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Case Number 09330

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The Blue Iguana

Paramount // 1988 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // May 26th, 2006

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger should be kicked in the sack for finding something good to say about this trainwreck.

The Charge

"Love kills, dude."—Yano

Opening Statement

In terms of acting, story, dialogue, and plot, The Blue Iguana is quite possibly the worst movie ever released by a big studio. With its flimsy sets and flimsier characters, it will leave any cinephile writhing in the dust like a discarded iguana tail. The Blue Iguana is bad in every way you can imagine, and finds new ways to be bad that you couldn't have fathomed in advance.

In other words, like any bad movie worth its pedigree, I couldn't turn away from the screen for a second.

Facts of the Case

Vince Holloway (Dylan McDermott, In the Line of Fire) is a down-and-out bounty hunter desperate for cash. A distasteful team of IRS detectives—Detective Vera Quinn (Tovah Feldshuh, Kissing Jessica Stein) and Detective Carl Strick (Dean Stockwell, Air Force One)—hauls Vince in and railroads him into a recovery job. The sting: 25 million dollars in unmarked currency being kept in the vault of dirty bank owner Cora (Jessica Harper, Minority Report). Vince simply has to waltz into the tropical backwash town of Diablo, steer clear of Reno (James Russo, The Ninth Gate) and his henchmen (such as Floyd (Flea, The Big Lebowski) the manic gunman), infiltrate a three-foot-thick bank vault, and get away with the loot.

When Vince manages to stumble into town, the enterprising young Yano (Yano Anaya, A Christmas Story) sells him shoes from a dead man and gives him a lift downtown. There, Vince spies dual quarry. On one side of the street is the heavily protected bank. On the other is Dakota (Pamela Gidley, Cherry 2000), the comely owner of The Blue Iguana saloon.

Before long, Vince is up to his neck in trouble, from the jealous Reno to the treacherous women in town. Can he get the loot and get out before his shoes are recycled for the next stranger in town?

The Evidence

The only thing cheaper than human life in the tropical ghost town of Diablo is the powder-blue spray paint that the set guys used on the plywood. Shot in Mexico for a song, featuring rusted-out jalopies and lots of burlap, The Blue Iguana mustered a paltry $161,398 take at the box office.

Roger Ebert reviewed this fine film in 1988. He gave it half a star and summarized it thusly:
What happens in Diablo will be familiar to any regular viewer of the late movie on the cable station from hell. You know the one. That mystery station on your cable service that seems to show up in the unassigned gaps between the regular channels. The one with no name, no IDs, no number and no call letters, that always seems to be showing movies that apparently do not exist. In those movies, as in this one, people drive around in old cars, shoot at each other and say things like "I've got 15 men out there!" The plots always involve coffins full of foreign currency, guys with moustaches, women with garter belts, and a voice-over narration in which the hero does a cynical whine.

As far as movie reviews go, that's really all you have to say. I agree with Ebert's every word. The Blue Iguana is as cohesive as runny Jell-O, as dramatic as used car ads, and as refined as river rocks among sand. The acting is so atrocious that cringing doesn't even help, while the dialogue assaults your ears with a rain of clunks.

So why are we still discussing the movie? Because The Blue Iguana is a prince among its late nite cable cohorts. For some ineffable reason—only fully explained through the phrase "cult appeal"—The Blue Iguana duct-tapes a sense of style and scrapes together a rudimentary appeal. It is like a barely acceptable atrocity that unfolds before your eyes with a modicum of grace. Its forced barrage of cynical, misplaced parody fails to entirely obliterate an actual sense of humor. Its cheap-ass sets somehow come off as striking and ghetto artsy. Its high-profile actors, abused and mis-directed into shells of their former selves, somehow are not shamed by the picture; it is so magnificently foul that no actor is tainted by association.

To give you an idea of how perversely gripping I found this movie, my Blue Iguana experience was interrupted about ten minutes from the end. I knew what was going to happen—or to be precise, I knew that whatever was going to happen was going to be so inane and illogically stupid that wasting predictive prowess on it would be futile. I had earned the right to cross it off my docket and crank out a review. But I was actually thinking about it the next day, and wanted—wanted, mind you—to finish it out. I felt I owed it to The Blue Iguana to see this thing through.

I might even watch it again someday.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Just to be sure you picked up on the topic sentence, The Blue Iguana is bad. It features corny, faux-cynical voice overs that are spaced scant minutes apart and substitute themselves for vast swaths of the plot. Detectives Quinn and Strick are the stupidest pair of bumbling bad guys I've ever seen. I'll take the doofuses from Stop the Pigeon any day. Dean Stockwell spends the whole time in a clammy neck brace and steamy, coke bottle glasses, ineffectually wielding a blackjack. Meanwhile, Tovah Feldshuh hams it up in a gray wifebeater and flexes her mighty muscles by way of character development.

On the other hand, supporting actors like Yano and Flea inject some actual energy into the movie. Flea was almost intolerably spastic, while Yano was almost intolerably laconic, but both of their characters worked. Michele Seipp gets bonus points for her offbeat portrayal of the bartender. I wish I could say the same for James Russo, whose limping, eyeball-screwing, mumbling caricature is horribly misplaced. Pamela Gidley looks great and makes a reasonable stand-in for the down-and-dirty femme fatale bar owner, but Marion Ravenwood she is not.

Paramount offers its usual bare-bones DVD treatment. The Blue Iguana has no extras, menu animations, liner notes, or any fluff of any kind. The transfer is scratchy and infested with dirt. No attempt has been made to boost contrast or tweak color fidelity. The sound is equally uninspiring, leaking anemically out of the speakers.

Closing Statement

If you are a connoisseur of bad movies, seek The Blue Iguana. It is far below the radar, having been released and shitcanned in the blink of an eye way back in the Eighties. With its Grim Fandango aesthetic, cast of notable actors, corny assault of misplaced noir parody, and handful of funny moments, The Blue Iguana is ripe for rebirth as a Cult King.

The Verdict

Crazy glue that tail back on; you're on in five.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 70
Audio: 75
Extras: 0
Acting: 40
Story: 45
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Bad
• Comedy
• Cult
• Film Noir

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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