Norman Thaddeus Vane
Norman Thaddeus Vane
In previous reviews, I’ve discussed my love of films that are interesting failures and how in many ways I find that they are the films that stick with me the most. Failure can be interesting and even endearing when it’s the result of creative people reaching beyond their skills. Ed Wood Jr. is the patron saint of this kind of film. Nearly everything he put in front of a camera failed to reach his goals, but it’s done with such heart and sincerity you can’t help but admire it. Sometimes, however, a film comes along that’s so wrongheaded, poorly constructed and terrible that you’d don’t so much admire the work that went into it so much as wonder how it managed to be completed and distributed to an audience at all.
Lynn Redgrave plays Midnight, a horror hostess whose show is popular enough to have a massive cult audience and earn her enough money to have a huge house complete with servants. Midnight’s show is on the verge of being bought out by media mogul, Mr. B (Tony Curtis), someone Midnight wants nothing to do with. Midnight picks up an aspiring actor, Mickey (Steve Parrish), whom she lets stay at her house (and in her bed). Midnight won’t give up her image or her show so, Mr. B cancels it. Mickey starts cheating on her with Mr. B’s mistress and people (finally) start dying. Who’s the killer? I’m almost certain you won’t care by the time the movie finally gets around to revealing their identity.
‘Midnight’ gets off on the wrong foot with its utterly idiotic portrayal of the life of a late night horror hostess. We’re supposed to believe that Midnight herself commands a huge audience of slavering goth zombies who dress up like her twenty-four hours a day and repeat everything she says in unified sibilant whispers. We’re also led to believe she makes enough to live a hugely lavish lifestyle and never ever breaks character or is seen without make-up. ‘Elvira: Mistress of the Dark’ (1988) can get away with this sort of thing in a movie because A) The character of Elvira has enough personality to exist outside of 5 minute hosting segments and B) She occupies a universe where there are plenty of cartoonish people and monsters wandering around. Midnight can’t lay claim to either of these things.
Lynn Redgrave’s performance is the most appalling performance in a film filled to overflowing with appalling performances. She’s never funny, and I have no idea if she’s trying to be. Every line is delivered as an angry sharp whisper, no matter if she’s telling someone off or seducing a dopey young actor. She evokes zero sympathy when she discovers her lover has been sleeping with someone else. Tony Curtis feels like a non-entity, which is bad news when you’re nominally the villain of the film.
The movie is promoted as a comedy but there’s nothing funny in it. There’s no tension when the killer strikes. There’s no mystery about who’s behind it. ‘Midnight’ is a lesson in abject and total failure presented in 86 minutes.