A Missing Classic -- Lunatics: A Love Story
Lunatics: A Love Story is an off-beat, quirky romantic comedy about a... well, a lunatic who falls in love. It is the story of Hank (played by Ted Raimi) and Nancy (played by the always adorable Deborah Foreman). The movie was released in 1991 and as of yet there has been no official DVD release. If you are desperate for a copy, you can contact the director, Josh Becker, at his website and purchase it directly from him. Fortunately he was either able to retain or regain the rights to the film himself.
The lunatic at the center of the film is Hank, a reclusive would-be poet with smiley faces drawn on his shoes. We learn at the very beginning of the film that he has not been seen outside his apartment in months -- not even to check his overstuffed mailbox. We soon see that he has a fear of going outside that makes Bob Wiley, the agoraphobic main character in the classic What About Bob?, look like a regular outdoorsman. Talk to this guy about baby steps and he will soon be curled up under his bed crying for his mommy!
Before long, poetry-loving Nancy comes along. She has a habit of picking up strays -- stray plants, stray dogs... how long can it be before she starts picking up stray lunatics? But things do not bode well for our young heroine as her attempt to rescue a stray dog that has been left on the sidewalk ends in tragedy when the skittish pooch runs into the road and directly into the path of an oncoming garbage truck. Clearly, Nancy decides, she is cursed. As if to confirm her belief, her ne'er-do-well boyfriend Ray (played by that rascally Bruce Campbell) who has been missing in action since talking her into coming out to Los Angeles shows up, dumps her and steals her last few dollars just in time for her to be kicked out of their hotel for an overdue room bill.
While Ted deals with spiders running around inside his skull, calls from his overbearing mother, and gangsta rappers assaulting him and his stereo, Nancy tries to find her way through the city to the bus station. After being cornered and nearly attacked by gangbangers who she quickly gains the upper hand on, Nancy makes it to the station only to call home and learn from her uncle that her grandmother has passed away. Of course, Nancy decides, this is her fault for leaving town with that lowlife Ray and worrying the poor old woman to death.
Lunatics: A Love Story is only available on VHS from Amazon. No proper DVD version is available yet.
After hanging up with her uncle, Nancy receives a call from Hank. Hank was actually trying to call an escort service but somehow the lines got crossed and he ended up calling the bus station phone booth. Hey... it happens... Anyway. with the gang hot on her trail and a revolver she took from the gang leader in her jacket pocket, Nancy decides to take Hank up on his offer for her to come over. After all, he assures her, he is "the most normal guy you ever met." So, despite a bit of weirdness on both sides of the conversation, Hank and Nancy agree to a rather unusual first date.
When they meet, Hank is a little awkward in his aluminum foil suit, but his concern for Nancy's plant -- yes, the stray plant mentioned earlier -- wins her over and she hesitantly comes inside. After discussing Hank's unusual wallpaper -- aluminum foil is for more than just protective suits -- they move on to topics such as their mutual appreciation of Jello and the importance of good digestion. But it is their mutual love of poetry that finally seems to cement their relationship.
Of course, Hank does not have the easiest time allowing himself to share his poetry with someone else. But Hank seems to understand the two of them are making a special connection. So, despite his intense fear of rejection, he finds it in himself to let Nancy into his private world of lyrical lunacy. When he does so, he finds another soul who finds his words moving and meaningful. Nancy finds someone who sees the world much the same as she does.
Will this special connection bring our two young lovers happiness? Will they live together in Hank's apartment or will Nancy free Hank from his crippling fears? Well, to find out all of that, you need to see the movie. If you enjoy oddball, independent cinema, it will definitely be worth your time. Fans of writer-director Adam Rifkin's stranger stuff like The Dark Backward and Never On Tuesday will probably especially enjoy this movie.
"You seem like you're really like wound up or something. Do you want some Thorazine?"
Lunatics: A Love Story never had a chance of being a blockbuster film. It just is not that tye of movie. The film was produced by Sam Raimi's Renaissance Pictures that went on to make movies like John Woo's Hard Target and Time Cop starring Jean Claude Van Damme along with television series such as Xena: Warrior Princess. This film, however, was clearly meant to stand as an independent film that would, if anything, gain only a cult following. Taking that into consideration, it has certainly lived up to expectations.
So the bottom line on this film is this... If you are open-minded about your movies and enjoy something a little offbeat and outside the mainstream while still having a soft spot for a little romance, this is one of the best movies you can seek out. If you are looking for a mainstream romantic-comedy or even an independent-style black comedy, this is probably not the film for you. Lunatics: A Love Story is a story that just might blow your mind!
Lunatics: A Bit of Trivia
- The movie was shot entirely in Pontiac, Michigan.
- The rap group DMW (Detroit's Most Wanted) appear in the film. The group featured Motsi Ski, MC Lee and DJ Duncan Hines. Motsi Ski aka Reginald Abrams is the grandson of legendary R&B singer Jackie Wilson.
- This was the first film from Renaissance Pictures that was neither written nor directed by Sam Raimi.
- At the premiere of the film, while his fellow cast and crew members came limousines and wearing tuxedos and evening gowns, Ted Raimi arrived in an ambulance wearing a straightjacket.
- Though only credited for playing the character Ray, Bruce Campbell also played the psycho brain surgeon tormenting Hank in his dreams and delusions.