by BOB GRIMM & r & & r & The Dark Backward & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & ack in the day, I had a VHS copy of this strange movie. I would show it to friends who appreciated stuff that was "out there," and even they would give it a mixed reaction. Now, 16 years after its original release, The Dark Backward is finally getting some digital love.
Judd Nelson plays Marty Malt, the world's worst -- and sweatiest -- standup comedian. His act bombs on a nightly basis, but best buddy and fellow garbage man Gus (Bill Paxton, in total overacting overdrive) has undying faith in him-- mostly so he can ride Marty's coattails as musical accompaniment. (Gus plays a mean accordion.) Near the start of his career, Paxton was great at playing oddballs. I loved him in Aliens and Weird Science, and I like his work here. He seems proud of it, as he gleefully participates gleefully in the special features.
Things get really weird when Marty develops a strange bump on his back. A sleazy doctor (James Caan, in one of the film's many cameos) tells him it might be a tumor and not to pick at it. Then the tumor turns into a baby hand and eventually becomes a full-grown third arm. Gus decides to capitalize on his friend's newfound limb and gets famous talent scout Jackie Chrome (a fully committed Wayne Newton) to sign him as a client. Now that Marty is a freak, the act is destined for the big time.
The film, shot for less than a million bucks, is put together well by director Adam Rifkin (who just wrote Underdog). It looks like it cost a lot more. He's created his own little universe in which the streets are strewn with litter. The Dark Backward isn't for the squeamish. It contains a sex scene that pairs three overweight women with Paxton (who now has three wives on Big Love). Somehow, the movie survived with an R rating intact. The general vibe is sort of David Lynch meets John Waters.
I'm going to go out on a limb and call this the best Judd Nelson performance ever, even better than in The Breakfast Club. Marty Malt represented a complete U-turn for his career -- a career that never quite took off after his involvement in this critical and box-office disaster.
The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.