Feb 2, 2018

On Blu-ray: Genre Throwbacks Night Moves (1975) and The Man With Two Brains (1983)

It’s interesting the many ways a film can pay tribute to the classic age of Hollywood. As proof of this there is Night Moves (1975) and The Man with Two Brains (1983), two flicks which are completely different in tone and structure, but share affection for classic Hollywood genres. The former is both a throwback and a modern progression of film noir, the latter a humorous tribute to the many sci-fi flicks from the 1950s with wacky premises. Both films are now available in their Blu-ray debuts from Warner Archive.

Night Moves

At its core, Night Moves is much like a classic World War II era noir. The sense of doom, devious characters, and determined detective protagonist are all reminiscent of the great crime films from that time. Most of what makes it modern is on the surface: more explicit sexuality, extensive location shooting and a looser sense of morals.

As the detective unraveling the mystery surrounding a reckless wild child, and his own uneasy marriage, Gene Hackman is the more profoundly modern element of this neo noir. While he is as physically tough and fearless as Bogie, Mitchum, and their kind, he is a more emotionally vulnerable hero. He doesn’t pretend to be without feeling and he exists in a time where no one would fault him for expressing his emotions.

There is also a difference in the female leads. While the femme fatale here remains an erotic figure as in classics of the genre, the sexual revolution has also made room for sensuality in the warm-hearted dame, played here with confidence and sexy nonchalance by a teenage Melanie Griffith. While it could be said that she is punished for that freedom, it is a progression of sorts that the heroine can enjoy erotic expression instead of being forced to telegraph her goodness by remaining chaste.

Overall it is an interesting progression of the classic detective noir and one of the more successful modern interpretations of that cinematic style.

Special features on the disc include a vintage featurette about the film: The Day of the Director and a theatrical trailer.

The Man with Two Brains

While director Carl Reiner’s joke-packed comedy about a brain surgeon (Steve Martin) pursuing true love is presented as an homage to classic sci-fi flicks with wild premises, it draws upon other genres with glee. It’s got Kathleen Turner as a film noir-style femme fatale, a murder mystery, lots of screwball-style wordplay, and even a little slapstick. For all its goofball antics though, it is at heart a great tribute to the movies.

It is those antics, combined with the film love behind them, that make The Man with Two Brains a classic in its own way. Reiner and Martin both have a knack for creating precise comedy that ends up with the feel of globs of paint being thrown at a canvas. They make a sort of comic stew, tossing recurring jokes alongside brief, throwaway jabs, and stopping the action from time-to-time for more elaborate gags like an astonishing scene where a little girl is given a long list of instructions for a hospital and recites them back perfectly, in addition to adding her own medical diagnosis. It flows so well that you can miss how complex it all is.

There are no special features on this disc.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copies of the films for review. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

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