Mike's Murder (1984)

R | 97 mins | Drama | 9 March 1984

Director:

James Bridges

Writer:

James Bridges

Cinematographer:

Reynaldo Villalobos

Production Designer:

Peter Jamison

Production Company:

The Ladd Company
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HISTORY

In early 1982, director James Bridges pitched the story idea for Mike’s Murder to Alan Ladd, Jr., founder and executive of The Ladd Company, which had a production-distribution arrangement with Warner Bros. As reported in the 4 May 1982 HR and the 25-31 Jan 1985 LA Weekly, Bridges described the film as the story of an “ordinary” woman in Los Angeles, CA, “who finds herself connected with casual violence in the big city.” Although Bridges had not yet written the script, Ladd agreed to finance the picture for $5 million.
       According to a 20 Apr 1984 BAM article, the story was a personal one for Bridges, who was acquainted with several people who were murdered for peddling drugs in Los Angeles, and was “deeply affected” by their deaths. This “casual violence” did not make headlines, but only appeared in the brief homicide notices of the newspaper. Wanting to avoid the typical formula of a film noir or a suspense thriller, Bridges intended to portray Los Angeles as a disjointed society by using close-ups to imitate the view from a car.
       Bridges wrote the female lead specifically for actress Debra Winger, whom he directed in her “breakthrough” Urban Cowboy role (1980, see entry). Winger had moved back to her native Ohio and was planning to leave the film business, but after reading Bridges’ script, she agreed to do the project. In a 10 Apr 2011 LAT editorial, associate producer Jack Larson revealed that Kevin Costner and John Kennedy, Jr. were considered for the role of “Mike Chuhutsky,” prior to the casting of relatively unknown actor ... More Less

In early 1982, director James Bridges pitched the story idea for Mike’s Murder to Alan Ladd, Jr., founder and executive of The Ladd Company, which had a production-distribution arrangement with Warner Bros. As reported in the 4 May 1982 HR and the 25-31 Jan 1985 LA Weekly, Bridges described the film as the story of an “ordinary” woman in Los Angeles, CA, “who finds herself connected with casual violence in the big city.” Although Bridges had not yet written the script, Ladd agreed to finance the picture for $5 million.
       According to a 20 Apr 1984 BAM article, the story was a personal one for Bridges, who was acquainted with several people who were murdered for peddling drugs in Los Angeles, and was “deeply affected” by their deaths. This “casual violence” did not make headlines, but only appeared in the brief homicide notices of the newspaper. Wanting to avoid the typical formula of a film noir or a suspense thriller, Bridges intended to portray Los Angeles as a disjointed society by using close-ups to imitate the view from a car.
       Bridges wrote the female lead specifically for actress Debra Winger, whom he directed in her “breakthrough” Urban Cowboy role (1980, see entry). Winger had moved back to her native Ohio and was planning to leave the film business, but after reading Bridges’ script, she agreed to do the project. In a 10 Apr 2011 LAT editorial, associate producer Jack Larson revealed that Kevin Costner and John Kennedy, Jr. were considered for the role of “Mike Chuhutsky,” prior to the casting of relatively unknown actor Mark Keyloun.
       According to a Warner Bros. press release, principal photography began 10 May 1982 in Los Angeles, CA. Bridges mentioned in the 4 May 1982 HR that the production used soundstages at the former Selznick Studios in Culver City, which is credited onscreen as Laird International Studios. By early Aug 1982, filming was complete, as announced in a 5 Aug 1982 DV news item.
       As explained in interviews from the 18 Mar 1984 LAHExam and the 25-31 Jan 1985 LA Weekly, Bridges decided to re-edit and re-shoot the film following disastrous preview screenings at Larkspur Landing, CA, and Walnut Creek, CA, in Feb 1983. Bridges recalled the audience reaction as hostile and “uncomfortable,” particularly toward the violent murder scene in which “Betty Parrish” imagines Mike being killed and to a telephone masturbation scene between Betty and Mike. According to the director, no one in the first preview audience of 1,200 people recommended the picture. When editor Dede Allen had to leave the project, Jeff Gourson was hired as her replacement. Bridges re-structured the original version, from a subjective film focused on Betty’s point of view to a more objective, chronological story. He removed flashbacks and Betty’s fantasy sequences, and only showed the aftermath of the killing. Since the project was approximately $1 million under-budget, The Ladd Company permitted Bridges to film additional scenes featuring “Pete,” who was just a “peripheral” character in the original version. Debra Winger was not involved with any of the reshoots. The BAM article noted that the final production cost was $6.3 million.
       Although the experience was stressful and generated negative press, Bridges was ultimately grateful for the audience feedback. He realized certain scenes had more impact after he removed the violence, and concluded that the second version was a “better film.” According to the BAM article, the director claimed Mike’s Murder was his best picture, to date. When the second version previewed in San Jose, CA, and Denver, CO, during late 1983, audience response was reportedly enthusiastic. However, when the picture opened 9 Mar 1984 in New York City and 16 Mar 1984 in Los Angeles, critical reaction was mixed and predicted that the unconventional thriller would struggle at the box-office. The May 1984 Box complained, “What we have is simply a very dull, frustrating movie that never seems to get started.” Several reviews mentioned that the principal weakness of the story was Debra Winger’s character. As stated in the 9 Mar 1984 NYT review, “she has no role to play … and exists only as a sort of token female in a narrative primarily concerned with male hustling and drugs.”
       Restructuring the film involved removing the score by singer-songwriter Joe Jackson, and replacing it with a more conventional orchestral composition by John Barry. However, pieces of Jackson’s score and songs are scattered throughout the film, such as in the art show sequence and on the car radio, and he receives an “Additional Music Composed by” credit. Although the film’s original spring 1983 release date was postponed, the record company A&M refused to wait and released “45,000 units” of the Jackson soundtrack album. In addition to containing music cut from the film, the album featured artwork that had been discarded. Furthermore, Ladd Company executive Allyn Stewart told the 14 Seo 1983 LAT that they had not ruled out “the possibility that the finished version of the film might spawn a second sound-track album.” Bridges noted that the premature soundtrack release only added to the controversy surrounding the film.
       As described in the 25 Sep 1984 LAHExam and the 10 Jan 1985 DV, Mike’s Murder had a very brief theatrical run during Mar 1984. Associate producer Jack Larson explained that the picture was “orphaned” when the Ladd Company and Warner Bros. ended their partnership in Apr 1984. Curiously, nobody took credit as producer. Furthermore, Bridges noted in the LAHExam interview that the studio and audiences might have been disappointed that the film was not a romantic Debra Winger picture like her recent hit, An Officer and a Gentleman (1982, see entry). In late Sep 1984, Warner Bros. tried a different distribution pattern and released the film on one or two screens, particularly in college towns. Among the cities included in the re-opening were New Haven, CT, Columbus, OH, Seattle, WA, and Minneapolis, MN. In an effort to garner Academy Award nominations, Warner Bros. paid for six screenings at West Hollywood’s EZTV Video Gallery during Jan 1985. The screenings were the first time the venue had hosted a picture for Oscar consideration.
       End credits include the acknowledgments: “We would like to thank the following for their cooperation: Alta Marea Productions, Inc.; Toshiba International; Unique Product Placement Inc.; Prince Tennis Rackets; James M. Falkinburg; Ilene Segalove; Jeff Gold.” End credits also include the statement: “Filmed at Laird International Studios.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
BAM
20 Apr 1984
p. 22.
Box Office
May 1984.
---
Daily Variety
5 Aug 1982.
---
Daily Variety
10 Jan 1985
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Mar 1984
p. 17.
LA Weekly
25-31 Jan 1985
pp. 39-40.
LAHExam
18 Mar 1984
Section E, p. 1, 8.
LAHExam
25 Sep 1984.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Sep 1983
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
16 Mar 1984
Calendar, p. 1, 14.
Los Angeles Times
10 Apr 2011
Calendar, p. 3.
New York Times
9 Mar 1984
p. 16.
People
13 Feb 1984.
---
Variety
14 Mar 1984
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Skyewiay Production
A James Bridges Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
D.G.A. trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
Still photog
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Best boy
Dolly grip
Video
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Propmaster
Asst propman
Leadman
Const foreman
Paint supv
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Men`s ward
Women's ward
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus comp and cond by
Addl mus comp by
Mus mixer
Mus mixer
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Post-prod dial
Post-prod dial
Post-prod dial for Lipssync, Inc.
Prod sd mixer
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
ADR asst
Rec mixer
Rec mixer
Boom man
Cable man
Post prod sd ed by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opt eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Asst to Mr. Bridges
Prod coord
Auditor
Asst auditor
Unit pub
Extra casting
Loc asst
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Craft service
First aid person
Caterer
Loc police
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Without You," [written by Chaz Jankel and Laura Weymouth], performed by Chaz Jankel, courtesy of A&M Records, Inc.
"L.A.C.A.," performed by Adam's/Sherman's Alias
“Out Of The Business,” [written by The Tubes], performed by The Tubes, courtesy of Capital Records, Inc.
+
SONGS
"Without You," [written by Chaz Jankel and Laura Weymouth], performed by Chaz Jankel, courtesy of A&M Records, Inc.
"L.A.C.A.," performed by Adam's/Sherman's Alias
“Out Of The Business,” [written by The Tubes], performed by The Tubes, courtesy of Capital Records, Inc.
“It’s A Beautiful World,” [written by Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh], performed by Devo, courtesy of Virgin Records, Ltd./Warner Bros. Records, Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Get Down On It,” [written by James "J.T." Taylor, Ronald Nathan Bell, and Kool & the Gang], performed by Kool and the Gang, courtesy of Polygram Special Projects, a division of Polygram Records, Inc.
“Rebels Rule,” [written by Brian Setzer], performed by The Stray Cats, courtesy of EMI America Records, a division of Capital Records, Inc.
“Big Bird,” [written by The B-52s], performed by The B-52’s, courtesy of Island Records, Ltd./Warner Bros. Records, Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products.
+
PERFORMERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
9 March 1984
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 9 March 1984
Los Angeles opening: 16 March 1984
Production Date:
10 May--early August 1982
reshoots in 1983
Copyright Claimant:
The Ladd Company
Copyright Date:
18 March 1984
Copyright Number:
PA213309
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
97
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26721
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Los Angeles, California, bank teller Betty Parrish has a brief affair with her tennis instructor, Mike Chuhutsky. She loses touch with Mike until several months later when she drives past the tennis club and sees him waving. He needs a lift, and Betty, who is still attracted to Mike, gladly agrees. However, Mike seems anxious and admits he is in trouble after getting involved with petty drug dealing. Teaching tennis does not pay the rent in the expensive Brentwood neighborhood. Afraid to return to his apartment, he asks Betty to drop him at a friend’s house, where he plans to lie low until the threat subsides. Betty leaves Mike at the beginning of a meandering driveway, which leads to the hillside mansion of record producer Phillip Greene. Flirting, Mike says he wants to see Betty again and agrees to call her. Later, the two enjoy a seductive phone conversation as Mike tries to coax Betty into joining him at Phillip’s pool. He fondly remembers their first night together and the piano in her house with one key out of tune. While Mike is hiding at the hillside estate, Pete, his partner in crime, telephones to reassure Mike that it is safe to return home, because the rival drug dealers harassing them are “small potatoes.” Pete offers Mike an opportunity to make $1500 in one night by helping him deliver a cocaine shipment. Although Mike wants to give up peddling narcotics, the job will cover half of his debt to Phillip Greene. Betty arrives home and smiles when she receives a message on her answering machine from Mike asking her on date that night. However, Mike telephones ... +


In Los Angeles, California, bank teller Betty Parrish has a brief affair with her tennis instructor, Mike Chuhutsky. She loses touch with Mike until several months later when she drives past the tennis club and sees him waving. He needs a lift, and Betty, who is still attracted to Mike, gladly agrees. However, Mike seems anxious and admits he is in trouble after getting involved with petty drug dealing. Teaching tennis does not pay the rent in the expensive Brentwood neighborhood. Afraid to return to his apartment, he asks Betty to drop him at a friend’s house, where he plans to lie low until the threat subsides. Betty leaves Mike at the beginning of a meandering driveway, which leads to the hillside mansion of record producer Phillip Greene. Flirting, Mike says he wants to see Betty again and agrees to call her. Later, the two enjoy a seductive phone conversation as Mike tries to coax Betty into joining him at Phillip’s pool. He fondly remembers their first night together and the piano in her house with one key out of tune. While Mike is hiding at the hillside estate, Pete, his partner in crime, telephones to reassure Mike that it is safe to return home, because the rival drug dealers harassing them are “small potatoes.” Pete offers Mike an opportunity to make $1500 in one night by helping him deliver a cocaine shipment. Although Mike wants to give up peddling narcotics, the job will cover half of his debt to Phillip Greene. Betty arrives home and smiles when she receives a message on her answering machine from Mike asking her on date that night. However, Mike telephones later to explain that he has been delayed and says he will contact her after ten p.m. In the meantime, Mike and Pete deliver a suitcase of cocaine to the “bossman” of a drug organization and wait while the cocaine is weighed and tested. When the man temporarily leaves the room, Pete and Mike steal a small amount of cocaine from a bag that has already been weighed. Collecting their money from the “bosslady,” they leave. Pete drives Mike to Phillip’s house to make a payment on the debt. Then, they stop at Mike’s apartment so he can pick up something, while Pete waits outside in the car. However, Pete drives away when he notices two suspicious men intercept Mike at the building entrance. Meanwhile, Betty waits until midnight before going bed, disappointed that Mike never called. The following day, Sam Morris, a photographer friend of Mike, telephones her with news that Mike was murdered in his apartment. Sam invites Betty to his place, saying Mike always spoke fondly of her. When Betty arrives, Sam explains that police first notified Phillip Greene of the murder after finding a note in the apartment about Mike’s debt to Phillip, and asked him to identify the body. Sam was charmed by Mike and shows Betty several pictures he took of the young man. However, he was disappointed when Mike became friends with Pete, a troublemaker. Betty recalls being captivated when she first met Mike two years ago at the tennis club. She asks about the drug dealing, and a tearful Sam observes that Mike was too small-time to be a “dealer,” reminding her that he did not even own a car. Betty remains curious about Mike’s death and summons her courage to visit Phillip Greene. Reluctantly, Phillip reveals that the murder was gruesome, and the killers wanted to “make a statement.” He fondly recalls meeting Mike when he was hitchhiking in Ohio, and brought him to California. They had a brief affair, but Phillip says the young drifter was not a homosexual. Phillip and Betty both admit they were in love with Mike. Pete, meanwhile, goes on the run after discovering that someone broke into his house and vandalized his car. He telephones his drug contact, Charles, who informs him that Mike was killed in retaliation for the cocaine they stole. Pete becomes increasingly frazzled as he inhales more of the stolen cocaine and pleads with Charles to let him explain what happened, but Charles calls him a “dead man.” Desperate for a place to hide, Pete locates Betty’s telephone number and address. That evening, Betty is distraught over Mike’s death and spends time with her best friend, Patty. Knowing that Mike and Pete were together on the night of the murder, Betty feels guilty about not informing police, but Patty advises her to not get involved. After dining at a Mexican restaurant and attending a friend’s art show, Patty drops Betty at home and drives away. When Betty unlocks the door, Pete grabs her. She tries to scream, but he insists he will not hurt her. Unhinged by drugs, Pete confesses that their “simple” plan to siphon off a small amount of cocaine had backfired, and now the “enforcers” who killed Mike are looking for him. Betty tries to remain calm, as Pete becomes paranoid and distrustful of her. When Pete points a knife, Betty escapes into the music room where she barricades the door with the piano. As Pete is on the verge of forcing his way into the room, the enforcers enter the house, and carry him off to be killed. Hearing their car speed away, Betty emerges from the music room unharmed. Sometime later, Betty tries to reassure her worried parents as she returns home after staying at Patty’s for a while. She goes through her mail and finds an envelope from Sam Morris containing photographs of her and Mike embracing on the tennis court, and thinks of him as she plays a few notes on the piano. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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