Retro Review: Rewatching John Landis’ ‘Into the Night’ (1985)

Into the Night is a 1985 American black comedy thriller film directed by John Landis, starring Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer. The film has many cameo appearances made by various filmmakers and directors, including Landis himself. It tells the story of Ed Okin (Jeff Goldblum) who leads a joyless existence. He hates his job as an aerospace engineer. To make matters worse, his wife is cheating on him. Well, take heart Ed, your life is about to get a lot more interesting, really fast. John Landis’ black 1985 comedy ‘Into the Night’ is something of a neglected classic, whose tone of befugged, late-night bemusement probably led to its failure at the box office.

 

Into the Night 1985

 

Jeff Goldblum stars as Ed Okin, an insomnia-plagued aerospace engineer who discovers his wife in flagrante delicto and then proceeds to drive aimlessly around in the wee small hours of LA, where he meets femme fatale Michelle Pfeiffer, a gang of vicious former Iranian secret police (Savak) members and a host of oddballs, including David Bowie’s smarmy spy Colin Morris and 80s muscle man/fitness guru Jake ‘Body by Jake’ Steinfeld as a narcissistic bodyguard.

 

As per usual, Landis gives various famous pals plenty of cameos, with Paul Bartel, Roger Vadim, Don Siegel, Paul Mazursky, Carl Perkins, Rick Baker, David Cronenberg, Waldo Salt and many others all putting in appearances.

Context & Craft Ep. 6: Into the Night 1985

 

Landis plays one of the Savak agents (second on the right) to great comic effect:

 

John Landis — Into The Night (1985) clip

 

 

The movie is punctuated by sudden and shocking violence, that unsurprisingly serves to shake Goldblum’s character out of his sleep-deprived ennui. Goldblum has a mainly reactive role, but makes the most of it, whilst Pfeiffer shines as diamond-smuggler Diana, who’s brother in the film is (for no particular reason) a short-tempered Elvis impersonator (played Bruce ‘Animal House‘ McGill).

 

Into The Night- Film Location- Jeff Goldblum- Michelle Pfeiffer pt 1- Elvis

 

 

Into the Night shares a mood of alienation from reality with two other 80s pictures, Martin Scorsese’s After Hours in the same year and Bill Forsyth’s Comfort & Joy in 1984. Similarly, both also were box office flops…

After Hours (1985) Official Trailer - Griffin Dunne, Martin Scorcese Movie HD

 

Comfort and Joy (1984) homemade trailer

 

 

The plot certainly doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, but it moves along at a fast enough clip that the holes don’t show. What chiefly keeps this film on target, though, is Goldblum’s marvelously deadpan reaction to all the bloodshed around him. The tone, despite the frequent bloodletting, is light, and the film works better than the script would indicate. What are your thoughts on the film?

Arnell Esq

Arnell Esq

Broadcast consultant - former Director/Creator of ITV3, ITV4 in the UK, producer/writer (most recently Bob Fosse for Sky Arts in May 2019), commentator/rent-a-gob for trades, broadsheets and magazines. Also occasional lecturer (University of Westminster, London). Content provider.

JUST KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON