Whenever anyone asks newspaper columnist Waldo Winchester (Josef Sommer) what the wildest night he ever reported on was, he always has to say it was New Year's Eve 1928, what he considers the last true night of the Jazz Age as everything went downhill from 1929 onwards. There were a few stories occurring that evening, but they started at the New York diner called Mindy's, where all the main players made sure to congregate before launching themselves into the festivities. There was Regret (Matt Dillon), a mobster's sidekick trying to get in the good books of showgirl Lovely Lou (Jennifer Grey), successful gambler Feet (Randy Quaid) who was thinking of ending it all, and criminal mastermind The Brain (Rutger Hauer) who didn't outsmart a blade...
Among many others, often played by stars or at least well known faces, including those in tiny roles that you wondered why they bothered showing up for that small amount of screen time. The answer to that was they may well have been asked to do more, but the studio backing the project, Columbia, had no faith in it and severely recut the film, adding an explanatory voiceover from Sommer in the hope it might clear up what had been supposed to be confusing. There was a reason for that too: the director was Howard Brookner, and had died some months before the release date after struggling with AIDS; his most celebrated effort was a documentary on William S. Burroughs earlier in the decade (and Burroughs appeared here amidst the celebrities).
Bloodhounds of Broadway, on the other hand, was welcomed by nobody, and it's a sad story, with its most notorious fact being that it was released to cinemas with a reel missing and nobody noticed; not nobody noticed at the studio before it was sent out, but nobody in the audience noticed it either, which should offer some idea of what a jumble this was, with a selection of Damon Runyon short stories all mashed together in such a manner that it was hard to care what was happening to whom and why. One minute we were watching the improbable sight of Madonna romanced by Randy Quaid, the next Julie Hagerty from Airplane! persuading Ethan Phillips from Star Trek Voyager to murder Matt Dillon.
And not being engaged with any of it. It was a lot like watching one of those episodes of Star Trek or Moonlighting where the cast broke off from the usual format to dress up in period costume and pretend to be from a different era, and a lot of that feeling was down to this being an American Playhouse offering, so the television-friendly production values were very noticeable, no matter that it had been intended for the big screen originally. Those obvious, and somewhat cramped, sets were all too plain, rendering what should by rights be big, splashy, musical numbers in the Guys and Dolls mould distinctly underwhelming. There was a duet between Grey and Madonna that showed the former was not much of a singer and the latter's voice wasn't much suited to this flapper persona.
And yet the following year Madonna was cast in Dick Tracy, where she also did her singing, though those were Stephen Sondheim tunes and the examples here, er, were not. When your major comedy moments included a bit where a parrot was shot into pieces by Dillon, which was meant to look cartoonish but when Hagerty tries to join the parts back together was more unpleasant, then you knew you were in trouble. Similarly, when Hauer spent the entire movie after his opening scene slowly dying from a stab wound which left him in a daze, you had to wonder why he was cast at all, unless Brookner was determined to place a star in every role to make it more marketable. As it was, it is now forgotten, indeed it was forgotten the second it was released, aside from the diehard Madonna fans who will watch anything their idol appeared in and would make excuses for her acting. Here, she was no better or worse than anyone else in this deflating balloon of a film. Music by Jonathan Sheffer.