U.S. film. Excellent quality. Widescreen, letterbox. It's a day-in-the-life of a Los Angeles record store. An employee is not sure where to file an LP and asks, "Where do I stick Tongue?" The store employees try to thwart a serial bandit while a mega-talent show, sponsored by radio station KAKA, is happening in the parking lot. The grease ball store manager tries to get in the hot pants of the checkout girls. The hookers out front make regular comments about the goings-on in the store.
Ted Lange as a break-dancing clerk, Ruth Buzzi as the sex-starved cleaning lady, Michael Callan as the store's sleazy manager, Jack Carter as his p-whipped boss, Harold Sakata as a gay strong-arm collections man, Sorrell Booke as a clumsy cop, Ed Begley Jr. as a would-be thief. Larry Storch as a deaf customer (a deaf guy in a record store?!), Alice Ghostley and Leonard Barr as an elderly couple, Rick Dees (Disco Duck) as the talent show host and Jeff Altman as his Nazi engineer, Frank Gorshin as the elusive bandit. There's also Kinky Friedman, Gallagher and others.
Look for: George Barris custom cars, skateboard tricks in the parking lot and tons of LP jackets and posters on the wall from circa 1978. Songs include: "Record City," "Make Way For the Lover," "Gorilla Man," "Mr. Feelgood," "Nothin' In This World," "Maybe Someday," "You Are My Reason," "Steppin' Out."
If Sherwood Schwartz had produced NASHVILLE...
Twenty-four hours in the life of a Southern California record store as employees try to thwart a serial bandit while a kick-ass talent show goes on in the parking lot.
How's THIS for a cast? You've got Ted (Isaac from THE LOVE BOAT) Lange as a break dancing clerk (who organizes the vinyl records via his "Afro-tonic" computer), Ruth Buzzi as the sex-starved cleaning lady, Michael Callan (Riff in the original Broadway production of WEST SIDE STORY) as the store's womanizing manager, Jack Carter as HIS p-whipped boss, Harold "Odd Job" Sakata as a gay strong-arm collections man, Sorrell "Boss Hogg" Booke as a clumsy cop, a youthful Ed Begley Jr. as a would-be thief, Larry Storch as a deaf customer (and what WACKIER place for a deaf guy to appear in than a record store??), Alice (what's-her-name on BEWITCHED) Ghostley and Leonard Barr (Dean Martin's uncle, believe it or not) as an elderly couple, Rick (DISCO DUCK) Dees as the talent show host and Jeff (PINK LADY AND JEFF) Altman as his Nazi engineer, Frank "The Riddler" Gorshin as the elusive bandit ... not to mention Kinky Friedman, Gallagher and GONG SHOW staple Razzle P. Willie (you remember, the guy with the lips painted on his bare stomach and the over-sized top hat over his torso, who put a trumpet to his navel and mimed "The Colonel Bogey March") as themselves. Eat your heart out, Steven Soderbergh.
And underneath the slapstick and cameos, RECORD CITY has some choice observations to make on Serious Themes. Look at how the only straightforward characters in the film, serving as a Greek chorus if you will, are the local hookers. Notice how Callan forces himself upon his minimum-wage teen girl workers, but must himself submit to the financial whims of Carter. And appreciate how the talent show winner will have to sell out to commercial success. This film's take on prostitution is one of the most sophisticated since NIGHTS OF CABIRIA.
And observe how there's a blind Hasidic man at the film's beginning and a one-eyed nun (both essayed by Gorshin) at its end. We are all operating in a world, director -- excuse me, auteur -- Dennis Steinmetz is clearly asserting, where God is blind. In modern American cinema, only CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS dares make such a statement. When Ted Lange asks a colleague, "Have you been playing 'Yankee Doodle' with your dandy?", he might as well have been posing the same soulful question to a soulless 1970s America.
It's a Grrrrreat Film -- after 17 or 18 beers
"Record City?" you say, "eh, never heard of it." Before there was EMPIRE RECORDS, there was RECORD CITY. After CAR WASH, there was.... well, RECORD CITY. Now, some of you film geeks out there might notice that this is auteur Dennis Steinmetz's only feature film. Yet the financiers didn't give the poor guy enough dough, because this opus was shot on tape, then transferred to film. Dennis deserved better! There are a few liabilities here... including the video photography -- which is reminiscent of having visine in your eyes. But, there are some virtues to be found: including some delightful performances by Alice Ghostley and Ed Begley, Jr and a script that combines the episodic flavor of CAR WASH -- only set in a record store. Considering that this film cost $6.95, it's good stuff. However, and this is not an insult, RECORD CITY plays beautifully after you've had 17 or 18 beers. Now, how many films can you say that about? If by chance this film is aired on television, I highly recommend taping it on the highest quality videotape you have available. Or, if you're a real cool kitty cat, record it on your dvd-recordable player. You owe it to yourself to have this film in your film collection -- to have and to hold -- forever and ever. RECORD CITY, all the way.
Record City funny in an "anything goes" kind of way
This is another obscure movie I stumbled into on Amazon Prime Video. It's so obscure that when it was originally released, it didn't appear in any theatre in my Baton Rouge residence! The movie has lots of familiar TV character actors like Alice Ghostley, Ruth Buzzi, and Larry Storch. Before "The Love Boat" made him familiar, Ted Lange was in this, likewise, Ed Begley Jr. before "St. Elsewhere". Oh, and disc jockey Rick Dees appears here as DJ "The Gorilla" singing a song similar to his "Dis-Gorilla" and hosting a talent contest in which Gallagher and Kinky Friedman appear. None of the songs were familiar Top 40 hits though they could have been judging by the sound and flavor. In summary, Record City was stupid and politically incorrect and sloppy but it was also funny perhaps despite and because of that.
"Car Wash" in a record store. "The Gong Show" meets "Empire Records." The fever dream of a cocaine-riddled comedy writer. The Seventies in concentrated form. "Record City" is all of these things and many more.
It's certainly no one-man play here, as the cast features every character actor and comedian in Hollywood that wasn't doing anything that week, along with other assorted Seventies pop culture flotsam like Rick Dees, Kinky Friedman, and that guy from that show, you know the one. (I guess The Real Don Steele wasn't available?)
Record City is an assault on good taste and humor, all captured on 2 inch videotape and transferred to film for editing. (Exact reverse of how it's done these days.) I guess the only people missing from this parade of spandex and glitter were Mason Reese, Scatman Crothers and Sigmund The Sea Monster. (Kids, Google or ask your grandparents about that...or for that matter what a record store is...)
When not marveling at the paper thin plot, stretched to the breaking point by the inclusion of way too many characters, hell, way too many protagonists, you'll be gobsmacked at the by-this-time cringe-worthy jokes featuring the (not) wonderful worlds of casual racism, sexism, homophobia (that's pure gold for the writer, apparently, since he keeps coming back to that gag as well as being-hit-in-the-nuts humor) and misogyny. If the jokes aren't headache inducing enough, your eyes will have to adjust to not only Seventies street fashions, but Seventies Vegas-style stage costumes as well. And, oh yeah, the pseudo-Nazi outfit worn by Jeff Altman, who has about three lines, playing second fiddle to freaking Rick Dees and his mock Wolfman Jack as a gorilla shtick.
Record City captures a moment in time long gone, and one which will never return. Thank God. Approach with caution, and then only from the perspective of an anthropologist visiting some long-thought vanished ancient culture whose ways have become lost to the modern world.
Isaac Your Bartender wins the talent contest.
Totally off the wall 70's episodic comedy romp
Coming across like a low-rent "Car Wash" set in a record store on a single frantic day, this dopey comedy may not be good in a traditional sense, but it's so bound and determined in its relentless aim to amuse and entertain in the most clunky and pandering way possible that it actually succeeds almost in spite of itself.
Director Dennis Steinmetz keeps the eventful and enjoyably inane narrative zipping along at a constant snappy pace, maintains an amiable breezy tone throughout, and gets lots of laughs from the cheerfully dippy sense of giddy lowbrow humor. Ron Friedman's blithely crass script features jokes about gays, bums, hookers, sexual harassment, and fat and disabled folks that would never, ever fly today, but were still perfectly acceptable in the free'n'easy 1970's.
Moreover, it's acted with zest by an enthusiastic cast: Ruth Buzzi as hopeless frump cleaning lady Olga, Michael Callan as smarmy womanizing heel manager Eddie, Ted Lange as funky clerk The Wiz, Jack Carter as desperate manager Manny, Deborah White as irate (and irritating) feminist Vivian, Tim Thomerson as the laid-back Marty, Frank Gorshin as wily and evasive master criminal the Chameleon, Joe Higgins as inept gluttonous guard Doyle, Sorrell Booke as bumbling cop Coznowski, Harold Sakata as menacing thug Gucci, who turns out to be a homosexual (!); Alice Ghostley as a naggy old biddy, Rick Dees as madcap disc jockey Gordon Kong with Jeff Altman as his Nazi jerk engineer, Larry Storch as a deaf guy, Ed Begley Jr. and Elliott Street as a couple of antsy'n'incompetent wannabe thieves, Stuart Goetz as the nerdy Rupert, and the one and only Kinky Friedman and the equally singular Gallagher as their own zany selves. A silly hoot.
Record City is no High Fidelity, Empire Records, or even FM. Not even Trax in Pretty In Pink. Nope, Record City is a huge story filled with way too many people that all meander around with no story whatsoever, but if you're interested in film as time capsule of an era, this is certainly one worth opening and looking inside.
DJ Gordon Kong (Rick Dees, the creator of "Disco Duck," which along with "Dr. Disco" appear in Saturday Night Fever; Dees also wrote the theme for Meatballs, plus hosted Solid Gold and the late night show Into the Night Starring Rick Dees) has a fake gorilla arm and is hosting a talent show in the parking lot while we watch the records get sold inside.
This is an American-International Picture, believe it or not, but it comes at the end of a great run. Get ready for 1978's best - or worst depending on your point of view - cast, replete with pop culture bit players, the kind we love most around here. There's Jeff Altman, two years away from The Pink Lady and Jeff (the kind of culture clash that we really would write about if we covered television series, as an engineer. Altman's in a ton of stuff that I love, like American Hot Wax and Easy Money, as well as some stuff I downright hate like Wacko and Highlander II: The Quickening. Familiar faces include Ed Begley Jr., Sorrell "Boss Hogg, but he's also in Devil Times Five" Booke, Ruth Buzzi, Pittsburgh native Frank Gorshin, Ted "Isaac the Bartender" Lange, Gallagher, Harold "Oddjob" Sakata, Larry Storch, Tim Thomerson and Wendy Schall (who is in everything from Innerspace to Creature, Munchies, The 'Burbs and Small Soldiers; you'll also recognize her voice as Francine on American Dad).
But the film excels at presenting those on the fringes of relevance, even in 1978. Like Dean Martin's dancing uncle Leonard Barr. Sylvia Anderson, who was in She Devils In Chains, Angels' Brigade and Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway. John Halsey, who was Barry Wom in The Ruttles. PSA star Joe Higgins. Russell Howard, a skateboarder who also ends up in two Andy Sidaris movies, Hard Ticket to Hawaii and Seven. Nadejda Dobrev from Ed Wood's Orgy of the Dead. Alan Oppenheimer, the voice of Skeletor, Man-At-Arms, Beastman, Cringer, Inch High Private Eye, Vanity Smurf and more. Alice Ghostley (Bernice from Designing Women and Mrs. Murdock in Grease). Tony Giorgio, Satan in Night Train to Terror! March 1974 Playboy Playmate of the Month Pamela Zinszer. And weirdest of all, one-time leader "The Texas Jewboys," writer Kinky Friedman.
I can't stop you from checking this out for yourself. I can only tell that this is a total mess. But sometimes, those are the movies we love best, right?
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