Radioland Murders (1994)

Discussion in 'Lucasfilm Ltd. In-Depth Discussion' started by Darth_Nub, Aug 3, 2013.

  1. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

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    (Originally posted on the temp boards in June 2012)

    Finally got through the rest of this extremely flawed film today - it's not the complete disaster it's often made out to be, but it doesn't really work, and it's not surprising that it disappeared into obscurity.

    Radioland Murders is a comic take on a murder mystery, set in a 1930s radio station. It dates back to a storyline George Lucas began developing while working on American Graffiti, but remained in development hell until the early 1990s. He originally described it as 'Ten Little Indians set in a radio station'.

    Despite having a very strong cast, some great writing, and solid directing, it's a mess. The broad comedy is way too over the top and never really lets up - there are a few quieter scenes where the characters begin to become interesting, & the story itself becomes engaging, but these moments tend to be quickly interrupted with yet another noisy act of slapstick or stupidity. Simple fact of the matter is that these sort of comedy films stopped being genuinely funny in the 1940s, although some filmmakers have been successful in updating them for modern audiences (Airplane, The Naked Gun, etc).
    The sad thing is that with a gentler touch, Radioland Murders could have worked quite well. David Lynch's short-lived, and extremely similar, TV series On The Air failed in almost exactly the same way - comedy delivered to the audience via a sledgehammer and a hail of housebricks.

    Anyone else seen this forgotten child of Lucasfilm?
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  2. Blur Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 11, 1999
    star 4
    Saw RM for the first time about 5-6 years ago. Great little movie, and one that went completely under my radar when it was first released in the early '90's. IMHO, this takes at least several viewings to appreciate. I see it as a homage to the radio shows that Lucas listened to as a kid, before TV became prevalent. Also, it's worth noting that two American Graffiti alumni are in the film (Bo Hopkins & Candy Clark), playing the main character's parents.

    Note that a good companion to this film is Woody Allen's underrated 1987 movie Radio Days, which takes place during roughly the same era. I may be biased re: this film, however, since I'm a huge WA fan (though that's another thread)....
    Last edited by Blur, Aug 3, 2013
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  3. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Added on Netflix...I'll give it a watch this weekend and tell you what I think. I tend to appreciate barnyard comedy, so I'll probably like it :p
  4. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

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    Don't expect too much - it's not dreadful, it's just not all that good. I find it somewhat interesting because there's always been talk about these 'other' films GL wanted to make that had nothing to do with Star Wars - this was one that dates back to the earliest days of LFL, and actually made it to the screen.
  5. The-Eternal-Hero Force Ghost

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    Nov 3, 2012
    star 4
    This is a really cool movie for several reasons.

    #1. It is a virtuoso editing performance from Lucas. Just amazing.

    #2. It preserves some things that you can't see anywhere else now, from a bygone era, like Bill Barty's (High Aldwyn, Willow) music hall act (Black Magic) and other gems.

    #3. It's a "prequel" to American Graffiti, Curt's parents are in it, his mother played by Candy Clarke from American Graffiti.

    #4. It was the testing ground for the digital production methods that made the SE and the PT possible; without these envelope pushing, groundbreaking efforts there would be no Lord of the Rings movies etc.

    It's not a great comedy but it's an enjoyable GL movie with a lot of great bits and an amazing soundtrack.
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  6. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

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    It's also worthwhile for simply being a film made in the 1990s with a 1970s (and much earlier) sensibility. Radioland Murders is a very old-fashioned film, a homage to comedy films of the 1930s and 1940s. It's not unlike Peter Bogdanovich's Paper Moon (1973) in terms of its respect for the original era (Radioland Murders is all slapstick and broad comedy, Paper Moon is more screwball, dialogue-based comedy).

    A mainstream studio in 1994 simply wouldn't have made the film, but LFL just went ahead and did it anyway. Worth a shot. The Coen Brothers had more success with such an approach to their films dripping with 'homage' a few years later. LFL was a touch too early, with not quite enough irony to make a significant impact.
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  7. The-Eternal-Hero Force Ghost

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    Nov 3, 2012
    star 4
    It makes a great double feature with Woody Allen's "Radio Days".
  8. Darth Maul Apprentice Jedi Grand Master

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    Jan 27, 2014
    star 4
    I've still not seen this. If it's still on Netflix I'll check it out.
  9. inotropic Jedi Grand Master

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    Oct 4, 2009
    Some of the info here is inaccurate. In Radioland Murders:
    Roger Henderson is played by Brian Benben.
    Penny Henderson is played by Mary Stuart Masterson.

    In American Grafitti:
    Curt Henderson is played by Richard Dreyfuss.
    Laurie Henderson is played by Cindy Williams.

    In More American Grafitti:
    Andy Henderson is played by Will Seltzer.
  10. EternalHero Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2014
    star 2

    Good catch! Candy Clark plays the mother of Billy, the page-boy.
    Love the regardless GL Sig!
  11. inotropic Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 4, 2009
    You mean this beardless guy?

    [IMG]
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  12. EternalHero Jedi Grand Master

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    Feb 17, 2014
    star 2
    Oops, spell-correct strikes again!!
  13. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

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    [face_laugh]

    Spell-check does provide a few gems. I sent a text during a football game to a friend about the dreadful performance of one player - John Aloisi - it came up as AFool. Completely appropriate, too.
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  14. AndyLGR Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 1, 2014
    star 3
    I haven't seen Radioland Murders for a long time. I enjoyed it when I first saw it, but what drew me to it is that I'm a fan of old style haunted house style murder movies like Cat and the Canary, Murder by Death, And then there were None, What a Carve Up, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death and some of those have that comedy element thats present in Radioland Murders. I need to watch it again, maybe I'll have a different opinion on it now I'm older (and more miserable).
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  15. ATMachine Force Ghost

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    Feb 27, 2007
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    I don't think it's common knowledge, but Will Seltzer was Lucas's second choice for the part of Luke Skywalker. If Seltzer had been cast we would have seen Christopher Walken as Han Solo, and probably also Terri Nunn (now lead singer of the band Berlin) as Princess Leia. When Richard Dreyfuss dropped out of the American Graffiti sequel, Lucas decided to replace him with Seltzer, whose audition for Luke had put him in mind of Dreyfuss in his earlier film. It was probably also an apology of sorts for not casting Seltzer in the mega-hit blockbuster that made Mark Hamill a household name.
  16. Darth Zannah Jedi Master

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    Oct 28, 2014
    star 1
    I've been trying to watch this movie for years!