Guilty Pleasures: Paul von Stoetzel

I hate musicals. I sometimes direct theatre and I’ve directed a couple musicals. I sincerely hate musicals. I have to admit that even the very few films like Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark or Steve Martin’s Pennies from Heaven which transcend the genre have been a bit difficult for me to watch though I appreciate their brilliance. However, since my youth I’ve been stuck on the 1984 “musical” STREETS OF FIRE. I know it’s not a traditional musical but I usually can’t stand anything that strays close to the style but I enjoy this flick immensely.

In fact I should really hate this film. The musical interludes are all pop songs from the 1980’s which I am not drawn towards at all, and the film is highly nostalgic (though there is no exact time period set for the film). These are all elements that I usually find repellent. But despite all of these negative factors Streets of Fire has been a favorite of mine ever since I can remember. I’m not sure how I was first introduced to the film but I can recall knowing every line of dialogue since I was in short pants so I think it’s safe to say I found it in my small town video store. I’m sure the noirish cover art helped draw me in with a hot as hell Diane Lane standing beside an absolutely badass Michael Pare holding her in one arm and a rifle in the other.

The film has a lot going for it despite my nay saying and it’s held together by one of the most influential American directors, Walter Hill, who creates an odd place out of time with a 1940’s setting mixed with period stylized yet recognizable ‘80s songs. This may seem a bit affected as does the strong sense of nostalgia peppered throughout the film, but the execution of the film is as coherent and sincere as possible. The look and feel of the film is spot on and Hill’s performances are solid as the film follows former soldier Tom Cody (Michael Pare) as he returns home to find that his former girlfriend turned local superstar singer Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) has been kidnapped and that he is the only person who can rescue her from biker gang The Bombers, lead by Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe). The film is filled with name character actors doing great things including a cameo by Bill Paxon who gets his lights knocked out by other character actress Amy Madigan.

From a distance, the film sounds like a bunch of mixed nuts in an implausible, fun premise that in execution could not possibly work out. But the great thing about Streets of Fire is that the film crates a cohesive and believable world despite sounding like a cartoony noir equivalent to the horrible Schumacher Batman series. The film successfully merges a hard boiled story with musical interludes flawlessly into a truly great film of which I’ve never seen the likes of ever since.

Paul von Stoetzel has been the proprietor of Killing Joke Films since 2005 and has written/directed several films and plays in the Twin Cities area including the award winning short H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, Asleep in the Deep and Von Convex. His first feature documentary, SNUFF: a documentary about killing on camera has won numerous awards while also receiving major North American distribution. His most recent documentary, Scrap, a feature documentary about two eccentric builders and their bizarre structures, is traveling the film festival circuit as is his first short documentary My Friend Root Rot and short horror film Dinner Date, both of which have already won several awards. He is currently in post production for a new literary adaptation to film; H.P. Lovecraft’s The Curse of Yig.