Watched Journal: June 2023

Dennis Hopper's 1990 film noir 'The Hot Spot' opens with a sweeping panoramic of hot sands as an old roadster plows through the sun soaked desert. Then we see the driver, Don Johnson, baking in the heat, taking a break from the wheel, he's either running to or from something. He drifts into a small Texas town, grabs a beer at a strip club and sizes up the locals, pondering his next move. As John Lee Hooker hums in the background, Johnson spots a used car lot and proceeds to wander in and con his way to a sales job. Soon enough, he hatches a plot to rob the town's bank, but his easy score goes south when he's ensnared in blackmail and a love triangle with a naive coworker (Jennifer Connelly) and his boss' wife, a Pink Cadillac driving femme fatale (Virginia Madsen). 

Hopper's film runs over 2hrs, building up the atmosphere with extended sequences capturing the mood of long summer days, where heat exhaustion and small town isolation melt the brain. Based upon a Charles Williams crime novel from 1953, 'The Hot Spot' was originally scripted as a Robert Mitchum vehicle until it was shelved and discovered by Hopper years later. Don Johnson brings a certain sex appeal to the role of Harry Maddox that Mitchum lacked. And while 'The Hot Spot' is a contemporary film, the small town setting and classic noir tropes of a drifter disrupting a town echo the past, making it a timeless entry.

While 'Easy Rider' is Hopper's most iconic directorial effort, I would place 'The Hot Spot' as my second favorite after his brilliant white trash drama  'Out of the Blue'. It also appreciates with repeat viewings and on Blu-ray. My first viewing was a lackluster stream on Tubi leaving me bored and unimpressed, but Radiance's sparkling Blu-ray presentation elevated the film, submerging me in the sleepy, scorching Texas town, steam rising from the screen.


What I watched in June:

6-1: Linoleum [Delta]
6-5: The Grizzlie Truth [Delta]
6-7: Scarlet Street [Criterion]
6-8: Brain Damage (1988, Frank Henenlotter) [Criterion]
6-11: My Heart Is That Eternal Rose [Videodrome], Tiger on the Beat [Videodrome], Moment of Contact [Tubi]
6-12: The Driver [CBS-FOX VHS]
6-13: St. Ives (1976, J. Lee Thompson) [DVD]
6-14: Telefon [DVD]
6-15: Someone to Watch Over Me [Videodrome], Avatar: The Way of Water [Disney+]
6-18: White House Plumbers [HBO]
6-19: Cool Hand Luke [Criterion], Bones and All [Videodrome]
6-22: Heat (1986, Dick Richards) [Kino Blu-ray]
6-24: The Hot Spot (1990, Dennis Hopper) [Radiance Blu-ray]
6-25: Asteroid City [Landmark Midtown Art]
6-26: Killer’s Delight [Tubi]


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