Color, 1983, 93m.
Directed by Steven Hilliard Stern
Starring Phoebe Cates, Ted Wass, Pamela Bellwood, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
Scorpion (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)
Few actors can cry on camera better than Phoebe Cates, and probably no other film can prove it more than her doe-eyed turn in this made-for-TV soaper from 1983. Shot back to back with her era-defining roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Paradise, this one is obviously much tamer but still features the actress in her prime, stealing every single scene and setting the stage for what would prove to be her defining TV role one year later in the spectacularly trashy Lace.
There isn't a huge amount of plot here, but Cates plays the baby sister of the title, Annie. Deciding to drop out of school, she moves in with her older sister, Marsha (Dynasty's Bellwood), at her sleek Los Angeles pad. However, Marsha has also just started living with her boyfriend, David (Wass), a doctor looking to start his own practice. The fact that David's also left to his own devices much of the time means sparks start to fly with Annie, setting the stage for passion and potential heartbreak.
There really aren't any surprises to be had here if you've ever stumbled across a single Lifetime Channel movie for a few minutes, but that's irrelevant when you're enjoying the rampant '80s music and pop culture stacked mile high around Ms. Cates in practically every scene.
Now a busy TV director, it's also interesting to see Wass in such a straight role between his earlier, long-running comedic stint on Soap and his big screen stumbles in Curse of the Pink Panther and Sheena around the same time. Some other familiar faces also pop up in glorified cameos, such as Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as the ladies' disappointed papa and trash film vet Jill Jacobson (Nurse Sherri) essentially relegated to playing wallpaper.
Originally shown on ABC and aired occasionally over the years on various cable channels, this production fell into the hands of ITC, making it another in the solid line of company titles issued on DVD from Scorpion. The transfer's full frame of course as originally aired, and it looks fine considering it was shot with that slightly gauzy, filtered look so common at the time.
Director Steven Hilliard Stern had shifted entirely to TV work by this point after a mostly forgotten start in feature films (B.S. I Love You, The Devil and Max Devlin and Harrad Summer being the highlights), and this one's shot with minimum fuss while also functioning as a pretty great snapshot of L.A. in its post-disco phase. The mono audio also sounds perfectly clear given the undemanding nature of the source. No extras, but then the odds we'll ever get a Cates commentary or featurette for anything are probably zero.
Reviewed on February 9, 2014.