Bloodhounds of Broadway
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It was New Year's Eve in New York City, 1928. The champagne was cold, the dolls were red-hot and everyone who was anyone was there. Shimmy on down to the speakeasy run by jazz-baby Miss Mussou (Anita Morris), where earnest Lovey Lou (Jennifer Grey) and dishy Hortense Hathaway (Madonna) sing and dance on the hearts of two-timin' pony player Regret (Matt Dillon) and hapless Feet Samuels (Randy Quaid), a lumbering oaf with a heart o' gold who's sold it, along with the rest of his body, to a mad doctor determined to collect at midnight. And make an appearance at the home of feather-headed socialite Harriet MacKyle (Julie Hagerty), whose glittering New Year's bash really takes flight with an untimely aviary assassination perpetrated by suave bootlegger Handsome Jack (Esai Morales). Add a handful of reluctant gangsters, an assortment of unflappable flappers and a philandering gambler, andyou've got a comic celebration of the infamous night when the underworld met the upper crust - and th
Glittering 1920s decor surrounds a host of famous faces in Bloodhounds of Broadway, an adaptation of four stories by Jazz Age scribe Damon Runyon (whose stories were also the basis for Guys and Dolls). A loser (Randy Quaid) sells his body to science just when his luck turns; a wounded gangster (Rutger Hauer) takes a cab all over town trying to find someone to take him in; the death of a parrot turns a schmuck (Ethan Phillips) into a tough guy; and a pair of bloodhounds track a gambler (Matt Dillon) all over town because of the sausages in his pocket. The swank look of Bloodhounds of Broadway has more depth than its characters; the dialogue has all the jargon of Runyon but none of the rhythm. Madonna and Jennifer Grey play lovelorn flappers, Julie Hagerty is a bird-brained socialite, and Steve Buscemi and author William S. Burroughs make cameo appearances. --Bret Fetzer
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Fast forward twenty years, and I still love the film, for different reasons. I'm aware that Madonna in particular got scathing reviews for her performance, but I think a lot of folks missed what she was going for, a kind of Betty-Boop-meets-Breathless-Mahoney-with-a-heart-of-gold that requires a suspension of disbelief, but the film's dialogue is SOOOO Damon Runyon-y (the film is based on Runyon's short stories - the ones they didn't use to create "Guys & Dolls") and the plot points so wacky that one's disbelief should already be well-suspended. AND, everyone else delivers the same kind of muted-yet-over-the-top performance that she does. And if you can relax into it, there's just so much to enjoy.
Now, for what's wrong. All that inaudible mumbling, for one. Bad sound? Not talking loudly enough? Really inept people operating the boom mikes? I couldn't understand what was going on (and, being a 1920's buff, sure I'm familiar with Damon Runyon.) Plus, having to endure Madonna's loathsome, conceited sneer throughout much of the film; the nasty smile of spite she gave Jennifer Grey when they started their duet; her odious "I'M really the star of this movie, of course!" attitude she maintains. (A woman despicably cruel to her colleagues and fans -- and we all know the horror anecdotes, plus I'm privy to hearing about a ghastly encounter a friend of a friend of a friend had with her, when the poor young woman, an extra on the set of that movie A League of Their Own, was being made up on the set in a chair next to her and complimented Madonna on her music and films. But Madonna snarled in reply at her, "Is that your face or did your neck throw up?" This is a true story.)
However, I'm a Jazz Age fan and quite enjoyed the other actors' performances so that this video is a keeper for me. The costumes were great; authentic music and ambiance; someone must have done their research and watched some early 1928-29 talkie films to pretty much get the right look and sound of the period. The parrot episode upset me so I plan to skip that part from now on. But that magic of being able to depict a city winter dawn absolutely wowed me. I don't know if it was by chance, or a deliberate manifestation of genius. But it certainly worked.