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Looker (1981)

July 22nd, 2010 by unkle lancifer · 24 Comments

There is many a genre picture released in the early eighties to universal shrugs that went on to become a recognized classic. Not so much LOOKER, MICHAEL CRICHTON’s unjustly forgotten 1981 prophetic skewering of both television advertising and the siren call of evasive physical perfection. The movie undeniably has its blond moments and some major structural issues but it also spills a handbag full of fascinating notions on the floor and if you bend with it a bit, it’s quirky fun and anything but superficial.

Dare I say that LOOKER is just the type of movie that should be remade? Its blemishes are so prominent they could be nip/tucked with ease and its concept is more relevant now than ever. Many of the technological advancements that it daydreams about are now commonplace. In 1981 the idea that actors could be completely replaced with computer generated images of themselves seemed far-fetched. Today, it’s not only possible but in some cases (I’m thinking MEL GIBSON), maybe something we should encourage. (LOOKER actually features the very first CGI human character ever depicted on screen.)

The major problem with LOOKER is that it forgets its opening premise mid-way through the film. An intriguing mystery is set up and only vaguely defused by its awkward climax. Ironically, folks who caught this one on commercial television were gifted a motive to the happenings thanks to an additional scene. If you caught it on cable or in the theater though, you were on your own. See Mr. CRICHTON, television ain’t so bad after all! In order to sell more products, they lengthened your movie to the point where it actually had time enough to explain itself. Damn, that really is irony, look it up!

ALBERT FINNEY is plastic surgeon LARRY ROBERTS who is perplexed by the fact that already beautiful young women are asking for surgery to improve themselves further. (Can you imagine such a thing?) When several of the “perfect” women that he has worked on start ending up dead (mostly from falling out of buildings) he becomes suspect numero uno because somebody stole his pen. Trying to save his own ass and protect the lone, not-murdered-yet “perfect” beauty Cindy Fairmont (Awwwww, SUSAN DEY), he discovers a nefarious corporate operation utilizing subliminal mind control and the coolest gun ever made. The coolest gun ever made is the L.O.O.K.E.R. gun, its name stands for Light, Ocular-Oriented, Kinetic, something, something and it is a true blast. It hypnotizes the target with light and allows the shooter to make hay while the sun shines and the victim is dazed and confused. Hmmm, wonder if I could find a use for such a thing.

The “lost time” experience that the gun provokes is an interesting phenomenon to behold. The first couple of times we witness its use we are given no explanation and the effect is wonderfully confounding. (Although it should be said that anyone who has ever been abducted by aliens, has a serious drinking problem, or even just access to the Internet should be able to relate.) Just as LOOKER’s interest in body dysmorphia and the power of false images is uncannily contemporary, so too is this playing with a character’s perspective through his understanding of time. Go ahead and call LOOKER a bimbo if you like, just make sure you realize that it is a creative, forward thinking psychic bimbo who can see into the future.

There’s one surprisingly poignant scene where DEY’s character returns home seeking comfort from her parents only to find herself competing with an I LOVE LUCY rerun but for the most part; LOOKER is breezy fun despite it’s sometimes slack pacing. The subject matter, serious as it may be can’t help but slide into goofy camp on occasion and the years have made that slide all the more steep. Amusingly, much of what CRICHTON rallies against in LOOKER now seems positively quaint. A climactic battle that cleverly takes place inside a slew of commercials as they are being televised (shades of WES CRAVEN’s SHOCKER) is beyond unlikely but clever and hilarious anyway. It’s dated for sure and frankly I look forward to it becoming even more dated as the years go on.

Ugh, I’m sick of writing and isn’t it boring to have to read things? Let’s look at some pretty pictures and I’ll share some more about why I think LOOKER is just plain adorable…

Because of my monster sized love of all things BLADE RUNNER the LADD COMPANY logo will forever fill my pretend heart with glee.

One thing is for sure and that is that LOOKER has the choicest theme song in the world thanks to one SUE SAAD. Once you hear it it will be stuck in your head for exactly one century. It’s too bad a soundtrack was never released as the entire score is synth-awesome.

Who doesn’t dig the DEY and what’s wrong with you?

You have to admit the gun is just too cool.

So are these shades!

Let’s hear it for zero chemistry!


Hey, it’s the evil shrink from FRIDAY THE 13th PART 7: THE NEW BLOOD! (TERRY KISER.)

Oh look it’s the guy from MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH! (DERREL MAURY.)

Meanie Mustachio is ex-Philadelpha Eagle TIM ROSSOVICH! His lil bro is RICK ROSSOVICH who stared in the AUDRA LINDLEY smash SPELLBINDER! Can you believe that TIM used to be roommates with TOM SELLECK?

OMG, it’s Vicki’s dad from SMALL WONDER (DICK CHRISTIE)!

Holy moly… super bananas backwards slo-mo!

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Tags: LOOKER is boss!

24 responses so far ↓

  • 1 craigNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Ahhhh, LOOKER, 80’s be thy name. I’ve actually never seen this one, but I need to now.  And isn’t that set in the last photo a total dead-ringer for the one used in an the episode of THREE’S COMPANY when Jack prepares a meal on TV only to have side-kick Terry freeze up like the aformentioned Susan Dey vapid-robot-thing in the movie?

  • 2 mitchNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 9:20 am

    I LOVE Looker, I remember my Dad and I seeing it at the cinema, when it came out. I was actually kinda creeped out by it……but I was only like 10….LOL!

  • 3 cmcmcmcmNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 11:02 am

    OMG  I totally remember the computer diagnostic thing with the measurements of the jumping through the air and the pluses on Susan Dey’s forehead!  I loved how futuristic those moments were.

  • 4 Chuckles72No Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I mainly remember the Susan Dey nude compu-scan scene – hubba hubba!  She dropped her clothes so fast my parents didn’t have time to cover my eyes!

  • 5 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    One word: Bladerunner.  That is all.  OK, a couple more: ” I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.  Time…to…die…”

  • 6 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    All right, I need to add a few more: “The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long – and you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy! Look at you! You’re the Prodigal Son. You’re quite a prize!”

  • 7 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    What all these girls in Looker need is that plastic surgery unit from Logan’s Run.  Operated by Farrah Fawcett.  Hubba, hubba.

  • 8 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    This review has me smiling from ear to ear! Unk and I have the same penchant for character actors I see. Btw, that’s REALLY interesting about the Rossovich bros! Neat! Now I can file that under “Trivia I’ll never be able to use but am so glad I know now!”

  • 9 aunt johnNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    How awesome is SUE SAAD?

    Has anyone ever seen her in the same room with ANDREA MARTIN?


  • 10 TVSANo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Oh Man, that lad company logo! When “Blade Runner” first came on cable I watched it at least half-a-dozen times-at the age of eight or nine. I used to use the Endor Han Solo (with overcoat) as Rick Deckard and all-in-black Luke as a stand in for Roy Batty. 

  • 11 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 11:27 pm


    Sue Saad is boss but I just discovered Crispin Glover covering Olivia Newton’s John and that smacks two birds out of one tree for me…

  • 12 aunt johnNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    I will see your CRISPIN GLOVER Unk, & raise you with this VIXEN-esque “Lunar Madness”:

  • 13 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 11:35 pm


    I always made my action figures moonlight as other characters! 
    I used fisher price adventure people to fill in for the large cast of Battlestar galactica!
    OUTLAND has the Ladd logo too!

  • 14 aunt johnNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 11:37 pm


    Sue is the queen of awesome opening credits:

  • 15 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 22, 2010 at 11:49 pm


    No conversation about theme songs is complete without mentioning the theme song from the 1986 super smash Fire with Fire starring Kari Whurer, Virginia Madsen and Craig Sheffer song by Wild Blue…

  • 16 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Jul 23, 2010 at 12:41 am

    For that Crispin Glover post, you’re gonna have to start a new site for me called ElderTrauma.  That is truly ‘scarred for life’ material.

  • 17 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Jul 23, 2010 at 12:57 am

    That ‘Fire with Fire’ clip is actually crystallized 80’s.  Between her enormous hair (rivaling Senski’s giant living toupee), the total dick from ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ (“yeah, ok, you’re good…you’re good”) and the ulra-smooth synth-pop, we could actually administer this to people with 80’s withdrawal (I’m first in line).

  • 18 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Jul 23, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Fisher Price Adventure People?!?!?  OMG, flashback time!
    I still have the Tom Selleck mustache adventure guy in the back-right with the Indian Jones hat on.  I used to tape him inside a Matchbox car box, wrap it in paper to make an airplane shape, stick sparklers in the end, light the sparklers, and throw it out the window.  By the time I got outside, the paper would be on fire and it would be my job to save him.  Thankfully, the tape would shield him from most of the flames.
    I had no idea what kind of action figure he was until I saw the poster you linked to; as soon as I saw the weird crooked arm pose they have them in I knew he was one of them.

  • 19 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 23, 2010 at 1:56 am


    Me and my little brother used to pour gasoline in a straight line on the driveway, put an action figure space ship at the end of it (be it Tie fighter or Draconian marauder ), light it on fire and pretend that the ship had crashed.
    and yes, play by the fire…not recommended to the kids out there!

  • 20 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Jul 23, 2010 at 8:36 am

    OMG! That Crispin Glover clip was AMAZING! I’m even more in love with him now… I mean, if that’s possible!

  • 21 RATSAWGODNo Gravatar // Jul 25, 2010 at 2:06 am

    I LOVED this movie when I was 11! In fact, I’m off to Amazon.com to order it on dvd RIGHT NOW. I mean, love never really dies, right?

  • 22 Rev. AustinNo Gravatar // Jul 25, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    “super bananas backwards slo-mo!” has just become my exclamation of choice 😀

  • 23 turnidoffNo Gravatar // Jul 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    anything with Coburn is gold.
    I was in a band that did the Looker Theme and we had a huge projector that played that “super bananas backwards slo-mo” scene looped over and over.   sporadic laughter ensued!

  • 24 moviejunkiNo Gravatar // Aug 14, 2010 at 6:24 am

    I’ve always loved Looker.  I remeber paying way too much for a VHS copy of this classic sometime in the early 90’s.  The LOOKER gun is by far the coolest gadget ever! 

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