Two things about John Landis' forgotten Into the Night (1985), unfair as they may be, are almost impossible to ignore: it bears an uncanny resemblance to Martin Scorsese's After Hours (released later that same year), and it was the first film Landis directed after the Twilight Zone: The Movie accident that killed actor Vic Morrow and two children under his care. On both counts, one could imagine Into the Night as being a kind of palate cleanser (the same was said about After Hours, made after financial backing for The Last Temptation of Christ fell through): it's a free-wheeling, unpredictable film that feels almost improvised at times, with a deep roster of cameos that turn up around every corner.
The story goes like this: aerospace engineer Ed Okin (Jeff Goldblum), currently suffering from a long bout of insomnia, is stuck with a dead-end job and a wife that's unfaithful. One night, Ed goes for a late-night drive and ends up in a parking garage near LAX: he's decided to take an impromptu trip overseas, but ends up meeting the beautiful Diana (Michelle Pfeiffer) before leaving his car. There's one problem, though: she's being chased by four Iranians who have just killed the man she's been traveling with. After fleeing the scene, Ed drives Diana home and, after that, to an increasingly bizarre string of locations that reveal a little more about who she is and why four men are after her. Though obviously taken aback by his unexpected new job as a taxi driver, Ed is nonetheless intrigued by Diana and her predicament, which leads them into the path of a British hitman, Elvis impersonator, federal agents, and more.
Though saddled with perhaps a bit too much baggage (some of which threatens to derail the film during its somewhat bloated 115-minute running time), Into the Night nonetheless moves along at a fairly good clip. Goldblum and Pfeiffer, neither of which were initially considered for their roles, turn in great performances and fit the characters very well. Meanwhile, the extended list of cameos and supporting roles---which includes Dan Aykroyd, David Bowie, Richard Farnsworh, David Bowie, Rick Baker, Jonathan Demme, David Cronenberg, Carl Gottlieb, Amy Heckerling, Jim Henson, Lawrence Kasdan, at least a half dozen Playboy playmates, and countless others---are fun to spot along the way, even if they don't actually add anything to the story. Musical contributions by Ira Newborn and the late B.B. King, not to mention endless locations in and around Los Angeles, offer a nostalgic and memorable backdrop.
I'll be honest, though, and admit that there's not much to get excited about during Into the Night than its surface-level successes. The story also wear more than a little thin during its second half; where After Hours have the good sense to roll credits right around 90 minutes, Into the Night approaches the two-hour mark and really doesn't warrant that kind of storytelling scope. But I'd still consider it an enjoyable film worth digging up, and Shout Factory's new Blu-ray package certainly plays the the film's strengths. Featuring a slick new A/V presentation (sourced from a new restoration) and a few short but enjoyable bonus features, it's worth at least a once-over for fans of the cast and crew.
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Into the Night's 1080p transfer was obviously sourced from a fairly recent master and looks excellent. Since (obviously) a great deal of the film takes place at night, it's good to know that shadow detail and black levels are uniformly strong. Fluorescent and neon lights dominate scenes in city streets and parking garages, creating a specific atmosphere that's been preserved nicely. Image detail, texture, and color saturation also look great, with no obvious signs of digital tinkering, excess noise, or compression artifacts. It's the kind of terrific treatment you might easily take for granted, as films like Into the Night just wouldn't shine as bright on DVD.
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The film's original DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mix is similarly low-key but effective with crisp dialogue, strong music cues (especially during the frequent B.B. King breaks), modest channel separation, and even a few moments of depth in more crowded locales. Optional English (SDH) subtitles have been included during the main feature only.
Shout Factory's interface offers chapter selection, audio/subtitle setup, and bonus feature access, with simple navigation and few pre-menu distractions. This Collector's Edition arrives in a standard keepcase with two-sided (non-reversible) artwork and a promotional insert. As usual, a nice-looking package that captures the film's atmosphere well.
Not much on paper, but what's here is enjoyable. Two new Interviews with director John Landis ("Back Into The Night", 25:47) and star Jeff Goldblum ("Requiem For An Insomniac", 22:31) are the main attraction, with each one sharing plenty of memories about their experiences on the film. Topics of interest include Ron Koslow's script, the characters, meeting Jack Nicholson in a blizzard, finding the lead, meeting Michelle Pfeiffer for the first time, cameo appearances and Easter eggs, dressing up David Bowie, faking a traffic jam, Ed Okin's career and personal life, the Los Angeles shooting locations, bringing guns into airports, B.B. King's musical contributions, and much more. Landis' interview is especially warm and candid, and I've have loved to hear a feature-length audio commentary from the director.
Carried over from Universal's 2003 DVD is the Landis-directed 1985 documentary "B.B. King: Into The Night" (26:05), featuring guest appearances by the cast plus Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, John Landis, and more. Last but not least is the film's Theatrical Trailer (1:39). Overall, it's a small but mighty selection of extras that fans will certainly enjoy.
Into the Night may pale in comparison to the like-minded After Hours (released over six months later), but John Landis' most forgotten film is still enjoyable in its own right. Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer turn in great performances, the LA locations are extremely memorable, B.B. King's music offers a smooth backdrop, and it's always fun to play "spot the cameo" as the film chugs along. That said, the story is convoluted and doesn't always hold a great deal of interest, making this one more of a fun little time capsule than any kind of enduring classic. Shout Factory's new Collector's Edition (part of its "Select" line) offers a solid amount of support, including a very strong A/V presentation and a few short but very enjoyable extras. Firmly Recommended for fans, but newcomers may want to rent it first.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes, and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.