Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Proof that I lived in Hollywood in the eighties

Jerry Stratton, January 11, 2011

I’m generally a private person; one thing you won’t find much of on this site are photos of me. But I’m going to make an exception for this one, partly because it’s twenty years old and I don’t look anything like that any more. Although I probably still have the shirt.

For one year in the late eighties, I lived in Hollywood, a few blocks from the Chinese Theater. For part of that time, I hung out with the extras crowd, and was an extra in a handful of movies. Most of them will be impossible to find even in the age of Google. The kinds of movies I was in didn’t have titles during filming, so all I have to go on are “period mob movie produced by HBO”.

One, however, I’ve been doing a Google search on every few years when I remember it, because there can’t be too many movies about a couch that eats people, and also because it’s the one movie where I could be fairly sure I’d actually show up: in one scene I was right next to the two main actors. Unless they cut the scene, I’m in the movie. One of the actors was from Taxi.

When IMDB first came online, I was able to search photos of the Taxi actors and remembered that the actor was Jeff Conaway. A few years later, a search on “couch that eats people Jeff Conaway” told me that the movie was titled “The Sleeping Car”.

That didn’t help much, though, because the movie wasn’t available. Cue to a few days ago and the search finally brought up a YouTube video—someone named Maynard Morrissey put the entire movie online in nine parts.

I watched the whole thing and didn’t see myself. But even with a bad movie, its easy to get caught up in watching the movie rather than looking for unlikely events such as yourself appearing in it. So I went back over the bar scenes, and, sure enough, there’s a young man eating the same fries over and over in a blue and gold shirt that went out of style in the seventies.

Thirty-seven minutes, 13 seconds in; it should start there automatically in the embedded version. No, I’m not the half-naked guy (for which you should offer thanks to your respective deity). I’m the guy they pan across immediately afterward who is drinking a pint of beer, before focusing in on David Naughton. Drinking beer and eating; it was probably typecasting.

The movie itself is… interesting. It apparently came out in 1990, and was filmed in 1988 or 1989, but it looks like something from the seventies; it reminds me a lot of Salem’s Lot with David Soul. The story itself is missing something important. Even for bad horror films it makes jumps in logic that seem downright crazy today; part of that is the time it was made. Despite looking like it was made in the seventies, it sports a new age exorcist that has as much to do with eighties crystal magic as anything from the church. And the ending! It was pure eighties love your evil to kill it.

But the actors are actually pretty good. Jeff Conaway is a complete, mostly-believable jerk. Kevin McCarthy makes new age exorcist Vincent Tuttle work. Judie Aronson (one of the girlfriends from Weird Science) was smirkingly hot as the love interest, and David Naughton did a standup job as the wise-cracking lead. If he’d had better dialogue to work with his character would have been even better. All of them would have.

That said, it’s not worth watching unless you’re into the anthropology of the eighties.

The extras crowd was fun to hang out with. I remember one memorable evening on a very non-memorable production, mostly spent hanging out in the hallway with a pair of Al Stewart fans well into the night. One of them was a pianist—a pretty good one, too—and the hotel we were filming in had a piano. This was when most people had forgotten he existed. It’s always a treat talking about obscure music in the night.

Update: the full movie is now on, so I’ve changed the link to that.

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