The big question as we head into the comedy entry of the What the ?!&%*# cycle is what punctuation mark we’ll go for next? It’s a question that we’re going to answer with a question. That’s right, we’re watching Car 54, Where Are You? (the crowd boos vociferously as they realize that we’re not watching Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot). Hold on! Sly Stallone flicks are like gold. You don’t throw gold around willy-nilly. Need to save it for when it’s truly needed. Anywho, the most interesting thing about this film is that it was nearly impossible to find. It is not free or rentable on any streaming service and is not available from Netflix DVD. I was lucky enough to find that there was a single copy in the MN Public Library system up in Mountain Iron, MN (real name, real place. Pop. 2886). Once it arrived in the mail I could see that the DVD was absolutely pristine. I might in fact be the only person to ever watch this film. It’s like they ordered it new just for me. Thank you, local public library system. I love you. Let’s go!
Car 54, Where Are You? (1994) – BMeTric: 42.1
(A classic extreme rating example of these types of plots where despite only having a few thousand votes it still manages an impressive 40+ based solely on its sub-3.0 rating. Kind of cool that you can see the BMeTric go through the inflection. Also like any good street cred BMT film the rating stays solidly low despite increased votes suggesting only bad movie aficionados are watching and reviewing the film at this point.)
Leonard Maltin – 1.5 stars – This retread of the hilarious 1960s TV show about N.Y.C. cops with a hefty Keystone quotient is a woefully embarrassing assemblage of gags that would bring up the read in Police Academy. O’Donnell (her screen debut), Drescher, and Piven acquit themselves well, under the circumstances. Despite presence of Al Lewis – reprising his Schnauzer role from the original Nat Hiken series – this turkey sat on the shelf after completion in 1991.
(Not a BOMB! Not a BOMB! Not a BOMB! And oh wow, I forgot this is a rare example of very delayed wide release films. Leonard tips his hand a bit that he is an old man by doting on the original. I’ve seen clips and it is funny I suppose, but I wouldn’t laugh out loud as you would imagine. This should be an experience though. Makes me truly wonder where the half star comes from … from the actors who acquit themselves well I suppose.)
(From the people who didn’t bring you Lethal Weapon?… that film came out seven years before this one. Weird. Otherwise this just looks like a cheap comedy almost in the same vein as Weekend at Bernies. Looks boring.)
Directors – Bill Fishman – (Known For: Tapeheads; My Dinner with Jimi; BMT: Car 54, Where Are You?; Notes: Mainly a music video director this was a rare foray into features. His videography is impressive, and it isn’t too surprising he was chosen considering the movie was apparently initially supposed to be a musical (see notes below).)
Writers – Nat Hiken (television series) – (BMT: Car 54, Where Are You?; Sgt. Bilko; Notes: He died in 1968 so years before two of his shows (Car 54 and the Phil Silvers Show which became Sgt. Bilko) became movies. Well known as a songwriter as well.)
Erik Tarloff (story & screenplay) – (Known For: Cheetah; BMT: Car 54, Where Are You?; Notes: Chiefly a television writer in the 70s and 80s this marked the end of his Hollywood writing career. He is married to Laura Tyson who was chief economic advisor to the Clinton Administration, and his brother-in-law is Alan D’Andrea a cancer researcher at Harvard Medical School.)
Ebbe Roe Smith (screenplay) – (Known For: Falling Down; BMT: Car 54, Where Are You?; Notes: He wrote Falling Down solo which is kind of nuts. Mostly an actor all the way up to today where he’ll appear on occasion on Portlandia as characters such as Swinger Husband.)
Peter McCarthy (screenplay) – (Known For: Tapeheads; Floundering; BMT: Car 54, Where Are You?; Notes: Not much on him. On variety his news is dominated by his directoral debut Floundering which was released to some acclaim at Sundance with a cast including John Cusack, Ethan Hawke, and Jeremy Piven)
Peter Crabbe (screenplay) – (BMT: McHale’s Navy; Car 54, Where Are You?; Notes: Almost nothing to say about this guy beyond that it appears he parlayed his involvement in this film into another 60s television adaptation McHale’s Navy, so congrats to him for that.)
Actors – David Johansen – (Known For: Married to the Mob; Scrooged; A Very Murray Christmas; Cats Don’t Dance; Glass Chin; Naked in New York; The Tic Code; Candy Mountain; BMT: Mr. Nanny; Car 54, Where Are You?; Freejack; 200 Cigarettes; Tales from the Darkside: The Movie; Notes: Started the bands New York Dolls and David Johansen Group in addition to touring under as the character Buster Poindexter producing a total of twelve albums across the three acts. He appeared on SNL six times as Buster Poindexter, and has a surprisingly extensive acting career considering he’s first and foremost a singer.)
John C. McGinley – (Known For: The Belko Experiment; Se7en; The Rock; Platoon; Point Break; Office Space; Identity; 42; Any Given Sunday; Wall Street; Born on the Fourth of July; World Trade Center; Set It Off; Nixon; Kid Cannabis; Shadow Makers; Talk Radio; Mother’s Boys; A Midnight Clear; The Discoverers; Mother; Shakedown; Article 99; Sweet Liberty; Crazy as Hell; Johns; BMT: Highlander II: The Quickening (BMT); The Animal; Are We Done Yet? (BMT); On Deadly Ground (BMT); Alex Cross (BMT); Get Carter (BMT); Summer Catch; Stealing Harvard; Car 54, Where Are You?; Get a Job; Wagons East; Wild Hogs (BMT); Three to Tango; Surviving the Game; Hear No Evil; Nothing to Lose; Truth or Consequences, N.M.; Notes: Our seventh McGinley film and we could easily get to ten if we wanted to by adding The Animal, Wagons East!, and Summer Catch. He was on the celebrity version of American Gladiators in 1994.)
Fran Drescher – (Known For: This Is Spinal Tap; Hotel Transylvania; Hotel Transylvania 2; Saturday Night Fever; Ragtime; UHF; Cadillac Man; Doctor Detroit; The Big Picture; BMT: Car 54, Where Are You?; Jack; The Beautician and the Beast; Notes: Nominated for the Razzie Award in 1998 for Worst Actress for The Beautician and the Beast. Well known for her distinctive voice. I knew her best as Pamela Finklestein from UHF growing up. But her work on TV’s The Nanny is probably her claim to fame.)
Budget/Gross – $10.7 million / Domestic: $1,238,080 (N/A)
(Obviously brutal, but what else would you imagine considering this is a film based on a 60’s television show, it was shelved for three years, and by all accounts was cut to shit. For the number of theaters it was released to (over 600) this is also a ridiculously low number. $2K per theater is just insane.)
#85 for the TV Adaptation (Live Action) genre
(I feel like I shouldn’t be, and yet I am surprised by how many films are based on television shows these days and how successful they are. Probably in no small part due to things like Star Trek. This was on the leading edge of a boom that then settled into a more consistent value overall, and is literally the lowest grossing wide release on the list.)
Rotten Tomatoes – 0% (0/16): No consensus yet.
(Obviously of special note because it is one of maybe 70 films with 15+ reviews and 0% on rotten tomatoes. I shall make a consensus: Simply not funny and only of note as an example of a truly terrible film. As one reviewer said: If you paid money to see this you are stupid. Coooooold Bloooooooded.)
Poster – Sklog 54, Where Are You? (C+)
(This also seems very 80’s… like the Meatballs poster or something. OK blue and yellow color. OK font. Interesting sketch style. Ultimately too busy to really get a great grade, but not bad.)
Tagline(s) – An Arresting Comedy (D)
(Cliche pun alert. This is more suitable for a review of the film by a time-strapped and not very creative film critic. Nothing more to say. It’s not worth the effort as they clearly didn’t expend any.)
Keyword(s) – number in title; Top Ten by BMeTric: 89.9 Fifty Shades of Grey (2015); 87.8 Battlefield Earth (2000); 84.8 Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997); 83.7 Fantastic Four (2015); 81.1 Movie 43 (2013); 78.6 Sex and the City 2 (2010); 77.4 RoboCop 3 (1993); 76.9 Piranha 3DD (2012); 76.0 Highlander II: The Quickening (1991); 74.4 Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959);
(We’ve done a few of these, although that isn’t surprising considering something on the order of 5000 films on IMDb have this tag (so basically it has to be real bad to get on the list in the first place). You might be saying “hey wait a minute, Battlefield Earth doesn’t have a number in the title. Bullshit”. But it is also known as Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 which is the title of the book. I wouldn’t necessarily call that official though.)
Notes – John C. McGinley worked on this film and Article 99 (1992) at the same time. He would work on this film Monday to Wednesday and the other film Thursday to Friday. (That seems like it suggested that one or both films were going to be terrible …)
Al Lewis and Nipsey Russell were in the original Car 54, Where Are You? (1961) TV series, playing Officer Leo Schnauser and Officer Dave Anderson, respectively. Here they play the same characters years older, as if this film were a sequel to the original series, rather than the updated and (otherwise) recast remake that it is. (As if the film was a sequel. What a weird choice).
According to a recent interview with John C. McGinley (AV Club’s Random Roles- April 2013), the film was original shot as a musical with full musical numbers. After editing, only two musical numbers remained. McGinley was unsure of why specifically the numbers were cut or by whom, but McGinley mused that he found the film in its’ present form an incoherent mess. (wait …. What? Wait wait wait. This movie is a musical. Wait … what?)
During Gunther Toody’s dream sequence he is wearing the same uniform that was worn by his character in the original show. (fun. fact.)
Awards – Won the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress (Rosie O’Donnell)