Grace jones has a new book arriving in a little bit: I’ll Never Write My Memoirs. I don’t think I mentioned just how much I love this woman. She was one of the primary influences of my teen years. I watched her movies and collected all her albums. She taught me that you can’t be your authentic self, unless you love and embrace your self first, flaws and all. I figured, if she could do that and get love from everybody else, I could at least be it and love myself.
All of the Pop singers we know today, owe at least some credit to Grace. Without her there’d be no Kim, no Miley, no Nicky, no Gaga, no Kanye, no Marilyn Manson. And probably no me,either. A lot of my attitude towards the world is informed just by her existence in it. Grace is a true, authentic Diva, even if she doesn’t necessarily agree with that assessment.
In honor of “The Diva”, I’m giving a shout out to the only Black female vampire worth mentioning (and no, Akasha does not count), in one of her first film roles, in which Grace never speaks a word of dialogue and still manages to be totally bad-ass.
The movie debuted in 1986, during an inexplicable, five year span of comedic vampire movies, and starred Deedee Pfeiffer, (the little sister of Michelle,) Chris Makepeace (from My Bodyguard), Robert Rusler, (who I was totally crushing on back then), Gedde Watanabe, (the comic relief), and Billy Drago, as Snow, (who looked even stranger then than he does now), and may have single-handedly began the trope of The Evil Albino.
Keith and AJ need money for a stripper, so they can join a shitty fraternity. In exchange for pretending to be his friends, for a week, Duncan (Gedde) allows them to borrow one of his cars. On their way to find a stripper they get lost and run into a vampire child and a homicidal street gang, headed by a vengeful albino, played by Billy Drago. In the meantime, they debate what time the After Dark Club opens its doors. At dark? Or do you wait a few minutes, when it will be after dark? Or first thing in the morning? This is just one of the little throwaway conversations that Keith and AJ regularly engage in throughout the movie, and their quiet chemistry is one of the highlights of the movie.
Duncan gets all the best lines however, on their way to and in the strip club, where they encounter Amaretto/Allison (Not really!),played by Deedee and you can tell why she didn’t become as famous as her sister. She’s a very nice character. She’s very sweet. But she’s also one of the weakest characters in the movie, who feels thrown in simply because they needed at least one White female. Most of the other females in the movie are women of color, who work at the strip club, except for Snow’s gang members who appear to be either all black women or albinos like himself! The casting of this movie is very quirky.
At the club, the crew watch Katrina’s show, (and you have to see the movie just for that scene, so take that Gaga! Grace did it first!) after which AJ decides to hire and audition her for the fraternity. When AJ doesn’t return, Keith goes searching for him. In his search for AJ, he encounters Snow and his gang, more vampires, almost gets run over by a garbage truck, crushed by an elevator, and eats a cockroach. Amaretto, who has been very friendly with him all evening, decides, with perfect timing, that she has a confession to make: They once played spin the bottle together as children and she was flattered that he deliberately spun the bottle to her.
AJ, has gotten exactly what he wished for, on the other hand, an encounter with Katrina, where she, believing that he’s come to the strip club alone, sexes him up and then rips out his throat. Upon finding out that he was not alone, and has friends looking for him, she also rips the heart out of the young lady who made the mistake.
With one hand! Take that Beatrix! Grace did it first!
To throw off AJ’s friends, she enlists the aid of her Renfield, and her Renfield’s Renfield, to resurrect AJ, and find and kill them. Duncan gets turned into a vampire and killed, Keith and Allison finally hook up with AJ, the gangbangers get taken out by street vamps and Keith, Allison and AJ escape into the sewers, after burning down the strip club.
Katrina, pissed off that they burned down her club, takes Amaretto hostage. Keith shoots her with an arrow, through the mouth, but she just laughs it off, and he finally destroys her with sunlight, by removing some ceiling grates.
And Katrina, even though she hasn’t spoken a word throughout the entire move, still manages to get the last word.
Some of the throwaway, blink and you’ll miss them moments in the movie:
Katrina’s Renfield has his own Renfield, one of Katrina’s former lovers. You realize Katrina is at least two thousand years old, when you see her Egyptian sarcophagus burning in the background. The strip club has no mirrors. The strippers get around this by just doing each other’s makeup.
This movie was Hella fun, even if the special effects are a bit dodgy by today’s efforts. The dialogue is spot on, with lots of throwaway lines and gags. Chris and Robert have excellent chemistry, and Gedde is absolutely hilarious, as a desperate and delusional Romeo. The weakest link is Deedee, who is not ever going to be a great actress, but she makes up for it by at least being sweetly charming, though not too bright.
Grace has a few songs on the soundtrack, namely the one she, sort of, dances to, called Seduction/Surrender, but most of the movies music is not worth remembering beyond the end titles theme, Volare by Jerry Vale. For a movie about a strip club, there’s not a whole lot of nudity, and while there are strippers, you never get the impression that the filmmaker doesn’t respect them, or that the women don’t respect themselves. In fact, most of the strippers are vampires and think of the job as their meal ticket.For them being sexy is just a means to an end. Even the patrons of the club seem to lack any enthusiasm for what’s happening on stage. Perhaps its the type of clientele that the club aims for, or maybe all the life has already been sucked out of most of them.
Vic, the club owner, is sleazy, but that is a given for a strip club owner and even he becomes a more sympathetic, well-rounded character, over the course of the film. He loves Katrina, has known her for a very long time and believes she should be a famous entertainer in Vegas, as befits her status as a queen, not stripping in some dive in the middle of nowhere.
The film has good pacing, with action scenes thrown in because hey! there must be action scenes. All of the protagonists become more likable as the film progresses, and you really start to feel for them as their situation worsens and they still manage to keep their humor throughout. Most of the villains, however, including Katrina, don’t evolve beyond being menacing, except for Vic, who is both pathetic and mordantly funny.
No, Katrina doesn’t actually dance, but this was the 80’s, and she looked strange and wonderful, and all of the entertainment avant garde we see today, like bizarre headgear and costumes, body and face painting, and weird contact lenses, can find a lot of their foundation in Ms. Jones example, the only real heir to Josephine Baker.
That’s right, Gaga! Grace got there first!