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Anchor Bay presents
Times Square (1980)

"Feed me
Feed me
Can'tcha hear me howl?
Feed me
I'm a damn dog now"

- Nicky Marotta (Robin Johnson)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: November 17, 2000

Stars: Robin Johnson, Trini Alvarado
Other Stars: Tim Curry, Peter Coffield, Anna Maria Horsford
Director: Alan Moyle

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: R for (language, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:50m:37s
Release Date: November 28, 2000
UPC: 013131137392
Genre: offbeat

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ C+A-A C+

DVD Review

Times Square is set in the titular district of New York City during its seedier, pre-Disney years, when "Up With People" billboards competed with "XXX Peep Show" neon signs for the attention of its semi-transient population. The story concerns 13-year-old Pamela Pearl (Trini Alvarado), troubled daughter of politician David Pearl (Peter Coffield), bent on cleaning up Times Square on the mayor's behalf. Hospitalized for a mental health evaluation, Pamela meets a tough 15-year-old street girl named Nicky (Robin Johnson), and the two carry out an audacious escape. They move into an abandoned building and struggle to survive on their own terms, building a small cult following as the "Sleez Sisters" after late-night deejay Johnny LaGuardia (Tim Curry) airs their teen angst-laden letters, poetry and punk rock songs. Meanwhile, Pamela's father attempts to track her down and bring her home, aided by authorities, driven by Nicky's allegedly criminal past.

Implausibilities abound here—the massed forces of official New York City seem completely unable to track down two girls who aren't exactly hiding out; Pamela manages to talk the owner of a topless club into letting her dance clothed to the inexplicable delight of the joint's regulars; her conservative father seems pleasantly surprised by her newfound career, and mental illness is treated more as an inconvenience than a genuine cause for concern. But it seems somehow improper to criticize the film on these terms, because Times Square's realistic, hard-edged façade is misleading. The film is really an adolescent fantasy about independence and fame, backed by an album-selling selection of pop songs (courtesy of producer/impresario Robert Stigwood) and two original numbers performed by Pamela and Nicky. It's the sort of story popular in junior high school libraries, a paperback fiction in which youth is wise by definition and adults simply don't matter. Johnny Laguardia is a suave but unthreatening figure, despite his apparent sexual interest in the girls, and the adult characters ultimately come to see the wisdom of the girls' point-of-view. It's kind of like "Girl, Interrupted—The Musical!" with a punk edge.

There are some fine performances on display here—Trini Alvarado is touchingly sympathetic as the awkward Pamela, and Robin Johnson is completely convincing as Nicky, alternately generous, joyful and a little bit scary as she leads Pamela into a completely new world (minus a lesbian angle toned down by the Stigwood organization, according to director Alan Moyle's commentary). Peter Coffield handles the thankless role of Pamela's uncomprehending father with some sensitivity, and Tim Curry gives one of the last truly sexy performances of his screen career, before the continuing success of his indelible performance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show caused him to take refuge in safer, neuter character roles.

But the film's real raison d''tre is the music, even though some of the pop music tracks were added over the director's objections. Tracks by The Ramones, Lou Reed, Talking Heads, Roxy Music, Gary Numan, Suzi Quatro, and others sound great and invoke plenty of early-80's nostalgia. Moreover, the two new "Sleez Sisters" punk songs are great fun, especially Nicky's driving, derivative but sticks-in-the-head-catchy I'm a Damn Dog. The film also provides a certain historical service, capturing the seediness of Times Square before the city's various cleanup campaigns turned it into something safer, brighter and ultimately less interesting.

Times Square isn't a film I can recommend without reservations; for all its great moments and wonderful music, it's still pretty juvenile and melodramatic. But it's fun in its flakiness, with an energy that's as hard to resist as it is to buy into completely. If my preceding comments have piqued your interest, I encourage you to check it out. Your mileage may vary, but I had a great time visiting Times Square.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay presents Times Square in its original 1.85:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, with a fine anamorphic transfer drawn from a very clean source print. The film's 1980 vintage is apparent in a few darker shots, where visible grain and murky shadow detail turn up, but this is a very solid transfer, handling the film's bright punk colors and frequently shallow depth-of-field with no blocking, edge enhancement, grain clouding or other distracting artifacts. My only previous experience with this film was via a dark, spliced-up television print, and Anchor Bay's DVD transfer is a revelation in comparison, restoring the film to something like the quality of its brief theatrical run.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Times Square on DVD features the original theatrical Dolby 2.0 Surround audio track, as well as a re-engineered 5.1 mix courtesy of Chace Digital. The film's pop music-laden soundtrack is well represented here, with deep, boosted bass and broad frequency range. Dialogue is generally clear and well-balanced against the background, and surrounds are used infrequently but effectively. The 2.0 track is noticeably muddier and thinner in several scenes, but both tracks preserve the film's audio in fine digital style. Sound is an important part of this particular film; kudos to Anchor Bay for preserving the film's original audio and providing an updated 5.1 mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Alan Moyle and star Robin Johnson
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:04m:19s

Extras Review: Anchor Bay's DVD release of Times Square features 29 chapter stops, the original theatrical trailer (looking fine in 1.85:1 anamorphic), and a Commentary track featuring director Alan Moyle and star Robin Johnson. Their comments are occasionally sparse but consistently interesting as Moyle and Johnson reminisce about the film and its aftermath, clearly enjoying a reunion over a film neither has seen in recent years. Moyle discusses some changes the Stigwood organization made to his original director's cut (unfortunately not included here) and we learn some "whatever happened to - " information about Johnson, a victim of bad career advice following her auspicious debut. The tone of this commentary is unusual in that the director isn't particularly proud of the film, but recognizes it as a valuable learning experience and seems to enjoy pointing out his own mistakes; Johnson's comments are often insightful, and both provide affectionately humorous anecdotes. Bonus points from this reviewer for the attention paid to this older, fairly obscure title, which could easily have been a bare-bones $9.99 release in another studio's hands.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Times Square is an oddly watchable period piece, a punk rock semi-musical hard-edged fantasy about two crazy teenage girls loose in the big city. Anchor Bay's DVD transfer presents the film the way it ought to be seen, with worthwhile supplements. Worth a rental if you've never seen it, and if its quirky flavor draws you in, a purchase is heartily recommended.


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