Blu-ray Review: Times Square [Kino Lorber] | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, July 6th, 2022  

Times Square

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

May 18, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Two troubled teens meet in the stuffy setting of a neurological hospital. They’re being treated for similar symptoms, but their backgrounds could not be further apart. Fifteen-year-old Nicky (Robin Johnson) is an angry kid with a punk rock ethos, highly experienced at living on the streets. Thirteen-year-old Pamela (Trini Alvarado) is the only child of a wealthy politician, a man too caught up in his work to pay her any attention; after losing her mother, she’s anxious and depressed. Rather than let themselves be drugged until they’re complaisant, the two flee the psych ward together, then attempt to make it on their own as homeless teens in and around New York’s (at the time) ultra-seedy Times Square.

With her father being a public figure, Pamela’s disappearance becomes a cause célèbre. With the help of a sympathetic, smooth-talking disc jockey (Tim Curry, in a role that was filmed in a hurry), the girls issue public statements in the form of songs and more dangerous acts or protest—most notably, indiscriminately dropping TVs from city rooftops but fortunately never killing anyone. The two become local celebrities, but their idyllic arrangement begins to unravel as it becomes obvious that Nicky actually is dealing with deep trauma, and could actually benefit from the help she ran away from.

There’s a disjointed quality to Times Square (1980), which has a great soundtrack and charming performances, but never fully gels. Shot on location throughout NYC in the fall of ’79, the movie looks authentic—it’s a real feast for viewers who like to pause discs to read old theater marquees, bus ads, and window signs. The Times Square it portrays, however, feels overtly candy-coated. Two teen girls find hip fashions in old luggage containers, live totally undisturbed in a makeshift crash pad in an abandoned pier overlooking the river, and are instantly beloved by every hooker and junkie they pass on the street. Heck, we’re supposed to believe that a thirteen-year-old (!) can dance fully-clothed at a Port Authority-adjacent strip club without being harassed. It’s hard to buy that two kids—the subjects of a citywide manhunt, no less—could last this long in the far cleaner, far safer Times Square of the 2020s, which is Disneyland compared to the grindhouses and crime that 42nd street was famous for in the late 1970s.

Originally filmed as a lesbian love story between the two girls, anything that would explicitly imply a romantic aspect to their relationship was scrubbed from the movie before it was released. Unfortunately, it feels like this removed the entire point of their story. And as easily enjoyable as Tim Curry is on screen, his role feels like one that probably shouldn’t have played a very large part of the story—and may have been artificially expanded once a known star had taken interest.

Despite all of this, the movie is still a must-have for fans of old New York—it’s chock full of marquees and posters advertising Bruce Lee knock-offs, low-budget horror films, and softcore sleaze. (The disc’s great picture quality makes all of these easily readable.) On top of that, the soundtrack’s pretty great, with songs by the Ramones, Talking Heads, Suzi Quatro, The Cure, Roxy Music and more. By no means is Time Square a bad movie, but it does give off brightly-flashing signals that it could have been something so much more had it not been re-configured for wider marketability.



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