Twenty-four hours in the life of a Southern California record store as employees try to thwart a serial bandit while a kick-ass talent show goes on in the parking lot.
How's THIS for a cast? You've got Ted (Isaac from THE LOVE BOAT) Lange as a break dancing clerk (who organizes the vinyl records via his "Afro-tonic" computer), Ruth Buzzi as the sex-starved cleaning lady, Michael Callan (Riff in the original Broadway production of WEST SIDE STORY) as the store's womanizing manager, Jack Carter as HIS p-whipped boss, Harold "Odd Job" Sakata as a gay strong-arm collections man, Sorrell "Boss Hogg" Booke as a clumsy cop, a youthful Ed Begley Jr. as a would-be thief, Larry Storch as a deaf customer (and what WACKIER place for a deaf guy to appear in than a record store??), Alice (what's-her-name on BEWITCHED) Ghostley and Leonard Barr (Dean Martin's uncle, believe it or not) as an elderly couple, Rick (DISCO DUCK) Dees as the talent show host and Jeff (PINK LADY AND JEFF) Altman as his Nazi engineer, Frank "The Riddler" Gorshin as the elusive bandit ... not to mention Kinky Friedman, Gallagher and GONG SHOW staple Razzle P. Willie (you remember, the guy with the lips painted on his bare stomach and the over-sized top hat over his torso, who put a trumpet to his navel and mimed "The Colonel Bogey March") as themselves. Eat your heart out, Steven Soderbergh.
And underneath the slapstick and cameos, RECORD CITY has some choice observations to make on Serious Themes. Look at how the only straightforward characters in the film, serving as a Greek chorus if you will, are the local hookers. Notice how Callan forces himself upon his minimum-wage teen girl workers, but must himself submit to the financial whims of Carter. And appreciate how the talent show winner will have to sell out to commercial success. This film's take on prostitution is one of the most sophisticated since NIGHTS OF CABIRIA.
And observe how there's a blind Hasidic man at the film's beginning and a one-eyed nun (both essayed by Gorshin) at its end. We are all operating in a world, director -- excuse me, auteur -- Dennis Steinmetz is clearly asserting, where God is blind. In modern American cinema, only CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS dares make such a statement. When Ted Lange asks a colleague, "Have you been playing 'Yankee Doodle' with your dandy?", he might as well have been posing the same soulful question to a soulless 1970s America.
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