Combustible Celluloid
 
With: Linda Manz, Dennis Hopper, Sharon Farrell, Don Gordon, Raymond Burr, Eric Allen, Fiona Brody, David L. Crowley, Joan Hoffman, Carl Nelson, Francis Ann Pettit, Glen Pfeifer, David Ackridge, Jim Byrnes, Glen Fyfe, Pointed Sticks
Written by: Leonard Yakir, Brenda Nielson
Directed by: Dennis Hopper
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 93
Date: 05/05/1980
IMDB

Out of the Blue (1980)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Teddy Bear

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After Dennis Hopper made his directing debut with Easy Rider, his career was red-hot, and he could have done anything. But after his follow-up The Last Movie failed to catch on, he didn't get another chance for a decade. He apparently forced his way into Out of the Blue; he had been hired to act in it, but re-wrote it and took over, crafting it to fit the personality of that singular cult star Linda Manz.

Its timing was perfect. Hopper was a product of the 1950s, a pal of James Dean's, who came of age in the 1960s. Elvis songs and imagery hark back to the 1950s, while the Sex Pistols and Neil Young (whose "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)" inspired the title and part of the story), suggest the 1970s. But the whole thing landed at the dawn of the 1980s, very much out of place.

Hopper plays Don, an alcoholic tucker who, with his teen daughter "CeBe" (Manz) next to him in the cab, plows through a stalled schoolbus, killing several children (they're all dressed up for Halloween). He goes to prison, while CeBe and her mother Kathy (Sharon Farrell) — a server at a dinky cafe — await his release and try to figure out their lives.

Manz was a force of nature, unlike most other actors; she only appeared in a half-dozen movies between her extraordinary debut in 1978's Days of Heaven and 1997. She died in 2020. Her CeBe loves Elvis and punk rock (especially Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious), and truly gives zero F's. (She also sucks her thumb and sleeps with a teddy bear.) She's a feral creature, unpredictable but still vulnerable.

Of course, when Don does get out, the parents of the dead children aren't too happy about it, and try to make his life hell. Don's drinking buddy Charlie (Don Gordon) provides the final straw. Of all people, Raymond Burr plays a caring psychiatrist, feeling as if he were projected into the movie from some other time. This movie was barely released and has been difficult to see, but it has been restored in 4K for 2021, and presented by Chloë Sevigny and Natasha Lyonne. It's a dire poem of rage and despair that feels truly alive.

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