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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 "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 <email@example.com>
Adam Rifkin's off-the-wall "The Dark Backward" is one of those films one could say suffers from the "trying too hard" syndrome. In this case, it really does go out of its way to come off as some instant sort of cult film. It does work as a minor commentary on the nature of show business, and how important a gimmick can be. In this case, the gimmick is the third arm growing out of garbageman Marty Malt's back. Malt, you see, is also a stand-up comedian who keeps plugging away, telling the same terrible jokes over and over, spurred on by a maniacal "pal", Gus, who has very big show biz aspirations. When the arm appears, they believe that this is all the edge that they will need, and their new agent Jackie Chrome believes so too. Sometimes the film seems to be weird just for the sake of being weird, and absolutely revels in its filth. It may be one of the grimiest films you'll ever see. The production designer, Sherman Williams, and cinematographer, Joey Forsyte, do stylize this to a high degree; this film takes place in a truly decrepit and seedy world, populated by seedy people. There's also a fair bit of grossness to the story, as well, at least when it comes to the character of Gus, played with his customary exuberance by Bill Paxton, who is utterly fearless throughout this thing. This is a guy who licks corpses before stealing their jewelry. Judd Nelson is perfect as the nerdy Malt, completely disappearing into the character. And Wayne Newton is spot on as the agent. The eclectic assemblage of actors also includes James Caan as a doctor, King Moody (at one time a portrayer of Ronald McDonald!) as a kiddie show host, Rob Lowe as a grease ball who picks Malt to be on a TV show, and Claudia Christian as a nurse. Presenting itself as something of a fable, "The Dark Backward" is not for everybody and in fact may be something of an endurance test for some viewers; others may embrace its oddness. It's not altogether unique, but it does have its moments (it's hard to forget that human xylophone). However, it goes on just a little too long. Curious and patient cult movie lovers may want to give it a look. Five out of 10.
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