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Friday 20 December 2013

Burl reviews Desperate Moves! (1981)

Rollin’ at you, it’s Burl! Ha ha, here I am to review what I believe was meant as Italy’s contribution to the rollerskate genre – their version of Roller Boogie perhaps! Except it’s not fully an Italian movie – it was made by Italian filmmakers in America, the same guys who made Tentacles in fact, and like Tentacles it has an American cast and is nothing like Roller Boogie! Ha ha! Anyway, the picture is called Desperate Moves, and it’s really a thing of its very own category!
A very short glasses nerd with long curly hair, by name Steigler, is wondering about his place in the universe! He decides to leave small-town Oregon and make his way in San Francisco! He takes his rollerskates (as the interminable opening title song repeatedly informs us), and immediately on arriving in Frisky he falls in love with a rollerskating blonde named Olivia! Ha ha, she steals his wallet and tells him to get lost!
At the local rollerama, Steigler gets a low-paying job and encounters Olivia again! He also encounters Eddie Deezen, famed from his roles in pictures like I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Surf II and Mob Boss, and an even bigger nerd than Steigler is himself! There is also a trio of skate bullies!
Eddie helps him get a room at Isabel Sanford’s boarding house, where the canny lady susses him out immediately as a virgin, and gives him fifty dollars from her Billy Dee Williams gigolo fund to purchase himself a lady professional! Ha ha, but he uses the money to take Olivia out for a lobster and soup dinner that she doesn’t even eat! After a goodnight kiss, the three skate bullies appear, wearing flashlights, and put a punching on Steigler!
After this, things get weird! Steigler had earlier helped out Cosmo, a gay Wolfman Jack-type radio personality (played by, of all people, the white neighbor in The Jeffersons, Paul Benedict) who had been stripped naked for some reason! (Ha ha, two Jeffersons cast members in one movie? Sweet wingalls!) Now, because of the punchings put on him, Steigler is burning with vengeful anger, and Cosmo directs him to the institute of Dr. Carl Boxer, played by none other than Christopher Lee from The Gorgon! Boxer’s techniques help people become aggressive and unpleasant, and this he teaches to Steigler! As a bonus, he imparts to Steigler – who has transformed from a simple glasses nerd to a leatherdaddy punk – the Move of Moves, an elaborate kung-fu strike giving one the power to kick another person’s head off!
Well, Steigler uses the Move of Moves on the head rollerbully, and after that he makes a last desperate play to win Olivia’s affections, which involves a hair-raising ride across the Golden Gate Bridge! As unlikely as it seems, this works, and the picture ends with the nerdly homunculus leaping into his beloved’s arms!
Ha ha! On the one hand, you would think that a movie featuring Eddie Deezen, Christopher Lee and Isabel Sanford must have something going for it! And how can you go wrong with a scene in which Lee’s character, anticipating an upcoming appearance on 60 Minutes, muses that “It should be intriguing to cross swords with Mr. Mike Wallace!” But on the other hand, the picture features two of the most intolerable characters ever seen on the screen: Steigler, a simpering half-wit so socially maladroit that he must rely on Eddie Deezen for tips on how to operate in the world, and Olivia, a truly rotten person! Steigler's attraction for her is unaccountable, for she treats him terribly throughout, her mouth curled into a perpetual sneer, her every word dripping with sarcasm! And we are asked to spend 106 minutes with these people, ha ha!
The Christopher Lee scenes, the rollerskating and the general weirdness offer some respite! The Italian strangeness that permeates movies like The Visitor rears its head here and there, and at other times it seems like an earnest, almost normal sit-com pilot! And I think it might slightly be an Xmas movie, as Steigler hides behind a "Trees For Sale" sign at one point! It’s altogether an odd drink of water, and I give Desperate Moves one and a half stuffed persons!

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