By Keith Breese
You gotta love technology. Without technology and the naturally amoral things it does, we'd have no villains in the movies. I mean what's more frightening than extreme rationality? Clones? Oh my! Circuit boards and vacuum tubes? Yikes! According to Michael Crichton's early flick Looker, technology -- in particular, television -- holds us fast in its undeniable sway and there is very little we can do to escape its cold grasp. I guess that's the point in Looker, though it's still a bit unclear.
Albert Finney is a popular plastic surgeon and business is great. Thing is, some of his models start turning up dead and, naturally, there's a conspiracy afoot. One that involves digitized people, high-tech guns (the Lookers of the title or Light Ocular Oriented Kinetic Energetic Responsers), and big business. Susan Dey play Cindy (and doffs every stitch of clothing), a model who wants perfection to get a modeling contract with the ominous sounding Digital Matrix. James Coburn plays the tycoon behind Digital Matrix and like all tycoons he's thoroughly bad.
As you can imagine there are too many things going on here and the film suffers from it. Crichton goes ballistic on everything from cosmetic surgery to television to corporate greed to Western ideals of beauty and he never really finds enough focus to make any of his assaults really hammer home. Who doesn't think that too much plastic surgery is a bad thing? Who doesn't agree that power corrupts? And attacking television commercials? That's about as obvious as you can get. But what really cripples Looker is the fact that the plot is essentially a routine thriller recycled from the '40s. This is just pulp stuff. And not even first-class pulp stuff at that.
It's a good thing Looker looks so good. Cinematographer Paul Lohmann (a Mel Brooks vet) gives the film a very slick glow and production designer Dean Edward Mitzner knows how to capture high-tech (he would move on to Tron next.) Barry de Vorzon's electro score is also pretty cool.
Crichton has certainly made a name for himself as an author. While his books tend to run the gamut from interesting but badly written to dull but quasi-literary, his films have almost all been relegated to Saturday afternoon cable. That's a shame. While Crichton's screenwriting skills are certainly shabby, as a director he's got a good eye for composition, his films are for the most part exciting, and he's even able to pull some engaging performances from his actors. I mean Coma, Runaway, and Westworld pretty much rocked when I was 10 and they are still great fun today. I doubt people will be saying the same thing about his most recent novels 20 years from now.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 30th October 1981
Distributed by: Warner Home Video
Rotten Tomatoes: 29%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 12
Cast & Crew