DVD: Between the Lines (1977)

July 5, 2019 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Good

Label:  Cohen Media Group

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  June 18, 2019

Genre:  Comedy / Drama

Synopsis: The close-knitted staff of an alternative Boston newspaper juggle career, money, love, and a new owner with commercial interests.

Special Features:  Interview: “Conversations from the Quad: Joan Micklin Silver” (14:28) / Theatrical Trailer / Restoration Trailer.




Joan Micklin Silver’s chance meeting with ex-Boston Phoenix writer Fred Barron at a film expo resulted in ‘a coming of age’ dramady about people who’ve ‘come of age’; a somewhat autobiographical story of hungry, struggling and increasingly disillusioned twentysomething staffers at a once independent alternative paper facing a possible sale and further loss of its anti-establishment zeal, and investigative, crusading identity.

In spite of the massive ensemble cast and variety of characters, Barron’s tale is predominantly propelled by Harry Lucas (John Heard), a prize-winning investigative reporter whose career has plateaued, and whose on again / off again romance with Abbie (Lindsay Crouse), the paper’s talented but timid photographer, seems anchored in the friends-with-benefits zone.

Harry’s frustration in finding a meaty story takes him to a strip club where an interview with performer Danielle (Taxi’s Marilu Henner) is hampered by his own ennui of the subject and chauvinistic stance. Abbie’s attempts to interject pointed questions are quashed by Harry, but the news piece presumably becomes a photo-spread – presumably, because as with a handful of other storylines, it becomes clear the film isn’t about a little paper being bought by a corporate shark, but the antics of eccentric staffers, and the familial atmosphere that transcends their petty bickering and jealousies.

Between offers plenty of tangentially connected comedic vignettes, but there’s never any real danger, threat, or urgency to the drama. When David Entwhistle (Bruno Kirby) is lured to a location and beaten by a pair of thugs, there’s no follow-up on corrupt subject Austin (Guy Bond); and after pal Lynn (Jill Eikenberry) has Laura (Gwen Welles) consider reconsidering a grievous decision to move to NYC with pompous, freeloading boyfriend Michael (Stephen Collins), we never find out whether Lynn’s decided to stay in Boston, or tag along to the Big Apple.

The inevitable sale of the paper to a corporate crocodile (pearly-toothed Lane Smith) and the obvious frictions are clichéd, and the finale feels tacked on; a forced conclusion that separates Harry from the paper’s family, and positions him for a new life as a freelancer with Abbie in a follow-up film or TV series. (Barron would pen Something Short of Paradise before working exclusively in television, ultimately creating the tepid Caroline in the City, After You’ve Gone, and My Family.)

The embarrassment of acting riches, however, is stunning, with eternal oddball Michael J. Pollard (Star Trek’s “Miri”episode) as a delivery boy who sleeps under the pinball machine in the paper’s dingy office; Joe Morton as a (presumably) B-grade writer hungry for real assignments; Richard Cox (Cruising) as the paper’s tired owner; and prolific character actor Raymond J. Barry making his film debut as a performance artist who helps destroy part of the office in the film’s most bizarre scene (albeit one that evokes Jim Belushi’s deadpan guitar destruction in Animal House, released that same year).

Nestled among the thin secondary characters is music critic Max Arloft (Jeff Goldblum) who can’t write without his lucky red blazer, and loves ‘sharing’ his experience and career tips to pretty coeds. Max isn’t an important role, but Goldblum’s highly idiosyncratic persona enlivens the film, and the role no doubt pushed him from bit parts to co-starring roles, especially the slightly eccentric neighbour in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978).

The lack of major gravitas ensures Between’s dips into serious drama are brief, and the oddball characters keep the film’s tone light. Cohen Media’s DVD features a nice transfer that preserves the grit of Kennth Van Sickle’s last feature film as cinematographer. Amid the songs by Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes are ‘additional’ music cues by Michael Kamen (Die Hard, Mr. Holland’s Opus), with a particular wailing sax piece foreshadowing his blend of rock and orchestra in the Lethal Weapon series.

The original theatrical trailer emphasizes the film’s wackier comedic moments, and an interview with Shonni Enelow and Micklin has the director reflecting on the film’s genesis, the incredible cast, and a few comments on her prior film Hester Street (1975), Chilly Scenes of Winter / Head Over Heels (1979) with John Heard, and her best-known work, Crossing Delancy (1988).



© 2019 Mark R. Hasan





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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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