Sunday, January 23, 2011

THE GRASSHOPPER

Ever wonder what inspired screenwriter Joe Esterhas to create the cinematic masterpiece called SHOWGIRLS? After watching THE GRASSHOPPER (1970, directed by Jerry Paris, who previously directed 84 episodes of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW), I'm pretty sure it was this film.
Some sources claim THE GRASSHOPPER is an Americanized remake of the British film DARLING (1966). Perhaps I need to check that flick out too.
Actually, THE GRASSHOPPER was written by Garry Marshall (HAPPY DAYS, et all) and Jerry Belson (THE DREW CAREY SHOW, etc.), adapted from a pulp crime novel called PASSING OF EVIL.
Having been out-of-print on VHS, this "lost" film is now back in circulation - just waiting for a new generation of cult movie fans to discover it.
Before I get to analyzing the plot, I'd like to mention that film's soundtrack has a decidedly MIDNIGHT COWBOY influence and features a track by THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW's very own Vicki Lawrence!
Thanks to the fine folks at The Warner Archive Collection, I now present THE GRASSHOPPER! (Spoilers ahead).
Originally released through Nation General, the film became part of the WB library when NGC folded in the early 70s.
We first see our star Jacquie Bisset as she is preparing to leave for a trip.
Obviously she is leaving home to get away from something. Bad decor, perhaps?
She really must hate this place since she even leaves her adorable kitten behind!

I wonder how Donfeld felt to have his name over the exhaust from Jaquie's jalopy?
Because she doesn't have AAA, Jacquie must hitchhike. A guy in a pick-up picks her up. Feeling a bit Nomi Malone-ish yet?
How about now? Her planned trip to LA is detoured to Vegas!
Ah, the strip in it's glory days!
Jacquie doesn't seem to be a winner at roulette.
But she does have that winning smile.
But horndog stand-up comic Danny Raymond (Corbett Monica) thinks she can use it to her advantage.
So does casino mogul Jack Benton (played perfectly by the late, great Ed Flanders of ST. ELSEWHERE fame).
Retired hunky football pro Tom Marcott (played by retired football pro Jim Brown!) likes her too! The problem is that Jacquie is engaged to be married - in Los Angeles!
She shows up in LA and disrupts her fiancee Eddie's work day by causing a scene in the bank where he works. She announces that she's Christine Adams and she's 19 (really?) and she's going to be married! So Eddie gets her a job at the bank. It seems like the perfect set-up: a handsome fella, a steady job and a nice place to live.
But she's quickly bored to death with Eddie, the job and his boring LA banker friends. She gets herself and Eddie in trouble by writing a prankish note and handing it to a bank customer. Before you know it, Chris is on her way back to Vegas - where life is exciting!
So, like a grasshopper, Christine is back in Vegas at the Stardust.
Danny Raymond teaches her how to get ahead in Vegas and how to smoke in bed all in one lesson.
"In my hometown, I was considered one of the overdeveloped girls." Voila! Christine is suddenly a showgirl in a glittery topless revue!
The star of the show, a pouty-lipped brunette makes a lesbian advance towards her. "If you need anything, just ask me." Hmmm...paging Cristal Conners!
Chris gets to appears onstage in several understated outfits by Donfeld including this furry get-up.
The future Laverne DeFazio makes a brief appearance as one of the Plastic Casters, groupies who follow the rock group The Ice Pack.
Christine takes a liking to the band also.
Especially lead singer Jay Rigney (Christopher Stone of THE HOWLING fame).
Chris decides to join Jay for a shower.
And the band played on...
When Chris gets sleepy during a show, another showgirl hands her some amyl nitrate...she no like, but it does put some zing in her step.
After she announces she wants to become a stewardess, Christine's gay friend Buck Brown (Roger Garrett) is magically drawn to a rainbow-covered pamphlet in her apartment.
In the strangest scene yet, the gay showboys and topless dancers sing "Silent Night" backstage and exchange gifts.
I never thought I'd see boobs while hearing "'round young virgin mother and child..."
Christine's ex comes to Vegas and brings his wife and new baby to visit. Christine looks pleased.
After escorting Eddie & company to the airport, she bumps into Tommy.
Tommy has been brought on by Jack to host the new football-themed nightclub at the Casino.
Christine and Tommy enjoy dinner while a woman plays a harp on a small boat behind them!
Tommy takes Chris golfing, where she keeps her eyes on his balls.
Romance on the roof.
Strata-Flite Ride? Sounds cool!
Chris and Tommy spend an afternoon with a friend's little boy, causing onlookers to question their "family".
Tommy proposes to Christine in front of Circus, Circus.
Luckily they happen to be in Vegas!
The minister's wife announces the wedding party: "A white girl, a Negro, a Jap and a sissy."
And then stands there smoking and yawning during the ceremony.

 "I now pronounce you man and wife."
The happy couple.
The wedding night. Cue softcore porn music.
Jack chats with Christine as the marquee changes. He askes for "NUDE" to be bigger. He also asks Christine to "entertain" business tycoon Roosevelt Dekker because it would help Tommy.
Jack gets what he wants.
Dekker (character actor Ramon Bieri) gets Chris a little tipsy.
Then he charms her with his personality.
And shows off his stunning physique.
Things get a bit rough.

 
Um, make that VERY rough.
Um, make that VERY VERY rough.
EXTREMELY rough.
Yikes!
Shades of SHOWGIRLS once again.
Tommy decides to play a round of golf with Dekker.
Nothing hotter than an angry dude walking through a sprinkler.
Tommy shows Dekker a few swings on the green.
Dekker has a few good moves of his own.
Dekker is a dirty player.
Tommy is pissed.
Really pissed.
Luckily he stops being so pissed.
Dekker lives!
Um, let's get the fuck outta Vegas, grasshopper girl.
Bored again.
Even the local supermarket doesn't excite Christine.
Tommy shoots a few baskets to blow off steam.
Wow - he's good at football, golf and basketball!
Blam! What was that?
Dekker's assistant is quite the marksman. Poor Tommy.
A great, powerful scene as the camera fixates on the ball till it stops bouncing.
Christine is now a widow.
But she finds it in her heart to pick up two hitchhiking strangers.
"Are you holding? Do you have any shit? Hash? Downers? Anything?"
Chris winds up stoned out of her tree on her bathroom floor.
Gay Buck comes to her rescue! Yay, Buck!
Back in Vegas, Chris can't even get back in to the show.
Shades of Marshall's PRETTY WOMAN, Chris meets up with wealthy Richard Morgan (Hollywood oldtimer Joseph Cotton).
Richard offers her everything she's always wanted, "I'll propose on both knees, but I'm afraid I'll never get up"...but she turns him down.
A reunion with Jay leads to more bathroom sex for the duo. 
 Can't they use a bed for a change?
Christine bares her soul to Jay - she wants to live on a Ranch. Jay bares his ass.
Chris meets up with a guy who flies a small airplane and does skywriting. Okay...
Things get hairy at home with Jay.
Man, can this chick pick a guy, or what?
Hey, we're kinda broke. I have an idea...
Hmmm...
Oh no, Christine. He pimped you out!!!
Wonder if you have a back-up plan to go along with that shaggy wig?
Let's go sky-writing!
F
Take a drag of that doobie.
U
C
K - Oh no she didn't!
"Someone wrote "FUCK" in the sky I need to cover my boobs!"
Lady in red: "I kinda like it!"
Mom to son: "It's a new soft drink."
Who is that dude in yellow?

 You have the right to remain silent.
"My name is Christine Adams and I am 22."
WOW - what a movie! After viewing this, my friend turned to me and said "This is the perfect DOUG movie." Amen, grandson. THE GRASSHOPPER gets a 10 outta 10 in my book. What more can I ask for? High drama, ridiculous dialogue, great fashion, fabulously insane wigs, revenge, Vegas, sex, drugs, rock & roll, nudity and dirty skywriting. (You know that skywriting just had to be Garry Marshall's idea).
There's not much more to say other than Jacquie Bissett should have been a bigger star and this movie needs to be elevated to camp classic status - up there with the greats like VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, MOMMIE DEAREST and XANADU. I am so glad to have seen this and am happy that Warners has now made this availble for the world to see.
You can purchase it here at WBshop.com.

6 comments:

Eduardo Guize said...

OMG I so need to watch this! Are you sure all of that happens in one single movie? Your description is hilarious!

Tommy... What can I say... All the good ones die, damn!

EduardO said...

Thanks for letting your readers know about this, Doug! I've heard about this and hope I get to see this sometime soon.

Rev. Ricky Hoyt said...

I have to think that the Christine character was influenced by the Manson girls. In 1970 they would have been on everybody's mind. And they were depicted as vacant-eyed, tossed around by life, bored by everything, willing to do anything for a little excitement. Maybe the novel came out before the Manson murders but the ad copy on the movie poster sure sounds like the Manson family "Today's child sheds no tears, has no regrets, knows no tomorrows."

Gilligan said...

I wish all movie reviews were like this with tons of eye candy and hilarious commentary. Great work!

Kamyar said...

What can I say? After reading your review, I had to see it. It's both funny and sad at the same time.

Sam A. Robrin said...

Saw this in 1971 at a New Hampshire drive-in with two friends and an awful lot of marijuana. For years, we quoted "I coul'n't he'p it, she mayde me dew it, she gayve me one o' them funny cigarettes!"