WFMU Ichiban, Rock and Soul with Debbie D

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Psychotronic Movie of the Week: Down On Us (aka Beyond the Doors, 1984, Larry Buchanan)

Down On Us (1984, aka 'Beyond The Doors')
Omni Leisure International

D/S: Larry Buchanan, P: Murray Kaplan

Gregory Allen Chatman as Jimi Hendrix, Riba Meryl as Janis Joplin,  Bryan Wolf as Jim Morrison, and Sandy Kenyoun as the Assasin

Michael J. Weldon's review in Psychotronic Video #1, 1989:

Dallas director Buchanan is known to many for his minimalist 60s direct to TV science fiction remakes like 'Mars Needs Women' and 'Zontar The Thing From Venus.' He's also a conspiracy buff and made 'The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald' ('64), years before the TV movie of the same name, and 'Goodbye Norma Jean' ('76). There's no way to seriously defend Buchanan as a director, but since he made those films, nearly everybody is aware of the Mafia/Cuban/Marilyn/Kennedys/F.B.I. nightmare, and very few believe the Warren Commission anymore. 
These days, it doesn't take too much political awareness to think that maybe the American government was somehow behind the deaths of famous role model rock stars. Down On Us, which shows how a government assassin killed Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison, has never been released, even on video. Other less interesting Buchanan eighties projects (Mistress of the Apes, The Loch Ness Monster) are easy to find. Has this movie been repressed?
A lot of time is spent showing actor clones performing the rock songs which sort of sound like songs made famous by the originals. You might recognize bits of familiar lyrics, but not enough for Larry to have to pay any copyright fees. The only song he could get away with copying is "The Star Spangled Banner!" No matter who's supposed to be playing in whatever city, they always seem to be on the same stage in front of the same audience. Jimi and Janis meet and sing drunken blues together backstage. Janis confronts Morrison in the ladies' room. You get to see Jimi pose with blondes for an LP cover, meet the Plaster Casters, and watch a New York drag show. Morrison in Miami screams, "Wake up before the whole world goes into the atomic sewer!" and "How does it feel to be vermin?" See Janis shoot up while watching Vietnam war footage on TV. Nixon is heard saying "These voices must be still." The government assasin (Sandy Kenyon, who landed a short lived role on Knott's Landing after this) is shown at home breaking his son's records and and yelling, "I told you - no nigger music!!"  He offs two of the stars - but Jim Morrison fakes his own death in Paris and hides out in a Spanish monastery (!), where he later dies anyway. 
Down On Us is a eerily fascinating dispite (or because of) being too long, too dark, and too cheap. Someday a more respected, major director will tackle the same idea for a major company and Larry will be able to say, "I did it first" again, I hope you have to opportunity to see his unreleased effort. I'm waiting for a movie showing how our government killed off, jailed, drafted, tamed, or brainwashed most of the best fifties rock stars, and backed the career of Pat Boone. 

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