Review: Into The Night (1985)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #751

Number of Views: Three
Release Date: February 22, 1985
Sub-Genre: Comedy/Thriller
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $7,500,000
Running Time: 115 minutes
Director: John Landis
Producers: George Folsey Jr., Ron Koslow
Screenplay: Ron Koslow
Cinematography: Robert Paynter
Score: Ira Newborn
Editing: Malcolm Campbell
Studio/Distributor: Universal Pictures
Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dan Aykroyd, Bruce McGill, David Bowie, Richard Farnsworth, Vera Miles, Irene Papas, Clu Gulager, Kathryn Harrold, Stacey Pickren, Art Evans, John Hostetter

Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] Chicago “25 Or 6 To 4”

[2] Bobby LewisTossin’ and Turnin”

[3] Patti La Belle “Don’t Make Me Sorry”

[4] B.B. King “Into The Night”

How many hours sleep do you get every night? Experts recommend eight hours and suggest this is crucial to decreasing risk for health conditions, maintaining your immune system and retaining memory. However, for some of us, it’s a darn sight easier said than done. There are few things as utterly exasperating as laying there in your bed, desperate for the Sandman to cometh, but unable to drift off into the void. We toss and we turn, alternate between front and back, try everything in our power to clear our racing minds and ultimately it gets us nowhere. I count myself fortunate as, nine times out of ten, I’m off with the fairies the moment my head hits the pillow. However, should I be fretting over something, have an early morning appointment that I need to be fresh for, or have hit the stimulants a little too hard, then I’ll usher the old day out and welcome in the new without a solitary wink to my name to show for it.

One restless soul who knows this nocturnal torment only too well is Ed Okin (Jeff Goldblum). By all accounts, Ed is pretty much your everyday middle class schmuck. His mundane job as an aerospace engineer neither challenges or excites him, every day is identical to the last, and he’s just discovered that his wife is engaging in extracurricular sex behind his back. These aren’t mere doubts, he actually witnessed one such sweaty union first hand, but did he do anything about it? Nada, he simply shrugged his shoulders, shuffled off sheepishly, and accepted this act of low down dirty treachery as his lot in life.

The problem with all this internalization is that Ed lays awake at night while his duplicitous other catches up on her eight hours beside him, accommodating the sperm of another man and likely spent after all that low-key sexual gymnastics. Doesn’t seem fair does it? On the upside, Ed is guaranteed a shot at slotting in a sneaky bed wank, but there’s precious little motivation to do so when his life is so frightfully dull.

Thankfully his friend Herb (Dan Aykroyd) is on hand to offer up some well-meaning suggestion. Rather than surrendering to the inevitability of insomnia, he proposes that Ed jump in his car and engage in something other than staring at his ceiling, dying a little more inside with every hour that passes. It’s not like he has anything to lose that sleepless night aren’t gradually snatching from him anyway so Ed takes this sound advice on board and, the next time restlessness pays its nightly visit, he high-tails off in his gas-guzzler to LAX airport hoping to buck this maddening trend.

If he was looking for a dash of exhilaration, then he’s just about to get it and then some. Ironically, he’s just about to nod off in his upright position, when a beautiful young woman slides her sweet cheeks across his hood and politely requests that he make some tire tracks pronto. If he’s under any illusion of the urgency of this appeal, then the four gun-flailing bearded middle eastern hoons currently falling over one another to get to her soon shake him out of his sleep deprived daze and he does precisely as she asks.

First things first Ed – I’d say you’ve earned a hand job at the very least. I mean, you’ve saved this young lady’s skin so the very least she can do is tug on yours a little right? Aren’t there rules of the road that need to be abided by? I don’t think that would be an unreasonable condition given the circumstances. That danger red lipstick would look mighty purty pouted around the tip of your shaft and releasing all that pent-up semen may be just what the doctor ordered. Finally a good night’s shut-eye son and nobody could argue that you don’t deserve it for riding in on your trusty steed and saving the girl in the nick of time and not a moment before.

Not Ed. He’s far too busy trying to get to the bottom of what has Diana (Michelle Pfeiffer) soundly rattled and, while she’s hardly the most reliable source of information and potentially a jewel smuggler, she’s also given his sorry existence some much-needed purpose. While his dedication to her cause is admirable, embittered Iranians tend to be the last group of extremists you wish to rub up the wrong way and it’s crystal clear that she has something they want fairly desperately. Perhaps he believes that, by chauffeuring her around from one dicey location to the next until sunrise, she’ll slip a lubricated digit in his asshole and milk him to the power of two once the dust has settled. Or maybe Ed’s just a good guy, a gentleman, and there’s more to his eagerness to please than a need to shoot off some sailors.

When you mention the name John Landis, chances are, the first film to spring to mind will not be Into The Night. It wasn’t particularly well received on release, made meager returns at the box office, and has spent the past thirty years plus in perpetual slumber. When you consider that this man’s résumé can boast the likes of National Lampoon’s Animal House, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, Trading Places and Coming To America, there seems little reason to offer this slight comedy/thriller a second glance. However, while not suggesting it to be on par with any of the aforementioned in terms of quality, it’s actually my personal darling of all his movies.

The reason for this is simple – I could watch Goldblum lay awake for eight hours and still feel like my time hasn’t been wasted. Casting him as a downtrodden, aimless insomniac is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned and his tall, gangly frame is custom-built for hunched shoulders, exhausted yawns and general befuddlement. By 1985, he was still best known as a bit-part actor, and it wasn’t until David Cronenberg ushered him into telepod number one for The Fly in 1986, that his leading man credentials became known on a wider scale. His performance here was criticized unjustly as critics bemoaned his lack of oomph. Just a quick thing guys – that’s kind of the idea.

The thing about Jeff is that, while we wish only the best for him, it’s great to laugh at his pitiful luck and Ron Koslow’s screenplay offers him plenty of opportunities to feel hard done by. We really get a sense of his mounting distress and Landis uses this to pull the pillow out from beneath his weary head with side-splitting results. He is only too aware that Diana has been up to something shady and it’s not looking good on the resolution front, but Ed continues to keep the faith like the loyal hound that he is and Goldblum has more than enough off-key charisma to pull this feat off.

Meanwhile, the blundering Iranians in hot pursuit (Landis included) provide no end of comical highlights and show what a great flare the director has for physical comedy. Then we have the cameos and seldom have I seen so many recognizable faces crammed into one movie. Rick Baker, Paul Bartel, David Cronenberg, Jonathan Demme, Richard Franklin, Jim Henson, Lawrence Kasdan, Don Siegel, and even Michelle’s younger sister Dedee Pfeiffer show their faces, while Bruce McGill, Richard Farnsworth, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, Kathryn Harrold and a perfectly cast David Bowie pitch in where necessary.

However, it is Ed’s unlikely budding romance with Diana that makes or breaks Into The Night and the two share a rather glorious, if offbeat, chemistry. As a result, we buy into their predicament, and find ourselves willing them on to overcome the odds and spoon together. The pace may be slightly lethargic and, at 115 minutes long, it may be at risk of oversleeping, but somehow Landis manages to secure our full undivided and we come away feeling like we’ve just caught up on those eight hours. So the next time you’re lying in your bed wide awake and increasingly surrendering the will to live, do like Ed and head off into the night for adventure. If nothing else, that’s tomorrow’s bed wank material taken care of.

Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10

Read An American Werewolf in London Appraisal
Read Innocent Blood Appraisal
Read After Hours Appraisal
Read The Fly (1986) Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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