Nick West (Martin Hewitt) is a nighttime jazz disc jockey of the Dave Garver variety (Play Misty for Me, 1973): as he spins songs, he coos to lonely, sexually frustrated women who, to listen to the Nickster on the radio, must attire themselves in the latest Victoria Secret fashions. Hey, this isn’t KRML 1410 on your AM dial. This is KHPY 108.9 FM.
Yeah, it’s that type of movie: bogus frequency, babes, and boobs.
One night after his show, Nick ends up at a strip club to visit Cinnamon, his latest girlfriend-bartender squeeze, where he comes to the rescue of Honey, a stripper damsel-in-distress—and humiliates Vincent, the club’s owner and her pimp (David Carradine?!?), in the process (with a realistic 45-Revolver squirt gun that he uses to drink water from while on-the-air, you know, as “character development”).
Yeah, it’s that type of movie: bogus guns, babes, and stripper poles.
The next night, to show her appreciation, Honey (Shannon Tweed’s sister, Tracy) comes to the station—and they have sex in the studio, Eric Swann-style (FM, 1978). Nick’s listeners are shocked when the moaning and groaning turns into choking. Meanwhile, back in the studio, Nick’s passed out on the floor next to Honey’s dead body. So Nick goes on the run with Cinnamon to clear his name. But not to worry: Nick may be on the run for his life, but there’s still time in between the sleuthing for hot, sexual encounters.
Yeah, it’s that type of movie: bogus sleuthing, boobs, and FCC violations.
The questions abound: Did all of Nick’s promiscuous sex, chain smoking, booze and drugs lead to a psychotic break? Is it the station manager from his last station that lost its license over Nick’s antics? Is it one of the jealous, profanity-spewing male listeners who call into his show? Did Bridgette, his career-driven, dog-collar wearing producer, do it? Did Vincent set him up? Did Cinnamon set him up? Was it Jackson, a holier than thou cop (Sam Jones) with a grudge against Nick’s on-air antics? What’s that? Honey and Bridgette are undercover lovers?
Yeah, it’s that type of movie: red herrings, boobs, and no 7-second air-delay.
Now, with a down-on-their luck exploitation cast featuring Hewitt, Jones, Carradine, and Gene Simmons’s sister-in-law, you’re thinking this is a video fringe wet dream: only if you’re a David Carradine completest or if you thrive on the bungled careers of others and experience schadenfreude as once popular actors slum for a paycheck.
Martin Hewitt and Sam Jones are a long ways away from their starring roles in their major studio, feature film debuts of Flash Gordon (1980) and Endless Love (1981)—so there’s something to be said of checking your arrogance and ego at the door. And we all know how far David Carradine had fallen, but to end up in this Basic Instinct (1992) backwashed porn slop (did you know there was a Basic Instinct 2?)?
You can call Night Rhythms a “soft-core erotic thriller” all you want. You can market the film in a very hard “R” version for cable, a soft “X” version for a home video release, an “NR” to stick behind the beaded curtain, or cut out 15-minutes of the gratuitous (including ménage and lesbian) sex scenes and stick it on the shelf of a local Blockbuster Video. No matter how you cut the print, it’s disheartening to see Martin Hewitt go from working with Academy Award-nominated Italian director Franco Zeffirelli (1968’s Romeo and Juliet) on Endless Love—which served as the feature film debut of Tom Cruise—to rolling around in cringe-inducing, gratuitous sex scenes.
Yeah, it’s that type of movie: four crappy versions, boobs, and gratuitous everything. And it’s also the type of movie I love.
Sure, Night Rhythms made money. And the acting, directing and cinematography are solid and above porn-grade, but . . . Basic Instinct is a neo-noir masterpiece recognized for its groundbreaking depictions of sex on film. We experienced sympathy, while feeling distain, for Michael Douglas’s dysfunctional cop (also named Nick!). We were engrossed by the cat-and-mouse game between Douglas and Sharon Stone’s Catherine Trammel. But the same couldn’t be said for the 1993 Madonna-starring knockoff Body of Evidence or William Friedkin’s 1995 knockoff, Jade. And Night Rhythms, which substitutes the trouble cop of those films for a trouble radio disc jockey, doesn’t come close in its goals to exist in a world where “Basic Instinct meets Play Misty For Me.”
Yeah, it’s that type of movie: a great pitch, a worn-out fast forward button, and an ending that should have shown Nick the Dick’s set-up punk ass in a prison cell, listening to the producer who set him up, hosting his old radio show. It’s also that type of movie where your producer wears fishnet shirts and a studded collar, and gums up the control room’s electronics with cigarette smoke.
Flotsam and Jetsam . . .
Charles Band’s Full Moon Pictures has the rights to Night Rhythms and streams it on their Full Moon Amazon Prime page. Based on its 84-minute runtime, and the fact that Amazon is streaming it, we’ll guess that it’s the edited Blockbuster Video version, but to be on the safe side: discretionary viewing is suggested. (The naughty version runs 99-minutes.)
Gregory Dark also wrote and directed the popular B-action sci-fi video rentals Dead Man Walking (1988; full movie) and Street Asylum (1990; full movie) starring the never-not-awesome Wings Hauser.
After working with Martin Hewitt on another soft-erotic thriller, 1992’s Secret Games (trailer), Dark reinvented himself as a go-to music video director with Linkin Park’s “One Step Closer,” Stone Sour’s “Inhale,” and Sublime’s “Wrong Way. His long list of clients also includes Breaking Benjamin, Ice Cube, Mandy Moore, and Xzibit. One of the few adult filmmakers (Google “The Dark Brothers” at your own peril to find those films) to successfully transition into mainstream Hollywood, Dark had his biggest success with the WWE Films and Lionsgate Entertainment co-production See No Evil. Directed by Dark, the 2006 film starring professional wrestler Kane grossed more than $60 million dollars in worldwide box office. Not a bad day’s work for a film that was produced for $8 million.
As for Martin Hewitt: Today he’s retired from the business as a divorced father of two and runs a successful home inspection business in Southern California.
As for Sam Jones: He’s still in the business with two new films in the marketplace: Decapitarium (based on the writings of Edgar Allan Poe; trailer) and Axcellerator (a car thief involved in government intrigue with Sean Young and Maxwell Caufield; trailer).
Meanwhile: Tom Cruise—who worked under Martin Hewitt in Endless Love and came up Hollywood’s ranks alongside Maxwell Caufield and Sam Jones—is back in theaters on June 26, 2020, with Top Gun: Maverick.
That’s how life, rolls.
Update: In January 2022, B&S About Movies rolled a “Gregory Dark Week” tribute of reviews. That justified another take on Night Rhythms, as well as an exploration of Dark’s music video resume.
To learn more about Gregory Dark, Tom Junod of Esquire Magazine wrote a fantastic exploration on Dark’s career in 2007. Tom Clark also published a telling piece for Diabolique Magazine in 2020.
About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.