Arrow Video: The Comic (1985) - Reviewed

Somewhere in the perversely strange universe of Stephen Sayadian’s 1989 remake of Dr. Caligari was a portal back in time.  Upon entering said portal, we find ourselves transported to 1985 in the almost-as-bizarre netherworld of British writer-director (and convicted criminal) Richard Driscoll’s truly uncategorizable The Comic.  Released five years after being produced to heckling and booing, the film was rescued from oblivion by the good folks at Arrow Video. 
Called everything from inventive to inept, this completely out-there, bizarro mixture of horror, comedy, surrealism and experimental filmmaking resembles nothing which came before or since.  A dystopian fog-machine soaked waking nightmare that’s not really about a go-getting comedian who will do anything including but not limited to murder to succeed, this utterly bewildering film lives within a reality that is not really in the past, present or future. 

Stand-up comedian Sam Coex (Steve Munroe), donning a flamboyant hairdo more orange than Sara Goldfarb, is eager to break into the big scene.  After killing star studded rival comedian Joey Myers (real life comedian Jeff Pirie), Sam is catapulted into the mainstream standup comedy circuit.  Along the way he even snags a stripper girlfriend with more than a few awkward striptease sequences tossed in for good measure.  As time goes on however, in a fascistic police state with set pieces that look like Eraserhead and 1984 sandwiched together, Sam’s past slowly catches up with him and his life (and the film’s narrative itself) begins to unravel.
A troubled production and release made on a shoestring budget, The Comic is a labor of love with a head on it’s shoulders that charges full steam ahead whether we’re on board with the film’s peculiar logic and eccentric visual style.  Sporting more fog machines than Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, almost as many neon fluorescent hues as a Nicolas Winding Refn picture and as much unpredictable moments of slow motion than a David Lynch film, every hair penny of this confused oddball production is onscreen.  Moreover, the film sports an unforgettable electronic score by Richard Dunn with one or two jazz pieces tossed in by Heavy Quartet.

The problem with The Comic aside from every actor deliberately overplaying their scenes, most notably Steve Munroe who gives the role his all but himself isn’t sure of the picture he’s in, is that it never becomes clear what the film is really about.  The journey to the end of The Comic is indeed a wild and crazy one but you can’t make heads or tails of what the moral of the “story” is.  More of a curious oddity than a successful film, The Comic is an interesting and at times atmospheric little number but I would be hard pressed to tell you just what kind of movie this is or what it means to say.  Not an artistic success despite aiming for sure heights but not like anything you’ve seen or thought of before either.

--Andrew Kotwicki