STUDIO: Warner
MSRP: $19.97
• Introduction by Michael Crichton
• Feature Commentary by Michael Crichton
• Theatrical trailer
Dukes of Hazzard preview

The Pitch

“I am an immaterial girl.”

The Humans

Albert Finney (Wolfen), James Coburn (The President’s Analyst), Leigh Taylor-Young, Susan Dey (L.A. Law), Dorian Harewood (Justice League), Tim Rossovich

The Nutshell

In-demand plastic surgeon Dr. Roberts (Finney) discovers that several of his recent patients have died under suspicious circumstances. The common denominator? They were all actress/models, and they were all fairly darn gorgeous even before they went under the knife. Could there be some connection with the advertising tycoon (Coburn) that employed them, or the research consultant (Taylor-Young) that recommended their surgeries? Why, yes. Yes there could. Just follow the dude with the perm and the rockin’ moustache.

"Wow. How tall are you with heels?"

The Lowdown

Looker is a copyright-savvy grab bag of story ideas masquerading as a single film. Many of the concepts directly contradict each other. Why do the girls undergo surgical modification only to be scanned into digital avatars that can be altered much more easily? Why does the research firm obsess over visual minutiae when they have technology that can brainwash TV viewers regardless of the image onscreen? Why introduce a politician character, indicate that he’s been replaced with a programmable, mind-controlling digital doppelganger, and then do absolutely nothing with that plotline? What does a hypno-ray handgun have to do with television anyhow?

Next week on The Obsessive-Compulsive Grammarian: Dotting your ‘i’s.

Crichton the director propels the action almost fast enough to keep us from noticing that Crichton the writer never explains any of this. He never even provides a motive for the killings. Is Coburn trying to save money by not having to pay the talent? I mean, the victims are actress/models so it’s unlikely any of them, um, know too much.

It’s more likely that what we’re seeing is an airing of thinly veiled personal grievances against Hollywood. Prior to making this film in 1981, Crichton had wasted three years on a doomed production of Congo (considering the version that was eventually made, he needn’t have bothered), and his disgust with L.A., the entertainment business, and the people who inhabit it is evident.

"This hallway reflects the emptiness of my inner self. I’m going back inside now."

Dr. Roberts is Crichton’s surrogate, an artisan wasting his talents on a soulless community. I say Moustache Man symbolizes upper-class drug culture: isn’t it more fun to think that the last time you blacked out it wasn’t your fault but part of a vast conspiracy? And the doomed beauties could well represent any number of young ladies our writer/director may have struck out with back at Hef’s mansion.

Finney is a total pro here. Like Connery in the equally illogical Outland that same year, he projects a gravity and determination that legitimize the action around him, even when sharing the screen with ladies who are definitely more Model than Actress.

Dey is very appealing as the last surviving Perfect Girl. She embodies a specific type of free-spirited yet pragmatic Los Angeleno, and it’s too bad she didn’t get more roles of this nature. Coburn is welcome, but wasted.

"Didja see Bronson’s Mandom commercial? What a goof."

The Package

Presented in full scope, Looker… well, looks great. Barry (Warriors) DeVorzon’s groovy synthesizer score comes through clear and crisp. On the commentary track, Crichton attempts to re-contextualize his 25-year-old film’s ‘futurism’, claiming credit for several present-day innovations along the way. OK, he was pretty close, but he got some of it backward. Turns out it’s currently cheaper to insert real actors into fake environments, not the other way round.

Why is there a trailer for Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning on this disc, you ask? I guess you don’t remember Ashley Cox, do you. ‘70s Playmates rule.

Coming soon: Ron Burgundy in the 25th Century

6 out of 10