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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Slog Netflix Streaming Club: Cocaine: One Man's Seduction

Posted by on Wed, Apr 17, 2013 at 12:58 PM

For one VHS release, the subtitle was changed to One Mans Poison
  • For one VHS release, the subtitle was changed to 'One Man's Poison'

[Sniff, sniff] WHOO! Let's get this thing STARTED! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Cocaine: One Man's Seduction is the 1983 made-for-TV movie about—surprise!—a man who becomes seduced by cocaine, which proves to be a terrible mistress, forcing him to jump around all sweaty and yell at his wife. This man is played by Dennis Weaver, an actor who appeared on Gunsmoke (which I never watched) and also released a couple country-and-western albums (which I never heard). Nevertheless, I now love him, for he is great in this film. In the spaces between his mustache and non-whitened teeth and three-piece suit, the whole of 1983 is evoked.

Weaver's soon-to-be-yelled-at wife is played by Karen Grassle, best known as Ma on Little House on the Prairie, and the couple's son Buddy is played by James Spader, in a rare non-asshole teen role.

The film starts proving its awesomeness within seconds, as the opening credits roll over upsetting pencil sketches of an ever-more-distraught Dennis Weaver. We're then plunged into Dennis Weaver's home life—a perfect TV movie of cheerful good mornings and glasses of orange juice sipped hurriedly before running out the door. But all is not well in Dennis Weaver's professional life. Long the top seller at his real estate agency, he's since plummeted to seventh, and when he's shut out of a major agency expansion, he angrily realizes he needs to up his game if he's going to stay relevant in the real-estate world. During an impromptu work party, a fun-loving lady offers him some cocaine, but he refuses....

Instead he gets drunk and goes home and yells at his wife (despite her willingness to wear a yarn dress to please him) and learns James Spader is no longer interested in going to Stanford, like Dennis Weaver had hoped.

Soon after, Weaver is seen at a card game at a friend's house, where he and three friends drink and sass-talk. Among the guests is Jeffrey Tambor, who plays a dentist who keeps going to the bathroom and coming back all CRAZYENERGETICHAHAHAHAHALET'SGODANCING! After his bathroom visits, Tambor is noticeably sweaty—a visual trope that will carry throughout the film. (Good job, makeup designer Mario Gonzalez.)

Having weathered two run-ins with cocaine (one explicit, one communicated through a friend's sweaty motormouthedness), Dennis Weaver then finds himself at another work party, this one packed with prospective clients. When Weaver tries to settle his shaky nerves with a scotch, his boss yells at him for being unprofessional and sends him to the bathroom to wash up. In the bathroom, Weaver meets Bruce, a high-stakes real-estate broker who loves cocaine. "It's not addictive!" promises Bruce. At first, Weaver declines Bruce's offer of a line—"I tried grass once, it made me dizzy"—but eventually takes a couple snorts, after which he's racing around the party like a sweaty motormouth.

Soon he's visiting Bruce the cokey realtor at his apartment, where the pair does coke and talks real-estate, along with Bruce's girlfriend, who snorts up then aggressively stirs something in a metal bowl. By the time Dennis Weaver leaves Bruce's pad, he's got his own little stash of coke, which he hides in his shaver case before getting blabbermouth horny all over his wife.

Almost immediately, Weaver's telling little lies to cover his tracks. (Why's the bathroom door locked? Do you have the sniffles? What's gotten into you??) Nevertheless, doing coke makes Dennis Weaver a more successful, if much sweatier, real estate agent, and soon he's back on top and living large.

In one crucial scene, Dennis Weaver encounters his old friend Jeffrey Tambor drinking alone in a bar. Instead of being a happy sweaty cokehead, Tambor is sad, drunk, and wearing a toupee, which Dennis Weaver compliments before Tambor tears it off, decries the messy failure of his life, and begs Dennis Weaver to stay and talk with him. However, Weaver's here to meet the coke-dealing Bruce, and by the time their transaction is done, Tambor's inconsolable, and storms off after making a vague dark pronouncement. In response, Dennis Weaver dyes the gray out of his hair and buys a cool new snub-butt Cadillac, which mildly alarms his wife but doesn't stop her from taking a joyride in the symbol of cocaine-induced financial irresponsibility.

Back at home, Weaver and wife receive a phone call, about Jeffrey Tambor, who they learn just tried to kill himself with a hunting rifle. We learn this through the wife's line, "What kind of person tries to kill himself with a hunting rifle?"

Weaver visits Tambor in the hospital, but cannot be deterred from his new life as a frantic, sweaty, highly successful real-estate agent. En route to a meeting, he starts seeing tracers in the air, but waves them away with the cocky certainty of a cokehead.

In one weird scene, Weaver meets Bruce on his yacht, where Bruce gives Weaver more coke, and shows him how to wash out his nostrils with saline. (The film does a good job highlighting the little concessions that add up to addiction—little lies to the wife, a sudden need for nasal irrigation, weird tracers in the air, but hey! I'm doing great!)

Of course shit goes haywire. Dennis Weaver takes out a loan to buy a big bunch of coke. At work, he's top of the sales chart but violently lashing out at co-workers. In the middle of real estate deals, he slips around corners to do bumps of coke. He almost has an affair with Bruce's girlfriend, who's dressed in an attractive lavender pantsuit, but she shoots him down and warns him about making stupid coke-brained decisions. Jeffrey Tambor tries to intervene but Dennis Weaver's a full-blown cokehead now—picking fights with everyone, sweating profusely all day long, and, eventually, accidentally knocking his huge baggie of loan-financed coke into the toilet. (During this scene, the soundtrack prominently features an evocative sniffing/scraping sound effect.)

After Weaver snorts his last tiny bit of remaining coke, he heads into an important real estate meeting, where his nose starts bleeding and he picks a fight with anyone who notices. Desperate for more coke, he races to Bruce's place, but is told by his sobbing girlfriend that Bruce has been arrested for intent to distribute cocaine! Things kick into serious GoodFellas-level cocaine freakout mode, with Dennis Weaver roughing up Bruce's girlfriend, digging through garbage for coke, and having a hallucinatory freakout in front of important clients, which ends with him comatose on the floor.

Then we're at the hospital, where Weaver sobs with shame on a gurney and a doctor tells Weaver's wife that her husband overdosed on coke. (She calls the doctor "a damn lousy liar!") Thanks to the coke on his person at the hospital, Dennis Weaver faces possession charges, for which he's taken to court, given probation, and sent home with his warily forgiving family. The cokey Cadillac is gone, replaced by a sensible station wagon. The film ends with a final creepy pencil sketch, this one showing the reunited, coke-abjuring family.

No film has ever made cocaine look less appealing. Good work!


Comments (15) RSS

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Baconcat 1
The best part was when Dina Lohan and Weaver are doing coke and drinking white wine and she's all "I want a salad" and I say "oh, this is the eighties, she's making a wedge salad" AND SHE PULLS OUT A HEAD OF ROMAINE
Posted by Baconcat on April 17, 2013 at 1:06 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 2
Man, what a great precis. I took a pass on this one, having never ever enjoyed Dennis Weaver. When it was his turn on the NBC Mystery Movie you always knew you were in for a yawn. Give me Rock Hudson! Give me Peter Falk! Just please not Weaver, or worse yet, George goddam Peppard.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on April 17, 2013 at 1:25 PM · Report this
@2, He was good in Duel.
Posted by Westside forever on April 17, 2013 at 1:30 PM · Report this
Fnarf 4
All I can say is, that must have been some spectacular coke if sniffing about 1/128th of a gram sends you into a frenzy. The most notable effects for most people snorting that shit are related to watching their money disappear, not the physical effects of the drug, which are usually pretty minimal, especially for a first-timer. Now, banging it, on the other hand....yeah, I remember 1983. Barely.

Tight little film, though. Like the other one, it relies on acting chops, with varying levels of success, but still, compared to today's dramas, which are all fireballs, booming drums, and camera tricks. Weaver was great, Tambor was fantastic. I will admit I laughed out loud when Weaver walked in on him in the hospital bed with his arm up in the giant cast.

I think Tambor's hair was trying to get away during most of the movie.
Posted by Fnarf on April 17, 2013 at 1:34 PM · Report this
BostonFontSnob 5
Big truck want smush Dennis Weaver. No say why.
Posted by BostonFontSnob on April 17, 2013 at 1:38 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 6
Can we put The Day After on the viewing list for Netflix? Is it even available on Nextflix??
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on April 17, 2013 at 2:24 PM · Report this
Fnarf 7
@6, not on Netflix, sorry. Their selection is truly abysmal. I've just struck out twenty times in a row. Lots and lots of mid-00s Tim Allen movies though.

Oh, wait, here's one: "In Like Flint" with James Coburn.
Posted by Fnarf on April 17, 2013 at 3:07 PM · Report this
Dougsf 8
I got a little drunk then my router had to be reset and then I sorta stumbled off to bed. All-in-all, a sweet evening at home, even if I did miss the ending. Here's the notes I had in my phone:

First line: "See you downstairs"?!
Coke really makes these people tickle each other.
Jeffrey Tambor!
James Spader is really James Spadery.
Weird low camera angles?
This party looks awesome.
More tickling?

Posted by Dougsf on April 17, 2013 at 3:16 PM · Report this
Fnarf 9
@8, the ending involved lots of bug-eyed paranoia and sweating. The scene where Weaver tears apart his banker's house (and roughing her up) looking for more coke is pretty epic.

Netflix has my favorite movie ever, "The Young Girls of Rochefort", hint hint. And Judy Garland's last movie, "I Could Go On Singing". But crap, hardly anything from Elizabeth Taylor's oeuvre, it would appear -- I think Slog would really dig "Secret Ceremony".
Posted by Fnarf on April 17, 2013 at 3:41 PM · Report this
Resident Clinton 10
Dear Cokey Bruce, doesn't a razor-blade-decorated cocaine mirror have a certain lack of...discression?
Posted by Resident Clinton on April 17, 2013 at 3:41 PM · Report this
Dougsf 11
@9 - Damn it! Why does all the cool shit happen just as soon as I leave? That's rhetorical, of course.

If this were a series starring Dennis Weaver as a real estate salesman with a secret, I'd totally watch; and not just for the drama, but for the fascinatingly awful—and occasionally awesome—1980's residential architecture. Said series wouldn't have to be called High Interest, but it'd help. I would also consider Powder of Attorney, Line of Credit (Get it?) (yes, "Get it?" would be part of the actual title), or Contingency, because it sounds extremely serious.
Posted by Dougsf on April 17, 2013 at 4:03 PM · Report this
I think when the cokey ladyfriend was stirring, stirring, stirring, it was actually a COLANDER, not a metal bowl. What??? These are the things that cocaine makes you do. Did she remind anyone else of Sarah Jessica Parker? I also loved the interiors of the richie-rich mansions Dennis Weaver was real-estating—just the pinnacle of bad taste, perhaps in all of history, so, extra awesome. Nice choice, Mr. Schmader!
Posted by Bethany Jean Clement on April 17, 2013 at 4:56 PM · Report this
Fnarf 13
@12, oh no. I see far worse interiors on Curbed every day, from now. We are living through the pinnacle of shit interior design right now (though very, very expensive). These 80s ones hadn't even discovered marble or granite yet.

The actress is Pamela Bellwood, most famous for "Dynasty".I can see a resemblance to SJP, though SJP never looked so hot in cuffed shorts or little teddies. I think the real theme of this movie was HIGH-WAISTED PANTS.
Posted by Fnarf on April 17, 2013 at 5:19 PM · Report this
loganlorelai 14
Yes, fun choice, David! As I watched this, I kept wondering whether the creator of Breaking Bad may have seen this at some point. Think about it: a sad-sack, middle-aged family man who nearly reached great heights of success in his profession is brought down to a mundane existence, then suddenly turns it around via an illegal elixir and finds his breadwinning swagger, albeit teetering. Sounds like Walter White to me...
Posted by loganlorelai on April 17, 2013 at 9:03 PM · Report this
Nelson Bradley 15
Reefer Madness, too.
Posted by Nelson Bradley on April 18, 2013 at 8:37 AM · Report this

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