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For, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: In addition to his many popular what-if? novels, Michael Crichton also wrote and directed six feature films, the 1970s hits ‘Westworld,’ ‘Coma’ and ‘The Great Train Robbery,’ followed by the less successful ’80s pictures “Looker,” “Runaway,” and “Physical Evidence.” He had his greatest success, of course, in the 1990s with ‘Jurassic Park,’ first with the novel and then Steven Spielberg’s movie. Among Crichton’s later directing efforts, however, “Looker” apparently has a following large enough for Warner Archive to give it a new Blu-ray upgrade. Here’s my review, published Nov. 4, 1981, in the Deseret News.

“Looker” is a very superficial film with a contrived script that makes little sense, especially when it tries to be a murder mystery — and more especially when it tries to be social satire.

But I have to admit, it does have a certain amiable charm in its own foolishness and a very likable cast. Call “Looker” a guilty pleasure. I liked it more than I should have.

Michael Crichton, who has given us such diverse fare as “Westworld,” “The Great Train Robbery” and “Coma,” returns to medical science fiction, this time with media manipulation, specifically television advertising in “Looker.”


Writer-director Michael Crichton, left, and Albert Finney on the set of 'Looker.'

Albert Finney is a high-rolling Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who has four clients he has made perfect, beautiful women with lists of minor flaws that need to be corrected according to computer specifications.

Then the women begin mysteriously dying one by one and Finney turns gumshoe, with the help of one surviving model (Susan Dey), to uncover the mystery.

Slowly he realizes that corporate magnate James Coburn has a sinister plot to use commercials in such a way that audiences will subliminally be forced to buy his products. What Coburn (or Crichton) doesn’t seem to realize is that TV audiences already find themselves doing just that.

Writer-director Crichton gives “Looker” a sleek treatment that is reminiscent of both “Westworld” and “Coma,” but there are too many loopholes left uncovered. Why the women have to be murdered in this plot is never explained, and his ending is a redundant string of silly commercial spoofs done in a black humor mode that seems out of place.


Lobby card for 'Looker': James Coburn and Leigh Taylor-Young

On the plus side, however, Albert Finney is always enjoyable to watch, Susan Dey (that former “Partridge Family” girl) is good as a hip, modern model and James Coburn is one of the best big-shot bad guys around. Even Playmate of the Year Terri Welles looks good here … that is, she is an appealing actress.

A friend with whom I saw “Looker” described it as glossy and indeed it is. It wasn’t until we had left the show for a few hours that I began to realize how many loose ends had been left.

Either Crichton is getting lazy or “Looker” was butchered in the editing room (the former seems more likely as the film is briskly paced, the background score — a neat one by Barry DeVorzon — intelligently used and the buildup fairly suspenseful).

On the other hand, it might simply be that such subjects as mind-control and TV advertising have been overused as plot devices.

“Looker” is rated PG for violence, nudity and profanity, and is definitely not for the little ones.