I did an homage to both the film, Slipping Into Darkness, and the film’s theme, “Slippin’ Into Darkness” by War, back in 2014 … so this is really the first video that is entirely about the movie, largely about one very dramatic and pivotal scene. The background song I chose is “Captain Jack” by Billy Joel, released in November 1973 on the album Piano Man and, as far as I am concerned, one of Joel’s best songs ever. Although initially about heroin use among the young and affluent in the suburbs it came to take on a larger meaning about lifestyle, life choice, and the “pathetic loser kind of lifestyle.” It is an indictment, and at times cruel and cynical, but still a sad, heartfelt commentary about the lost generation of the early 70’s … and perfect for this group of characters.
There aren’t many period films about this time I came of age and graduated from high school, the early 1970s … not good ones. As it turns out, the best are those that are not trying to be obvious about it. Thus, what should have made this film at least a “good” film was entirely misunderstood, even though the clues are everywhere to be seen. The problem is, to notice some of the clues, you would have had to live the times.
A lot of people are confused because they assume the film is set during the year it was filmed and released: 1988. Thus, you get this kind of reaction (to paraphrase): ‘one minute they look like greasers and the girls like they should be wearing poodle skirts and the next like they are practically in the computer/digital age.’ Practically to the latter, but not quite.
The film’s theme song is “Slippin’ Into Darkness” by War. While that may be almost the same as the film’s title and a metaphor for the darkness the characters slip into, it is also a constant reminder of WHEN this story takes place. The song broke into the Top 100 at the end of December 1971 and slowly climbed its way to #12 on May 27, 1972 on Cash Box before vanishing from the charts one week before summer. Note the characters are wearing winter jackets and coats, but it also looks like end of winter/early spring. That would place the action around March 1972, when the song was really getting popular.
Fritz has lost his retarded brother in a train accident, but evidence points to one in a group of three affluent, college party girls being involved. He enlists the help of two of his pals from the motorcycle group he used to be in before going to college and changing his life. He essentially wants to lure the girls to an isolated spot and interrogate the one he principally suspects, without anything specific planned in the way of retribution (if at all). The two friends agree to change their appearance: they shave off their beards and one gets something like a buzz job, but the other does exactly what a lot of guys did when applying for jobs back in the 70’s without getting a haircut: combing his hair behind his ears. Big clue right there as to when this takes place. But the idiots who comment on this film, who obviously can’t follow a storyline, think he is a 50’s greaser. Another confused reviewer points out that the girls are in college but arrive at a museum in a school bus. I guess people are not aware that school buses can still be pressed into service for all kinds of activities not related to school … like for use by local astronomy clubs. Times were slower in the early 70’s and going out for ice cream or a shake and fries was much more popular in the winter back then than it probably is today. It wasn’t an exclusively summer activity. A lot of people are clueless too as to the limitations, financial and otherwise, imposed on making an independent film.
Another problem people who watched this film had is Otis, the biker gang leader, who they accuse of being a full-blown lunatic before the one girl is killed in a spontaneous, unplanned sex game that goes horribly wrong. Well, wrong again. He can’t live with himself after what happens and what he did: it drives him insane. His behavior quickly deteriorates in one of the scariest transformations on film and IS wholly believable.
Anyway, space here on Vimeo won’t permit me to do a full review of this film. But I thought it was a great period piece and well-acted by all the actors involved. The scene I chose is tremendously sad and the acting is as honest as it ever gets. Included is a flashback sequence I provide for the girls before they are caught up in the tragedy.