Storyville (1992) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

There is a curious element of the Storyville saga. Director Mark Frost has never directed another film, before or after this one. He has not directed anything at all since this film. He's primarily a writer. (He's currently working on a script for the Fantastic Four movie.)

Yet the one factor that kept Frost from directing a very good film ...

... was the screenplay which he co-wrote.

Go figure.

Storyville is a twisted over-the-top N'Awlins noir, featuring unspeakable family secrets, shameful land grabs, frame-ups, corrupt patriarchs, crooked cops, and windbag politicians - all of your minimal daily noir requirements, Southern Gothic style. Imagine Raymond Chandler re-writing a Tennessee Williams play, and you have the idea.

I think I can give you the best idea of what the film is like by describing one courtroom scene.

The beautiful accused killer is on the stand. The prosecuting attorney asks, "if you didn't actually kill your father, why did you keep repeating 'I'm responsible?' to the arresting officer?" The D.A. repeats this question several times, and there are several long pauses. The witness does not answer. The defense attorney approaches the bench and asks for a recess - right in between the prosecutor's asking this question and the witness's answer. You think that' s silly? The judge granted it. You think that's silly? When the trial resumed, we never heard her answer to that question. The trial skipped forward to some other portion of the cross-examination.

That isn't the silly part. That's only the set-up.

It turns out that the recess was necessary to round-up a surprise witness who was about to leave town. The defense attorney calls a guy to the stand, and a woman takes the stand. Wha ...? Explanation: cross-dresser. (This gender deception is kinda/sorta relevant to the mystery.) When the man/woman takes the stand, he/she turns out to be an eyewitness to events which are essential to the case, and he contradicts the testimony of a crooked cop who is sitting in the courtroom. At that point, the crooked cop stands up and says something like, "why you lily-livered fairy, I'll kill ya, ya little fag", then starts blasting away at the witness with his service revolver, hitting the defense attorney instead. Two security officers then begin blasting back at the cop, and they are having a major gunfight in the courtroom while everyone else is seeking cover. The crooked cop is not killed, and gets himself into position for a clear shot at the wounded defense attorney, hoping to finish him off at point-blank range. The cop is shielded from the gunfire of the security officers, so it seems certain that the defense attorney, the hero of the film, is about to meet his maker.

How does the screenwriter get out of this? Are your votes locked in?

Simple. The cop is shot from the other direction. Seeing that the security officers can't shoot the bad guy from the back of the courtroom, the judge takes out his own weapon and blasts the rogue cop to kingdom come with a virtual fusillade of gunfire.

Now THAT is explosive courtroom drama.

Then there is the seedy family history in which everyone is someone else's secret love child. The script actually includes the line "I am your father", whereupon I expected to hear:

Impressive. Most impressive. Obi-wan has taught you well. If you only knew the power of the Dark Side.

The script is just filled with that kind of material, the kind of lines that need to be punctuated by pregnant pauses and dramatic organ chords. When the plot isn't being outrageously melodramatic, it is simply illogical. You'll keep asking yourself questions like "why did he do that?", and "how could that guy have known that he needed to be there at that moment?"


  • Charlotte Lewis shows her buns clearly, and her breasts in quick flashes.
  • An unknown actress shows her enormous breasts.
Having said all that, I have to add that I liked the film in some ways. The plot was disappointing, but a plot is only part of a movie. The visuals and the music were used very effectively to create a perfect noir ambiance. A man sitting at the riverside in the rain, awash in more than precipitation, drinking to blur his pain, lost in memories he wishes he could erase and secrets he no longer wishes either to keep or to reveal. Long glances and unspoken lusts. Colorful, nearly incomprehensible Cajun accents. Men skulking through alleys and hidden behind corners, watching people secretly. Snappy, cynical dialogue. Seedy back alleys in gray rain-swept days. Secrets inside of secrets inside of secrets, like a nested Russian egg. Beautiful buildings behind filthy exteriors in sleazy neighborhoods.

DVD info from Amazon

  • no widescreen

  • no features

  • mediocre transfer

You get the feeling that this film cudda been a contenda, but it ended up as the kind of atmospheric film critics can love (Ebert 3.5 stars), but mass audiences are indifferent to (5.4/10 at IMDb). In my opinion the film is nowhere near as good as Ebert's score would lead one to believe, but not as bad as indicated by the IMDb voters. I suppose it is one of those two and a half star films that cause ambivalent feelings for a reviewer, not quite good enough to recommend whole-heartedly, but too skillful for a pan. I reckon that the IMDb score should be about a point higher


Storyville (1992) takes place in a New Orleans that is dripping with atmosphere. James Spader plays a wealthy former public defender who is running for congress with the help of Jason Robards, his hard-drinking, cigar-smoking uncle. He is well behind in the polls.

He is seduced by Charlotte Lewis in her fathers dojo. Daddy tapes them to use it for blackmail, but Spader's family got where they are using dirty tricks, and now is no time to stop. When Lewis' father gets his throat cut and she is arrested for the murder, Spader decides to defend her, and his poll results show an enormous gain.

I have to admit that I was entertained. It would be easy to find fault with the wandering plot, but, overall, the atmosphere and characters made it worth the watch.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: Roger Ebert awarded three and a half stars!

The People Vote ...

  • The box office was virtually non-existent. It grossed less than half a million dollars.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "this is a C. Predictable story filled with holes, but dripping with so much Southern Gothic atmosphere that it would make Tennessee Williams envious, and enough cynical characters to make Raymond Chandler proud. Unfortunately, it could not find the top, and spent too much time in over-the-top, thus taking a story which could have been moving and nudging it into the high camp territory of a turgid soap opera." Tuna's comments were similar, and his score was C-.

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