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Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987)

R  |   |  Comedy, Crime, Drama  |  18 September 1987 (USA)
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Ratings: 4.7/10 from 940 users  
Reviews: 26 user | 20 critic

Writer, ex-con and 40-something bottle-baby Tim Madden, who is prone to black-outs, awakens from a two-week bender to discover a pool of blood in his car, a blond woman's severed head in ... See full summary »



(novel), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Title: Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tim Madden
Madeleine Regency
Patty Lareine (as Debra Sandlund)
Capt. Alvin Luther Regency
Wardley Meeks III
Dougy Madden
Big Stoop
Jessica Pond
R. Patrick Sullivan ...
Lonnie Pangborn
Kathryn Sanders ...
Ira Lewis ...
Merwyn Finney


Writer, ex-con and 40-something bottle-baby Tim Madden, who is prone to black-outs, awakens from a two-week bender to discover a pool of blood in his car, a blond woman's severed head in his marijuana stash, and the new Provincetown police chief, Captain Luther Regency, shacked up with his former girlfriend Madeleine. As his father Dougy helps him try to unravel the mystery, he is dogged by the psychotic Capt. Regency, who has it in for Tim as a car-crash that he was involved in with Madeline has left her unable to have children. Flashing-back to the past, Tim remembers the time when he encouraged Madeline to swing with a Li'l Abnerish couple from down South, the fundamentalist preacher Big Stoop and his Daisy Mae-ish wife, Patty Lareine, whose ad Tim had come across in 'Screw' magazine. It's on the trip back that the car crash occurs, since Madeline is incensed that Tim has so enjoyed Patty Lareine's charms. Except for his father Dougy, who is dying of cancer, Tim suspects everyone, ... Written by Jon C. Hopwood

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

head | gay | writer | police chief | cancer | See All (41) »


A story of how dangerous love can be. See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

18 September 1987 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Marca do Passado  »

Box Office


$5,000,000 (estimated)


$858,250 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The movie was nominated for seven Golden Raspberry Awards including Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Ryan O'Neal), Worst Actress and Worst New Star (Debra Stipe), Worst Screenplay (Norman Mailer) and, with Siesta (1987), Worst Supporting Actress (Isabella Rossellini), with the film winning one Razzie, for Worst Director - Norman Mailer, but it tying with Elaine May for Ishtar (1987). See more »


Madeleine Regency: [narrating a letter] My husband is having an affair with your wife. I don't think we should talk about it... unless you're prepared to kill them.
Tim Madden: Oh man! Oh God, oh man! Oh God, oh man! Oh God, oh man! Oh God, oh man, oh God!
See more »


Spoofed in The Cinema Snob: Ax 'Em (2010) See more »


You'll Come Back (You Always Do)
Music by Angelo Badalamenti
Lyrics by Norman Mailer and Angelo Badalamenti
Sung by Mel Tillis
See more »

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User Reviews

Warning: For Intelligent and Advanced Film Buffs Only!
10 March 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Okay, now that I have your attention, I don't guarantee that you will rate this the 7/10 I do, even if you qualify as an intelligent and advanced film buff. However, I do believe you will find something to chew on here.

It's written and directed by noted author Norman Maileer. And it's tough in every meaning of the word.

The rough plot sounds like a rather typical noir. An excessively drinking author given to memory blackouts doesn't know if he committed a murder or not.

Believe me, it's not that simple and Mailer takes us down a long winding and convoluted path before we know the whole story. At times, it seems ludicrous, and although I disagree with the Razzie noms it got, I understand. This is the type of movie which some will find inexorably bad.

However, it weaves a spell and the tough will stay with it because it's addictive. You will laugh at inappropriate times and groan sometimes, and yet the very serious film buff will continue watching it, and be glad he/she did. And I do believe that many will find this rewarding although certainly not unflawed. Maybe Mailer wanted it flawed.

As others mentioned, Wings Hauser is the perfect actor in this. However, Ryan O'Neal gave this his all, and veteran B film noir actor Lawrence Tierney also adds to this.

Some will love it; some will hate it. I did neither, but I did enjoy it. There was a point, the chain connecting the characters in their sex lives and in the chain of violence.

Love it or hate it, I suspect you will remember this one and not consider it a waste of time.

15 of 25 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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