In reviewing The Special a few days ago, I mentioned Liquid Sky kind of in passing, and that got me thinking, “Wow, it’s been a freakin’ minute since I’ve thought about that one.” And that struck me as odd because who doesn’t love some good ol’ onscreen sex, specifically the weird, cursed, Lovecraftian, cosmic horror kind?
So yeah, here we are. Towering hair, neon colors, the neon club scene, Bowie-esque neon androgyny, gender fluidity before gender fluidity was gender fluidity, those dulcet synthy tones of the Fairlight CMI. Did I mention neon? Must be the early 80s.
Time for a brief digression. I’ve mentioned how, as a winsom, impressionable lad growing up in the cultural mecca that is Pittsburgh, we had The Pittsburgh Repertoire Theater over in Oakland, a mere stone’s throw from Pitt, and they ran a truly amazing film series, the appropriately named Pittsburgh Film Repertoire. Every Friday and Saturday night (and possibly Sunday? my recomemberer doesn’t work as well as my forgetter) they’d show The. Greatest. Movies. Ever.
Seriously they had all the stuff weirdos like me weren’t gonna find over to the local multiplex. No, this is where we went for the classics, the midnight movies, the cults, the arthouse fare, even some animation festival stuff (this, for example, is where I first saw Anna & Bella, Ape, and Lupo The Butcher). This is also where I first saw Psycho on a big screen. So of course this was the only place I was gonna see Liquid Sky.
The Film Repertoire screened Liquid Sky soon after it was released. At the time, I assumed it was a mid-to-late 70s flick. To be fair, I wasn’t that far off, but still. I think it was the heroin. No, I don’t mean I was shooting heroin. I mean that heroin was a prominent part of the plot, and I’d always associated heroin use with the 70s. What did I know? My knowledge of all things drug-related was still in its infancy.
Okay…how best to sum this up? My favorite androgynous New Wave alien sex drug movie? Yeah, that might be a little niche. The list of androgynous New Wave alien sex drug movies ain’t lengthy. My personal list of such movies, including this one, would add up somewhere to the tune of, well, 1. The point is it’s on the list. Here’s why.
First, who doesn’t love an alien invasion? These aliens like our endorphins, specifically the ones released during a heroin high. Well that’s new. Not so new is the motivation of Margaret, the female lead played by Anne Carlisle. When Margaret is raped, the aliens coincidentally choose that moment to imbue her with the ability to kill people by having sex with them.
Sorry. Did I skip a step and lose you? Lemme back up. It turns out that the aliens have discovered something; the endorphins released during orgasm are the same ones released from heroin use. Well that’s new. Margaret never has orgasms, so she becomes the method by which the aliens, uh, “harvest” the endorphins they crave.
This allows Margaret to start some lethal revenge sex in that anyone in that anyone who she brings to climax ends up vaporizated. Kind of a New Wave neon Ms .45 or I Spit On Your Grave. Still, this isn’t your average female vengeance exploitation flick.
I dug up a 1983 New York Times review by Vincent Canby who called it “a celebration of virtually every antisocial attitude one can think of.” I don’t think it was a compliment. Hey wasn’t there some guy a while back calling them “the failing New York Times?” Yet here they still are. Whatever happened to that fuckwit, whoever he was? Anyways, I do love when the things someone sees as negative are the very things that attract me to a movie.
I mean come on. 1983. Naturally I myself was trying to be “a celebration of virtually every antisocial attitude one can think of.” Lots of sneering, jeering, leering, and something to do with drugs that rhymes with those 3. Okay Anne Carlisle’s hair may look a little Flock Of Seagulls. Or Mike Score’s hair looked a little Liquid Sky. Not sure about the timeline.
Carlisle pulls off her roles well playing both female and male models–coked, broke Margaret and her broke, coked frenemy Jimmy. As Jimmy, Anne Carlisle is pretty damn convincing. When I first saw Liquid Sky, I thought Margaret and Jimmy were related, not the same person.
The illusion is a much more convincing one, I hate to admit, than Jean Arless (actually Joan Marshall) was as Emily and Warren in Homicidal. Carlisle will also show up a few years later in Desperately Seeking Susan and as the Gwendoline, the drag queen in Crocodile Dundee.
I even love the promo art in which Carlisle looks like a character out of Golgo 13: The Professional or Fist Of The North Star. Oh, and if Margaret’s drug dealer girlfriend Adrian (Paula Sheppard) looks vaguely familiar, it could be because she appeared about 6 years before as Alice in the creepy but ickified Alice, Sweet Alice.
BODIES- 7 onscreen