Blue Sunshine

Look, I know you're violently psychotic, but would you mind looking after the kids?
★★★
☆☆
Released: 
1976
Director: 
Jeff Leiberman
Starring: 
Zalman King, Deborah Winters, Mark Goddard, Robert Walden, Charles Siebert
The Setup: 
People who took a particular LSD 20 years ago lose hair and go on killing sprees.
Discussion: 

So I’m trolling through my local used CD and DVD store where I find these Elvira discs in the bargain bin, two movies each for $5. I bought them, never having heard of the movies, and was pleased to learn, via the IMDb, that three out of four of them are considered to be pretty good [and the fourth is just absolute crap]. Blue Sunshine was the first of my Elvira-guided viewings.

The credits show a blue-tinged full moon, then tilts down to introduce some characters, then tilts back up to show the moon again and roll some credits. It’s effective to imply that all these characters are “under” the influence of the same thing. While the credits roll we learn that this movie stars Zalman King, yes, the guy who went on to pioneer the Red Shoe Diaries series, among other softcore offerings, and Mark Goddard, of the original Lost in Space series.

So we’re having these character intros, in which we learn that several of the characters are having severe headaches, losing their hair, and just having a real short fuse. We meet Wendy, who is separated from Ed Fleming, who is running for Congress and is played by Goddard. Then they’re all at this party when one of them abruptly begins squalking and flapping his arms like a bird. Then this other guy starts singing a Rat Pack-type swing song, when one of the other characters rips the singer’s hair off, and the now-bald singer flies into a violent rage. Three women are left in the room, getting a little freaked about the bald guy, then suddenly he’s outside the door, comes in, and throws one of them into the fire! Soon Zalman King shows up as Jerry, and is really, REALLY peeved upon finding the corpses of the three women stacked atop one another in the fire. I had no idea humans were quite so flammable, by the way. That’s just one thing I learned. But the bald maniac is still hanging around, and he attacks Jerry, they end up in the street, and baldy takes a truck grill to the face. He’s dead, and now Jerry is all wigged that people will think he killed him—he’s on the lam!

Jerry goes to see his girlfriend Alicia, who is sort of like Bridget Fonda with a blonde Dorothy Do. He’s all worked up that he’ll be framed for murder, despite the fact that there were numerous witnesses who saw the dude go wacky and there are three charred corpses in the fireplace, which are unlikely to be his work. You know, after a while all this “Everyone’s going to think I did it” stuff just begins to smack of narcissism. Zalman looks very much like Sean Penn as Spicoli.

He sees a case in the paper of a cop who suddenly lost his hair and killed his family, and he goes over, interviews the neighbor, and breaks into the house. Personally, I try to avoid mass murder scenes when I am suspected of murder myself, but Jerry, after a mild hallucination, gets some evidence that Ed, dude running for Congress, used to be some wacky hippie and is associated with the name Blue Sunshine. Jerry goes to talk to Ed, asking about blue sunshine but never really specifying why, and Ed says he never heard of it. Ed’s bodyguard, Wayne, comes on to Alicia and gets a date. I thought she was with Jerry but, you know, the 70s were looser times.

SPOILERS > > >
Meanwhile Wendy has been commissioned to babysit this other woman’s kids and, well, she just doesn’t seem to be in the state. I wouldn’t leave my kids with a woman who is virtually catatonic with migraine pain, but hey, that other lady has plans. Jerry shows up and launches into the second conversation [after Ed] in which he’s desperate to talk to someone, then once he’s there just stands around looking mopey. He also refuses to say WHY he’s interested in blue sunshine, which seems would further his case, as most of the people he’s talking about would identify with the common symptoms and be more likely to help him. Ah well. Wendy kicks him out, and then those kids are just really driving her crazy. She starts to eat asprin by the handful [disturbing], then suddenly rips off her hair, grabs the knife and starts chasing the little monsters around! Those kids are going to be REAL nice to their babysitters from now on! Jerry shows up again and tosses Wendy off the balcony, and, ain’t it the darndest thing—it looks like he murdered her, too! Dang it all!

So then Jerry goes and sits on a park bench, and this sort of hot scumbag junkie comes and sits down next to him, and letting his hands roam all over Jerry, while gazing at him and smiling. Then this bald guy with glasses shows up and stares at them, then Jerry’s friend the doctor, who he ordered some illegal formeldehyde from, shows up—and the junkie recognizes him! Jerry buys the formeldehyde [which can be used as a tranquilizer—I didn’t know that] then buys a dart gun, obviouly planning to do a little human hunting. While he is with the doctor, we have several shots of the junkie kid squirming excitedly on his bench—it’s a bit odd.

The next sight we see is a puppet of Barbra Streisand. Yup. You gotta be ready for anything. As evidenced by the next crash edit into this disco. Alicia is there for her date with Wayne, who’s all sweaty and not feeling so good. He goes to the bathroom, while Alicia starts pounding away the drinks. By the time the cop shows up, 20 minutes later, she’s drunk as a skunk. He finds Wayne in the bathroom, and it’s not long before Wayne rips off his hair and start acting like Hulk!

So Alicia sees the entire population of the disco fleeing in terror, and thinks “Hmm, where should I go? Maybe I should run inside and go upstairs to a small, enclosed space from which there is no escape.” Then, in a little unforeseen touch that I was really into, we cut to Ed at a political rally, about to give a speech, when suddenly a ton of people come running in panic down the street—the disco was right down the block! Jerry, who is there, figures out that Wayne is at the disco and goes there with his magic dart gun.

Through a series of circumstances I cannot be bothered to describe [besides, they’re boring] Wayne and Jerry end up in a department store. Jerry shoots Wayne with the dart, and that’s the end. We have some “factual” titles [did I neglect to mention that this is a TRUE STORY?] and you’re like “Uh, okay, did something get resolved? Because it seems to me like there are still a ton of people out there about to go berserk and we’re not really much closer to getting answers than we were at the beginning...”
< < < SPOILERS END

All in all, fairly good. There’s a touch of artfulness to the direction and the tone is good and I like this whole deal of a number of characters, any one of which might snap and go totally homicidal. I did get a little tired of Jerry and his inarticulate moping. This film reminded me of another movie I really liked, Cannibal Apocalypse, which also featured a bunch of people who were exposed to something in the past, and now are one by one going murderous.

The director of this movie went on to direct the killer worm opus Squirm, Just Before Dawn, and had another fairly well-regarded movie called The Ringer. Zalman King of course went on to produce the Red Shoe Diaries volumes 1-15, and also created an episode of Chromium Blue called Barcelona Balogna. And well, I guess that’s pretty much all I have to say.

Should you watch it: 

I don’t know if I’d run out specially for it, but if you see it cheap or whatever, it’ll show you a fairly good time.