On the Loose (1987)

September 6, 2013 by adamsunderground

Since there is little to no complexity in On the Loose’s story about two couples’ relationships, this page reveals unavoidable plot spoilers.

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Cinematography

While no daring or imaginative camera use is attempted in shooting, few flaws can be found in any scene. Minor shaking happens in wide shots with a hand held camera on two or three occasions; however, they’re so fleeting that it’s inconsequential. The cameraman frames the actresses well, showing excellent judgement in his positioning before each shot’s start and in panning and zooming throughout the action.

text-file-icon Screenplay

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OL begins on the wrong foot with a weak storytelling device for its medium, the expository argument between Mike and Julia about Dan and Kelly grows like a stillborn skirmish in the battle of the sexes. A theatrical play can take such advantage of its limitation—its audience lacks a fast forward button. As much as possible, a movie should show and not tell. Have the two couples begin the movie in the restaurant, show the friction between Dan and Kelly.

Maybe in the opening sequence someone mentions Dan’s predilection of using dirty, old work gloves to feeling up Kelly with, a weird surprise visual in OL’s final seconds, but that dense slog of dialogue between Mike and Julia isn’t worth enduring again.

Badly needing drama, the story should set some stakes at risk for any of the characters. By itself, the whole open relationship or polygamous aspect leaves everyone adrift–especially the viewer, as there’s nothing to gain or lose.

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No glove; no love.

Dan and Kelly’s story arc never follows a trajectory, instead of meandering about. Mike has motivation. What is Dan’s, other than a safe harbor after Sandra’s rejection?

A minor bright spot, two visual gags add some welcome relief to the chatter, the first example being literal.

On a side note, it seems odd that the credits list it as a teleplay, probably lingering demarcation of film terminology from television’s prevalence in videotape.

applications-multimedia Film Editing

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Likely due to the excellent camera work, the editing stays largely unobtrusive throughout the film. One time, it noticeably falters with jarring cuts during Dan and Karen’s rec room shot, but only a few minor and forgettable glitches can be found elsewhere in OL. For instance, in the preceding restaurant sequence, cuts to Karen and Monica at the bar are in reverse order. The establishing wide shots come after the close-ups of their come-hither glances. And an odd looking fade-in is then used to move Karen and Monica from the bar to Dan and Mike’s booth.

It is plausible that that small spurt of odd editing could be the work of someone trying his hand at a editing that portion of film. Around that time, Paul Thomas was transitioning from acting to working behind the camera. Listed as OL’s producer, he has a bit part playing Julia’s new love interest, a singer, to goad Mike. Maybe he was getting some on-the-job training in editing?

 

A weak bid to heighten the climax afterwards, the post production effects add nothing to the final sequence. Its strobe-like stuttering frames and cartoon-like color saturation that end in a freeze frame only give the appearance of someone playing with newly discovered toys in the editing bay.

xxl_Note_on_a_glass Musical Score

Even though it supplies a minimum of variety, OL sparingly uses music, which may be appropriate given its bloodless script. Twice, indistinct songs with lyrics can be heard, about as many times as the horrible keyboard-synthesized instrumentals pollute sex scenes. At least one tune of easy-listening, saxophone-heavy improves the overall soundtrack quality and diversity.

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Consistently terrible throughout OL, the audio mixing spectacularly fails the sex scenes with added moans and dialogue that rarely synchronize with the visuals. Actors should not be moaning like that while changing physical positions—unless they’re elderly. Also, the incorrect audio levels obscure actors’ dialogue with background noise outside the two studio sets of residences. First, it happens on Dan and Mike’s B-roll sidewalk shot with prevalent traffic sounds running atop the voice over. Next, their voices get trampled amid the overpowering music at the restaurant scene. Whole words are dropped during the lesbian tryst, a shame as they would provide some relief from the phoniest of fuck noises.

johnny_automatic_country_scene Production Design

OL was shot largely on studio sets, which produce a distracting echo in the first scene’s audio that dispels the illusion of an intimate setting, a problem the crew soon resolves for the film’s remaining hour. Inattentive lighting at times also spoils some inside the home shots with either artificially uniform and bright overhead sources, or overpowering flood lights creating unnaturally horizontal glare and shadows on the actors’ bodies.

ibdjl95_Speech_Bubbles_1 Acting

Probably the director’s fault, and not the actors, the sex position changes in early scenes occur far too rapidly for enjoyable reality. It creates a rushed atmosphere. Repositioning for comfort is one thing, but entirely changing acts after mere seconds would not propel most participants’ arousal—or viewers’.

Cute Sandra gives a brave effort despite suffering from an obvious cold, with her coughing in her first scene and her voice failing in her last in OL.

Nina Hartley’s Julia only presents a feisty or sarcastic persona; softness or vulnerability does not seem possible for her. In all fairness, there’s nothing else scripted for her to add complexity to her gamesmanship role in cornering Mike, which she executes flawlessly. Although naturally striking here and without the absurd implants she currently carries about, her sexual performances in OL leave much to be desired. Julia’s stale exclamations of “oh, yeah!” don’t become any fresher with practice, and she continues a flat, fake moaning long after her clitoris has been neglected.

Dan’s role was miscast. Tom Byron looks more like a high school or college student than a practicing lawyer. Exacerbating this first impression, his line delivery always sounds unsure of itself, even when the script does not call for the actor to be uncertain. The bit part of the singer whom Julia uses as bait for Mike’s jealousy would better suit him because an arrogant, youthful replacement could further threaten Mike’s standing with her.
The bar girls, Karen and Monica, are slightly excessive in portraying their polar-opposite sexual desires, but since they are peripheral bit players, it does not detract from the film. In a cast brimming with feminine beauty, Karen ekes out a narrow lead in sex appeal. Monica’s sweet voice enhances her performance although the whole “no” game with Mike gets too repetitive.

Shanna McCullough brings some much needed depth to OL’s overall acting with her role as Kelly. She convincingly swings from hollow denials and playful teases with Brad to conflicted confessing with Sandra.
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Consistent in acting, her straight erotic performances keep to that theme with a subtle sensitivity, starting with the sensual foreplay on the couch. However, it sounds like any other night in the cat house once the artificial lesbian action starts. Like Nina Hartley, large breast implants chosen later in this actress’ career detract from her flawless form in OL.

On the Loose isn’t worth any effort to locate a copy on a store’s shelf unless you’re a fan of the actresses, who do benefit from some good camera work in this bland story.

Category Grade

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Cinematography A
applications-multimedia Film Editing B

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Musical Score C

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Sound Editing F

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Production Design C

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Screenplay D

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Acting C
Total Grade: C

Click page 2 below for a transcription of On the Loose

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