The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum

SERIAL (1980) **

The good folks at Legend Films continue to release obscure films from the Paramount Pictures archives.  They just sent me a new box of DVD’s to review so without further ado:


Serial (based on Cyra McFadden’s novel) is a black comedy about the oddball well-to-do Marin County, California residents who get easily taken in by the latest New Age trends that make their paper-thin life seem worthwhile.  The bored housewives indulge in kama sutra sex, have inane “rap sessions”, subscribe to mindless psychobabble, dancercise, participate in orgies and dabble in lesbianism while the men smoke pot, hook-up with teenage check-out girls, commit suicide, or join up with the Gay Hell’s Angels. 


Martin Mull stars as the only seemingly “normal” person in the whole town.  Throughout the course of the movie, his marriage to Tuesday Weld crumbles and repairs itself numerous times, but they finally come together for good once their daughter is kidnapped by a religious cult. 


Watching this movie, it’s easy to see why you see Mull almost exclusively in supporting roles because he just doesn’t have the screen presence necessary to carry this spastic and uneven flick.  In a film filled with so many weirdos, having your lead character be this bland is a big misstep because he just blends in with the background while all the kooks are running around.  


The supporting cast occasionally gets to shine.  Peter (The Bob Newhart Show) Bonerz makes the best impression as a coke sniffing therapist who tells his ten year-old patient to “get in touch with your childhood!”  Stacey (Halloween 3) Nelkin is also pretty great as a bosomy nympho space cadet and Sally (Back to School) Kellerman gets to show off her massive tits in one scene. 


Director Bill Persky’s extensive television background is evident because for the most part, Serial plays like a bad R rated sitcom than the scathing satire that it thinks it is.  The crucial flaw is that the flick is all over the place in terms of subject matter AND tone.  I’m sure Persky was trying to ape Altman with all the multiple storylines and characters, but the result is just an unfocused (though sporadically funny) mess.  There are a few good zingers here and there, but most of them are few and far between.  The excellent Gay Hell’s Angels vs. Religious Cult finale is pretty memorable though. 


Even with several major flaws hamstringing the picture, I still say that any movie in which Christopher Lee (With an AMERICAN accent!) plays a gay biker named Skull can’t be all that bad.  Lee also gets the best line of the movie:  “My men are not pansies.  We have terrorized whole communities!  We are tough dudes!”


Serial will be released July 1st for the first time ever on DVD, but you can get your copy now by going to The Legend Films website at 

Tags: christopher lee, comedy, s
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