Stars: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, John Houseman, Tom Atkins
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 90 minutes
No other Woody Allen film has ever been hustled into oblivion faster than this black-and-white mélange of Mittel-European nightmare, absurdist farce, and homage to German expressionism--sort of Woody Allen meets Franz Kafka in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, set to Kurt Weill's score for The Threepenny Opera. Yet the daft experiment is not without charm and, as the title suggests, oodles of atmosphere. In a murky, seriously deranged cityscape only a studio art department could create, a giant bald strangler (Michael Kirby) is going around killing people with piano wire. The authorities are powerless (though he stomps about freely, occasionally declaiming speeches), so vigilante posses start roving the streets. For some reason, they dragoon a noisy nebbish named Kleinman (Allen) to assist them. So Kleinman goes into the fog, kvetching, and meets Irmy (Mia Farrow), a circus sword swallower (no double-entendres, please) whose clown of a husband (John Malkovich) is two-timing her with the strongman's wife (Madonna). Add an "et cetera" here, because the big, mostly wasted cast also includes Kenneth Mars as the strongman, Donald Pleasence as a philosophical coroner, John Cusack as a student who mistakes Irmy for a prostitute, and Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster, and Lily Tomlin as the real prostitutes in whose company she happens to be at the time. None of this adds up, and the whole thing moves and feels less like a film than one of Allen's oddball New Yorker sketches. Still, as the fever dream of an art-house addict, it has its moments. --Richard T. Jameson
11:55, almost midnight. Enough time for one more story. One more story before 12:00, just to keep us warm. In five minutes, it will be the 21st of April. One hundred years ago on the 21st of April, out in the waters around Spivey Point, a small clipper ship drew toward land. Suddenly, out of the night, the fog rolled in. For a moment, they could see nothing, not a foot in front of them. Then, they saw a light. By God, it was a fire burning on the shore, strong enough to penetrate the swirling mist. They steered a course toward the light. But it was a campfire, like this one. The ship crashed against the rocks, the hull sheared in two, mars snapped like a twig. The wreckage sank, with all the men aboard. At the bottom of the sea, lay the Elizabeth Dane, with her crew, their lungs filled with salt water, their eyes open, staring to the darkness. And above, as suddenly as it come, the fog lifted, receded back across the ocean and never came again. But it is told by the fishermen, and their fathers and grandfathers, that when the fog returns to Antonio Bay, the men at the bottom of the sea, out in the water by Spivey Point will rise up and search for the campfire that led them to their dark, icy death.
12:00, the 21st of April.
What the hell happened out there?
There was rust all over everything. It was like the boat had been out there a long time, taking on water. He was down below, near the bunks.
Nick, his wounds are covered with algae, his lungs are full, and there's silt in his fingernails. I tell ya, I saw Dick Baxter three days ago in Salinas. Now he's lying there on the table looking like he's been underwater for a month.
You see the water acts like ice. A whole body would take a year to decompose, longer if it was down far enough, cold enough.
But he was on the boat. He was below decks.
No. Dick Baxter died in the ocean. Remember last October those three kids that went diving for that old boat off the point. We got to 'em, they'd been down a week, maybe ten days. I swear to you right now, he's been down longer.
I don't believe in luck, good or bad. I don't believe in anything much. Something did happen once. My father was a fisherman. He ran a trawler out of Whitley Reef. One night, late, he was coming back in. He was out beyond the reef, out near Spivey Point. He looked to windward and saw a brig under shortsail, heading right for him. And he radioed, there was no reply. Nothing moved on deck, but she held her course. My dad and two of his hands, they boarded the brig, the Risa Jane. No one was on board. There was food on the table, and a hot, steaming cup of coffee. But underneath, the tin cup was rusted to the table. And then something caught my father's eye. It was a gold dubloon, minted in Spain, 1867. My dad picked up the coin, put it in his breast pocket of his jacket, and zippered it up. He came home, told us the story, and he unzippered the pocket to give me the coin. It was gone.
I think I'll go to Vancouver now.
I don't know what happened to Antonio Bay tonight. Something came out of the fog and tried to destroy us. In one moment, it vanished. But if this has been anything but a nightmare, and if we don't wake up to find ourselves safe in our beds, it could come again. To the ships at sea who can hear my voice, look across the water, into the darkness. Look for the fog.