Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

How fondly we remember things from our youth.  I think I was about twelve years old when ‘Looker’ was first released back in 1981, and being raised on an army base, we had our own theaters but didn’t get the movies until like a month or two later.  Now in hindsight, this has brought a couple of things to mind.  We probably could have left the base and saw the movie at another theater, but for some reason, we never did that.  An army base is a closed, self contained little society unto itself.  We have our own schools, stores, recreation, sports leagues, social strata and such.  There was no reason to leave the base, so we didn’t.  Hmmm, interesting.  This has just dawned on me.  Anyway, ‘Looker’ was like the second movie I went to see all by myself.  The first would have been Brian DePalma’s ‘Blow Out’.  I remember ‘Looker’ quite fondly.  Actually, I only remember there being boobs in the movie, which over a course of 25 years could easily translate itself into one thinking they just saw ‘Citizen Kane’.  Now that the Michael Chrichton directed thriller has made its way to DVD, how well does it hold up?

Albert Finney portrays Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Larry Roberts who has been getting strange, but exacting request from a bevy of near perfect beauties to make them totally perfect, down to the millimeter.  He reluctantly handles the tasks, but when three of the four women he worked on turn up dead by suspicious means, it piques his interest.  It also piques the interest of the LAPD, led by detective Masters (Dorian Harewood), who has found a few clues around the dead women leading him to believe that Dr. Roberts may be involved in their deaths.

Convinced there is some chicanery going about, Dr. Roberts takes the fourth model he worked on, Cindy Fairmount (Susan Dey) and decides to protect her.  In the process he meets millionaire industrialist John Reston (James Coburn) who has his hand in everything from TV ads to creating weapons for the government.  After some investigating by our plastic surgeon / private detective, he’s dug up info on Reston Industries super secretive ‘Looker’ program which is part mind control, part weapon, and all the way silly.  Now Dr. Roberts, with super model in tow, must find a way to stop the evil John Reston and his mindless minions from taking over the world.  Or something.

Back in 1981, ‘Looker’ was some pretty cutting edge stuff to be sure.  It had 3D models, a synthesized sound track, and a futuristic theme, a lot of which, though crazy back then, is fairly common place today.  But as a movie, be it 1981 or 2007, ‘Looker’ is a pretty confusing jumbled mess.  It starts out cool enough, with the super models getting killed by the mysterious man with the mustache (Tim Rossovich), but they never told us why Reston Industries was killing these women in the first place, or if they did, it went way over my head.  And along those lines, it looked as if Reston had decided to frame Dr. Roberts for the deaths of the models by planting his suit buttons, and other items at the scenes, but it was never explained why they were framing the plastic surgeon, not that it mattered because they totally dropped that plot point about a third of the way in anyway. 

The funniest thing had to be the Looker weapon, which was a gun that flashed a light at your eyes, then made you comatose for a brief period of time and allowed the gun holder to do things like push you out of a window or kick you in the nads.  ‘Looker’ had this car chase scene where the evil Reston Goons were chasing Dr. Roberts in his 928 while trying to flash him with the light.  So Dr. Roberts is driving with his hands over eyes while the goons are doing the same, unless you happen to have ‘Looker’ shades which protects you.  It was pretty damned amusing.  The final act is what ultimately sinks ‘Looker’ since Chrichton the director, at least in 1981, can’t shoot action to save his life.  The final shootout between Roberts, Reston, and the Mustache Man, is so staid, boring and poorly staged, it’s a miracle it made it into the film.  And what the hell is the CEO of the company doing running around with a gun trying to shoot some guy.  You would think he’d have people to do that for him. 

Hey, I love Michael Chrichton, but even in neo-classics like the Chrichton directed ‘Westworld’ or ‘Runaway’ (hell, it’s a classic to me) Chrichton, despite his Renaissance man skill set, just isn’t a very good film director.  He’s a hell of a story teller though, and ‘Looker’ does manage to be squeak out some entertainment value based story alone. 

So in hindsight, on the dark side of thirty, ‘Looker’ doesn’t hold up quite as well as remembered by a twelve year old who obviously hadn’t had a lot of exposure to boobs on a big screen.  Probably though, it’s still worth checking out for the new ‘technology’ that Chrichton invented that is fairly commonplace today.

Oh yeah, I still LOVE the theme song.  I don't care what anybody else says.

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