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Blame It on the Night

Sony Screen Classics by Request // PG-13 // March 4, 2011
List Price: $20.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Brian Orndorf | posted June 27, 2011 | E-mail the Author

THE FILM

A domestic drama from 1984, "Blame It on the Night" is a perfectly functional tearjerker that rarely satisfies. Perhaps more interested in selling soundtracks than emotions, the picture is a vague offering of thoughtful human interaction, though supported by satisfying performances and a snapshot of MTV-fueled rock stardom in the mid-1980s. A magical time when a 37-year-old man with a mild perm could make an arena of teenage girls swoon.

A music superstar in the midst of a taxing tour schedule, Chris Dalton (Nick Mancuso) is forced into parenthood when the mother of his teenage son, a boy he's never met, has died. Happily tucked away at military school, Job (Byron Thames) is irritated when he's pulled out of his comfortable routine to join Chris on the road, with the rocker hoping to fill a hole in his soul by establishing a relationship with this young stranger. Polar opposites, the two begin to warm up to each other as the weeks pass, with Job relinquishing control and Chris encountering responsibility for first time in his life.

Perhaps most famous for its Mick Jagger's story credit (Len Jenkin scripts), "Blame It on the Night" is a television movie in search of something cinematic to propel its feeble dramatics. The world of rock stardom offers director Gene Taft (his only picture) a comfortable shot at scope, staging a series of musical performances that highlight a sweaty Mancuso proudly prowling the stage as Chris, embodying an Eddie Money-type character who merges soulful, confessional lyrics with arena rock thunder (though he only seems to tour around Arizona). The vocals and "stage concepts" are credited to "Jesus Christ Superstar" actor Ted Neely, who provides decent theatricality, giving Taft something to photograph.

Music dominates "Blame It on the Night," eating up a considerable chunk of the picture's 80-minute run time. Tunes are plastered everywhere (not just from stage performances), looking to infuse the with a sonic identity that might encourage plenty of record sales, even welcoming a cameo from MTV VJ Mark Goodman to help hip up the room. What's lost in the swirl of rock therapy is the intimate connection between Chris and Job, who resemble screenwriting clich├ęs, not authentically yearning individuals searching to connect as family. The movie makes a few melodramatic attempts to study the father/son dynamic, observing Chris and his frustration with Job's tough military exterior, but there's not enough vulnerability to penetrate, despite a hearty, flared-nostril performance from Mancuso, who at least gives off the impression that he believes in the script.

THE DVD

Visual:

The anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio) presentation looks surprisingly fresh for such a forgotten motion picture. Colors are cared for, sustaining the style of the stage shows with blasts of red and gold, while southwestern exteriors bring out natural life. Skintones look alert and appealing. Black levels are on the muddy side, finding trouble with dense hairstyles and costumes. Minimal print defects were found.

Audio:

The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix is crisp and inviting, while lacking a great deal of dimension. Performance sequences are heightened, with a satisfactory feel for instrumentation and vocals, blended well with crowd dynamics. Dialogue exchanges are frontal and convincing, allowing for intensity without distortion. There's not much range here, sticking to a primary push of audio elements, which fits the needs of the modest film.

Subtitles:

None.

Extras:

A Theatrical Trailer is included.

FINAL THOUGHTS

"Blame It on the Night" is a hopelessly distracted film, not only with music business shenanigans (e.g. bar fights, hotel parties, wacky band members named Animal), but there's also a largely useless mid-movie softball match that drags on forever. The feature lacks focus and understanding, clutching surface details to supply substance when a concentration of personality would've propelled the concept further. Though it rarely bores, it's hardly significant, with other films cut from the same cloth displaying far more insight. However, those pictures don't have Mancuso in full rock god swagger, a gold-chain-and-leather-pant spectacle that's almost enough to recommend a viewing.


For further online adventure, please visit brianorndorf.com
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