• Tough Guys Don’t Dance (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: August 31st, 2021.
    Director: Norman Mailer
    Cast: Ryan O’Neal, Isabella Rossellini, Wings Hauser, Lawrence Tierney, Debra Stipe, Penn Jillette
    Year: 1987
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    Tough Guys Don’t Dance – Movie Review:

    Tough Guys Don’t Dance was directed by Norman Mailer and based on his own novel of the same name. The 1987 Cannon Films production was shot entirely on location in and around Provincetown, Massachusetts and while it’s very pretty to look at, it can be more than a little confusing at times.

    The film introduces us to Tim Madden (Ryan O’Neal), a middle-aged writer and ex-con who comes off of a lengthy bender one sunny morning to find his terminally ill father Dougy (Lawrence Tierney) sitting in his kitchen. Tim starts explaining to his father what happened over the last few days, and as he does, we flashback and learn about Tim’s ridiculously complicated past. Tim isn’t sure how or why he has a new tattoo or how he got blood all over the inside of his car, but it ties into a complicated scheme involving Provincetown’s Police Chief, Captain Luther Regency (Wings Hauser), who has somehow managed to finagle Tim’s girlfriend, Madeline (Isabella Rossellini), into marrying him.

    As we learn more about Tim’s past, we come to know that he had a thing for a woman named Patty Lareine (Debra Stipe), a woman who is as self-serving and manipulative as she is beautiful, who he met through a swingers ad in the back of Screw magazine and who is involved with a preacher named Big Stoop (Penn Jillette). Tim would come to marry Patty but along the way he gets mixed up in a plot with his old schoolmate, Wardley Meeks III (John Bedford Lloyd), who has also married Patty at one point. Complicating matters further is Tim’s connection to a former porn star Jessica Pond (Frances Fisher) and her recently murdered gay associate, Lonnie Pangborn (R. Patrick Sullivan). Before you know it, Tim’s found a head in his weed stash and is trying his best to put together all of the pieces of this bizarre puzzle and maybe prove his innocence in the process.

    Tough Guys Don’t Dance is a fascinating mess of a movie. The time line jumps around like a coked up jackrabbit, characters are introduced without reason or purpose and the whole thing can be a bit tough to make sense out of but it’s also a pretty entertaining watch. A beautifully shot mix of neo-noir tropes, soap opera melodrama, horror and dark humor, it’s hard to put a finger on just what exactly Mailer was going for here but the end result is nothing if not unique. Full marks to cinematographer John Bailey for doing some truly excellent work here, capturing the scenery of Provincetown perfectly.

    Then, of course, there’s the cast. Ryan O’Neal is now somewhat infamous for his work on this film, given that the film contains a scene where he gets some bad news and responds by yelling ‘Oh God, oh no!’ over and over again. That goofiness aside, he’s fine in the lead but when cast alongside Wings Hauser, who is fantastic in this movie, he almost seems like he’s sleepwalking. Hauser does here what Hauser does best, and that’s bring a psychotic character to life with all the quirky mannerisms and scenery chewing you could hope for. The guy is endlessly watchable here. As to the rest of the cast? Tierney is fine, if underused, in his role, while Isabella Rossellini is fairly adorable. Debra Stipe and John Bedford Lloyd have ridiculously overdone Southern accents but are amusing enough to watch here.

    Tough Guys Don’t Dance – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Tough Guys Don’t Dance to region A Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Taken from a new 2k scan of al 35mm interpositive and taking up 32.6GBs of space on the 50GB disc, the picture quality here is pretty strong. The image is naturally grainy throughout but not at the cost of detail. There’s nice depth and texture here as well and the film’s color scheme looks to be reproduced quite accurately, nothing looks boosted or anything. Skin tones are fine and there aren’t any problems with noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts.

    The 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 track, in the film’s native English, comes with optional English subtitles. The audio is pretty solid, properly balanced and clean sounding. No problems with any audible hiss or distortion to note. An optional Dolby Digital 2.0 track, also in English, is included on the disc as well.

    Not listed on the packaging anywhere but included in the extras menu on the disc is a new commentary track with historian Justin Bozung, the author of The Cinema Of Norman Mailer. He goes over, in a lot of detail, the themes that the movie explores, how Mailer came to direct the film, the shooting and production history of the film, the Provincetown locations, connections to classic noir films particularly Out Of The Past, differences between the novel and the film, the very eighties qualities of the sex and drug use portrayed in the film, Mailer's politics, the way that the upper class are portrayed in the movie, cartoonish aspects of the film, comparisons to Blue Velvet and lots more. It's an interesting and well-informed talk.

    You Don't Have to Make Me Any Nuttier is an excellent new seventeen minute interview with actor Wings Hauser where he talks about his background before then talking about how he landed the part in this film, what it was like working with Norman Mailer, shooting on location in Provincetown and his thoughts on the movie overall. If you watch only one extra on this disc, make sure this is it.

    Shooting In Helltown is a new interview with cinematographer John Bailey that clocks in at seventeen minutes. He talks about how he got the job as cinematographer on the film, his familiarity with Norman Mailer and what he was like to work with, whether or not Wings Hauser was acting or just being Wings Hauser, working with the rest of the cast and crew and more.

    My Dad In Motion is a six minute interview with Michael Mailer, son of director Norman Mailer. He talks about being on set a few times while his father was making the movie, getting some real world movie industry experience, shooting in Provincetown and what it was like seeing his dad at work.

    A Crazy, Wild, Spooky Movie is a new interview with J. Michael Lennon, Norman Mailer's archivist and biographer that runs for sixteen minutes. Here, he goes over how he came to write Mailer's authorized biography, how he came to connect with mailer after writing him a letter, getting to know him, background detail on Mailer's source novel, problems that exist with the finished version of the movie, how much Mailer enjoyed the physical act of making the film and more.

    Also found on the disc is an archival featurette titled Norman Mailer In Provincetown that runs half an hour in length. In this piece, Mailer talks about writing the novel, how the movie should be viewed as a horror film, the act of adapting his own work for the screen, his thoughts on directing, why the story was placed in Provincetown, his thoughts on O'Neal's infamous 'Oh God, oh man!' scene, his relationship with the other crew members including Hauser and plenty more. This is quite interesting as it's essentially Mailer breaking down his own work in his own words.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are an original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. Additionally, this release comes packaged with some nice reversible cover sleeve artwork.

    Tough Guys Don’t Dance – The Final Word:

    Tough Guys Don’t Dance is a big, beautiful mess of a film. Despite its many and obvious flaws, it’s a pretty entertaining way to kill two hours and Vinegar Syndrome’s feature-laden Blu-ray release offers up this screwy picture in very nice shape and with a lot of supplements that should further anyone’s appreciation of the movie.

    Click on the images below for full sized She-Freak Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      I've watched this twice before and I can barely remember anything about it.