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  Blue Sunshine Flashback Fever
Year: 1978
Director: Jeff Lieberman
Stars: Zalman King, Deborah Winters, Mark Goddard, Robert Walden, Charles Siebert, Ann Cooper, Ray Young, Alice Ghostley, Stefan Gierasch, Richard Crystal, Bill Adler, Barbara Quinn, Adriana Shaw, Bill Sorrells, Jeffrey Druce, Brion James
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Strange things are happening across Los Angeles, and select citizens are beginning to act oddly. There's the doctor in a hospital who is entrusted to conduct delicate operations on his patients, but he is suffering serious headaches - could something other than stress be the cause? And what about the estranged wife of aspiring Congressman Edward Flemming (Mark Goddard)? When she is acting as babysitter to her friend's kids, one of the children pulls a chunk of hair out of her head - it just came off in her hand. Meanwhile, at a get-together, Jerry Zipkin (Zalman King) is about to be plunged straight into a conspiracy...

Blue Sunshine was one of the singular horror movies that Jeff Lieberman directed in the late seventies and onwards, works that found a small but loyal audience who responded to their sense of humour, striking setpieces and downright strangeness. They didn't get much stranger than this, which made moves to be a satire of the Baby Boomers who were now firmly ensconced in the society many of them in their younger days had rejected, but now (about ten years later) had wholeheartedly embraced, in some cases becoming pillars of that society. But it was also a nightmarish horror movie, where normality is upended due to the characters' pasts.

Imagine if popular TV drama Thirtysomething had done an episode where the characters were afflicted with a condition that saw them lose their hair and transform into homicidal maniacs and you get closer to the tone of Blue Sunshine, although it was so offbeat that it was hard to place it in any category. Take our hero, Zipkin, often criticised for being one of the most ineffectual protagonists of his era, but that very lack of ability in the face of the chaos is what gives him his personality; in most other films of this type it would be (future softcore impresario) King who played the shifty politician in waiting and Goddard our square-jawed hero, yet here it's the other way around and though many disagree, the production is all the better for it.

How poor old Zipkin gets embroiled in this is simple: it's that old favourite, innocent man on the run after being accused of a crime he didn't commit. He is at that party in a cosy cabin in the woods watching his pal doing a Frank Siantra impersonation when suddenly the singer's hair flies off and he storms out of the house, leaving his friends stunned, and a few go after him into the night. What they don't know is that the now bald madman has doubled back to the cabin and stuffed the still-screaming women who remained into the fireplace, and as Zipkin is the man who finds this out and chases the maniac into the path of a truck, killing him, he is blamed for all four deaths.

He has one ally in possible romantic interest Alicia (Deborah Winters), but he's such an obvious misfit that it's little wonder everyone else, including the cops, think he's the murderer, especially given he has the unfortunate knack of showing up at the wrong place at the wrong time as he investigates. Indeed, he's one of the movies' worst ever amateur sleuths, barely getting the information he needs and when he does, it's all for nothing because the person he has been questioning has often gone raving insane. Some would have you believe Blue Sunshine was unintentionally funny, but the laughs, uncomfortable as a few are, all appear to be deliberate in Lieberman's script, from the revelation that Flemming used to be the dealer of the titular bad acid, to the scene where the surgeon teeters on the brink of going nuts in the operating room, to the memorable death disco finale. It's bizarre, rough around the edges, but highly entertaining and more intelligent than you might expect. Music by Charles Gross.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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