The Dark Backward

“So blatantly amoral. Almost like that you can’t get mad at the guy, really in a way you kinda go ‘Well yeah, I can understand this guy, he’s a simple guy.’ I thought of him as a human cockroach. Getting into anything! He didn’t care—ya know—skinny or fat or if she was dead in a garbage dump! He could still get off on it!”
– Bill Paxton

This weird, surreal little film is set in a grimy industrial alternate universe. where all the streets are trash-filled alleys and Blump’s billboards fill the skyline. Marty Malt (Judd Nelson) is a garbageman whose dreams of becoming a stand-up comic are stalled until he spontaneously grows a third arm out of his back. A horrified girlfriend, a wacked-out doctor, lots of encouragement/harassment from his best friend, and a sleazy talent agent later, Marty’s on his way to stardom. But the best-laid plans….

You’ve got your garbage-eating. You’ve got your corpse-kissing. You’ve got a Valkyrie and her Human Xylophone. Not to mention your three-armed comic. If you can keep from losing your lunch, it’s a strangely absorbing absurdist play on ambition and acceptance.

Bill plays Marty’s friend Gus, an accordion-playing garbageman with a taste for, well, just about anything. Hyper and clueless, Gus runs roughshod over everyone with energetic glee. Alternately charming and repulsive, he’s a wild child with no inhibitions and no moral restraint. Watch him dancing down the alley, playing his accordion and chortling madly. And don’t get in his way.

Bill is absolutely great in this. He is also completely disgusting. You’d almost rather he kept his clothes on, except that he’s slightly less filthy beneath his orange garbageman’s coverall. Save the popcorn for a less stomach-churning movie and enjoy a stops-out performance.

Three stars, just for being so incredibly weird.

Dead or Alive?