There are things that I’ve done in writing this blog that I’m not proud of. Things that only a truly desperate man would do. For example, last night I watched the 1990 film Catchfire just to see a one-minute cameo by Bob Dylan. It left me feeling ashamed of myself.

Catchfire, according to the fine folks at Wikipedia, was a 1990 film, produced by Dick Clark, that was disowned by its director and star, Dennis Hopper. Wikipedia indicates that Hopper insisted that his name be removed, and that the film is credited to Alan Smithee. The copy I watched (online here, but, really, don’t watch it) did include him as director, so I don’t know about that. Apparently there is a longer cut that is known as Backtrack also. The running times on Wikipedia indicate that I watched the shorter version. I could not have survived the long version.

Let me lay out the plot for you (I lost some notes due to a poorly executed email migration at my workplace, but it shouldn’t matter). Jodie Foster plays Anne Benton, a feminist conceptual artist in LA. Benton’s art is provided by Jenny Holzer, in what was surely the worst mistake of Holzer’s career. It’s not a case of them hiring Holzer to make faux-Holzer pieces, they just use well-known (now) Holzer pieces. Anyway, Anne is about to have her big gallery opening when she accidentally witnesses mobster Joe Pesci killing someone. She is then tracked by dim-bulb mobsters played by John Turturro and Tony Sirico (Paulie from The Sopranos with the same hair, minus the silver) who try to kill her at her apartment, but who only kill her boyfriend, played by Charlie Sheen. When federal agent Fred Ward is unable to protect her (in a sign of how awful this movie is he offers to put her in the “Federal Protection Witness Program” and they don’t bother to fix that), she goes on the lam. The mob hires a sax-playing hit man (YES! REALLY!) played by Hopper to find her. Several months later he does so – recognizing her work in ad and going to the ad firm. For some reason the Feds also are able to do this and they show up simultaneously. She flees to Taos, NM and Hopper finds her again (as do the Feds – again, I’m not sure how). Here’s where it becomes really bad. Rather than killing her, Hopper kidnaps her as he has become obsessed with photos of her in lingerie. He thens forces her into a relationship and she learns to love him and they flee the mob, and there is a helicopter chase (really!) and then they blow up the bad guys and the end.

It is easy to see why Hopper wanted his name off of this. Despite the cast (in addition to the above, add Catherine Keener, Vincent Price, Dean Stockwell….) this is a total piece of crap: no tension, no drama, no nothing. Worse, it is generally pro-rape. When Hopper’s character finally rapes Anne, it is played super-sexy, and, of course, it is what the feminist conceptualist has always secretly longed for. This film is truly an abomination.

Okay, fine, but what about Bob? Well, you can see his entire performance here:

Dylan plays an artist who works with a chainsaw (the art is supplied by Charles Arnoldi, hat tip on that to my friend Robert Boyd who also, sadly, watched this film so he could blog about the art; somewhere there is a Dennis Hopper blogger suffering through this as well). He isn’t able to help Hopper, and Hopper gets mad at him. The end. Dylan’s performance here may be his worst yet. Think about this: he is worse than he is in Renaldo and Clara, and at least during the filming of that he was mostly drunk.


So, the film is worse than Hearts of Fire, Dylan is worse in it, and he doesn’t even sing. It’s ninety minutes that I’ll never get back.

Note to Robert: Anne’s character has two Ed Ruscha’s on the walls of her apartment, but they didn’t get mentioned in your blog! By the way, I saw the Hopper photography exhibition at the Royal Academy last week in London, and he had a great photo of a mid-1960s Ruscha, who was more handsome than I thought he was. No photos of Dylan, though they did play The Band’s “The Weight” throughout the space on an endless loop, presumably to drive people insane.

Also, I have NO idea what the title of this film is supposed to refer to. I mean, none.


Bob Dylan

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