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Roy Knable (John Ritter) loves watching television so much that his
marriage is falling apart because of it. When a door-to-door salesman
shows him a high-tech remote control, Ritter listens to his pitch, and
buys into it when he discovers that it's for a new television and
satellite system that offers 666 channels of programming--much of which
is not available anywhere else. However, the salesman may not have been
what he seemed to be, and Knable soon discovers that he may have agreed
to a contract that obligated him to give up more than money.
Oh, how I loved this film! Director Peter Hyams and the writing crew of
Tom S. Parker, Jim Jennewein and Richard Siegel definitely had my
number on this one. Stay Tuned is a very clever horror comedy that is
extremely underrated and perhaps was a bit mismarketed. Although I'm a
huge horror fan, and love horror comedies, I'd never heard of this one
before (however, later I did find references to it in a couple horror
sources, so it seems it wasn't completely overlooked by the industry
and fans). But the horror aspect of the film doesn't appear to be
advertised anywhere. I watched this on HBO's Family Channel. Even
though Knable's son is important to the plot and there are strong
fantasy aspects, this is not really a family film. Not that kids might
not like the film, but they'd have to be kids who like horror
(comedies) and whose parents let them watch horror (comedies).
Enjoyment of the film is also helped by having a familiarity with the
material that is being spoofed, and the references are broad enough
that it would take years of experience to acquire that familiarity.
Why spoofed? Well, on one level, Stay Tuned is just a long series of
crafty takes on film and television programs and genres, giving many
well-known classics a more immediate horror twist--immediate because
they all put our heroes, Knable and his wife Helen (Pam Dawber), in
peril in some way. There are many more subtle jokes, as well, and the
film even pokes fun at film students/film geeks. The spoofs range from
silly to poignant, and can be as quick as a title or as long as ten
minutes or so. One of the best is a classic Warner Brothers-styled
animated segment. The style and the quality should not be surprising,
as Chuck Jones designed and supervised the animation.
Under different hands, maybe this material wouldn't be quite as good as
it is. Hyams' direction is spot-on throughout the film, the script
(including the dialogue) is very intelligent, and in addition to Ritter
and Dawber being as good as I've seen them, Stay Tuned also features
Jeffrey Jones (one of my favorite character actors) and Eugene Levy.
Both are fantastic.
Stay Tuned deserves much wider recognition. It is funny, suspenseful
and seems to draw from a well of endless inventiveness. It's as good as
any other horror comedy I've seen. There is also a surface message of
turning off the television and living your life, which is a worthwhile
sentiment, but perhaps a harder sell when it is packaged in a film as
excellent as this.
A 10 out of 10 from me.
Tags for Stay Tuned Full Movie
, Jeffrey Jones
, John Ritter
, Pam Dawber
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