Saturday, 11 February 2012

  • Someone To Watch Over Me


United States, 1987
Columbia presents a film directed by Ridley Scott, and produced by Thierry de Ganay and Harold Schneider. Written by Howard Franklin.
Photographed by Steven Poster.
Edited by Claire Simpson. Music by Michael Kamen. Running time: 106 minutes.

BBFC Classification: 15 (Swearing violence)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Cast: Tom Berenger, Lorraine Bracco, Mimi Rogers, Andreas Katsulas, Daniel Hugh Kelly

Director: Ridley Scott

UK Distributor: Columbia Pictures


By 1987, Ridley Scott had spent 10 years in the film business, yet all of his movies were period pieces.

The Duellists was a Napoleonic era piece while Alien and Blade Runner were future tense. Legend was from a time before time so it seemed the final frontier for Scott to tackle was the present.

The movie was greenlit at an interesting time. Scott's old mate David Puttnam was head of Columbia Pictures and while he wasn't too keen at giving a thumbs up to Ghostbusters II, the thought of a stylish cop thriller with Scott at the helm seemed far more up his street.

Puttnam's refusal to go for the obvious moneymakers such as Ghostbusters II led to his dismissal around the same time that STWOM was released.
Top trivia: Scott was originally trying to develop a film called Johnny Utah. When that didn't happen, he went off to work on this movie instead. Johnny Utah was eventually made as Point Break with Kathryn Bigelow at the helm.

Of course, cop thrilers are nothing new and it seemed the genre was so well worn, many wondered what such an original director was doing in that field.
Consider the initial financial failure of Blade Runner and the merciless critical drubbing of Legend and you'll realise that Scott needed to play it safe in order to prove he could deliver a more studio friendly picture - one that made money as oppose to being an arthouse classic.
After all, as a commercial director, what he had delivered in the previous few years had been far from commercial.
"Compared to what I had already done, Someone To Watch Over Me was very normal," he remarked. So Scott opted for a more routine route but realised after the production it was a bad move.
"Not many people can do great oddball stuff," he remarked.

The movie was pitched to him during a 1985 dinner party with screenwriter Howard Franklin.
Scott liked it so much he decided to develop it from scratch.
The plot is simple enough: a detective from working-class background falls in love with society beauty. She's witnessed a murder and needs protection from the killer.
However, the detective is torn between the socialite and his working class wife as things build to a head.
Top trivia: As with another Scott movie (brother Tony's The Hunger) this also features Lakme by Delibes, the haunting love theme also used in Scott's commercial for British Airways.
A simple enough framework and probably Scott's warmest film up to that point.
From the stunning helicopter shot of New York city, Sting singing the title theme (by George and Ira Gershwin) as tail lights of cars look like blood flowing to the heart of the Big Apple.

The bulk of the movie works well but it doesn't seem to have anywhere to go. What it needs its an explosive finale and what it gets is more of a damp squib fizzle out.

Top trivia: When ITV screened the movie in 1991, they ommitted the word when Ellie Keegan swears - an integral point which shows how husband Mike suddenly finds her cursing offensive because of the offect posh totty Claire Gregory is having on him. The result was Ellie getting angry over nothing and no doubt left a few million viewers scratching their heads.
Scott spent 11 weeks during the latter half of 1986 shooting the film in Manhattan Queens and LA.
Mimi Rogers luxurious penthouse was a set built in California
The murder scene was shot in a swimming pool on the Queen Mary, a defunct luxury liner in California.
The reception:
Whether due to Columbia's new blood after Puttnam's departure or a general lack of faith in the project, STWOM grossed a mere 10million-dollars at the US box office. It fared well in the UK and stayed in the Top 10 for a few weeks but compared to the blockbuster success of Alien, it was far from an impressive return on the investment.
However, it does remain one of the highpoints in both Berenger and Rogers' careers and gave Hollywood two of its most reliable co-stars, The Sopranos' Lorraine Bracco and Andreas Katsulas, who went on to feature in Star Trek: TNG, Babylon 5 and The Fugitive.

Mike Keegan: Tom Berenger
Claire Gregory: Mimi Rogers
Ellie Keegan: Lorraine Bracco
Lt. Garber: Jerry Orbach
Neil Steinhart John Rubinstein
Joey Venza Andreas Katsulas