by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

That's Live! with a long "i" - as in "'Live' from New York, it's Saturday Night," not as in "I 'live' with my parents."

This is the blackest of black comedies about an ambitious TV executive and her search for the ultimate reality show. After discarding several ideas, she zeroes in on an offhanded comment by one of her staffers, and comes up with a plan to have six people play Russian roulette on camera, on live TV. Five of them will go home with $5 million each. The sixth will not go home at all. The film's assumptions are: (1) a greedy network would actually air such a show if they knew there would be no legal repercussions; (2) ambitious executives would push the idea to further their careers without ever considering the ethical implications; (3) there would be no shortage of contestants; (4) Americans would flock to their TVs to watch the show, especially the grand finale.

I don't know whether those suppositions are valid or not, but this film stays true to them, and it works because of that. It is a strangely powerful film because of its internal dynamic. At first we watch it as we would watch any cynical black comedy, placing ourselves above the characters and snarking away at the human greed and exploitation before us. Then something miraculous happens in the center of the film. As the fictional audition process unfolds, the film's loyalty to its premise makes us aware of the various kinds of desperate and/or crazy people who would agree to play Russian roulette for money. The auditions at first seem to attract only suicidal loonies, but the losers who want to die are eventually weeded out in the audition process and the producers find people who want to live, but are willing to risk death for a chance to escape or improve their existing lives. When genuine, attractive and/or sympathetic contestants emerge, the laughter turns inward toward the sadness which is the ultimate source of black humor. By the time the apocryphal reality show airs its final episode, in which one person must actually die, our jaded guffaws have turned to outright horror because we realize that there will be no cop-out ending, no last minute reprieve. One of the six contestants is actually going to blow out his or her brains before our eyes. We realize that the premise is not so far-fetched because we, like the fictional audience in the film, are completely wound up in the game and are wondering which contestant will die. As each of them pulls the trigger, we are holding our breath. By the end of the film, the script completely knocks down the fourth wall because it not only posits that people are theoretically jaded enough to watch such an offensive and morbid reality show, but it proves it to us  - by getting us to watch it, and to get involved in it. The show's real audience is not the people sitting in the chairs up there on the screen. It is us.

Don't expect this film to be a comedy. It has some humor, to be sure, and you'll probably laugh out loud a couple of times in the early going, but you won't walk out of the theater feeling the way you normally feel after a comedy. The humor just keeps moving closer and closer to the gallows variety until we are standing right there with the executioner. Worst of all, the hangman is not only joking cavalierly at our expense, he's also selling shampoo.

Does the film have a significant audience? I doubt it. Few people will watch it voluntarily if they read the plot description. When I read about this film, I had no interest in it, and thought it would be repulsive. But I had to watch it to catalogue the nudity. By the time it was near the the end, I was deeply involved, and disgusted at myself for that involvement. I wanted to shout at the writer/director, "You did this. You tricked me." Maybe his manipulative techniques represent a course in psychological dirty pool, and they are certainly no way to win a popularity contest, but there is no doubt that those machinations are powerful.




5.7 IMDB summary (of 10)


Never released in North America.



  • Monet Mazur (one of the six finalists - the least sympathetic, a performance artist) shows her butt from the side in a still photograph. Later in the same scene, an unidentified woman strips down (full rear nudity) for a performance art piece. 


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a: