Vintage Cable Box: “Lovesick”, 1983

Vintage-Cable-Box-Cover-Image

“It was a little experiment, that’s all. I never meant it to become an industry.”

lovesick

“Lovesick”, 1983 (Dudley Moore), Warner Bros./The Ladd Company

Mr. Zuckerman is a strange case. A homeless man with several shopping bags of garbage, he speaks into a 2-way radio, and is convinced aliens are beaming messages into his head from the top of the World Trade Center. Dr. Saul Benjamin (Dudley Moore) knows exactly what to do to assauge Mr. Zuckerman (David Strathairn). He gives him a piece of aluminum foil and tells him to wear it over his head like a helmet. This will block out the alien control rays. Mr. Zuckerman is satisfied with this.

Mr. Zuckerman is just one of Dr. Benjamin’s eccentric (and let’s face it – crazy) patients. Benjamin is quite frankly bored of listening to his wealthy, neurotic patients. He fantasizes about discussing modern psychology with the ghost of Sigmund Freud (Sir Alec Guinness – in serious competition with Strathairn for stealing the whole movie away from Moore). A colleague, played by Wallace Shawn, informs Moore he is falling in love with a patient (Elizabeth McGovern). When Shawn dies, Moore takes on the patient, and soon realizes (with the help of Freud, of course) he is becoming infatuated with her.

Though Moore’s character is married (to a beautiful art gallery owner), the marriage is only referred to twice in the film. He begins to stalk McGovern until he is finally caught in her shower. Soaking wet, he tells her can’t see her anymore because he’s in love with her, which seems just fine to her. Normally, this would all be fairly creepy, but again Moore has that gift of appearing likable even when he’s doing ridiculous and psychotic things. In fact, the most unlikable character in the whole piece is Ron Silver’s arrogant actor (an unusual part for him), Ted, whom is appearing in McGovern’s latest stage play. He is everything I hate about certain actors.

Later, Moore is about to confess his affair to his wife, but discovers she is having an affair with one of her goofy, somewhat perverted artists. Marshall Brickman’s script really doesn’t need this sub-plot. Perhaps he felt the stakes weren’t high enough for Moore’s character (even though he is in danger of losing his accreditation) and that he should also sacrifice his marriage to win McGovern’s love, but in the end, it isn’t necessary. Despite Moore’s borderline sociopathic antics, this is a thoroughly charming fractured love story about a man of psychiatric medicine who learns to care for his patients without the need for stuffing his bank account.

John-freaking-Huston
John-Freaking-Huston!

Late in the movie, Moore is called before a review board (comprised of Alan King and Selma Diamond) and headed by his mentor (John-freaking-Huston!). While miffed at his dalliance with a former patient, they seem more disturbed by the fact that he offers free psychiatric care to homeless people and that he refunds money to his patients because he feels he cannot care for them. They are concerned about the bottom-line and profit margins, and how they will be wealthy from the glut of schizophrenics flooding the city. At the end of this rather brilliant scene, Moore performs what he calls a “magic trick”. He swipes the linen from a handsomely-appointed dinner table without nary disturbing a glass or plate, which earns cheers from Huston, who claps his hands and chuckles enthusiastically.

As a fable about Manhattan neurotics, “Lovesick” is a charming song. New York City is lovingly photographed (as if it were in an old painting) and Phillippe Sarde’s score is magical. It’s unfortunate no widescreen version of this movie exists. Like “Six Weeks”, this is a very difficult movie to find. Not even my wily, resourceful friend, Andrew La Ganke, could locate this title, and it only exists as a very old full-frame title on DVD, so I pulled the trigger and bought it, and I’m glad I did.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

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