“I’m a Shadow (On The Walls of The City)” by Michael Minard.
Interesting Dated References: Pretending you don’t see anything when there is a crime being committed. This differs from the modern day standard of filming the crime with your phone and uploading it to Youtube. Also equally as dated is The Estranged Husband referring to himself as “a commercial artist.”
Best Line: Addressed to a two year old boy by a 35-year-old man while giving the child a bath — ” … because sometimes friends have secrets. There are things that Mommy doesn’t need to know. Mommy shouldn’t know. Sometimes grown-ups and Kids can have secrets, too, but you gotta be able to trust them. The police must never find out. Never.”
Social Context: There’s no social context here, just some bad “thriller” action. I guess there is something to be said for yet another good 70s B-Movie director being forced into doing 80s schlock. Larry Cohen wrote some classic 70s stuff: El Condor, God Told Me To, Hell Up In Harlem, It’s Alive, and a few others. Why in the 80s he was reduced to doing this, the Maniac Cop trilogy and finishing the It’s Alive trilogy, we’ll never know.
Summary: The entire plot of this movie is ridiculous. Seriously. Scrawny Hitman stabs a man in alley. Small boy witnesses crime. Hitman then stalks boy but falls in love with boys mother. Not only that, but it says it’s a “thriller” on the box and also claims to cost $79.95. So the murder happens, The Kid sees, the killer sees The Kid, the killer gets yelled at for leaving a witness by his mob boss, and The Kid and his Mom go about their business, which includes having The Mom partake in some bizarre feminist dialogue with her friend in what appears to be an old thrift store, but could possibly be the magic shop from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
First off, the feminist shop owner babbles on about the meeting and some convention occurring that weekend. She is like a pro-gun feminist who wants to kill men. The Mom character sort of brushes her off, but agrees to attend the weekend meeting. The Mom is played by Ann Carlisle who wrote and starred in Liquid Sky. Then we’re back to the Mob Hitman whom it turns out is actually a graffiti artist who spray-paints his silhouette on walls all over the city.
Way ahead of his time. It gets really absurd when there’s an awesome theme song (see link above). Let’s not forget that after he finishes his graffiti art that he throws his spray can in the river. You know, so there’s no evidence. And the whole time he makes “street art” this terrible song about a shadow is playing.
So after some mildly intrusive stalking, The Hitman finally makes contact with the mother who is apparently a slut because she’s all open to his advances and even indicates she noticed him stalking her. This never happens in real life. Girls notice you stalking them, but they are never open to your advances.
Look at this insane mafioso comb-over. The Hitman’s mob bosses tell him to befriend The Mom and then make The Kid have an accident. The mob boss also makes a bizarre reference to ‘Nam and The Hitman killing a bunch of kids he dropped bombs on.
The Mom is handing out flyers at the feminist rally when The Kid is kidnapped. As she runs around looking for him, the music switches from bad-Taxi-Driver-style sax solos to full on The Never Ending Story synths. It turns out that The Kid’s estranged dad did the kidnapping. The Mom chases him down and they argue on the street while everyone stands around and tries to figure out how two bad actors got a scene together.
The Mom invites The Hitman to a “Stop Rape” convention. This rape convention is insane. They are doing some type of chant like “2-4-6-8, (something-something) we won’t be raped,” and they are holding up signs that read, “Porn is Woman Hate.” Best of all, The Hitman joins right in with The Kid on his shoulders. There isn’t even any real character development. It’s just absurd situation after absurd situation. On their second date and after leaving the rape convention, The Hitman scores with The Mom. There’s even a really non-sexy nude sex scene later on. The Hitman is also so smart he leaves his convertible top down. This, of course, results in The Estranged Husband urinating in his car.
The Estranged Husband hires a private dick to find out dirt on The Mom’s mysterious new boyfriend, and several times makes reference to the fact he (The Estranged Husband) is a commercial artist. Then he convinces The Mom to go out to eat, where she explains their marriage didn’t work out because he treated her like “one of his sketches.” They’re really beating this point into the ground. Somehow The Hitman brings The Kid to his awesome 80s apartment and apparently falls in love with The Kid (this is after giving him a bath earlier in the movie). Then The Mob Guys show up and The Hitman hides The Kid because he knows they are there to kill The Kid.
Okay, so The Hitman is a pansy and can’t kill The Kid. The cops are harassing The Mom, and The Kid keeps playing with knives. Things start to get not as absurd until we meet:
Carl. Carl is played by that guy from the sitcom Coach with the blonde hair and hoarse voice. He roughs up The Hitman a bit. This upsets The Hitman and he tries to convince The Mom to move away, only she can’t because now she’s being hassled by the cops to admit to seeing something. This frustrates The Hitman so much he tires to make The Kid fall off of a swing. This is interrupted by The Estranged Father and a fight amongst the playground equipment ensues. The Hitman wins and then flees. The next day The Mom leaves The Kid unattended on some type of makeshift carousel mounted to the back of a pick-up truck, which The Hitman then steals. The director actually takes advantage of this situation and films from inside the carousel as The Kid spins around in traffic. Then there’s some type of showdown in some type of abandoned factory involving some type of feminist gang, and The Hitman dies.
Poster and Box Art: The box art for this movie is hilarious in that it features some muscular dude and some blonde woman with short hair who are both absent from the actual film. On the positive side of things, it is a well-illustrated cover that could have been much more terrible.
Availability: Perfect Strangers is available on DVD from Amazon but I cannot tell you why. Probably because it was the only other starring role for the chick from Liquid Sky. Also of note is the fact that the sitcom adaptation of the film is also available on DVD.