Blue Sunshine


1h 35m 1979
Blue Sunshine

Brief Synopsis

Tainted LSD leads to a series of shocking murders.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Horror
Thriller
Sci-Fi
Release Date
1979

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

Blue Sunshine is an recreational drug that is being used by yuppies and has the side effect of causing them to lose their hair. Jerry is at a party when one of the revelers has his wig removed and g s berserk, embarking on a killing spree. After this, Jerry begins to investigate Blue Sunshine and learns that a local politician may be involved in dealing the drug.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Horror
Thriller
Sci-Fi
Release Date
1979

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

Blue Sunshine (1978) -


A true product of the seventies, where paranoia and mistrust danced with recklessness and self-possession, Jeff Lieberman's Blue Sunshine (1978 ) remains by virtue of its vintage a contemporary of both the early body horror meditations of Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg (Rabid [1977], Scanners [1981]) and of such VD scare films as Stigma (1972) and Someone I Touched (1975) and could only have been realized in the wake of Alan J. Pakula's nervy political thrillers The Parallax View (1974) and All the President's Men (1976). However indebted it may be to existing works (one is tempted to throw into the mix Rudolph Maté's noir classic D.O.A. [1950]), the flinty $500,000 production proved prescient in its own way, anticipating (or inspiring) the early 80s vogue for stories detailing the diminished returns of the maturing Woodstock generation (e.g. John Sayles' Return of the Secaucus Seven [1970], Lawrence Kasdan's The Big Chill [1983]) and the descent towards cynicism and self-destruction of the formerly idealistic and hopeful. A potent cocktail, Blue Sunshine concerns a potent cocktail - a strain of LSD that, having made the rounds of college campuses during the Summer of Love, begets a time-release epidemic of baldness and psychopathy twenty years down the pike. Originally budgeted at $3.5 million, Blue Sunshine was conceived by writer-director Lieberman (whose killer worm movie Squirm had done solid business at the drive-in in the summer of 1976) on a much broader canvas, with a Manhattan setting and much business occurring below street level, in the corkscrew labyrinth of the metropolitan subway. Eager to lose himself in work after the death of his father, Lieberman elected to move forward with Blue Sunshine at a fraction of its proposed budget, with shooting in Los Angeles necessitating extensive rewrites that continued through principal photography. Also lost in the downsizing was Lieberman's first choice for a leading man, cost prohibitive TV actor David Birney. Cast in Birney's stead was Zalman King, a one-time contract player who had parlayed guest roles on Gunsmoke, The Munsters, and Adam-12 to the distinction of teen heartthrob thanks to a role opposite Lee J. Cobb on the short-lived courtroom series The Young Lawyers. An ill-fit for Tinseltown, King drifted into independent production, with personal projects underwritten by psycho roles in Trip with the Teacher (1975) and Smile Jenny, You're Dead (1974). Though playing the film's ostensible hero, the only soul in the City of Angels who understands that the rash of psychotic freak-outs happening all over town is traceable to a single source, King was encouraged by Lieberman to provoke audience suspicion that his beleaguered Jerry Zipkin (aka "Zippy") might turn out to be yet another victim of Blue Sunshine. Already quirky and intense to begin with, King's tic-hagged performance resulted in one of the strangest movie protagonists of all time, whose erratic, at times childish behavior borders on autism and whose inability to relate to others results in his becoming the prime suspect in a ghastly triple homicide (which, strangely, Blue Sunshine never tries to top) that serves as the film's inciting incident. Auditioning for a supporting role in the film as an overworked doctor (another potential Blue Sunshine baldy) was Jeff Goldblum, whose appearance and style of acting were deemed to be too similar to King's. The part went instead to Robert Walden (who had worn white coats in The Hospital [1971] and Rage [1972] and in the fourth and final season of TV's The New Doctors) while Goldblum went on to a plum role in Philip Kaufman's better-funded remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978).

The real fun for viewers of infection/invasion thrillers in general and of Blue Sunshine in particular is trying to guess at a glance which characters are tainted and potentially dangerous and which remain pure, thick-haired, and sane. Lieberman relies on a visual motif of full moon shots and bald shop mannequins to goose audience anxiety, while focusing on actors with thick helmet hair (burly Ray Young, the hunchback in Al Adamson's Blood of Dracula's Castle [1969]) or wearing obvious wigs (Bill Cameron, as a beat cop going slowly off the deep end) - though actor Charles Siebert (as the cop on the case) wears a patently obvious hairpiece yet is never offered as a suspect. (Siebert was a last minute addition to the cast, replacing Stefan Gierasch in the detective role when Gierasch suffered a ghastly, off-duty chainsaw injury.) A certain level of social criticism is also part of the equation, with Lieberman dropping the horror squarely into the lap of a generation divided between devotion to duty (via medicine, law enforcement, and politics) and devotion to self; while the film's Typhoid Mary is revealed to be neo-con congressional candidate Mark Goddard (light years away from Lost in Space), heroine Deborah Winters is etched as a daytime drinker who complicates the film's denouement by slamming down cocktails when she should be keeping vigil.

Remembered with affection by those who saw it in its limited theatrical run in the spring of 1978, Blue Sunshine took years to earn the status of genre classic, outpaced as it was by the David Cronenberg canon and by the changing genre demographic, which swung wide of thoughtful, brooding horror films after 1980 in favor of the more arguably visceral thrills of the slasher school. (Blue Sunshine beat John Carpenter's Halloween to cinemas by five months.) Its use of a disco (mocked up by Lieberman in a "peanuts and sawdust" Los Angeles cowboy bar) as the setting for a scene of nigh apocalyptic rage endeared the film to punk rockers and Blue Sunshine was often projected behind the bands at Manhattan's premiere punk venue, CBGB. (Additionally, the British supergroup The Glove, formed by Robert Smith of The Cure and Steven Severin of Siouxie and the Banshees, titled their one and only long-playing album after the film.) Helpful write-ups by Michael Weldon in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film (1982) and Steven Puchalski in Slimetime (1996, revised 2002) and the film's presence on VHS tape throughout the 80s helped fatten the cult but the film's original negative had been long lost when attempts at restoration were begun after 2000, an effort that resulted in a commemorative DVD release by Synapse Films in 2003.

By Richard Harland Smith

Sources:

Jeff Lieberman, director's audio commentary, Blue Sunshine DVD (Synapse Films, 2002) Jeff Lieberman interview, "Lieberman on Lieberman," directed by Howard S. Berger, Blue Sunshine DVD (Synapse Films, 2002)
Blue Sunshine (1978) -

Blue Sunshine (1978) -

A true product of the seventies, where paranoia and mistrust danced with recklessness and self-possession, Jeff Lieberman's Blue Sunshine (1978 ) remains by virtue of its vintage a contemporary of both the early body horror meditations of Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg (Rabid [1977], Scanners [1981]) and of such VD scare films as Stigma (1972) and Someone I Touched (1975) and could only have been realized in the wake of Alan J. Pakula's nervy political thrillers The Parallax View (1974) and All the President's Men (1976). However indebted it may be to existing works (one is tempted to throw into the mix Rudolph Maté's noir classic D.O.A. [1950]), the flinty $500,000 production proved prescient in its own way, anticipating (or inspiring) the early 80s vogue for stories detailing the diminished returns of the maturing Woodstock generation (e.g. John Sayles' Return of the Secaucus Seven [1970], Lawrence Kasdan's The Big Chill [1983]) and the descent towards cynicism and self-destruction of the formerly idealistic and hopeful. A potent cocktail, Blue Sunshine concerns a potent cocktail - a strain of LSD that, having made the rounds of college campuses during the Summer of Love, begets a time-release epidemic of baldness and psychopathy twenty years down the pike. Originally budgeted at $3.5 million, Blue Sunshine was conceived by writer-director Lieberman (whose killer worm movie Squirm had done solid business at the drive-in in the summer of 1976) on a much broader canvas, with a Manhattan setting and much business occurring below street level, in the corkscrew labyrinth of the metropolitan subway. Eager to lose himself in work after the death of his father, Lieberman elected to move forward with Blue Sunshine at a fraction of its proposed budget, with shooting in Los Angeles necessitating extensive rewrites that continued through principal photography. Also lost in the downsizing was Lieberman's first choice for a leading man, cost prohibitive TV actor David Birney. Cast in Birney's stead was Zalman King, a one-time contract player who had parlayed guest roles on Gunsmoke, The Munsters, and Adam-12 to the distinction of teen heartthrob thanks to a role opposite Lee J. Cobb on the short-lived courtroom series The Young Lawyers. An ill-fit for Tinseltown, King drifted into independent production, with personal projects underwritten by psycho roles in Trip with the Teacher (1975) and Smile Jenny, You're Dead (1974). Though playing the film's ostensible hero, the only soul in the City of Angels who understands that the rash of psychotic freak-outs happening all over town is traceable to a single source, King was encouraged by Lieberman to provoke audience suspicion that his beleaguered Jerry Zipkin (aka "Zippy") might turn out to be yet another victim of Blue Sunshine. Already quirky and intense to begin with, King's tic-hagged performance resulted in one of the strangest movie protagonists of all time, whose erratic, at times childish behavior borders on autism and whose inability to relate to others results in his becoming the prime suspect in a ghastly triple homicide (which, strangely, Blue Sunshine never tries to top) that serves as the film's inciting incident. Auditioning for a supporting role in the film as an overworked doctor (another potential Blue Sunshine baldy) was Jeff Goldblum, whose appearance and style of acting were deemed to be too similar to King's. The part went instead to Robert Walden (who had worn white coats in The Hospital [1971] and Rage [1972] and in the fourth and final season of TV's The New Doctors) while Goldblum went on to a plum role in Philip Kaufman's better-funded remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). The real fun for viewers of infection/invasion thrillers in general and of Blue Sunshine in particular is trying to guess at a glance which characters are tainted and potentially dangerous and which remain pure, thick-haired, and sane. Lieberman relies on a visual motif of full moon shots and bald shop mannequins to goose audience anxiety, while focusing on actors with thick helmet hair (burly Ray Young, the hunchback in Al Adamson's Blood of Dracula's Castle [1969]) or wearing obvious wigs (Bill Cameron, as a beat cop going slowly off the deep end) - though actor Charles Siebert (as the cop on the case) wears a patently obvious hairpiece yet is never offered as a suspect. (Siebert was a last minute addition to the cast, replacing Stefan Gierasch in the detective role when Gierasch suffered a ghastly, off-duty chainsaw injury.) A certain level of social criticism is also part of the equation, with Lieberman dropping the horror squarely into the lap of a generation divided between devotion to duty (via medicine, law enforcement, and politics) and devotion to self; while the film's Typhoid Mary is revealed to be neo-con congressional candidate Mark Goddard (light years away from Lost in Space), heroine Deborah Winters is etched as a daytime drinker who complicates the film's denouement by slamming down cocktails when she should be keeping vigil. Remembered with affection by those who saw it in its limited theatrical run in the spring of 1978, Blue Sunshine took years to earn the status of genre classic, outpaced as it was by the David Cronenberg canon and by the changing genre demographic, which swung wide of thoughtful, brooding horror films after 1980 in favor of the more arguably visceral thrills of the slasher school. (Blue Sunshine beat John Carpenter's Halloween to cinemas by five months.) Its use of a disco (mocked up by Lieberman in a "peanuts and sawdust" Los Angeles cowboy bar) as the setting for a scene of nigh apocalyptic rage endeared the film to punk rockers and Blue Sunshine was often projected behind the bands at Manhattan's premiere punk venue, CBGB. (Additionally, the British supergroup The Glove, formed by Robert Smith of The Cure and Steven Severin of Siouxie and the Banshees, titled their one and only long-playing album after the film.) Helpful write-ups by Michael Weldon in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film (1982) and Steven Puchalski in Slimetime (1996, revised 2002) and the film's presence on VHS tape throughout the 80s helped fatten the cult but the film's original negative had been long lost when attempts at restoration were begun after 2000, an effort that resulted in a commemorative DVD release by Synapse Films in 2003. By Richard Harland Smith Sources: Jeff Lieberman, director's audio commentary, Blue Sunshine DVD (Synapse Films, 2002) Jeff Lieberman interview, "Lieberman on Lieberman," directed by Howard S. Berger, Blue Sunshine DVD (Synapse Films, 2002)

Blue Sunshine - BLUE SUNSHINE - Acid Flashback from 1976


"Did you ever hear the words "Blue Sunshine"? Try to remember....your life may depend on it." The tag line from the ad campaign for Blue Sunshine (1976) reads like a public service announcement. In fact, the film's theatrical poster looks like an official FDA warning label as rendered by Andy Warhol in bold shades of blue and white. Yet, beneath this cautionary facade is both a twisted thriller and a wicked black comedy that shows the belated damage caused by sixties hedonism and liberal experimentation. What would happen if a drug you took during your college days had severe side effects that didn't show up for a decade? We're talking about major hair fallout, head splitting migraines, and an uncontrollable impulse to kill, kill, kill. That's the fate that's in store for those who took the drug, "Blue Sunshine" (a fictitious form of acid - we hope!). Writer and director Jeff Lieberman's clever premise is presented as a detective thriller with Zalman King playing a suspect in a bizarre triple homicide (one of the more disturbing scenes in the film). In his attempts to clear himself, he sets out to find the possible cause for the killings and discovers that it links back to several former students from his university days, most of whom have been inconspicuously assimilated into corporate culture. One is now a doctor (Robert Walden), who suffers from severe headaches, another is an aspiring politician (Mark Goddard), who used to be the campus pusher. One suspect flips her wig - literally - and goes after the kids she's supposed to be babysitting with a carving knife. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that the madness culminates in an antiseptic looking shopping mall among some department store mannequins.

Blue Sunshine - now available in a deluxe two-disk DVD edition from Synapse Films - was poorly distributed in the U.S. during its initial release and never reached the audience that would have appreciated it. But it was well received by critics in England and France and developed a large cult following there. Certainly the film is superior to most exploitation films of its era - from its cinematography to the eerie music score - but it also has a few problems, the main one being Zalman King's performance, which alternates between total passivity and complete hysteria. He's had a much more successful career as a director and producer (Red Shoe Diaries [1992], Two Moon Junction [1988]) but here he's a loose cannon, never responding to the situation at hand in any "normal" manner. Cases in point: his response when he views the burning remains of some murder victims in a fireplace. Or his behavior when he witnesses a man hit by a truck - he flees the scene of the accident! In some ways, though, his unsympathetic portrayal of the so-called hero in Blue Sunshine is almost refreshing for its unconventional approach.

The Synapse Films double DVD is a real treat for fans of this film. It includes a highly entertaining 30 minute interview with Jeff Lieberman (who also directed the cult horror films, Squirm [1976] and Just Before Dawn [1981]) plus his own running commentary on the film where he reveals that the movie originally was set in New York City, not Los Angeles, and was supposed to include flashbacks to the sixties. Other disk extras include the original trailer, a still gallery, and Lieberman's anti-drug film short, The Ringer, a wild parody of "classroom scare films" which features middle-aged businessmen posing as pushers while clearly blaming greedy corporations for America's drug problems. The second disk includes the never-before-released original soundtrack.

Synapse Films is to be commended for lavishing such care and attention on some of the more obscure exploitation films of the sixties (Beast From Haunted Cave, 1959), seventies (Flavia the Heretic, 1974) and eighties (Brain Damage, 1988). While it's wonderful to have a company like Criterion preserving cinematic treasures like Trouble in Paradise (1932) and Nights of Cabiria (1957) for future generations, it's just as inspirational to see a company like Synapse bringing back some of our favorite guilty and not-so-guilty pleasures in newly remastered and digitally remixed editions. For more information about Blue Sunshine, visit SYNAPSE FILMS. To purchase a copy of Blue Sunshine, visit TCM Shopping.

by Jeff Stafford

Blue Sunshine - BLUE SUNSHINE - Acid Flashback from 1976

"Did you ever hear the words "Blue Sunshine"? Try to remember....your life may depend on it." The tag line from the ad campaign for Blue Sunshine (1976) reads like a public service announcement. In fact, the film's theatrical poster looks like an official FDA warning label as rendered by Andy Warhol in bold shades of blue and white. Yet, beneath this cautionary facade is both a twisted thriller and a wicked black comedy that shows the belated damage caused by sixties hedonism and liberal experimentation. What would happen if a drug you took during your college days had severe side effects that didn't show up for a decade? We're talking about major hair fallout, head splitting migraines, and an uncontrollable impulse to kill, kill, kill. That's the fate that's in store for those who took the drug, "Blue Sunshine" (a fictitious form of acid - we hope!). Writer and director Jeff Lieberman's clever premise is presented as a detective thriller with Zalman King playing a suspect in a bizarre triple homicide (one of the more disturbing scenes in the film). In his attempts to clear himself, he sets out to find the possible cause for the killings and discovers that it links back to several former students from his university days, most of whom have been inconspicuously assimilated into corporate culture. One is now a doctor (Robert Walden), who suffers from severe headaches, another is an aspiring politician (Mark Goddard), who used to be the campus pusher. One suspect flips her wig - literally - and goes after the kids she's supposed to be babysitting with a carving knife. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that the madness culminates in an antiseptic looking shopping mall among some department store mannequins. Blue Sunshine - now available in a deluxe two-disk DVD edition from Synapse Films - was poorly distributed in the U.S. during its initial release and never reached the audience that would have appreciated it. But it was well received by critics in England and France and developed a large cult following there. Certainly the film is superior to most exploitation films of its era - from its cinematography to the eerie music score - but it also has a few problems, the main one being Zalman King's performance, which alternates between total passivity and complete hysteria. He's had a much more successful career as a director and producer (Red Shoe Diaries [1992], Two Moon Junction [1988]) but here he's a loose cannon, never responding to the situation at hand in any "normal" manner. Cases in point: his response when he views the burning remains of some murder victims in a fireplace. Or his behavior when he witnesses a man hit by a truck - he flees the scene of the accident! In some ways, though, his unsympathetic portrayal of the so-called hero in Blue Sunshine is almost refreshing for its unconventional approach. The Synapse Films double DVD is a real treat for fans of this film. It includes a highly entertaining 30 minute interview with Jeff Lieberman (who also directed the cult horror films, Squirm [1976] and Just Before Dawn [1981]) plus his own running commentary on the film where he reveals that the movie originally was set in New York City, not Los Angeles, and was supposed to include flashbacks to the sixties. Other disk extras include the original trailer, a still gallery, and Lieberman's anti-drug film short, The Ringer, a wild parody of "classroom scare films" which features middle-aged businessmen posing as pushers while clearly blaming greedy corporations for America's drug problems. The second disk includes the never-before-released original soundtrack. Synapse Films is to be commended for lavishing such care and attention on some of the more obscure exploitation films of the sixties (Beast From Haunted Cave, 1959), seventies (Flavia the Heretic, 1974) and eighties (Brain Damage, 1988). While it's wonderful to have a company like Criterion preserving cinematic treasures like Trouble in Paradise (1932) and Nights of Cabiria (1957) for future generations, it's just as inspirational to see a company like Synapse bringing back some of our favorite guilty and not-so-guilty pleasures in newly remastered and digitally remixed editions. For more information about Blue Sunshine, visit SYNAPSE FILMS. To purchase a copy of Blue Sunshine, visit TCM Shopping. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1979

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1979