Hello and welcome to B-Movie Enema. This week, I’m gonna discuss something I’ve wanted to do for a while – Tobe Hooper’s 1990 made-for-television thriller I’m Dangerous Tonight.
Now, the easy joke here is to say that “I’m Dangerous Tonight” is something I’d exclaim after a Crave Case of sliders from White Castle, but… Actually. Wait. That’s a pretty good one. I’m pretty bummed I didn’t lead with that.
Eh… Never mind. There’s a lot here I could discuss. You have Tobe Hooper in the director’s chair. The fact this was a TV movie and not a cinematic release. Mädchen Amick lookin’ gooood. Anthony Perkins is right there on the poster… Yeah. I guess I can go with other things than a farty poop joke.
Let’s start with Tobe Hooper because Amick and Perkins will be covered in the actual article once I dive into the movie. I’ve covered him before. A few Halloweens ago, I talked about his tongue-in-cheek sequel to the movie that put him on the map, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. I’m pretty sure I covered how he made some movies for Cannon Films. They wanted The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 to play in the slasher genre and give them a monster like Paramount had with Jason and New Line had with Freddy. Hooper didn’t want that… At least not the way Golan and Globus wanted. While that story of him basically giving them what they want with the flavor he wanted is a good one, there be lots of other things to discuss.
First, of course Hooper hit it big with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In less than a decade, Hooper would make Poltergeist, a hugely popular film helped by it being Executive Produced by Steven Spielberg. This would be a double-edged sword. Spielberg’s appearing on set often started a terrible rumor that he ghost-directed the film, and that very little of Poltergeist is Hooper’s vision. This has all but been confirmed that Spielberg was just on the set watching production while Hooper’s vision is what is on screen, but the rumor went for too long and gained too much support to prove it wrong.
For I’m Dangerous Tonight, Hooper would bypass a theatrical release in favor of a premiere on the USA network and get to home video release earlier. Most would think this is an indicator of it being a bad movie or that it reveals something less than a B-grade movie. I can’t say for sure because this is still a relatively obscure movie, but this isn’t the only time Hooper had done a made-for-television production. He directed Salem’s Lot which was a TV miniseries based on Stephen King’s novel.
I offer that this movie was made with full support of MCA and Universal, but how was it going to be released? Was it worth releasing to the theater? I’m guess it didn’t cost too much to make. It’s a movie about a killer Aztec-possessed dress (yeah, I said that and it is truth – this sexy red dress that Mädchen Amick makes is possessed). Not only did it not cost too much, but I’m guessing promoting a theatrical release would be difficult. Additionally, would this get much of any kind of respect in a movie theater? Maybe it was planned from the beginning to film this for a TV release.
Whatever the decision, it is considered a pretty decent movie full of pretty decent actors and production crew. That said, I’m sure the consideration that it is a good TV movie is warranted, but maybe it would have struggled to have found a good theater audience considering budget, production value, or story. I’m not being judgmental. Well… Not yet at least. I’m just trying to suss out the reason why a Tobe Hooper movie didn’t get released in the theater.
Alright, so let’s kick this shit off, eh?
The movie begins with a delivery to a Dr. Jonas Wilson. The item is a large, stone, Aztec sacrificial altar. Dr. Wilson talks to the security guard about how many thousands of people had their still-beating hearts were ripped from their still-living bodies. You know, like a fuckin’ weirdo would do. Also, because he’s a fuckin’ weirdo, he knows exactly where to open up the sacrificial altar to find the skeletal remains of a sacrifice with some silky red garb around its body. Wilson takes the garb and wears it like a cloak and then has a real hard for killing the guard.
Over in the Psychology Department, Amy (Amick) is in Professor Buchanan’s course talking about the psychology of “animism” which is basically the belief of things like horseshoes and rabbit’s feet hold certain mystical power. Buchanan (Perkins) assigns a giant book on the topic as a finals project. Amy meets her assigned partner for the final project, Eddie. Eddie is in a play and it leads to Amy needing to basically carry the lion’s share of the work. In actuality, she offers to take the load so Eddie can work on memorizing his lines for Romeo and Juliet. Again, because Amy is so super nice, she gets roped into bailing Eddie out again when the play’s director gets mad that Eddie is no longer dating a girl who would help with props for the show.
Amy comes home where she has picked up a teeny tiny dress for her cousin, and is being pressured to make a dress for her aunt in just a few days. Oh, and she has to care for her grandmother who is an invalid and possibly senile. The next day, Amy finds a trunk at the estate sale for that university doctor who killed the guard earlier. He came home, killed his wife, and then killed himself. She buys the trunk for the school play and finds the red fabric inside. When she touches it, she gets kooky visions of the murders.
When she delivers the trunk to the play practice, the director thinks the red cape/fabric would be perfect for Eddie’s Mercutio so he tosses it on around his shoulders. The fabric gives him the murder tingles and when he practices a sword fight, he goes bonkers and attacks the various actors. When it slips off, he snaps out of it, but also gets kicked out of the play. Amy grabs the fabric and beats cheeks out of there. At home, the fabric seems to call to Amy. When she is in contact with the fabric, she is a little sultry and flirty with her cousin’s quarterback boyfriend.
However, the dress seems to kind of call to Amy’s grandmother too and it gives her the heebie jeebies.
In the middle of the night, Amy wakes up and is feverishly working with the red fabric to make it a dress. When her cousin, Gloria, tries to see what she’s working on, Amy snaps at her. She even tells Gloria to take the old lady out of the room in a gruff tone when their grandma rolls into her bedroom.
The following morning, Eddie picks Amy up to take her to breakfast and talk. He wants to take her on a date and to a dance, but she says she has to watch over her grandma and all that other stuff she is supposedly committed to. Eddie then mentions that he has no idea what came over him at the play rehearsal. All he wanted to do was humiliate the other guy.
That night, Amy decides she does indeed want to go to the dance because she has the perfect dress to wear…
So sexed up Amy is now turnin’ heads and makin’ boners as she dances with every guy who wants to look like the fuckin’ awesomest guy ever in 1990. She even teases her cousin’s sexually frustrated quarterback boyfriend. As he runs outside with her to make out and play a little “hide the dagger in the Aztec dress wearin’ Mädchen”, I’m reminded of all those Saturday night dances from middle and high school…
And all the USA Saturday Night Movies I watched instead of dancing with sexy ladies in sexy Aztec-possessed dresses.
Anyway, when the QB and Amy make out and she takes off the dress, she’s suddenly aware of what’s going on. She hurries home. When Amy gets home, granny tries to grab the dress from Amy, but a tug-of-war ensues which causes granny to fall down the stairs to her death.
So here we are: Granny, basically the only person at home who cares for Amy is dead, Gloria says she’ll kill Amy the next time she sees her talking to QB McGee, and Amy’s aunt is being a super bitch about that whole grand-matricide thing that just happened. If there is one good thing that comes from this is that Amy realizes that dress, or at least more accurately the fabric, is bad news.
When she gets home from granny’s funeral, Eddie is waiting for Amy. As she changes clothes, Gloria tells her that QB McGee wants to take her out on a hot date and says he has a surprise. She wants to borrow the red dress. Amy says she threw it out because it is “unlucky” but Gloria knows better. She finds it in Amy’s closet and takes it. When she puts on the dress, she gives herself a long look and says, “I’m dangerous tonight.”
Just in case you forgot what movie you were watching.
That night, Amy and Eddie have a little romantic dinner and make out a little bit. He asks why she lied to him about going to the dance, but she said she wasn’t lying to him. She had no intention of going but then did. He gets a little weird about how good she looked at the dance. She says she no longer has the dress. Now here’s where I get frustrated with this type of movie.
I know trying to tell someone that you have an Aztec-possessed dress is hard, but this guy just had an incident with the stuff that dress is made from. He also had a reaction, a creepy one, but a reaction nonetheless, to seeing you in said dress. I kinda feel like you can tell him that things get weird when you touch the fabric. It led to you acting like a sexed up dance machine the other night and it had a hand in killing your granny. I kinda feel like you can probably say, “Yo… Can you help a sister out and maybe help me figure out a way to burn the damn thing?”
But, no, just let it all remain as is and I’m sure it will all work out.
Meanwhile, Gloria, wearing the dress, plows QB McGee. She reminds him that he had a surprise for her and he says that he got a call from the 49ers and they are going to draft him. He basically gives her a verbal straight arm to the fucking face by saying they’ll probably stay in touch but he’s gonna go off to the NFL and chase some tail there. He gets into the shower and as she steps out of the bed, she steps onto the dress and she decides to put it on and murder his fucking douche face – but not before completely trashing his bedroom. She grabs some tassels for the curtains and uses them to strangle him and then uses the blade from a straight razor to, I think, cut his wang off!
Not only am I frustrated by Amy not talking to someone, anyone, I’m also a tad fuzzy on the workings of the fabric/dress. Is it haunted by a dead Aztec sacrifice? Is it cursed by bad Aztec juju? If so, didn’t that effect the sacrifices? Is it just cursed to bring bad stuff in your psyche to the surface? Is it acting on your worst thoughts or is it creating it from nothing?
Anyway… After killing the QB, Gloria takes his truck and then uses it to attack Eddie and Amy, but she ultimately dies when the truck gets wrecked, she gets pinned in the truck and then it explodes.
A few days later, Amy is on a morning jog and she comes across Professor Buchanan. I’m betting that she still hasn’t said anything to anyone about how that dress does bad stuff to people, but it really doesn’t matter anymore. He tells her about a chapter in the book he assigned his class about how various garb can hold sway over the wearer.
Now Buchanan says what I was wondering about… The garments would ultimately pull to the surface any evil or badness in the person. Basically, it acts as an amplifier. If the person was good, the garment would only have a marginal affect on the wearer. He basically knows she turned that thing she found into a dress and that her sexual repression was twisted by the dress to turn her, basically, into a whore.
That night, an unknown woman in the red dress kills a man in an alley outside a bar.
The next day, Lt. Aikman (R. Lee Ermy) has more questions for Amy. He basically lines up everything Gloria did that night she killed her boyfriend then attacked her. He asks her about the red dress because it seems odd that a red dress is at the center of her grandmother’s death, some excitement at the dance, and her cousin going apeshit.
We soon discover who the mysterious lady in the red dress is, it’s none other than Dee Wallace Stone playing a woman named Wanda Thatcher. She’s seems to be a drugged out hooker who meets with a dealer for a fix, but he kills him and makes off with his inventory and his gun. I find Dee’s career to be utterly fascinating. She was the lead in Joe Dante’s The Howling which is considered a fairly good role before rattling off a bunch of mom roles. Most notably of these roles were E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, Cujo, and Critters. All of those movies I mentioned were decent hits and were all within a single decade of this movie in which she’s a third act character well far down in the cast list.
Now, I’m not going to give anyone no shit over working regularly. Maybe Dee was happy having smaller roles. Maybe she was sick of playing mom constantly – especially because she seemingly was always kind of a young mom if you do the math with her real life age at the time the movies were coming out. Maybe being in the biggest movie of all time, E.T., kinda messed up what possibilities she had beyond that. I don’t know. But this is a common thread through the 90s for Dee and it’s always been a point of curiosity for me.
In this, she plays the assistant to the guy in charge of the various personal effects of the deceased at the morgue. Apparently, she ransacked the lockers the items were stored in and took off with the dress. Though, considering QB McGee’s truck EXPLODED, the dress seems to be in pretty good shape if it can stay in tact enough for Dee Wallace to go out and kill dudes with it.
Amy is aware the dress is still out there causing troubles because of a news report about some murders being perpetrated by a woman in a red dress. She does some research but is eventually approached by Buchanan who tells her he knows what’s what. Now, again, here’s a guy who fucking knows what is actually going on. He knows all about the cloak, that she turned it into a dress, and what it can do, but she insists on telling people the dress was destroyed or she threw it out or the dog ate it, barfed it up, and buried it or whatever.
Amy calls Wanda and asks her about the dress that came in on Gloria’s remains. When Wanda asks who Amy is and what’s up with the questions, it’s revealed she’s lounging around in the red dress. Amy’s able to convince the landlord to let her into Wanda’s apartment, but before she can leave, Wanda comes home. Amy flees and goes to talk to Lt. Aikman and finally tells him about the dress. Naturally, he doesn’t believe her, but she finally has said something to someone. Meanwhile, Wanda’s learned where Amy lives.
Buchanan calls warning Amy that the dress was not destroyed. She won’t see him tonight because she is looking after her aunt who is a drunken mess after her mother and daughter have died recently. Amy finds the body of her aunt whose throat has been slashed. Wanda attacks. Amy’s able to knock her out and call the fuzz, but has to slip out of the window to go to another room. In a nice call back to the granny’s death, Amy is able to use the wheelchair to throw Wanda down the stairs, but when she tries calling Aikman for help, she gets knocked out. When she wakes up, she’s wearing the dress.
And now for the twist… Eddie has put Amy in the dress. He’s killed Wanda and plans to rule the world with Amy and the kooky Aztec dress. She nearly goes in for this plan because the dress starts to tap into her sexual repression. However, realizing that she is essentially a good person, she’s able to fight the dress’ influence, but it’s basically corrupted Eddie to his core. She begs him to fight the power of the dress and help her destroy it.
Also… I feel I should mention she is pleading with him while only wearing her bra and panties.
And, as you might suspect and expect, that brings him to his senses because… I mean… No duh, right?
They tear up the dress and Aikman comes and asks questions. He tells Eddie that he didn’t kill Wanda. She actually suffered a hemorrhage from the fall down the stairs. That she was still up and able to move around was amazing. Amy goes back outside and grabs the dress and shreds it in a wood chipper. Wanda is buried at a lonely service because she had no family. Before she is fully buried, Amy sprinkles the shredded dress over the coffin and it is buried with her….
That is until Buchanan digs up the remnants and makes off with them.
There are things about this movie that definitely frustrates me. Like it took too long for Amy to try to get someone to listen to her about the effects of the dress – which likely would have saved some lives. Granted, the television format also created some pacing issues and prevented it from being a little sexier or more risque with an R rating, but that’s not that big of a deal.
I will say what I liked most about the movie is how it does something quite different. It’s not an idol or a ghost possessing these people, it’s a piece of fabric that was turned into a dress. It creates a different type of object that you normally don’t see become a thriller or horror movie MacGuffin. Then you have not just women coveting the dress, but Eddie and Buchanan as well. In the big climax when Eddie was wanting to have sex with Amy while she is wearing the dress and saying it wants to feel it between them, I couldn’t help but to be reminded of Ed Wood and his affinity for angora sweaters. Transcending genders like that makes the movie a little more charming I suppose.
Mädchen Amick was early in her career at this point, having only been in a couple things prior to this movie (one of those things was a 1989 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation), but would soon have some pretty decent opportunities with Twin Peaks which has a major cult following. Her beauty also helped in movies like Sleepwalkers and Dream Lover where she was an object of the lead actors’ affections. These days, though, she has found a new following as Betty Cooper’s mom on the CW hit Riverdale as a part of an ensemble of actors playing parents and making me feel real old.
Then, on the other side of things – Anthony Perkins, of course, would be most famous for playing Dr. Alex Durant in The Black Hole. No other famous parts for him. The Black Hole and I’m Dangerous Tonight. That’s it.
Alright, next week, I’m going back to another movie I’ve long wanted to write about. It’s a part of that illustrious “Final Six” from the Bizarre TV days on Roku. Long time readers of this blog should know what that means to me and what I’m talking about. More importantly, it is only one of two (and the lesser-known of the two for sure) film credits for the beautiful Patty Mullen – Doom Asylum!