❉ Time to reappraise Oliver Stone’s surreal six-hour ‘event series’…
I can remember watching the Los Angeles-set, neo-noir mystery Wild Palms, which was released in 1993 and aired on ABC as a prime-time event, with my parents, in our old living room, and not having any clue what I was become engrossed by. Filmmakers were starting to make an impression on me during this time period, and because this was billed as “Oliver Stone Presents,” my curiosity was piqued to a high degree. Spanning 286 minutes over five episodes, this bizarre, purposefully convoluted, and extremely entertaining mini-series arrived with a ton of hot-buzz, but received mixed reviews from critics, some of whom tried to unfairly paint a correlation to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks universe, which had aired on ABC a few years earlier. I also never realised until my recent revisit that the low-key stylish camerawork and moody lighting was handled by now-veteran Phedon Papamichael (Ford v Ferrari, Sideways), and features a robust and passionate score by Ryuichi Sakamoto (Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, The Revenant, Snake Eyes, Femme Fatale).
Wild Palms directly deals with the hidden (or, in some instances, not so hidden…) dangers of politically motivated abuse concerning the use of mass media technology, with a firm emphasis placed on virtual reality and how people interact with technology on a daily basis. Based on a comic strip written by Bruce Wagner and illustrated by Julian Allen, which was first published in 1990 in Details magazine, the series featured an all-star roster of directors, including Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days, The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), Keith Gordon (The Chocolate War, Waking the Dead, A Midnight Clear), Peter Hewitt (Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Borrowers) and Phil Joanou (State of Grace, Three O’Clock High), with Wagner writing all of the episodes, and Stone serving as an executive producer. The stacked-cast allowed for James Belushi, Dana Delany, Robert Loggia, Robert Morse, Bob Gunton, Brad Dourif, Kim Cattrall, Bebe Neuwirth, David Warner, and Angie Dickinson to run wild with the surreal material. And let’s not forget about that pesky rhino that keeps popping up all throughout the series.
Interestingly enough, in 2014, Cronenberg and Wagner collaborated on the film Maps to the Stars, starring Julianne Moore and John Cusack, which makes several references to the Wild Palms universe, including pieces of dialogue and specific situations and character traits. There are also references, both visual/thematic and spoken, which directly recall Cronenberg’s 80’s freak-out, Videodrome. Sporting a brand new 2K master, the Kino Lorber Blu-ray of Wild Palms includes some juicy supplemental material, including new Audio Commentary by Belushi and Wagner, an Audio Commentary by Delany and Wagner, two new Audio Commentaries by director Keith Gordon on the episodes The Floating World and Hungry Ghosts, and a new Audio Commentary by director Phil Joanou on episode Hello, I Must Be Going. All in all, Wild Palms is a blast of old-school, paranoid fun, containing as many tantalizing ideas as it does indelible imagery.
❉ Brand New 2K Master
❉ NEW Audio Commentary by Star James Belushi & Executive Producer/Writer/Creator Bruce Wagner (Pilot Episode: Everything Must Go)
❉ Audio Commentary by Star Dana Delany & Executive Producer/Writer/Creator Bruce Wagner (Episode: Rising Sons)
❉ Two NEW Audio Commentaries by Director Keith Gordon (Episodes: The Floating World & Hungry Ghosts)
❉ NEW Audio Commentary by Director Phil Joanou (Episode: Hello, I Must Be Going)
❉ Optional English Subtitles
❉ Dual-Layered BD50 Disc
❉ Wild Palms (Blu-ray) – Kino Lorber Home Video. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Keith Gordon, Peter Hewitt and Phil Joanou. Running Time: 286. UPC: 7 38329 24538 2. $
34.95 USD. Click here to buy (Only ships to US & Canada)
❉ Nick Clement is a journalist for Variety Magazine and motion picture screenplay consultant, as well as a critic for websites We Are Cult and Back to the Movies. He wrote the introduction to the book Double Features: Big Ideas in Film, which was published by The Great Books Foundation, and is currently working on a book about the life and work of filmmaker Tony Scott. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and son.