MGM // 1984 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // January 25th, 2003
He's head over heels and headed straight for trouble
Teddy Pierce wants to have sex with a woman wearing a red dress that he sees taking an air bath over a garage park steam vent. So he tries to sweat the hoochie for an extramarital hook-up. When not involved in this trivial pursuit, he spends his free time hanging out with other lothario losers who cheat on their wives/life partners and then whine like wounded weasels when their paramours leave them in a fit of community property anger. After mistakenly asking Gilda Radner out for a date (this is truly an error for any man) and surreptitiously learning to ride horses, he finally finagles his crimson crush and discovers she's up for some adulterous behavior as well. Sure, he has a wife and kids to consider, but being a man, worrying about his wiener takes center stage. Then, as proof that 1984 was the year when Western Civilization and perhaps the entire human race on the planet Earth was doomed to decline and ultimate destruction, we get to see Gene Wilder naked, not just once but three times. Oh, the humanity!
When one swallows poison, or Bobby Flay's pseudo Southwestern cuisine, the Center for Disease Control recommends the inducement of vomiting immediately. To achieve the old intestinal heave-ho, one can go with a homemade ipecac of, say, incredibly salted water or a tasty brine shrimp colada. They can even run down to their local corner drug store and buy a bottle of professional strength human Drain-o, or a liter of Blue Pepsi. But the most sure-fire way to get the old reverse peristalsis going is to sit down and watch that Reagan era atrocity The Women in Red. Now, Gene Wilder was once a comedy god, a kind of Jesus of joke whose roles in The Producers, Young Frankenstein, and Blazing Saddles established a body of work from which a substantial silliness legend was born forth. Unfortunately, after a couple of team-ups with the infinitely more humorous Richard Pryor, Wilder's cinematic fortunes fell along the wayside with such misguided mistakes as Hanky Panky, Haunted Honeymoon, and this stupid sex farce attempting to pass itself off as a crazy contemporary comedy. Wilder penned the insipid screenplay (based on that wellspring of guaranteed cinematic gold -- a French carnality comedy) and even stood behind the camera to direct. But instead of a return to the celebrated salad days of giggle genius, he struck the final nails in his career coffin (maybe not -- he still had that Spock steered disaster of Funny About Love to look forward to).
Not that Wilder was out of his mind, or his populist league, when he decided to chronicle the comic side of the macho ego and sex drive in decline. The male menopause, coming of age spots, grandpa on the make movie was all the rage (or the cause of said) in the early '80s, just as AIDS was putting a cramp in numerous business luncheons and convention trips and before Viagra gave elderly men an uncontrollable chemically created reason to seek sexual solace. But The Women in Red doesn't really celebrate the forbidden randiness of adultery and illicit acts, like say Blame It On Rio or The Killing Fields. It has a depressing, mean-spirited tone that seems to clash completely with the light hearted horniness of the characters involved. Maybe it's the fact that, for kicks, Wilder and his buddies stage elaborate stunts and practical jokes on the people and restaurants of San Francisco, causing public spectacles and untold personal and property damage (they're like a New Wave Borscht Belt Jackass). Or maybe it's in the unfettered guiltlessness of how everyone acts. There is never a second where these characters feel guilty for what they do. They wet their willies anywhere they want and when reality slaps them in the tickle, all that's required is some non-erotic male bonding and everything's kosher. There's no regrets. No tears goodbye...well, maybe a couple.
MGM offers The Women in Red in a barely-there DVD presentation of a few trailers, a flip disc widescreen/full screen choice, and lots of shots of Kelly Le Brock. Of all the performers here, hers is the saddest, sorriest lot. She is never given a role to play; she is merely an archetype (she is far more of a void here than in her turn as a computer generated digital dame in Weird Science). She is to be viewed as sex and body type, and that's it. And in some ways, if all you're concerned about is seeing this former foxy lady sans skivvies, this movie will provide a semi-second backside shot to sate of your nudity need. But the image (in either 1.85:1 or 1.33:1) is soft and compressed. There are occasional scenes of clarity (the Golden Gate Park scenes emphasize the misty quality of the air in the Bay Area), but for the most part, the movie and DVD presentation look cheaply transferred. As for the sound, The Women in Red was known for featuring several story specific pop songs by Motown megastar Stevie Wonder. But even in fairly decent Dolby Digital Stereo, aside from "I Just Called to Say 'I Love You'" (a treacly bit of AOR fluff) there is none of Little Steve's musical genius to be found here. Wonder's aimless tunes sound like preprogrammed Casio crap and add nothing to the overall movie experience. Not that much could help The Women in Red. When viewed in light of more thoughtful, complex stories of men longing to reconnect with their youth and libido (American Beauty), its true amateur aimlessness shows through. No potent purplish pill can supercharge this limp laughless lustfest.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13