Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!
In the early ‘90s, when everyone was getting cable and channels like HBO and CineMax ruled the television world, there was a show called “Red Shoe Diaries,” which was essentially an attempt at classy softcore porn. It was produced by a guy named Zalman King, memorable for the odd first name. I never realized that Zalman King was also an actor in the years prior to his forays into soft focus boobs. That includes his starring role in Blue Sunshine, one of three movies I know of where a bald woman is a focus of the advertising (the others being The Naked Kiss and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Feel free to add others in the comments).
Blue Sunshine feels like a mash-up between Reefer Madness and God Told Me To. It’s also one of those films that wants to work up the audience by claiming that they story they are about to hear is based in fact. In that respect, it’s done well. The plot of the movie centers around a batch of bad LSD known as Blue Sunshine that was used around Stanford in the late 1960s. What we discover as the movie goes on is that people who used Blue Sunshine are having very delayed and serious fallout from their former drug use. Ten years after they used it, they start suffering whanging headaches. They also lose all of their hair, and eventually have a complete psychotic break and start murdering everyone around them indiscriminately. We get a little of that in the film’s opening.
Our first real taste of it, though, comes at a party where Frannie (Richard Crystal) attempts to kiss Alicia Sweeney (Deborah Winters). Not wanting to be kissed, she pulls on Frannie’s hair, revealing it to be a wig. His own hair is virtually gone, with just a few wisps left. He runs out of the building, and as others go to look for him, he returns and murders three women by shoving them into the fireplace. Eventually, Alicia’s boyfriend, Jerry Zipkin (Zalman King) finds Frannie. The two fight and Frannie is killed when he is pushed in front of a truck. However, things go badly for Jerry, who is accused of the murders.
With the help of Alicia and his doctor friend David Blume (Robert Walden), Jerry hides from the authorities and starts investigating what is going on. This leads him eventually to the congressional campaign of Edward Flemming (Mark Goddard). It turns out that Flemming was the big Blue Sunshine dealer at Stanford a decade before, and so indirectly he is responsible for the various ticking timebombs around the area. One of these is Wendy (Ann Cooper), his ex-wife, who is starting to show signs of Blue Sunshine taking control of her. The same is true of Flemming’s assistant Wayne Mulligan (Ray Young). And throughout all of this, Jerry is still attempting to stay away from the police and clear his name.
In some respects, Blue Sunshine is a neo-noir. Jerry’s story, at least, being falsely accused of terrible crimes he didn’t commit, is right along with a lot of noir stories. Since there is also at least some feel of it being a detective narrative, there’s some level of noir feeling there as well. But that’s where it tends to fall apart. There’s no clear femme fatale—the dangerous woman here is just drug addled, not working an angle. The story is also pretty straightforward and lacks the twists we’d normally expect.
There are some real problems with Blue Sunshine. First, there are some serious plotting issues. A lot happens here that doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Jerry, wanted for multiple grisly murders, somehow feels completely free to walk around Los Angeles with his disguise, which is just him wearing a suit. No change in hairstyle, no fake facial hair—just a suit. He and Dr. Blume talk openly about getting him tranquilizers with a fake prescription in front of other people, seemingly not caring about other people hearing about their potential medical fraud.
At one point, Jerry breaks into a crime scene for reasons, although he doesn’t really seem to do a great deal when he’s there. It seems very easy for him to do so, and the crime scene itself doesn’t seem to be very well protected. He essentially tells a neighbor that he’s going to break into the crime scene before doing it. And once inside, he has a bit of an episode.
There is also some substantially bad acting. Oh, I’ve certainly seen worse, but there’s a lot here that is laughable. This is a shame, because when we do see someone finally have their psychotic break, the opposite is true.
The truth is that Blue Sunshine has a lot of fun ideas, but it really needed to have a script doctor work it over for another couple of weeks. The ideas are great here, but the overall story and execution don’t live up to the idea that drives them.
Why to watch Blue Sunshine: Psychotic bald people.
Why not to watch: Much of the acting is roughly community theater quality.