Laying down the template for many, many mad affairs to come, 1988’s Fresh Horses could very well be the first example of Tennessee Williams-lite drama that’s actually set in the North. From here onwards, any starlet wanting to be taken seriously would start to drop her g’s and act as a runaway from a broh-kan, you-can’t-fix-me nameless town. Or, for that matter, any pretty boy wanting to account for more than being a pretty boy would just try the junkie/bookie/victim/angel/lunatic angle.
So, let’s get to the plot, fast:
“A Cincinnati college student breaks off his engagement to his wealthy fiancée after he falls in love with a backwoods Kentucky girl he meets at a party. She says she’s 20, but he finds out she’s 16 and married to an abusive husband.”
Yeah. Everything you need to know, tidily compressed into a 1’ trailer. Except Ben Stiller. And the abuse-y bits. Neat.
Ringwald gives off a distinct “Southern Gothic dame lost in a maze of negatives” vibe here, which should never, ever sound like a backhanded compliment, but it sort of does.
The backstory for Berry Gordy’s Mahogany is probably more captivating than the final product. From the firing and/or death of multiple directors, to the bunch of not-so-veiled references to star Diana Ross’ relationship with producer/suitcase pimp Gordy, to the signals that point to co-star Anthony Perkins’ offscreen struggle with homosexuality - if all that were the case, it would make for an extraordinary case of Unintentional Metafuckery.
Movie’s supposed to be a mishmash between two semi-genres, “good girl gone bad” and “rags to mega riches”, and the video trailer is pretty straightforward on both counts: premise (check), clothes (check), fame (check), creepy dude (check), palace of excess (check), big redemption (check).
If this montage is to be believed, the overall look of the picture is aptly represented too.
Italian fans are sweet on the car crash scene (check), which presents an empty Rome tangenziale at dawn as the death pit of doom.
Following Dreamgirls’ release, Mahogany was maybe made available on DVD, but not a single seed is to be found on torrents. So I guess I’ll never know.
Blogger and single mom Dolores Point Five has seen the whole thing, says that it’s “wack as fuck”.
This might explain why the theatrical trailer looks like a collection of money shots: contemporary audiences, one assumes, were already aware of the main characters’ struggles, quirks and eventual fates, so the marketing plan must have sounded like “hell, let’s just get down with the sleaze and call it a day”.
The infamous restroom catfight between Neely O’Hara and Helen Lawson pops up, as do some lines that would eventually make the history of camp (I gotta get up at 5 in the morning, it’s “sparkle, Neely, sparkle!”).
Patty Duke never recovered from this, and neither did TV bad girl Barbara Parkins.
Camp value notwithstanding, it’s a pretty boring, subdued affair - skip it and go straight to Russ Meyer’s parody. Or, you know, read the book.