Join us for our year-long celebration of the USA World Premiere Movie in conjunction with Made-for-TV Mayhem! Check out out previous entries on THE FORGOTTEN here, MURDER BY NIGHT here, THE TICKET here, SNOW KILL here, DEADLY GAME here, ACCIDENTAL MEETING here, HITLER’S DAUGHTER here, ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? here, AS GOOD AS DEAD here and MURDER ON SHADOW MOUNTAIN here, TRUCKS here, OUR MOTHER’S MURDER here , THE HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE here, ULTIMATE DECEPTION here, NIGHTMARE ON THE 13TH FLOOR here and WRITER’S BLOCK here, THE CHIPPENDALES MURDER here, RUBDOWN here, THE SUBSTITUTE here and THE CHINA LAKE MURDERS here, DIAMOND FLEECE here, RUNNING AGAINST TIME here, MY STEPSON, MY LOVER here and THE HAUNTING OF SEACLIFF INN here!, MURDER 101 here, TAINTED BLOOD here, BURIED ALIVE here, PSYCHIC here, SCANDALOUS ME: THE JACQUELINE SUSANN STORY here, INTO THE BADLANDS here, LIES OF THE TWINS here and CABIN BY THE LAKE here, VOYAGE here, RETURN TO CABIN BY THE LAKE here, WHITE LIE here and SINS OF THE MIND here, DUPLICATES here and MATERNAL INSTINCTS here, DEAD HUSBANDS here and THE HAUNTING OF SARAH HARDY here, CHILD OF DARKNESS, CHILD OF LIGHT here and HIGH DESERT KILL here!
Has any horror film auteur had a more sudden fall into direct-to-videohood than Tobe Hooper? In 1982, Hooper looked like the new king of terror, wrestling for the title with contemporaries like David Cronenberg, Wes Craven and John Carpenter after helming one of the greatest horror films ever made (in THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE) and one of the most profitable films of the year (POLTERGEIST) even if rumors to the latter film’s “true” director tainted Hooper’s status as a visionary. Even his in-between projects, THE FUNHOUSE, EATEN ALIVE and the made-for-television Stephen King adaptation SALEM’S LOT, were appreciated even if they weren’t all that well-received.
But then came the Cannon trinity of LIFEFORCE, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 and INVADERS FROM MARS. The trio of films may look like an impressive roster today – only INVADERS has yet to garner much of a cult following – but at the time, they were expensive, hugely-hyped failures that relegated Hooper to directing episodic television. In the next seven years, the closest thing to a theatrical feature that Hooper lensed was the lame SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION, which squeaked onto a few screens before being dumped to unassuming video shelves across the country.
Hooper’s TV work, however, is far from a total loss. He directed the pilot episode of Freddy’s Nightmares, a promising enough prologue to the film series that made the episodes that followed even more disappointing than they already would have been. His episode of Tales from the Crypt was good fun. And then there’s I’M DANGEROUS TONIGHT, his made-for-USA feature, a perfectly entertaining time passer with a great cast and enough sincerity so that, after a while, you don’t really even care that it’s about an evil evening gown.
(Actually, EVIL EVENING GOWN would have probably been a better title than the nonsensical I’M DANGEROUS TONIGHT. Or CLOTHICIDE. Or KILLER THREADS. Or FASHION VICTIMS. Or just steal the name of the made-for-TV giallo-influenced classic SHE’S DRESSED TO KILL. I’M DANGEROUS TONIGHT tells me nothing, and I’m not even sure who the “I” is supposed to refer to, but that’s the title of the original Cornell Woolrich story that the film is based on, even if they basically stripped out everything from the original story save for “There’s this dress, see, and it makes people evil.”)
The attacking attire doesn’t start out ready-to-wear, mind you. It starts out as a piece of red fabric in an Aztec tomb recently attained through duplicitous means by a college archaeology professor, who celebrates the discovery by wearing it as a cape and offing a security guard in the prologue. The fabric soon finds itself in a chest sold at an estate sale (after our introductory prof and his wife meet similarly brutal demises) by psychology student Amy (Madchen Amick, from Twin Peaks) who purchases the chest to use in a school production of “Romeo and Juliet.” (The theater department apparently has no actual props, and must rely on the overpriced bargain hunting of assistants in order to stage anything livelier than “Our Town.”) Eddie, the play’s Mercutio and Amy’s potential love interest played by Corey Parker (star of HOW I GOT INTO COLLEGE), puts it on as a cape in rehearsal and soon becomes way too intense in his fencing scene, nearly slicing open the poor young actor he’s supposed to be stage fighting against. Fortunately, the cloth drops to the ground before too much blood is spilled.
Amy returns home where she has minor conflicts with her wicked aunt (Newhart’s Mary Frann) and cousin, whom she’s been forced to live with after her parents’ deaths, but finds solace by talking to her grandmother (Gilligan’s Island‘s “Lovey”, Natalie Schafer, in her final film role) mostly because the nameless wheelchair-bound octogenarian is mute. Not one to believe in silly superstitions (a tenet instructed to her by psychology professor Anthony Perkins, a man who knows a thing or two about psychotics in women’s clothing), Amy soon begins work on making a dress out of the crimson fabric, and upon putting it on, the normally sedate bookworm Is transformed from a Shelley Johnson into an Audrey Horn, attempting to seduce her cousin’s boyfriend. The tryst only ends when the dress is removed, causing Amy to be shocked by her own decadent behavior. She’s determined to still have the dress, however, a decision with repercussions for meemaw, who is inexplicably able to see such evil.
The dress finds its way onto the body of Amy’s newly-jealous cousin, in whom it incites a much more violent reaction, causing her to emasculate her beau and hunting down Amy and Eddie before meeting an untimely fate. Local cop R. Lee Ermey tries to put it all together as more turmoil befalls anyone associated with it, Perkins tracks it down, and things become even more frenzied when it falls into the hands of a drug-addicted ex-prostitute coroner’s assistant played by Dee Wallace Stone.
Seriously, a drug-addicted ex-prostitute coroner’s assistant played by Dee Wallace Stone. That alone should have given I’M DANGEROUS TONIGHT a cult following.
I’M DANGEROUS TONIGHT isn’t necessarily a notable entry in Hooper’s canon, but it’s no slacker either, and the USA Movie format that relies more on quick pacing than any real degree of sense seems like an ideal exercise for the director of LIFEFORCE. Granted, it falls apart pretty quickly once you examine anything about it, and the reasoning behind what the dress does is so absent-mindedly thrown off in a brief monologue by Perkins that you doubt that screenwriter Bruce Lansbury (brother of Angela!) gave it more than a cursory thought. It allegedly brings out the inner evils of its wearer, and Amy’s is… that she kinda likes sex? Nice guy Eddie is actually an insanely bloodthirsty psychopath? I’M DANGEROUS TONIGHT doesn’t really bother with explanation, but that’s fine – it’s a quick ride with loads of ridiculous stuff happening before each commercial break, exactly what a USA Movie is all about.
Besides, how could anyone dislike a film that features such an amazingly random cast of television regulars, plus Anthony Perkins and R. Lee Ermey? It’s no wonder that the concept was revised again a few years later with an episode of The Hunger directed by similar genre vet Russell Mulcahy (albeit with actual nudity in place of tease) – the idea of a dress that turns good girls bad is perfect for a smirkingly sleazy ride.
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