Thursday, April 10, 2008

Film #29: Inside Moves

I'll never forget catching Inside Moves on cable back in the early 80s. It was like finding buried treasure, it really was. This 1980 film has now been almost totally forgotten--it's not even on DVD. But if you ever get a chance to see it, and have a prediliction for the sentimental, the beguiling, the intelligent, the well-crafted film, then you will love it as much as I did.

Richard Donner, normally the director of blockbusters like Superman, Lethal Weapon, The Goonies, and The Omen, dialed down the grandstanding he does so well to create this little personal movie about refound hope. After a fantastic credits sequence, we meet Rory (John Savage, in one of his few leads), a walking corpse whose attempt at suicide leaves him severely disabled. Across the street from his recovery house, Rory discovers Max's Bar and, inside, a vaudevillian trio of long-term patients (wheelchair-bound
Bill Henderson, blind Burt Remsen, and Harold Russell, in only his second film after winning two Oscars for playing a WWII soldier who'd lost his hands in 1946's The Best Years of Our Lives). Behind the counter is bartender Jerry (David Morse), a wanna-be basketball star with one leg shorter than the other. It's here, with these guys, that Rory does his healing.

It's impossible to conceive of the person who wouldn't like this winsome movie. The performances alone carry you through. Add the brilliant John Barry score, the tender scripting by Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin, and the rich cinematography by Lazlo Kovacs, and you've got an unbeatable force. Yet, it's weird how this title has disappeared from people's view. For instance, it has one of the best Christmas-related scenes of all time (John Savage and Oscar-nominated Diana Scarwid slow dance to Sinatra's "Put All Your Dreams Away"). I'd play this film on TV at Xmas in a heartbeat. But where is it come yueltide? Nowhere. More importantly, why wouldn't Inside Moves be out on DVD yet? Music rights issues, perhaps? The Sinatra estate, maybe?

Yes, okay, the movie can be charmingly trite at times, with its subplot about Jerry's prostitute girlfriend (Amy Wright, a familiar face around the early 1980s) and her dealings with a red-suited pimp named Lucius (Tony Burton). But its scenes of genuine emotion, particularly between Savage and Scarwid, and between Savage and Morse, are enough reason to seek it out. I remember interviewing Richard Donner back in 1985 when he was going around the country promoting Ladyhawke. Though I was just a lowly college journalist, he graciously agreed to meet me for a one-on-one chat in Atlanta's Central City Park. I was a fan of some of his movies at that point, but mostly of this one. When I threw out how much I liked Inside Moves, his eyes lit up. "Wow," he said, "rarely does anybody mention it, but that's my favorite of my own movies." Justifyably so...

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