Theme Song: The soundtrack for Blue Sunshine was done by Charles Gross and it’s a pretty bizarre combination of tropical vibes mixed with strained horror vibes.
If you listen to this theme song while wandering around your neighborhood, you’re life will become 100% more exciting. That guy taking out the garbage? Obviously up to something suspicious. That old woman struggling to get out of her car? She’s totally about to start vomiting blood and bugs. Seriously, this song could amp up your level of alertness better than any of those drugs you do.
Since it’s the late 70s, there’s a scene inside of a disco, where the disco-dancing song, “Disco Blue,” is played, credited to The Humane Society for the Preservation of Good Music.
Interesting Dated References: Honey as a remedy for severe hangover; Going to a party in an A-Frame house with a roaring fireplace and plush carpet; Being able to use a credit card to open a locked door; Being concerned about the after-effects of doing drugs.
Best Line: Said by guy about to have his acid freak-out as a semi blares it’s horn — “Goddamn trucks!”
Social Context: Blue Sunshine loosely plays upon America’s fear of the after-effects of LSD. Unfortunately by the time it came out, America didn’t care about LSD anymore because everyone was buried in a mountain of super premium uncut cocaine. The base premise involves a batch of bad acid (called Blue Sunshine), which lays dormant in your system for 10 years, then causes you to wear a bald-head wig and totally freak the fuck out.
Summary: Through various scenes played out during the opening credits, we are introduced to the following characters: Dr. Blume (Robert Walden), who is loved by patients, but suffers from severe headaches; Wendy the loving babysitter, who reads Rapunzel to children as they accidentally pull out her hair; Barbara the super-stressed housewife, whose marriage is falling apart; and her totally insane police officer husband John, who is about to go to ballistic because he finds the house Macaw super irritating.
The main problem with all of these interludes is that everyone who will likely be going insane from taking Blue Sunshine are wearing totally obvious wigs. It’s fucking distracting and keeps removing me from story.
Then we’re at a righteous party in an A-Frame house, where everyone is having fun except for Tony (Brion James RIP, Blade Runner, 48 Hours, Tango & Cash), who is on PCP and thinks he’s a bird. Everyone laughs this off as they decide Frannie (a dude, played by Billy Crystal’s brother, Richard) should sing a song.
Instead of enjoying the song, someone decides to pull at Frannie’s wig, exposing his bald-head wig, causing him to run out of the house in embarrassment. Instead of quietly reflecting on why the one asshole tugged at Frannie’s wig, the majority of the party simply leave. The only person really concerned is Jerry, so he goes into the woods to look for his friend Frannie. Three other women decide to stay at the A-Frame to discuss the events and how much fun it is to party in an A-Frame house.
A totally bugged-out Frannie returns to the party and shoves the three women into the giant roaring fireplace. Well, it’s sort of implied he does. The editing and blocking are a bit choppy. Jerry returns to the A-Frame and discovers the bodies in the fire. He is not in the least bit grossed out by the smell of three burning female corpses as he stands around for a good five minutes.
In another series of ridiculous events, Jerry finds bugged-out Frannie, and they tussle out into the road, where Frannie is run over and killed by a moving van, which just happens to be in service late at night. Even more inexplicable, the delivery guy chases Jerry back into the A-Frame and shoots him in the arm. Jerry runs off to see his doctor friend (yes, the same doctor from the opening vignettes). Meanwhile, the delivery driver calls the cops and blames Jerry for everything.
This is all a little hard to believe. Jerry is wearing a sweater with reindeer all over it, which effectively places his threat level at zero. Back at the A-Frame with the cops, Jerry’s girlfriend only gives a half-hearted effort to defend him.
Jerry is played by Zalman King, who went on to helm Wild Orchid, Red Shoe Diaries, and a slew of other soft-core erotic thrillers (or as my mom used to like to call them, “my alone-time movies”). Zalman has the most insane scowl I’ve ever seen.
The next day, Jerry meets up with his girlfriend to defend himself and tell her he’s stumbled onto a conspiracy.. He noticed a newspaper piece about a dead bald cop (yes, the same cop from the opening vignettes) who killed his family and Jerry decides to break into the crime scene to investigate.
While at the crime scene, Jerry has some type of non-Blue Sunshine related flashback and experiences all the murders by way of an auditory hallucination as he stares at the police tape outlines. Then the macaw that witnessed the crime tells him to drive to a television studio, which is located in the middle of nowhere.
A lot of this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but Blue Sunshine is the kind of movie you’ll probably enjoy a lot more if you dispel logic and don’t question anything. Once inside the television studio, he discovers the words, “Blue Sunshine,” below a trippy picture of political candidate Ed Flemming.
Jerry decides to visit Ed Flemming and ask him if he knew Frannie or what his connection is to the words “Blue Sunshine.” Flemming denies everything. Then there’s a weird, slow, car chase for no reason. Later, Jerry starts to piece everything together and goes to tell his doctor friend.
Basically, Jerry realizes a bunch of people who went to Stanford back in the 60s took a bad batch of acid, which Ed Flemming was distributing. Since Jerry and his doctor friend were only dealing the batch to all their friends and not doing the bad acid, they are safe.
A day or so later, Jerry’s girlfriend Alicia is hanging out at a Flemming campaign rally. Wayne, the top security officer for Flemming, recognizes her as an associate of Jerry and tries to talk to her. Since he wants to probe her for more information about Jerry, and probe her in general, he invites her to go to Big Daddy’s Discotheque the following evening. She reluctantly agrees after noticing he’s wearing a terribly distracting hair-wig on top of a bald-wig.
Jerry continues his investigation by speaking with Wendy (yes, the babysitter from the opening vignettes) who also happens to be Ed Flemming’s estranged lover. He grills her about Blue Sunshine and after he leaves, she pulls off her hair-wig to reveal a bald-head wig and with a kitchen knife in hand, she begins chasing the children she is babysitting.
Jerry returns just in time to push the bugged-out Wendy off the balcony. Rather than stick around and explain things, he once again goes on the run. I can’t help but think Jerry could have remedied all his troubles if he would have stayed at the initial A-Frame crime scene and clarified what happened.
Then a detective interviews Flemming, who denies knowing Jerry. There are a few slow drags throughout Blue Sunshine, in which things start to veer into made-for-tv political thriller territory, and they screw with the pacing a bit. In an interview on the reissue DVD, director Jeff Lieberman (Squirm, Just Before Dawn) states that Blue Sunshine was originally going to be a movie-of-the-week, which may explain the occasional lack of focus.
There are also some really odd, but interesting scenes, like this one, in which Jerry is waiting to get pills from his doctor friend so he can tranquilize anyone affected by Blue Sunshine. The guy playing the junkie is insane and over the top.
Or this scene, in which Jerry goes to buy a Walter LP III Air Gun.
There’s a super weird vibe going on in both of these scenes. They seem out of place, but they’re really enjoyable.
Inside Big Daddy’s Discotheque (which is connected to a mall) the asshole DJ blows a fucking whistle non-stop into the microphone. What an asshole. So Alicia finds Wayne, who is all sweaty, and says he doesn’t feel well. He goes to the bathroom, where the detective tries to console him.
Instead, Wayne freaks out and goes on a rampage on the disco dance floor and everyone scatters. He even hurls a woman like ten feet. All the while, Flemming is giving a speech in the main food court of the mall. Alicia (who as far as we know has no previous experience running a soundboard or using DJ equipment) immediately runs to the soundbooth and cranks up the volume, which makes Wayne go even more insane and run off into some larger department store.
Then there’s a really nice, slow, chase sequence, in which Jerry tracks Wayne through women’s clothing, housewares, electronics, and concludes in kitchenware, where he shoots Wayne in the neck with a tranquilizer dart.
Then there’s an odd postscript text, which tries to instill fear in the public by letting them know that only some of the Blue Sunshine doses were accounted for. Like I said, Blue Sunshine can’t quite commit to gory acid freak-out and as a result, loses some of it’s impact, but there are several great moments, so it’s worth checking out.
Poster and Box Art: The original home video release of Blue Sunshine has a nice airbrushed cover. It’s ethereal and iconic and deserves to be enlarged to gigantic sizes.
The original theatrical poster is solid, but not as good as the home video art. The poster has more of a graphic design look.
Availability: Blue Sunshine is available on streaming service Hulu, but it doesn’t look like it’s a restored print. The movie is also available for rental on pay-streaming services like Amazon and iTunes, which appears to be a restored print. Although if you’re going to do it, spring for the 2-disc DVD released by Synapse, which includes a CD with the soundtrack, as well as an informative interview with director/writer Jeff Lieberman.