Plot: Dr. Larry Roberts (Albert Finney) is a plastic surgeon and while his business relies on customers who want to improve their physical appearance, of late he has struggled to provide his services to some potential clients. A trend of late has been women with drop dead gorgeous looks coming in for procedures, then turning up dead not long after the visit, with suicide often involved. He was confused why such beautiful women would seek out his services to begin with, but with these strange deaths now a concern, he decides to investigate and hopefully protect Cindy (Susan Dey), the latest client to match the pattern. Roberts’ snooping leads him to Digital Matrix, an advertising firm of sorts owned by John Reston (James Coburn) and clientele that includes beautiful models and even political figures. The ad campaigns from Digital Matrix involve cutting edge tech that scans performers into a computer, which then uses the data to craft a digital version of the model, to be used in all kinds of ad content. Roberts can’t help but be suspicious, but what is the truth about Reston and Digital Matrix?
Entertainment Value: Looker is a fun movie, as it has a prescient narrative that feels relevant even decades later, but also has the wild, b movie style vibes that will reel in cult cinema fans. The story has some insightful threads at work, the most memorable of which is the savage viewpoint on advertising, which is seen as a predatory force in Looker, to say the least. The movie takes aim on that realm and doesn’t hold back, while the evil ad agent ensures we have a ridiculous, but fun villain, especially with James Coburn chomping up scenes. John Reston is a villain that is right at home in a campy 80s movie, as he is written like this evil genius, but he is also as dumb as a post and his own actions lead to most of his downfall moments. The blend of smart threads and over the top, b movie campiness might be seen as a negative to some, but I think it adds immense fun to Looker and helps it stand out. The movie is rated PG, but pushes that much further than most movies, including some brief nudity, intense sequences, and some violence, including a jaw dropping impact onto a car’s roof. I had to rewind that scene, as it was so sudden and brutal, not the kind of content that would clear PG these days, to say the very least. Looker has some issues, but I found it to be an effective blend of horror and sci/fi that should appeal to genre fans and those who appreciate the wilder, b movie style side of 80s cinema.
This one has some brief flashes of nakedness, despite the PG rating, so keep that in mind if younger audience members are around. A few very quick topless moments are shown, as well as some less quick, but still minor bare asses. These are no sexual in nature, from medical exam scenes or the scanning process that inputs the models into the computer, so the context is important in this case. Once the model is scanned in, there is digital nudity that lingers a little, but there is historical value to that moment, as it is the first use of shaded 3D CGI in a motion picture. The movie doesn’t have a lot of bloodshed, but for a PG movie, there’s a decent amount. Some nice splatter after a gunshot to the head, more gun trauma to the head, and some blade injuries, but again, the gore isn’t all that graphic or frequent. But it does bolster the horror tinged atmosphere and adds some nice spark here and there, so genre fans should appreciate it. I also want to mention the car hood powerbomb again, as that scene is just brutal and has to be seen to be believed, insane stuff. The dialogue is fine, a little campy which is fun, with John Reston as the source of the most memorable lines. I also think the plastic surgery/beauty obsession talk can be suitably dark for the material. On the craziness front, we have the nudity, bloodshed, sudden violence, ham handed villain, wacky plot holes, and more, so there is solid b movie magic in Looker.
Overall Insanity: 5/10
The Disc: Looker has reached Blu-ray thanks to Warner Archive, via a new 2k scan and restoration that shows a lot of care went into this release. The image is super clean and boasts impressive detail, but doesn’t sacrifice the inherent film texture, so the movie looks sharp, but natural. There is a lot of grain present, but that is just a natural part of how Looker was shot, so I am glad the scan wasn’t scrubbed into oblivion to lessen the grain involved. The colors match the intent of the visual design, so on the colder side, but that is how it should be. The extras include an introduction from director Michael Crichton, which leads into audio comments from the filmmaker, who discusses the technical aspects of the production. He talks about how scenes were crafted, as well as how different a modern shoot would play out. A new extra here is a deleted scene from the television version, an eight minute sequence that fills in some exposition and fans should be thrilled to have it on deck. This release also includes the film’s original theatrical trailer.