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Body of Influence (1993)

REVIEWS - Movie Reviews


Up in Toronto, they're ripping one another's heads off over whether "Show Boat" is politically correct or not.


The whole thing started when black leaders claimed that the show was racist, and so it shouldn't be used to dedicate the new performing arts center. First of all, I don't know exactly what they call "black" in Canada.

 

I assume they mean the LEAST white of the assorted SHADES of white, because, let's face it, you could be the color of buttermilk and still be considered a minority. Those people are WHITE. We're talking PALE here.

But anyhow, the Afro-American--whoops!--the Afro-CANADIAN community--whoops!--the AFRICAN-Canadian community--all the people with skin darker than a jar of mayonnaise got together to protest all the "racist stereotypes" in "Show Boat," and demand that this multi-million-dollar Broadway-bound production be halted. But that's not what made everybody mad.

What made everybody mad is that the protesters said what they REALLY didn't like about "Show Boat" is that it was JEWISH. It was made by JEWISH people. And, of course, by this they meant Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern.

Now we got some REALLY angry JEWS in Toronto, who can't believe that Oscar and Jerome are being accused of writing a musical that's part of an international masterplot to put down African-Canadians, African-Americans, and African-Mexicans.

I never have understood this black-vs.-Jew thing, and I'm not gonna start now, but what I can do is tell you Dudley Doorights how to fix this problem immediately. Because I am a man who has seen "Show Boat" 19 jillion times. I've seen it in high school auditoriums. I've seen it at Casa Manana in Fort Worth. I've seen it at the Dallas Summer Musicals. I've heard guys sing "Ole Man River" so low it causes actual cracks to open up in the theater floor. So one thing I DO know about is "Show Boat."

Now. I always thought "Show Boat" was a statement AGAINST racism. That was the point of Edna Ferber's novel. That was the point of the show. That's how Oscar wrote it. And that's the reason that, when it opened on Broadway in 1927, the only person in the cast who became a star was Helen Morgan, who played Julie, the woman kicked off the boat for falling in love with a white man. She "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" of hers. Right? And so the Sheriff shows up and tells them they're guilty of marriage between the races, which is a capital crime on the Mississippi River, at least in this show. But to avoid getting arrested, Julie's man Steve, who is always played by a summer-stock wimp, cuts Julie's finger and sucks her blood so he'll have black blood, too. But then they decide to sacrifice their own jobs and leave the boat, so that all their friends don't have any problems on account of them. Remember?

I think this is about as far from racism as you can get. But who cares what I think? This is the nineties, when the definition of racism is whatever anybody says it is. So here's how to fix the show, correct it, take all the OBVIOUS Jewish propaganda out of it, and get it to Broadway anyway:

Instead of having Julie fall in love with Steve, have her fall in love with Jules, a nasty Jewish guy who only became a riverboat performer FOR THE MONEY. He could CARE LESS what happens to the other people on the boat. So when the sheriff shows up, he says to Julie, "And not only that, I didn't even KNOW you were black. You think I'm staying married to a BLACK person?"

In other words, do a Spike Lee with it.

So Jules leaves the show, Julie leaves the show, but they go separately. Julie is so steamed by this time that she starts a COMPETING riverboat show, starring Gregory Hines, and she steals away the old guy who sings "Ole Man River," because then the stupid JEWISH version has no big opening number. Instead of ending up as a boozehound singer at the Trocadero, she gradually accumulates a fortune and uses it to run a riverboat casino game. Her best customer is Gaylord Ravenal, the dashing riverboat gambler who loves Magnolia but leaves her when his debts become too great. (In other words, we leave the Gaylord-Magnolia plot alone.) Eventually, Julie holds all Gaylord's markers. Thirty years pass. Payback time on the Cotton Blossom. Julie shows up on the boat, just as Magnolia is finishing the same pathetic novelty number she was doing in 1885. The sheriff is with her, to announce that Gaylord Ravenal is actually black, too, and so he and Magnolia are guilty of marriage between the races, but he'll overlook it if Gaylord will marry Julie, and Magnolia will marry a Jewish guy, to make sure her tainted blood doesn't get mixed up with any IMPORTANT race. The various couples are paired up and married off as the Jewish minstrels aboard the Cotton Blossom sing "Ole Man Moses" for tips.

Believe me, this'll play.

And speaking of new versions of old ideas, you've heard of "Body of Evidence"? Now we have . . . "Body of Influence"! Instead of Madonna, we have Shannon Whirry. Instead of Willem Dafoe, we have . . . Nick Cassavetes. Otherwise, exact same movie.

Well, maybe not the EXACT same movie. In this version, Nick is a Beverly Hills psychiatrist who videotapes all his sessions with bored housewives, even the ones he has sex with. Shannon plays a wildwoman who shows up one day and basically twists his body into a pretzel until he agrees to do anything, including murder people. And Sandahl Bergman is the sensitive confused young housewife who has hot sex with Nick on his shrink couch and then says, "You know what? This might qualify as sexual harassment."

In other words, we've got a whole lot of aardvarking going on here, with no plot to get in the way of the story. My kinda movie.

Twenty-one breasts. Six dead bodies. Kink-o-rama. S&M. M&M. LMNOP. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Diana Barton, as the fiancee who gets a little suspicious when Nick's female patients start coming over to the house and resting on his bed, for saying "I don't like this one bit!"; Shannon Whirry, for going into a shrink's office, ripping off all her clothes, straddling the shrink's chair, and saying "I understand your pain, Jonathan," and for calling him up all the time and saying "Jonathan, we must have sex immediately"; Richard Roundtree, who has nothing to do in this movie but hang around Nick Cassavetes and say stuff like, "She ain't the only one who's sexually repressed!"; and Nick Cassavetes, one of the all-time great sleazeballs, for saying stuff like "I just felt that with you by my side I could handle anything that life threw at me."

Two and a half stars.



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