Directed by Renny Harlin / Fox / DS-SL REG. 1 NTSC DVD
1.78:1 (16:9) and 4:3 / DD Stereo / Rel. 12-16-2003 / MSRP $14.95

 

The career of Andrew "Dice Clay" Silverstein is kind of one big rollercoaster; he went from comedian to bit-actor in such television series as Crime Story and finally gained enormous popularity as one the biggest money-makiing standup acts of his time, outgrossing all the supposed pillars of comedic wisdom. The problem was that Dice's "time" ranged from the mid-eighties until somewhere past 1993 where he found himself fighting an uphill battle against cancelled sitcoms, pressure groups still enraged by his controvserial work and a general apathy among the public toward his tough guy image. It seemed as if Dice had become a relic, and despite any poor decisions he made subsequent to 1991's The Adventures of Ford Fairlane it was this one film which is seen as the major crossroads in hs career.

As the title suggests, Ford Fairlane's story concerns the title character (Dice), a brash fellow with a vintage car and classic noir detective looks who made the long journey to Hollywood years ago in search of a career in music but ended being forced into taking private detective work from all kinds of eccentric and strange rock stars. He goes to all the right clubs, knows all the right people and gets the job done in no time but he's having money problems because his clients rarely takes his work seriously and tend to pay him in gifts, such as the Australian Group Exteme's Koala Bear present which becomes a lovable sidekick for the hardened Fairlane. Ford's lucks picks up when his former musical partner and rich Howard Stern-like shock jock Johnny Crunch (Gilbert Gottfried) hires Ford to track down a mysterious groupie named Zoo Zoo Petals, but after Crunch gets murdered and a rich socialite (Priscilla Presley) hires Fairlane to track down the same girl he's compelled to find out the importance of this missing woman and solve a dark and evil mystery which ultimately leads him to confront the prince of music industry greed: Wayne Newton.

This early film from Renny Harlin finds him working with the material that suits him best: light and breezy with lots of explosions. Dice's Fairlane character is spot-on given his wacky cinematic trappings and all the cameos and small roles from people like Newton and Married With Children's Ed O'Neal add to the glizty cult aura which surrounds the film. When one looks at Ford Fairlane it's hard not to compare it to another break-out film, Up In Smoke. Just like Clay, Cheech and Chong had success in comedy records and the first big film they made was less of a new creative work and more a statement of their persona and stage act. Much like Clay, Marin and Chong played slightly-tweaked versions of their stand-up characters and much of the script was pulled from bits and pieces of their comedy albums. In the same way that Up In Smoke chronicles the bourgening New Wave and Punk scene of late seventies Hollywood, Fairlane is drenched in the allure of eighties hard rock excess. Ultimately the similarities between the two end abruptly at the box office finish line as Up In Smoke launched the cinematic careers of it's stars while Ford Fairlane was another nail in Dice's Coffin, preparing him for later starring roles in Shannon Tweed b-movies and small supporting parts in Pauly Shore epics like Jury Duty. The reasons why one succeeded and the other failed are complex; in Dice's defense his Fairlane is a far more coherent film than Up In Smoke but ultimately it's not neatness and organization that are important if audiences found one more entertaining than another. Cheech and Chong's counter-culture and druggy slapstick must've just appealed to a great audience than Dice's mysoginstic, icy and borderline racist/homophic act that was indicative of the that kind of slimey underbelly of 1980's yuppie scum that American culture was trying to rid itself of at the dawn of the new decade with a more earthy fashion and a revival of the music scenes like Seattle, hundreds of miles away geographically and culturally from Ford Fairlane soundtrack artists Motley Crue and Billy Idol. In fact, along with Dice these hair band and metal rockers also fell into a career slump and I seriously doubt the quality of their music or Dice's stand-up had really changed. People seemed to want something new and it wasn't Dice. Whereas Cheech and Chong's style of humor had a touch of the timeless to it, Dice's seems to have aged the worst of all his peers because he was so representative of his own time

Despite the relative failure, Fox has deemed the film worthy of a U.S. special edition DVD after years of the film only being available on U.S. VHS or foreign widescreen Video. Fairlane's arrival in region 1 is cool enough; along with widescreen and pan and scan video transfers (each on their own side of this flipper); there's also trailers, a making-of featurette and the David Fincher's music video for Billy Idol's Rock the Cradle of Love. With this release, Fox gives one the interesting opportunity to look at a film outside of it's own infamy and judge it on it's merits. When viewed from that perspective, I think The Adventures of Fotd Fairlane ends up being a funny action comedy which represents it's own time period very well and takes us back to when that infamous comedian nicknamed "Dice" pioneered the concept of "arena comedy." One might find themselves slipping back into the disturbing realties of Dice's current career status after the movies has ended, but arent' movies in their own way about dreams and wishful thinking? In Dice's case the dream died, but I can still appreciate and enjoy this film in it's own charming and disgusting way.