Blue Sunshine (1977) is a not an anti-drug movie

 

MICHAEL SEYMOUR BLAKE

 

It kind of is, but, really, it isn’t. Director Jeff Lieberman (Just Before DawnSquirm) says he’s always amused when someone describes it as such. He was, he claims, simply taking advantage of the anti-drug propaganda of the 60s by playing on the fears they hoped to create. In one sense, Blue Sunshine exploited fear of drugs like Them! (1954) exploited fear of radiation. If warning people about the dangers of milk had been popular at the time, we may have seen a movie about milk turning people into violent killers.

Now I want to see that movie.

In the world of Blue Sunshine, people are starting to lose their hair, promptly followed by their minds. Jerry Zipkin (Zalman King ) is falsely accused (kind of his own fault) of murder after his best bud succumbs to this apparent alopeciamania (just made that term up). He must clear his name while acting as a crazed detective to find out just what in the hell is going on. Could it be linked to a strain of LSD passed around campuses ten years ago?

 

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The first kill of the movie will delight horror fans—a deranged man shoves a woman into a raging fireplace, blocking her escape attempts until she’s burned alive. In terms of creative kills, this one shines above all that come after it. Luckily, there’s more to enjoy than just the murders. Like when a woman chews fistfuls of aspirin in a vain attempt to suppress the migraine which precedes her looming insanity while two children chant “We want Dr. Pepper! We want Dr. Pepper!” As she reaches for a kitchen knife, you may find yourself nodding as you whisper, “I get it… I get it.” Then there’s the hilarious target practice scene where our hero learns a little rhyme that apparently teaches him all he needs to know about firing a dart gun (you’ll be saying, “If you jerk, it won’t work” for at least a week). But my favorite moment occurs early on, when a character we never see again starts impulsively squawking and flapping his arms as he thunders across a room of partying friends. He’s eventually knocked to the floor where his squawks take on a more defeated tone.

 

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It’s glorious.

Plus, there’s a crazy disco scene. Ya gotta love a crazy disco scene.

Zalman King gives a bizarre performance as Zipkin (or “Zippy,” as his pals call him). His wacky reactions and off-kilter acting choices are entrancing. We are left to continuously come to terms with the fact that, yes, this is indeed the hero of our story as he creeps around an old friend’s office like a weird perv, incriminates himself by running from the scene of a crime, and repeatedly screams “NO!” in the bedroom doorway of a recently murdered stranger’s house that he just broke into (this is followed by the most overdramatic catching-of-breath moment ever filmed). Robert Walden, on the other hand, does a competent job as the overextended Dr. David Blume. His headaches, hair loss, and apparent fatigue keep us wondering if/when he will turn into a crazed killer. This culminates in a surgery scene that will make your palms sweat. Deborah Winters (Alicia Sweeney) does fine work as Zippy’s love interest, and Charles Siebert is believable as Detective Clay. Any of these three would have made for a more relatable protagonist.

 

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Fans of cult cinema will find much to enjoy here, and it offers a decent amount of laughs for good/bad movie lovers, but it also contains a sprinkling of effective moments that briefly gleam in the midst of all the insanity (accompanied throughout by Charles Gross’ eerie electronic music). There’s a really great movie buried somewhere in this beautiful, spastic mess.

On second thought, it’s probably better off this way.

 

michael seymour blake bio

 

 

Michael Seymour Blake’s work has appeared at Cosmonauts Avenue, Hobart, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Barrelhouse, Fanzine, Flapperhouse, Entropy, Paper Darts, People Holding, and Heavy Feather Review. He writes and doodles and sleeps in Queens.

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