Watching sleazy 80s movies late at nightWritten by Chris Cox
“Don’t do it, Dan.”
Michael Douglas is Dan Gallagher, and he is sitting across the table from Alex Forrest, played by the incomparable Glenn Close. Alex is beautiful, all right, but she is also not his wife, who is out of town. And though she is beautiful, even with her poofy 80s hairstyle, there is something slightly askew about her, something not quite right. Dan is walking into a nightmare. Anybody can see that.
My wife can see it, even though she has never actually seen “Fatal Attraction,” the 1987 movie that taught a generation of women that the charismatic, handsome, cultured married man you just “connected with” at a party is never, ever going to leave his wife to be with you, and a generation of men that the sexy woman who isn’t your wife will not only pour acid on your Volvo if you sleep with her and then go back to your wife as if it never happened, she will also boil your daughter’s pet rabbit in a stock pot on your stove.
We hadn’t really set out to watch the movie in the first place. It was already past our bedtime, a little after 1 a.m., and the movie had just started. Dan and Alex had met at a party and were having that fateful dinner, perched right there on the brink of an odyssey that would ultimately leave her dead in the Gallagher’s quaint, country estate bathtub, and then dead again when she sprang to life after being apparently and quite convincingly drowned by Dan, having broken into their house and attacked his wife, only to be shot in the heart — oh cruel irony! — by the newly empowered wife. She was left dead, and poor Dan was left ... well, severely chastened — weary, but perhaps wiser.
When Alex sprang out of the water for one more go at Dan before the wife finished her off for good, my wife screamed and jumped so hard that she catapulted our miniature dachshund, who had been slumbering on her lap for a good hour, halfway across the room. He woke up midflight, yelped, and then barked at her for five minutes once he landed and regrouped.
“It’s a MOVIE, woman,” he barked (I’m translating now, for the benefit of readers who may not speak dachshund). “It’s not REAL. Glenn Close isn’t really crazy or dead. She has that television show now — you know the one. People cannot just drown in a bathtub, then come back to life, you know.”
Mouthy dog, he doesn’t realize that in the 1980s, dead movie villains frequently came back to life after being killed by the protagonist. You nearly always had to kill them twice (or, in the case of the “Friday the 13th” franchise, dozens of times). Usually, someone other than the protagonist had to do it the second time, since the protagonist was compelled by the curious laws of 1980s movies to sit near the “dead” body for several minutes after killing the villain the first time, his head in his hands, reflecting on the mistakes that brought him to this sorry place.
After my wife gathered her composure, as the credits rolled, she said, “You wouldn’t do that, would you?”
“Well, if she was actually attacking you with a kitchen knife, I would do whatever was necessary to subdue her,” I said. “I don’t want to drown anyone, but...”
“That’s not what I mean, and you know it,” she said, poking my arm. “If I went out of town...”
“Honey, sweetie, valentine,” I said, grabbing her hand. “You’ve BEEN out of town half dozen times since we’ve been together. The closest I’ve come to cheating on you is getting Chinese takeout. As much as I love crabmeat wontons, they don’t even compare to you. Not even CLOSE!”
“I want you to know that I would have killed her a lot sooner,” said my wife, with terrifying conviction. “Probably would have killed you, too.”
“But, honey it’s just a movie,” I said. “You should listen to the dog.”
“What on earth are you talking about? What dog?”
“Never mind,” I said. “Look, I love YOU, babe. Glenn Close can find someone else to go to the opera with, OK?”
Just as we were getting a lid back on our own boiling pot, we saw that “Basic Instinct” was getting ready to come on. Must be a Michael Douglas sleazy guy marathon. I grabbed the remote and clicked it up channel, and there was Tom Cruise grilling Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men.” I sat up a little straighter.
“Honey, it’s three in the morning,” my wife said. “We both have to get up in the morning.”
“Let’s just watch this one scene,” I said. “Tom Cruise is really good in this, and Nicholson...”
“Honey, it’s three in the morning...’
“You can’t HANDLE the truth!” I shouted.
The dog, once again yanked from sleep, barked sharply at us both. I’m not going to translate what he said.