BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Feb 28th, 2000 •

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Square (Anchor Bay) 1980
111 minutes / 1.85:1 & enhanced for 16X9 tvs, Dolby Digital.


Alan Moyle (Pump up the Volume – 1990), who had not seen the movie since his director’s cut was delivered and butchered, was persuaded by lead actress Robin Johnson to help out with the commentary track. Thus we are made privy to another harrowing tale of studio interference, and the wounds that never heal…or do they? The viewing of the film has a decidedly positive effect on Moyle. Seeing it again is like psychotherapy, and he appears to regain some pride in what survives of his work.

Robin Johnson doesn’t share his ambivalence; she is delighted to be participating in the commentary. “How come I can’t walk properly?” she laughs, while watching her character careen down Times Square during the title sequence. She was fifteen years old when approached on a street corner by a man whose identity remains unknown to both her and Moyle even today, telling her to go to the Times Square tryouts. They extend an open dinner invitation to the guy if he’ll only call and let them know who he is.

A critic at the time said of Ms. Johnson, “If Judy Garland and Mick Jagger had a child, this is what she’d look like.” She certainly could have done a bang-up Janis Joplin. But though she’s worked since then, her career didn’t go in that direction. She’s compelling in this film, a tough, angry waif who can look street sexy or street ugly depending on lighting, make-up, etc. For me she’s the magic that makes the film work to whatever extent it does, and there’s a long tracking shot down 42nd Street as she and her upper middle class groupie (Trini Alvarado) dance toward us that’s got such energy I wish it had gone on minutes longer.

Moyle derived the story from a diary he found wedged in a couch, left behind by a mentally ill girl. Johnson’s character does seem ill-fated, and perhaps that was too much for the powers that be. Who knows? But the version that remains seems robbed of dimension. The gay element of the story, which would have pushed the film over the edge where it belonged, was eliminated as the studio recut progressed. And Tim Curry’s role seems truncated. Moyle speaks highly of him, and is contrite about the way he was mistreated on the set.

I don’t know about you, but my screening committee and I are fond of double bills. That’s the way it was when I was a kid going to the movies, and on a long evening I find one can handle dinner, a DVD, dessert, and another DVD. It’s the act of thoughtfully pairing two for an evening’s entertainment that’s the challenge.

So how about Times Square with 42nd Street (available on DVD from Warner Bros Home Video).

Produced by Robert Stigwood.
Screenplay by Jacob Brackman.
Directed by Alan Moyle.

Robin Johnson,
Trini Alvarado,
Tim Curry.

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