APES ON FILM: One Night In SoHo

Posted on: Sep 8th, 2023 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.




AFTER HOURS – (1985) – 4K Ultra HD + Blu-Ray
5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Teri Garr, Catherine O’Hara, Verna Bloom
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rated: R
Studio: Criterion
Region: 4K – Free, 2K Blu-Ray – Region A (Locked)
BRD Release Date: 07/11/2023
Audio Formats: LPCM Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: 4K Ultra HD Native 4K (2160p) HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Disc, Two-disc set (1 BD-100, 1 BD-50))
Run Time: 97 minutes


The word absurdist is defined first as “intentionally ridiculous or bizarre; surreal,” and secondly as “relating to or supporting the belief that human beings exist in a purposeless, chaotic universe.” Only the first definition applies itself well to Martin Scorsese’s AFTER HOURS, though it can hardly be described as anything but absurdist; delightfully, absolutely absurdist.

Paul Hackett (Dunne, also co-producer) lives a life of soul deadening corporate drudgery by day. A chance meeting in a diner with flirty and unusual Marcy (Arquette) leads him on an increasingly ridiculous and dangerous night of pursuit, evasion, and sheer desperation to remove himself from what any sensible Chinese person would call “interesting times,” in the warehouse district of SoHo and getting back to his predictable, secure existence in upper Manhattan. On his Odysseus-like journey, he is both guided and hampered by a profusion of modern-day nymphs, cyclops, witches, and oracles, none of whom can be trusted with his safety. The real standout is O’Hara as a demented ice cream truck driver who literally glows onscreen. Her turn in the long line to pummel Hackett is enhanced by her determination to utterly destroy him once she becomes convinced that he’s the serial burglar that’s been plaguing the neighborhood (in reality the work of a pair of likable no-goodniks played by Cheech and Chong).

Scorsese, drawn to the material as a recent SoHo resident himself after a fallow point in his career. THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST was cancelled by the studio after four years of preparation and his recently released THE KING OF COMEDY was proclaimed Flop of the Year by Entertainment Tonight. It seems an awkward choice to direct the film, but he clearly felt a thematic resonance to Hackett’s predicament and handles his duties with aplomb, as one might surmise in retrospect.

Criterion Collection’s 4K UHD presentation of the film is a triumph both visually and auditorily. The story takes place almost exclusively at night, and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus‘s location shots in SoHo are gorgeously viewable with dense shadows and subtle light effects where appropriate. The uncompressed audio track is newly remastered from the original mono soundtrack and very well balanced – no scrambling for the remote to increase volume for dialog or decrease it for loud sound effects. Howard Shore’s music is mated at just the right level. Sporting a brand-new digital transfer approved by editor Thelma Schoonmaker, this is the best possible viewing one may have of the film.

The supplemental materials included are worthy of the presentation;  a new interview with director Scorsese by writer Fran Lebowitz (If you saw AFTER HOURS in 1985 and had spent any time in New York City, there are numerous inside jokes aimed directly at residents. Scorsese and Leibowitz discuss this at length.), audio commentary featuring Scorsese, Schoonmaker, director of photography Ballhaus, actor and producer Griffin Dunne, and producer Amy Robinson, a documentary on the making of the film featuring Dunne, Robinson, Schoonmaker, and Scorsese, a new program on the look of the film featuring costume designer Rita Ryack and production designer Jeffrey Townsend, as well as deleted scenes, the trailer, and an essay by critic Sheila O’Malley which is illustrated with the wanted poster of Dunne from the movie.

I confess that AFTER HOURS has been a non-guilty pleasure of mine since its initial release. Though Dunne remains as polite as he possibly can be throughout the film, there are a few instances where the constant ridiculousness wears him down and his performance becomes a true joy to watch. The film’s conclusion also puts the perfect cap on the theme of the film – sometimes you can escape the mundanity of life and sometimes you shouldn’t even try. Heartily recommended viewing.




Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Retro Fan, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and many more. He is the author of the book The Art of George Wilson from Hermes Press.

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

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Going Back to the Bizarre Birthing of Burton: Splatter Cinema Raises Blythe Spirits with BEETLEJUICE at the Plaza Theatre!

Posted on: Aug 12th, 2013 By:

Splatter Cinema Presents BEETLEJUICE (1988); Dir. Tim Burton; Starring Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O’Hara; Tuesday, August 19 @ 9:30 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

This month, Splatter Cinema goes a little off the beaten path at the Plaza Theatre. This month’s showing is not the typical gore-soaked exploitation fare you’re likely to see them serve up. But the way that BEETLEJUICE enthusiastically revels in horror and delights in depicting twisted flesh makes it a good choice for those of the Splatter Cinema mindset.

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when Tim Burton wasn’t a “thing.” That there wasn’t an identifiable “Tim Burton” style. And that there was a time when BEETLEJUICE was a sudden and surprising leap into the dark comic realm that would eventually come to define that style.

Burton had exploded onto the film world with his previous film, 1985’s PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE. While that movie contains themes that he would revisit many times in the future (particularly “childlike protagonist exists in a fanciful universe seemingly of his/her own creation until a shock tosses them into the outside world”), it also contains the off-kilter and baroque visual sensibility that is a hallmark of his films to this day. But aside from the “Large Marge” and “clown hospital” scenes, there’s little of the horror-steeped atmosphere that saturates so much of his work.

BEETLEJUICE is where (aside from his earlier short films, which were largely unseen by the public at that point) Burton first seamlessly blended equal parts horror and quirky comedy into the recognizable whole that would come to identify the director.

The film focuses on a young couple, Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis), who find themselves unexpectedly deceased and forced to haunt their New England home. When the Deetzes (Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones and Winona Rider) move in, the Maitlands are forced to circumvent the bureaucracy of the afterlife and engage “bio-exorcist” Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton, pronounced and also known as “Beetlejuice”) to force the new residents out. As to be expected, wacky antics ensue.

In collaboration with production designer Bo Welch, Burton used the foundation of the screenplay to paint his comic sensibilities in a luridly-colored, high-contrast gothic horror sheen. His scenes in the afterlife and during Beetlejuice’s reign of terror in the Maitlands’/Deetzes’ home look like Charles Addams’ cartoons filmed in the style of SUSPIRIA. Grotestqueries bathed in candy-colored lighting schemes. Welch and Burton would develop this aesthetic even further in collaboration on 1990’s EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and 1992’s BATMAN RETURNS, firmly establishing this as the “Tim Burton” trademark style.

It would have been all too easy for the screenplay to serve simply as a hook from which Burton could hang a number of ghoulish setpieces. It’s to the credit of writers Michael McDowell, Larry Wilson and Warren Skaaren that the film is as engaging as it is. By keeping the “ghosts” of the movie benign and well-meaning—and the new residents not malevolent but incredibly selfish and irritating—Beetlejuice’s diabolical motives put both families in a sympathetic light.

And the cast’s performances can’t be overlooked in helping create the rounded characters of the movie. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are both amiable and sweetly romantic as the ghostly Maitlands, while Catherine O’Hara and Jeffrey Jones are their polar opposites: antagonistic and back-bitingly snarky. Where Baldwin and Davis are convincingly laid-back and plain, the performances of O’Hara and Jones are deftly high-strung and pretentious. Winona Ryder as young Goth daughter Lydia Deetz bridges both worlds—not only figuratively in the temperament of the clashing couples, but literally within the story as she is the only person able to see and converse with the Maitlands—and delivers a performance in turns dryly sardonic, cooly detatched and warmly engaging.

Winona Ryder in BEETLEJUICE.

But the movie truly belongs to Michael Keaton. As Betelgeuse/Beetlejuice, his performance clashes perfectly with everyone else’s. No matter how engaging or off-putting the Maitlands and Deetzes may be, the performances of Baldwin, Davis, Jones, O’Hara and Ryder are tightly restrained and controlled. Keaton, on the other hand, is entirely explosive and cartoonishly over-the-top; issuing forth a rapid-fire patter of one-liners, non-sequiturs, mumbled asides and mad proclamations delivered at the top of his voice. He’s physically manic as well, leaping about and flailing around wildly, as if Burton was randomly jolting Keaton with a live electric wire just off-screen. He turns Beetlejuice from a simple, evil prankster into something larger than life. If, you know, he were alive rather than a moldering corpse.

And if the movie belongs to anyone else, it’s Burton. This is where the Tim Burton we now know was born: the bright colors washing over stark black-and-white-patterned spookiness of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, the stylized locations and set design of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, the dark humor of FRANKENWEENIE. They all spring from here. But few mesh these elements together with as much effortless skill as BEETLEJUICE.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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