Archives for posts with tag: Three’s Company

Set aboard a melodrama-plagued pleasure cruise, writer-director Je’Caryous Johnson’s soulful examination of love among African-American couples and singles benefits in energy from being a filmed production of a live play as opposed to a conventional film.  Johnson is a talented jokester with a heart and creates compelling characters brought to vibrant life by an emotionally present and engagingly boisterous all-black cast.  Think Neil Simon keepin’ it real.

A neurotic tension and sense of panic constantly inform Love Overboard, with Johnson portraying African-Americans as a people ever prey to the supernatural forces in their lives, their bodies the eternal, intensely contested battleground of spiritual warfare as they navigate between their fear of God and obsession with sexual satisfaction.  Two types of entity, appropriately, are apostrophized in Love Overboard: Jesus Christ and the male sexual organ.  Love Overboard gets so overheated at times, with a man and woman apparently unable to stop themselves from flying into each other’s arms and grinding in public in one instance, that it starts to make Three’s Company look like I Married Joan.  “Y’all think this is a leg I’m standin’ on, dontcha?  I gotta take my shoe off every time I go pee.”

Running the gamut from shockingly crude to genuinely touching, Love Overboard front-loads most of the bawdy humor and concentrates in its second and third acts on depicting in very human terms people fraught with insecurities and struggling seriously with their relationships, their values, and faith.  The subject of marriage especially frightens and frustrates everyone on the ship.  Those who already are married wonder if staying together is worth the trouble; those unmarried fear the commitment.  Can healthy, excitingly black sex thrive within the constraining cage of a monogamous matrimony?

The ensemble cast is consistently praiseworthy in imbuing the various threads of the story with zany life.  Everyone involved in the production is either highly expressive in speech or song or excels at physical comedy.  Zacardi Cortez, who plays Big Daddy, has the most affecting musical moment; while Rhona Bennett and Tammy Townsend are probably most tender among the women as they hold their end of the line in this floating battle of the sexes.  Je’Caryous Johnson’s humor and humanity as it comes across in his writing probably has the best claim to top billing, however.  Recommended without reservation.  4.5 of 5 possible stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Love Overboard is guaranteed fun and:

6. Anti-gay.  An opening monologue mocks San Francisco Christians.

5. Black Uber Alles.  Racial solidarity seems to be of importance.  Oprah’s book recommendations are valued.  “You rollin’ with Obama?” a woman asks, hearing that one of the men works for the Department of Homeland Security.  Women want a man like Obama: “fine”, “intelligent”, and “able to protect me.”  “Chocolate’s out now that Barack is in,” a lighter-skinned man teases a darker one.  Characters enjoy their own and others’ variations of flavor and blackness.

4. Capitalist.  Despite the suggested endorsement of President Obama, the characters give every evidence of not buying into his demagogic desecration of the American dream.  These are people who, rather than playing the victim and begging for coddling by the welfare state, have succeeded or failed according to their own talents and decisions.  One runs a car dealership; another is a stripper; all work for a living or aim to do so.  “Life is what you make it,” Russell (Khalil Kain) observes; or, “Take yo ass to work,” as Johnson puts it bluntly elsewhere in his screenplay.

4. Anti-miscegenation.  Vianessa Castanos warrants special mention for her role as the Latin temptress who threatens black marital stability and wins a unique award from Ideological Content Analysis for displaying the GREATEST CLEAVAGE IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE.

3. Traditionalist/pro-family.  “This is a family cruise,” the opening monologue explains, raunchy content notwithstanding.  A pregnant woman refrains from drinking and wants her child to have a good man for a father.  One character does, however, reveal herself to have been horribly wronged by a family member.

2. Christian.  Buck wild though they may long to get, these are people with a fear of God.  “The body according to the Word should be governed by modesty,” pious Lea (Rhona Bennett) reminds herself.

1. Pro-marriage.  Divorce is discouraged.  Couples having troubles should work it out for themselves and for their children’s sake.   The “hit it and quit it” lone wolf mentality loses its appeal with maturity.

Stripped to Kill

Stripped to Kill (1987) *****  The first in a series of seedy adult fairy tale collaborations between writer-director Katt Shea and co-writer Andy Ruben, Stripped to Kill is among the finest erotic thrillers of that genre’s late 80s/early 90s peak period. Kay Lenz brings a valuable earnestness to her exploitative role as an L.A. policewoman going undercover as a stripper at the Rock Bottom, a club whose talent is falling prey to a mystery maniac. Greg Evigan plays her charmingly unshaven, doughnut-scarfing, zen-aspiring partner and, inevitably, love interest.

Shea, Ruben, and crew imbue Stripped to Kill with a convincing but expressionistic visual sensibility, a nocturnal air of stylized grime and neon magic that sets it apart from its thriller cohorts. “Deny the Night,” a moody, low-key rock song written by Ruben and performed by Larry Streicher, burns over a glorious opening credits strip sequence, perfectly establishing the darkly beautiful tone and themes of the film. Night, wet streets, red light, flashing knives, and fire dimly illuminate the dangerous world of this film and give it much of its personality.

Tawdry it is, but never at the expense of its humanity, with each character granted a more or less believable individuality. The supporting cast is especially strong. Three’s Company‘s Norman Fell is adorably sleazy and jaded as the strip club manager, while all of the dancers are captured at their expressive and memorable best both on stage and in their dressing room moments. Diana Bellamy also deserves special mention for her minor supporting role as Shirl. Icy and tough but also funny and almost warm at times, Stripped to Kill is a unique experience not to be missed by fans of murder thrillers and the female form in motion.

Stripped to Kill 2

Stripped to Kill II: Live Girls (1989) ***1/2  This disappointing sequel, again from the team of Shea and Ruben, fails to recapture the right combination of elements in writing, cast, and design that made Stripped to Kill such a special film. As a stand-alone piece, however, and without its classic predecessor to throw it into such an unflattering contrast, Stripped to Kill II is a passable if mopey and fairly predictable piece of trash.

Maria Ford, who developed a following for her willingness to appear naked in such films, is a picture painted from a gaudier palette than Kay Lenz and is less capable of carrying a demanding dramatic feature. She is, however, a more accomplished dancer than Lenz, more convincing as a stripper, and is actually at her best as an actress in her surreal dance and dream sequences, which, along with the other dancers’ periodic interludes, constitute Stripped to Kill II‘s strongest suit. Of particular note is Ford’s cat routine with roommate Karen Mayo-Chandler as the lion tamer.

Stripped to Kill II‘s cast is adequate, but – as with nearly every other aspect – falls short of the bar raised by the original. Eb Lottimer is innocuously low-key in his turn as the police detective who falls for Ford, the prime suspect in this installment’s series of stripper murders. All of the strippers are physically gifted artists and fine in action, but less than charismatic in dramatic scenes. Norman Fell, had his character returned, would have been a welcome source of seriocomedy, as would Greg Evigan or Diana Bellamy, sorely missed, the endearing role of Shirl having passed to ghastly Virginia Peters.

Shea, focusing on a more sundazed set of characters, would return to form and further develop her sleazy L.A. fairy tale aesthetic with Streets (1990).

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