite “One Crazy Night” movie, well behind Judgment Night, After Hours, License to Drive, Mystery Date, and whatever that one was with Keanu Reeves and Lori Loughlin.

  10. I always liked this one a lot though when I revisited a year or so ago I didn’t think it held up.

    But I’ll see anything with Jeff Goldblum. So quirky. I love quirky.

    And Michelle Pfeiffer, and that red leather jacket Oh. My…

    Great review, Vern. Per usual.

  11. Love this movie, you could watch it a million times and catch something new on every viewing.

  12. I forgot to mention that this also has even more classic horror movies playing on TVs than in other Landis movies.

  13. Haven’t seen it in a long, long time but don’t remember it that fondly, despite the amazing cast. This is actually my favorite kind of story, too, where an average guy has one crazy night (See AFTER HOURS, my fave Scorsese film, no joke. Or NERVOUS TICKS, if you have a VCR), but Landis just did not stick the landing here. Maybe it’s tied up with the fact that I love Cyndi Lauper’s first album and ‘All thru the Night’ was not on the soundtrack for this movie, even tho I thought it was. I’ll take SPIES LIKE US or THREE AMIGOS over this any day. And now I gotta go watch the transformation scene from AAWiL coz it’s been a minute and it’s amazing.

  14. Borg9 – I’ve seen enough Korean cinema to know you’re not wrong.

  15. I went to see Goldblum and his band The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra play jazz at the Rockwell in Los Angeles. It’s a thing he does every Wednesday (between movie gigs) and it’s lots of fun; plenty of audience interaction and he takes the time to take pics with anybody who wants one.

    Anyway, he was playing a movie trivia game with the crowd and one of the answers turned out to be Michelle Pfeiffer. He then asked us if we knew the name of the film that he co-starred with Pfeiffer, and I said “Into the Night”. Goldblum seemed surprised that I knew that, and then he asked if I had seen it. I said Yes.

    “Did you like it?”

    “Yes” I replied.

    Goldblum then cocked his head and looked a bit pained as he then asked “Really?”

    Anyway, he was later amused/scared that I knew of MAD DOG TIME and the alternate title it went out as on VHS, TRIGGER HAPPY.

  16. But, but… TRIGGER HAPPY is awesome! It’s a weird, weird movie but I am so in the bag for that dialogue and that cast.

  17. Does Peter Weller still play with him?

  18. I watched this once a long time ago, 2008 to be exact and forgive me, but the only thing I distinctly remember is the topless blond with crazy big 80s glasses that “Body By” Jake is hoping to get in bed with before being interrupted by the Iranian bad guys.

    Seems like sexy women was a Landis trademark.

    Well that and the scene with all the old monster movies playing on various TVs, which was probably the most Landis moment ever not involving a sexy woman.

  19. And Landis kept using naked women in his movies all through the 80s.

  20. See you next Wednesday!

  21. pegsman – Naked or in some sort of state of undress, like even in the PG-13 SPIES LIKE US you had Vanessa Angel in sexy underwear.

  22. So, what is it with guys named Landis?

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