Skip to main content

Journey Into the Night with Michelle Pfeiffer and Jeff Goldblum

One of the best movies of 1985 came and went without a lot of fanfare from critics or audiences. Then it did what all great cult films do: it endured. Today, that film, Into the Night, remains a favorite among cult movie lovers, especially those of us with a serious affection for the underappreciated "one crazy night" sub-genre. Think Martin Scorsese's After Hours (1985), or Adventures in Babysitting (1987). "One crazy night" films typically involve a character, or characters, journeying "into the night" and experiencing the kind of wild adventures that can only be found in large urban centers after dark. This style of film was especially prevalent in the 1980s.

With Into the Night, writer Ron Koslow and director John Landis turned in one of the sub-genre's best efforts, and a personal favorite of yours truly. The film revels in that after hours "anything goes" style necessary for any "one crazy night" film to succeed. It's set in Los Angeles and populated with cameos by an endless parade of filmmaking friends and colleagues of Landis's, including Amy Heckerling, Paul Mazursky, Jim Henson, Lawrence Kasdan, Paul Bartel, Rick Baker, and too many more to note here. Yet the key ingredient to the film's everlasting appeal lies in the pitch-perfect casting and performances of the two leads: Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Goldblum is ridiculously good as the depressed insomniac Ed Okin. Miserable at his aerospace engineering job and growing more distant from his wife every day, things come to head when he discovers his wife's been cheating on him. It's late at night, he hops in the car, and simply drives off, with no destination in mind. He just needs to get away—from work, his wife, his life. Every movement or line delivery of Goldblum's is informed by Ed's catatonic existence.

Ed winds up at the airport, where drop-dead gorgeous jewel thief Diana (Pfeiffer) hops into Ed's car and tells him to floor it because the Iranians are trying to kill her—yup, we're definitely in the 1980s! Ed and Diane drive off—into the night!—and what follows is a series of madcap encounters with bumbling yet ruthless killers (including David Bowie as a mustachioed, eccentric hitman) and a wild assortment of kooky Angelenos, with the action jumping from one late-night spot to the next. All of this insanity allows Goldblum and Pfeiffer to show off their strong comedic skills.

The chemistry between Pfeiffer and Goldblum is palpable from their first enounter. We believe their romantic attraction, but its the even-deeper connection between two lost souls that really sells it. Diana and Ed may seem different on the surface, but they share an understanding of what it's like to feel worthless and unloved. In each other's eyes, they see a new hope, for something more, something better. It really is one of the most beautiful cinematic representations of how two people can connect on such a deep level that it almost feels mystical.

I'm a firm believer that Diana is one of Pfeiffer's greatest performances. Here's what I wrote last year:
Hair shorn into a beautifully disheveled bob cut, flashing that thousand-megawatt smile, and wearing a red leather jacket better than even Michael Jackson ever did, Pfeiffer is simply electric. Her natural-born charisma bursts forth in every scene. Her performance is so full of life, so beautifully wounded and soulful, that you don't know whether to laugh or cry, so you just do both.
Her performance is so electrifying that any male lead might suffer in comparison. Not Goldblum, though. He looks at Pfeiffer throughout with great affection, and makes Ed's reawakening resonate with great clarity. As the night progresses and the mayhem builds, Goldblum masterfully moves us through Ed's reemergence from the depths of depression. Towards the end of the film, Ed is trying to talk a terrorist out of shooting Diana in the packed Los Angeles International Airport. It's the sort of thing we can't imagine the character doing before Diana dropped into his life, but by this point, thanks to Goldblum's performance, we believe it.

There are few movies that hold as special a place in my heart as Into the Night. It's one of those comfort food movies that I always reach for, over and over, no matter my mood. If I'm feeling content and simply want to extend those good vibes, I'll watch and revel in the extraordinary performances and Landis's gloriously surrealist-absurdist tone and style. And if I'm depressed, throwing on Into the Night reminds me that if Ed and Diana can make it, then dammit so will I.


Just a quick note on the film's current availability. Shout Factory! released it on Blu-ray just about two years ago now, and it's well worth the twenty bucks or whatever it might cost now. The transfer is beautiful, and special features include a B.B. King music video—featuring costars Pfeiffer, Goldblum, Dan Akroyd, and for reasons unknown Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy, vamping as King's backup band!—and an extended, brand-new interview with Goldblum, who, it should be noted, looks as sartorially sharp as ever. The actor provides great insight into where he was at in his career at the time he made Into the Night, plus offers fun tidbits about making the film. But the crown jewel of the interview has to be when Goldblum extemporaneously spins an impromptu sequel out of thin air! As Goldblum tells it, Diana and Ed share a moment after the end of the movie, but then move on. Ed is crushed. Diana starts singing with the Baker Boys, changing her name to Susie Diamond. Ed stumbles on his muse performing at a jazz club. After mentioning how he plays a little piano, he and Diana/Susie begin performing music together. How badly do you want that film to exist now?!? The entire bit is an astonishing bit of improvising from the master storyteller, Goldblum, and highly recommended for fans of the actor and the film.

This post is part of the Jeff Goldblum Blogathon, 2019.


  1. Aw, the romantic in me so wants to see Goldblum's sequel.. that would be fantastic, as long as he and Michelle were the leads. Thanks for bringing this post to the blogathonand for joining us in celebrating all things Jeff!

    1. I DESPERATELY want that sequel to exist. It was my pleasure to contribute! Can't wait to read all the exciting entrees.

  2. Wow! It's nice to see such love for a film! I will have to look for this one. Thanks for the review!

  3. Great review. Your so right, this movie is magical. Michelle Pfeiffer is luminous in this.

  4. I love the review, you've explained better than I ever could why I love Into The Night. I really must invest in the Blu-ray, it sounds like the special features alone would make it worth the money. By the way I'm sorry I've duplicated one of your pictures in my entry. I made my own banner a few days ago, honestly not knowing you'd be using the same image of Jeff and Michelle in your post. Great minds and all that. Anyway, if you want me to remove it I will.

    1. Thank you, Paul. I don't mind one bit that you're using that image, as well. Like you say, great minds and all!

    2. Continuing the Into the Night vibe, I've shared one of your posts on this film over at my place. Thanks for your support.

  5. When I first heard about the blogathon, this was the movie that immediately came to mind. But, you beat me to it! :) This is a favourite of mine and has been since I saw it on its first VHS release. You nailed the reasons why; Goldblum and Pfeiffer are perfectly cast and give amazing performances. To me this is *the* Goldblum movie.

    (By the way, you failed to mention that Steve Martin also appears in those music videos. I love those B. B. King performances. I've always wanted to know the story of how those videos came about.)


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

It Came From the '90s: My Secret Crush on The Nanny

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade.
For six seasons in the 1990s, The Nanny made many of us laugh. At times, it could be downright hilarious. At others, well, not so much. This isn't a review of a '90s sitcom staple, though. No. This is simply an excuse to come clean about something I've kept buried deep inside for over two decades now: I had a secret crush on The Nanny herself, Fran Drescher.

While The Nanny was sometimes quite funny, thanks largely to Drescher's spunky charisma and wholehearted commitment, the show was never considered hip. People my parents age seemed to love it, but my friends preferred, well, Friends.

I watched Friends with my friends, but I also thoroughly enjoyed The Nanny, too. Obviously, I'm aware that much of that was owed to my little crush on Drescher.

She was an effervescent presence at a time when most of my crushes were of the alternagirl, angst-ridden varie…

Thirty Years of Loving Michelle Pfeiffer as Susie Diamond

Revisiting and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of writer-director Steve Kloves's 1989 masterpiece, The Fabulous Baker Boys. While the film itself is worthy of serious examination, at this time I'm simply hear to gush like the pfan boy I am about Michelle Pfeiffer's career-defining performance as Susie Diamond. After all, this post is part of the 2019 Reel Infatuation Blogathon, cohosted by Silver Screenings. I've certainly been infatuated with Susie all these years, so let's get right into the myriad reasons why.

Pfeiffer's extraordinary turn as Susie catapulted her into a new stratosphere of superstardom while declaring once and for all that she was a major acting talent and a force to be reckoned with onscreen. She'd been building towards this recognition since at least 1983, with her electrifying performance as Elvira Hancock in Scarface. Still, though, critics seemed t…

Scream Queens of Halloween: Linnea Quigley

Celebrating Scream Queens that make the Halloween season the most wonderful time of year.

In many ways, Linnea Quigley is the ultimate Scream Queen. A pint-sized bundle of pure punk rock spirit, Quigley has starred in countless horror and exploitation classics: The Return of the Living Dead: Silent Night, Deadly Night; Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama: Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers: Night of the Demons; Creepozoids; Nightmare Sisters...get the point?

Many of these cult classics are from the 1980s and early 1990s, when Quigley first shot to fame within the B-movie world. She was everywhere back then, at least if you were a horror-loving kid like myself. She seemed to pop up in every other splatter flick I watched on USA Up All Night or rented from the video store during those days. Whenever she joined host Rhonda Shear on set, it was like the horror gods had answered our heathen prayers.

Explosive sex appeal, hilariously deadpan Valley Girl-esque charm, and a willingness to rip…

It Came From the '90s: Barb Wire

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade. [This post may not be safe for work, thanks to a gif below.]

More than two decades since its release, the sci-fi comic book movie Barb Wire remains one of the essential documents of the 1990s for a few reasons. As written by Chuck Pfarrer and Ilene Chaiken, the film feels like both a time capsule of the American decade in which it was made, and uncanny foreshadowing of where we've ended up in America today, in 2019.

I'm serious. Hear me out before you sneer.

Maybe you had to be there in order to fully appreciate the absolute lunacy of peak Pamela Anderson media hype. When that infamous sex tape of her and then-hubby Tommy Lee was stolen in 1995, it was uploaded to the still-nascent and damn-near lawless internet for all the world to see—well, okay, for people who had the patience to sit through dial-up's excruciating wait times. Then in 1996 the star of Bayw…

Catwomen: Michelle Pfeiffer

Ranking my top five Catwoman performances in film and television.

Click here for the previous entry in the Catwomen rankings.

1. Michelle Pfeiffer, Batman Returns (1992)

As a young girl, I was completely obsessed with Catwoman. When I heard that Tim was making the film and Catwoman had already been cast, I was devastated," says Pfeiffer. “At the time, it was Annette Bening. Then she became pregnant. The rest is history. I remember telling Tim halfway through the script that I'd do the film, that's how excited I was.
That's Michelle Pfeiffer, discussing her momentous turn as Catwoman in Tim Burton's Batman Returns (1992), from a 2017 interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

It's important to remember, we were this close to never having Michelle’s transcendent performance. Annette Benning was cast and about to begin filming when she found out she was pregnant. After she dropped out, Pfeiffer squeezed into the black latex and the rest is cinematic/pop culture history.


Michelle Pfeiffer: Scarface

Revisiting—or in a few cases, watching for the first time—and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

***** "Michelle Pfeiffer was a star from the moment she descended in that glass elevator in Scarface—although the automatic prejudice that assumes beautiful people can't act means it took a while for people to see she was also an actress." — Charles Taylor, in Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near You *****
Like everyone and everything in Brian De Palma's wildly overstuffed, profane, and bloody morality tale of Tony Montana's (a gloriously over the top Al Pacino) dogged pursuit of the American dream, Pfeiffer's Elvira Hancock is not entirely what she seems at first glance. Certainly, she posses an otherworldly beauty, but she's also fiercely intelligent. Pfeiffer's masterful performance in Scarface (1983) upends our perceptions of the traditional, frigid ice queen trope—while Elvira is hardly impressed wit…

My Favorite Death Dealer: Kate Beckinsale

"I dropped out of Oxford, and now I only speak Russian with the woman who gives me a bikini-wax. See what Hollywood does to you?"
"Apparently, I'm very good at firing a gun without blinking, which is unusual. That's why so many action characters have to wear sunglasses during shoot-out scenes. That's my party trick."
"Someone once said that you can make the choice between getting old and getting creepy, and I think getting old is the way to go."

Before I begin, here's a haiku that took me at least ten seconds to write:
Ah, Kate Beckinsale.  We'd gladly live with you, in your Underworld
Yeah, so, I'm a fan.
I've always been a fan of Kate Beckinsale, especially as the vampire Death Dealer Selene in the action/horror franchise Underworld (five films and counting now) and as a young upwardly mobile publishing professional in Whit Stillman's masterpiece of early 1980s ennui The Last Days of Disco, a film that hardly ever g…

Streetwise and Book Smart: Avenging Angel

"One more step and I'll blow your balls into outer space."

That immortal line is delivered with extreme chutzpah by our tough-talking protagonist Angel (real name, Molly Stewart), played with a disarmingly effective nonchalance by '80s dream girl Betsy Russell, in Avenging Angel (1985). I'm always on the lookout for memorable cult classic, and with this one, I've struck exploitation gold. I don't know where this movie has been all my life, but thank goodness we finally found each other.

First, some facts. Avenging Angel, directed and co-written by Robert Vincent O'Neill (who worked in the art department on Easy Rider), is the middle installment in the Angel trilogy of films. One day I'll have to run the series, but I can't imagine anything else being quite as entertaining as this one. The plot: a former Hollywood Boulevard prostitute turned law student goes back undercover as a prostitute—but steadfastly avoids schtupping any Johns, to the ch…

Misspent Youth: Superman III

Looking back at the pop culture mainstays of this Gen-Xer's gloriously misspent youth.

Superman III hit theaters June 17, 1983. Because I was a rabid eight year old fan of the first two movies in the franchise—both of which remain all-time favorites as well as two of the best superhero movies ever made—I walked into this one expecting more of the same brilliance. Instead, what I got was something else entirely. With a game Richard Pryor nobly bumbling his way through this mess (all along likely plotting to fire his agent), the brilliance of the first two movies was nowhere to be found. Remember, Lois Lane (my girl Margot Kidder) appears only briefly, as the film's action quickly moves from Metropolis to Smallville for Clark Kent's high school reunion, thus breaking the heart of this young Lois/Margot admirer. It was mostly downhill from there for that eight year old kid.

I won't rehash the plot except to say Clark/Superman (Christopher Reeve) reunites with his first lov…