The Dark Backward (1991)

R  |   |  Comedy  |  9 March 1991 (USA)
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A man pursues stand-up comedy encouraged by his fellow garbage man. Though his friend, who accompanies him on accordion, continues to tell him how great he is, he actually stinks. When the ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jackie Chrome
Doctor Scurvy
Dirk Delta
King Moody ...
Danny Dayton ...
Carrie Lynn ...
Anna Berger ...
Mrs. Malt
Lydell M. Cheshier ...
Tom Hodges ...
Marjorie Zipp
Theodocia Goodrich ...
Mrs. Bielfuss
Laurianne Jameson ...


A man pursues stand-up comedy encouraged by his fellow garbage man. Though his friend, who accompanies him on accordion, continues to tell him how great he is, he actually stinks. When the "comedian" grows a third arm out of his back, the friend uses this twist to get him signed up with a sleazy talent agent, and it begins to look like his career is on the move, even though his girlfriend has left him. Written by Ed Sutton <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It's the world inside out.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for brief scenes of bizarre, comic sensuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

9 March 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ciemna strona  »

Filming Locations:


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Did You Know?


Director Adam Rifkin wrote the screenplay when he was 19 years old. See more »


Rosarita: It's all over between the two of us. I can't love a man with three hands.
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User Reviews

Fascinating, Disturbing Ultra Black Tale
8 April 2003 | by (NYC) – See all my reviews

You have got to say one thing about this film whether you like it or don't. It's completely original.

There's never been anything quite like it on-screen. In form, it's a Fairy Tale of the very Grimm variety. In tone, it's closest to the absurdist theatre works of Beckett, Pirandello and Ionesco. There's also a whole lot of allegory and symbolism going on here. Though everything is told simply there's a tremendous amount of depth to ponder in the issues the film raises and in the way the characters deal with living in this metaphor for Hell. Understanding the universe they are inhabiting is the key to appreciating this film.

The "Dark Backward" explores a world that is overwhelmed with scum and filth. One of the characters, Gus, is so dirty he looks like a live action version of "Pigpen".

As this character Bill Paxton gives one of the bravest, most fascinating performances I've ever seen. He walks a tightwire of contradictions playing a character who is at once both innocence and evil incarnate.

He's loud, lustful and obnoxious. He's quiet, virginal and caring. At one moment, he's as stupid as a post; in the next, he's cunningly manipulitive and deceitful. To oversimplify-it's like being asked to play Forrest Gump AND Iago in the same character. Miraculously, Paxton not only pulls it off but makes it appear as though all these opposing traits could easily belong to a single creature.

The rest of the cast is magnificent in the way they embrace the excesses of their respective characters. As mentioned earlier, this is an absurdist story and these actors realize the importance of exaggeration to make the genre work. This is also why those who have dismissed Paxton's work as over-the-top should not be heeded. This is a film that shows a world where there is no top to be gone over. There is nothing which can be considered too much.

19 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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