Deep Cuts: “Fear City” 1984 Dir. Abel Ferrara

With Tom Berenger, Billy Dee Williams, Melanie Griffith, Jack Scalia, Rae Dawn Chong and Michael V. Gazzo

“There’s nothing I hate more than guineas in Cadillacs.” –Al Wheeler (Billy Dee Williams)

    I absolutely love Abel Ferrara’s films. While I might not enjoy watching them, I do appreciate and respect the shit out of them. I’ve seen most of his films, and they’re very hard to come by. His staples, “Bad Lieutenant”, “Dangerous Game” and “The Funeral” are floating around on DVD, but it’s his deeper cuts that are very, very hard to come by. This is mainly due to the fact that most of his films fail to find distribution.

If Ferrara ever made a mainstream film, it would be “Fear City”. Starring, at the time, an A-list cast, which is very unusual for a Ferrara film. This film, much like his others, takes place in New York City where the city is turned upside down by a serial killer who is preying on strippers.

    Tom Berenger headlines the cast as Matt Rossi, a former boxer who is now a talent agent for strippers. He runs the agency with his best friend and partner, Nicky (Jack Scalia). Rossi lines up all the girls for most of the clubs in New York that the Italian mob owns and runs.

He frequents one club that’s run by Michael V. Gazzo (most known from “Godfather 2” and “Fingers”) to see his ex-girlfriend Loretta (Melanie Griffith) perform. Rossi is a complex character; he’s haunted by his last boxing match that left the other fighter dead. He’s also trying to vie for the attention of Loretta, and now he’s out to find the serial killer.

    Billy Dee Williams gives a command performance as Al Wheeler, a hardnosed vice cop who now works for homicide. He’s also on the hunt for the serial killer, all the while clashing with the mob and Rossi. Williams has always been an excellent character actor, and I will always think of him as Lando and the original Harvey Dent, but in this film, he’s the anti-Lando. He’s terrific.

“Fear City” is a very strange and bizarre film. What else would you expect from Ferrara? This film is very choppy and disjointed, due to two reasons. The first is because the version I watched (DVD from Amazon) is the “cut” version that edits out a lot the gruesome violence and unapologetic nudity that was in the original cut. I’m Not saying the version I watched is tame, because it’s not.

The second reason this is such a disjointed movie is because that is essentially Ferrara’s authorship. All of his films aren’t cohesive or even coherent. Why should they be? Life isn’t. Ferrara and his screenwriting partner Nicholas St. John create yet another film that displays the dark side of humanity that doesn’t need explanations or accountability, because the evil that brews inside this killer reminds me much of Travis Bickle, he is a manifestation of society.

    What I found really fascinating about this film is the fact that the serial killer in the film isn’t given a name and even more interesting is that he’s not even credited in the film. He’s an actor I’ve never seen before, and while searching the IMDb message boards and using the Google Machine, I still can’t find out who this guy is. But I can tell you one thing; he scared the shit out of me in this movie.

“Fear City” is available for purchase on DVD on Amazon, and also to rent on Amazon Prime for $1.99.

Rating: 8/10


Man-crush Extravoganza!!!

I’m not ashamed to admit this at all. I have man-crushes – we all do (those of us who are men), and the ones that don’t admit it must have some deep seeded homosexual tendencies. Look, just because you have a man-crush, doesn’t make you any less of a man, and I’ll argue depending on who your man crushes are makes you even more of a man. Let us count down. Just because these men get me wet, doesn’t mean I’d have sex with them – or does it?

10) Rock Hudson

Yes Rock Hudson was gay. BUT!!! The roles he played, especially in the Douglas Sirk films and his role in “Giant” shoes us what a man should be. He is the embodiment of the archetypal man who influenced a generation of men into a mold of strength, honor and integrity. His role in “Far From Heaven” remains to be one of the finest performances that I’ll always resort back to when I want to see a man on screen. When I see performances like Til Schwigger’s in “Inglorious Basterds” I correlate his performance in that film, to the performances of Rock Hudson’s in the 1950’s.

9) Ken Watanabe

I had to get a little international here, didn’t I? The guy was sweet as the phony Ra’s Al Ghul and pretty nifty in “The Last Samurai” and broke my heart in “Letters from Iwo Jima” but when I saw “Inception” I just saw this man with an incredible moral compass of honor. Perhaps it’s the American stereotype of the Japanese at its finest, but I loved his character and I think he did the finest job in the film. The guy is just hott (yes, with two T’s, at least I didn’t say cool and spell it “kool”).

8) Billy Dee Williams

The “Old Smoothie” stole my heart in “The Empire Strikes Back” and in “Nighthawks” I feared him. On one side we have the slick jerri curled man in all blue with a cape that makes me scream at Carrie Fisher to at least make out with him (I know she was in love with Han Solo – but gaaarrrrsssshhhh!) or at least give him a little wink. In “Nighthawks” he played the partner of Stallone and was on the edge. He screamed fuck a lot and pointed his gun at the bad guys with an eerie state of bloodlust in his eyes. He had the crazy eye for sure, way before Steve Zissou.

7) Matthew Goode

Okay, I understand that Ozymandias is supposed to be slightly homoerotic since his character is eluded to being gay (there is a slight, slight, slight reference in the movie – when Nigh Owl II is on his computer, there is a folder titled “Boys” and there is also the scene in the opening credits where he’s at Studio 54 and is hanging out with the Village People and goes to shake Ziggy Stardust’s hand. And he pals around with Andy Warhol and Truman Copote). He plays Colin Firth’s departed lover in “A Single Man” but what really, really, really did it is when Castor posted his review for “Leap Year” (which I haven’t seen) and he put up an image of Matthew Goode and I couldn’t help but stare into his eyes.

6) Harvey Keitel

Yes I’m man enough to admit I’ve seen Harvey Keitel’s penis. Those of you who are brave enough to endure “Bad Lieutenant” (the original NC-17 version) not only got to see Keitel’s penis, but also him freebasing crack, shaking down drug dealers and jerking off while making two teenage girls simulate a blow job. That’s pretty rough stuff. Where my love for Keitel originated was not “Bad Lieutenant” – that movie makes me sick to my stomach – but when I first saw “Reservoir Dogs”. Mr. White is such a one dimensional character that we’ve seen before yet you really, really, really like him. He smokes, carries and big gun and talks a lot of shit that he can back up.

5) Roy Scheider

I do love him in “Jaws”; he’s got some cool lines. He’s pretty sweet in “The Punisher” as the patriarch Frank Castle, Sr. and pretty badass in “52 Pick-Up”. As Buddy Russo in “The French Connection” he’s so young and so awesome, and in “Marathon Man” a part of my cries every time he walks into Dustin Hoffman’s apartment bleeding and dies in Hoffman’s arms. What sealed the deal was Joe Gideon in “All That Jazz”. He is the fucking man! Whereas Hudson played the honorable man, Scheider plays the stereotypical womanizer, drinker and pill popper who wears his life down to a nub where he didn’t just walk the line, he held the line down and beat it to a pulp. Joe Gideon is one of those characters that once I’ve seen him, I’ll never forget him. He’s so memorable, and he’s such a piece of shit – but you do truly love him and you want him to survive – even though he hurts everyone around him, deep down inside of him, when you can pry his ego away and you catch a glimpse of his heart, you’ll see that Joe Gideon has a heart of gold.

4) James Ven Der Beek

I’ve never seen an episode of “Dawson’s Creek” in my life. I saw “Varsity Blues” when I was in High School and thought it was pathetic. Wasn’t there some movie called “Texas Rangers” that was like the shitty cousin of “Young Guns”? Never saw that either. So you might be asking yourself, how could I possibly have a crush on Dawson without actually ever seeing “Dawson’s Creek” (he was Dawson right?)? It’s a rather simple explanation. Are you ready? Is the suspense built up enough? Are you sure? “Rules of Attraction” where he played the emotional vampire Sean Bateman (yes – that Bateman), the motorcycle riding, unshaven, evil stare giving, jerking off to broadband speed internet porn, guitar playing, womanizing but can’t cum when he’s sober, lying, drug dealing AWESOMENESS (I don’t like the word “awesome” but in this case, Sean Bateman to me does inspire awe).

3) Warren Beatty

You walked into the party

Like you were walking onto a yacht

Your hair strategically dipped below one eye

Your scarf was apricot

You had one eye in the mirror

As you watched yourself gavotte

And all the girl’s dreamed that they’d be your partner

They’d be your partner, and

You’re so vain

You probably think this song is about you

You’re so vain

I’ll bet you think this song is about you

Don’t you, Don’t you?

You had me several years ago

When I was still quiet naïve

Well, you said we made such a pretty pair

And that you would never leave,

But you gave away the things you loved

And one of them was me *

*I realize that Carly Simon came out and said who the song was about, and sadly it wasn’t about Warren Beatty – but to me, whenever I hear this song, I can only envision Warren Beatty strutting around and not giving a fuck because he knows, he’s the man.

2) Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale)

I’m sitting at Dorsia with Evelyn Williams, she’s on one or more psychiatric drugs. I’m not too sure what it was tonight, but whatever it was transformed here into this dormant state where she’s almost crawled into the fetal position in the plush chair she resides in. I sit to handsome to move. My mind wanders past the patheticness of all the empty faces that sit around us and I think of earlier in the afternoon. I went to Tower Records on the boardwalk after my squash match and late lunch with Timothy Bryce to obtain the new Talking Heads album. While in the store, the Liberal Arts majors’ home from Camden scurried around the store, in search of Duran Duran’s “Rio”. While there, in the same row of compact discs was this guy. His ears were perfect, they sat straight and flat on the side of his head. He had sideburns that were out of vogue but yet he wore them with this arrogance that you would find in Burt Reynolds. He uses aftershave with too much alcohol; his skin makes him look older than he is. He masked his overweight frame with an extra large Lacoste polo shirt. It was pink and hung below his belt where I could almost, just almost, make out a Marlboro belt buckle. He smokes. Disgusting. I thought nothing of him at first, though I kept glancing over at him. He was holding “Fore!” by Huey Lewis and the News in his hand and his Ray-Bans mirrored that of Huey’s. He likes Huey Lewis and the News. While mainstream pop had taken over the radio waves, polluting this country, polluting the foundation of our moral values and while this encroaches on our way of life, Huey Lewis is the bedrock of contemporary rock and roll proving to us, with each album, that we to can achieve the American Dream.

He’s someone that Luis Caruthers would stop and talk to.

“Hey, you’re Julian right?” he says as he interrupts me mid thought. Julian?

“No I am not,” I say with a cold tone.

“It’s Frankie. Frankie Mengarelli.”

“You are mistaken,” I start to feel a panic rush over me. The caged animal inside of me begins to scream. I start to sweat, my forehead feels wet, and my feet are becoming uncomfortable in my shoes. My hand holding the Talking Heads compact disc begins to slightly tremble, I hold my breath.

“Hey man, are you alright?” he says, with a deep and gritty voice that makes him sound almost like a Robert Mitchum/Lee Marvin hybrid. My hand begins to tremble a little more, this time it’s more apparent. I look up at him, helpless and weak. My mouth opens slightly but no words come out. I am filled with rage and distain, and I can barely utter out in a desperate plea:

“I need to return some videotapes.”

I am not alone.

1) Scott Glenn

Dawn has come; the sunlight has snuck its way past the tattered blinds that hang lazily on the window. The only sound in the room is of the ceiling fan that turns at a strategic pace. The clock to the left of me clicks with each second that passes. I lost count somewhere between midnight and now. The sheet that he allowed me to keep on my body has now imbedded itself into me. I can no longer sweat anymore. My mouth hasn’t had saliva in it for what feels like days. I’m worn out, done over – I feel like Courtney Love. In the ashtray on the desk adjacent from me, but between the bathroom lays an unfiltered Chesterfield. The smoke dances between the beams of light that shows me salvation. The door is cracked to the bathroom. He is in there, he sounds like a sound trying not make a sound. Fear is no longer an option, only the will to live is slightly inside of me. As he walks (closer to the bathroom door) his boots make an echoing sound that not only pierce my ears, but cover me with nothing less than a cold, numb feeling. He made me watch him do 2500 pushups (at one time). The bathroom door is open. I close my eyes as tight as they’ll go. The boots sound louder, louder, louder. If the Incredible Hulk was stomping down a corridor that had great acoustics – this is what it would sound like. The hulking boot steps stop. I keep my eyes closed for what feels like an eternity. I slowly, just slowly, open my eyes. I see his tight rock washed blue jeans. They’re Wranglers – no Lee – no, I was right the first time, Wranglers. As I look up, his fine tuned body I see the scratch marks on his chest, his neck. I finally make eye contact with him. With those cold, truthful eyes, he doesn’t have a scowl, or a grimace – he wears a look that can only be described as “don’t fuck with me”. He reaches for his worn out cowboy hat, and rests it upon his head without breaking his gaze at me. He put that fucking hat on his head perfectly on the first try. He bends his waist slightly towards the bed as I scuddle my feet up closer to me. He doesn’t flinch; still staring at me he grabs his perfectly white wife beater shirt and leans back into a perfectly straight stance. He holds the shirt in his right hand, and brings it across his body and wipes the blood off of his busted knuckle on his left hand (yes he’s left handed). He finishes wiping the blood off, and then slowly tosses the shirt onto me like it’s a used condom. He takes a step towards the door turning his back to me. He opens the door and turns before he exits. As he tips his hat to me and with the same expression on his face, all he says is this:

“I love you Bumpkin.”