APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 28: Catchfire (1990)

This Alan Smithee-directed film really belongs to Dennis Hopper, who had a rough time for a variety of reasons. There were issues between Jodie Foster and Hopper from the first day of shooting, as Foster yelled “cut” which angered the directing side of Hopper.

She may have been upset by the shower scene, which is pretty gratuitous and she assumed would be edited. It isn’t. Neither is the long scene where she’s wearing lingerie that is more Frederick’s than Victoria’s.

A few years later, Foster generalized a bad experience she had on a movie by saying, “I worked with an actor-director who was a major pain. It was very difficult for me. Very difficult.”

This was that movie.

A crime thriller in which Foster plays an artist named Anne Benton who makes art signs — which were made for the movie by Jenny Holzer and say things like “Murder has its sexual side” — and falls asleep at the wheel and a hitman named Milo (Hopper) kidnaps her instead of killing her and she goes all Patty Hearst.

Was this movie made for me?

Well, it is a mess.

Vestron, who was makin actual movies in theaters before going out of business, took over the edit. And Hopper got angry: “They had taken an hour out of my movie, and they’d taken a half-hour of stuff I’d taken out of the movie and put it in. Then they took all my music out and threw it away. They put in great violin love themes beside Jodie and me — this is a hit man and an artist, and it’s certainly not a violin romance. This is not a film by Dennis Hopper. This is not directed by Dennis Hopper. This is directed by some idiots at Vestron.”

I mean, I love it. How can you not love a movie where Dennis Hopper and Jodie Foster make out on a bed of pink Hostess Sno Balls?

In the article “Abuse of Power,” writer Chris Randle spoke with this film’s original screenwriter, Ann Louise Bardach, who said, “He (Hopper) directed me to make a really tight, taut thriller and in the end what he shot was a…vaudevillian caper. Working with Dennis was completely insane.”

However, she did concede a point: “He had a beautiful eye. Dennis was not a narrative artist, he was a visual artist.”

So when a writer’s strike happenen, Alex Cox — yes, the man who made Repo Man — came on set to write when needed and play the ghost of D. H. Lawrence.

Did I mention this is a movie made for weird people like me?


Back to Anne happening to watch a mafia hit supervised by Leo Carelli (Joe Pesci, who asked for his name to be removed from this movie), who spots her. So even through our heroine gets to the police first, Greek (Tony Sirico) and Pinella (John Turturro) are able to track her down and kill her boyfriend (Charlie Sheen) just as he eats an entire frozen pizza directly out of the box.

FBI agent Pauling (Fred Ward) has been after these mobsters forever and wants to palce Anne in Witness Protection Program, but when she sees Carelli’s lawyer John Luponi (Dean Stockwell) at the police station, she goes on the run. To make sure she stays quiet, mob boss Lino Avoca (Vincent Price, who introduced Hopper to art when he was blackballed from Hollywood in the late 50s to eary 60s; this is one of his last roles) hires Milo to kill Anne.

All it takes are some dirty Polaroids of her — yes, that was Charlie Sheen — to have him fall in love.

Anne runs to Seattle and becomes a copywriter, which allows Milo to find her when a line from one of her art installations shows up in a lipstick ad: “Protect me…from what I want.” He tracks her down and promises to protect her if she does everything he asks. After all, by saving her, he’s doomed himself.

The cast of this is more than enough reason to watch. How about Dean Stockwell, Julie Adams (who was also in Hopper’s The Last Movie), Tony “Paulie Walnuts” Sirico, Helena Kallianiotes from Kansas City Bomber, Sy Richardson (who wrote Posse), Catherine Keener, Toni Basil an Bob Dylan wearing shin guards as he makes an art installation.

Hopper’s version is called Backtrack and has a longer ending but is in no way easier to understand.

This movie does, however, have a scene where Hopper plays saxophone and gets so upset that he repeatedly throws it at a plexiglass window and that’s what I want out movies. It also has Foster saving a lamb a year before she’d tell that story in a movie that she doesn’t want to forget about.

Hopper also brings a burrito to a gun fight.

Like I said, this movie is for me.

You can watch Hopper’s version on Tubi.

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