Cherry 2000 (1987)

Steve De Jarnatt has exactly three theatrical movies on his resume and all three are unique and intriguing works of art. Strange Brew, the blend of Hamlet and Canadian humor starring Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as their SCTV characters Bob & Doug McKenzie, was his first writing credit. Miracle Mile, in which Anthony Edwards and Mare Winningham fall in love on the last day of mankind, went unmade for nearly a decade after De Jarnatt wrote it. He bought it back and ended up directing it himself, fighting to keep the film’s tone and downer ending intact. Beyond Cherry 2000, he’s spent most of the rest of his career in television — he wrote the X-Files episode “Fearful Symmetry” — as well as his short story “Rubiaux Rising” appearing in the 2009 edition of The Best American Short Stories.

In the future of 2017, America suffering through an economic crisis brought about by the end of manufacturing. Sound familiar? Well, at least we haven’t seen the country broken down into city states and lawless lands in between.

Society has become so legalized and hypersexualized that all encounters need legal contracts written before they can happen. That’s why most men rely on female Gynoids as romantic partners. Anton LaVey would have loved how this apocalypse ended up.

Business executive Sam Treadwell is one of those men. The love of his life — after a bad breakup — is a Cherry 2000 model (Pamela Gidley, who was also in Thrashin’The Blue Iguana and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me). But after she breaks down after getting wet, she’s damaged beyond repair. Her memory disk can bring her back, as long as he can find a body in the lawless Zone 7. And for that, he’ll need a tracker.

Edith Johnson (Melanie Griffith) is that person, one of the toughest trackers around. Of course, she’s also beyond gorgeous and melted down my 15-year-old brain the first time I saw this (between Body Double and Something Wild, I think we can see how I ended up with a short-haired blonde firecracker for a wife).

To get Cherry back, our heroes will have to go up against the wasteland overlord Lester (an amazing Tim Thomerson), who is more self-improvement guru and 1950’s household devotee than military commander. It also turns out that Sam’s ex-girlfriend Elaine is one of Lester’s many wives, now calling herself Ginger. The group wants Sam to join after it seems like he’s the lone survivor of their attack, but Edith returns to save him.

You can see where this is all going to end up. Sam’s going to understand that he needs a flesh and blood relationship and Edith’s hard exterior is going to fall away once she realizes that Sam is stronger than she thinks. But getting there is most of the fun and this film, which confounded Orion Pictures with its combination of genre and tone, is pretty much forgotten. That’s a shame.

Cherry 2000 has some great casting, beyond Thomerson and Griffith, who shine in their roles. Cowboy actors Harry Carey Jr. and Ben Johnson (The Last Picture ShowThe Wild BunchThe Town That Dreaded SundownTerror Train and so many more) also appear, with this being the ninth film that they acted in together. And keep an eye out for Marshall Bell (Kuato’s host in Total Recall and the evil coach in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge), Laurence Fishburne as a lawyer and perennial baddie Brion James.

If you can find this strange little movie — it went unreleased for years until Griffith became a star with Working Girl — do so. I was lucky to find a DVD for way less than it should be and cherish it. It’s currently playing for free on the Pluto TV channel. If you own a Roku or Apple TV, Pluto TV is absolutely essential.

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