Kino Lorber was right to bring out Foxes (1980) in Blu-ray under their KL Studio Classics series. The elegant re-issue seems aimed at convincing film snobs that this little gem from the last days of disco finally deserves their attention after a distance of 35 years, during which time it was either dismissed as another insignificant teen comedy of the ‘80s, or as a guilty pleasure. But longtime champions of the film, myself included, need no convincing. We owned the clamshell VHS, we owned the first-generation DVD, and now, if anything, I’d venture to say we feel vindicated that it now carries the stamp as a bonafide classic by a home video label as respected as Kino Lorber. Indeed, a major fist-pump moment comes during director Adrian Lyne’s remark in the audio commentary that Roger Ebert selected it as his favorite film of 1980 and took it with him to the Dallas Film Festival that year.
French lobby card.
Speaking of the commentary, British director Lyne’s (“Fatal Attraction,” “Flashdance,” “9 ½ Weeks”) fascinating and intimate recollections are worth the price of the disc alone. He made his directorial debut with the movie and is at times almost apologetic over what he sees as the wobbly choices of a first-time director. Viewers will note scenes that contain what came to be known as his signature style in movies like “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Fatal Attraction”: single-source lighting, using smoke on set to create light rays, and other stylistic techniques from his background as a commercial director. He is refreshingly candid and modest throughout, revealing misgivings over a scene he feels should have been cut or one that goes on too long, as well as revealing funny anecdotes about the actors. Randy Quaid, for example, donned a carnival mask in an umpteenth take of a scene that Lyne felt he just wasn’t getting right; Kandace Stroh had to be screamed at in her face so she could cry, and other funny reminiscences.
Sally Kellerman’s on-camera interview is another bonus, but she seems hard-pressed to remember much about filming “Foxes,” since at the time of production she was also shooting another feature in Israel. As a result she had to repeatedly jump on transatlantic flights between LA and Tel Aviv to shoot both pictures simultaneously. Kellerman is nonetheless a hoot just to listen to, as her trademark breathy, blousy way of talking just seduces you all over again, a la “Hot Lips O’Houlihan.” At one point she interrupts a story to ask her interviewer, “What is Blu-ray anyway?”
“Foxes” is a portrait of a group of teen girlfriends in LA’s San Fernando Valley at the cusp of the ‘80s, mothered by bossy and precocious Jeanie, played by Jodie Foster. They are real Valley Girls at varying degrees of promiscuity and jadedness. The baby-face of the group, bespectacled Madge (Marilyn Kagan) wears her virginity as a badge of shame, while druggie Annie (Cherie Currie of The Runaways) is trying to hide out from her abusive cop father, who wants to commit her to a mental hospital. They’re all trying to act older than they are, hosting awkward dress-up dinners in homes not their own, sleeping around and cutting class. Scott Baio plays a skateboarding drifter who’s dropped out of school and now fills fire extinguishers to make money. He seems to be everyone’s kid brother, when he’s not trying to sleep with one or another of the girls. Jeanie (Foster) seems to be hopelessly devoted to saving doomed Annie, to the point of suggesting lesbian longing, especially given Jeanie’s indifference to her part-time boyfriend Scott (Robert Romanus) but it never goes that far. That’s pretty much the whole plot: a loosely woven series of moments in their lives, punctuated by concerts, fights with parents, and cruising Hollywood Boulevard -- until an inevitable tragedy strikes one of them and closes the story, offering an open-ended but decidedly down take on teen life.
In one of the film’s key scenes, Jeanie and her mother, Mary (Sally Kellerman) have it out at home after Mary has picked up her daughter from another police station. Mary, herself a divorced mother who sleeps around, tells her daughter: “I don’t like your friends….You’re all a bunch of short forty year-olds and you’re tough.” But Mary’s honesty gets the better of her when minutes later she breaks down and admits that when she sees them lying around “half out of your clothes….you’re beautiful. I admit it, you’re all beautiful -- and you make me hate my hips. I hate my hips.” Lyne calls out the scene as his favorite and pays tribute to screenwriter Gerald Ayres for its emotional truth.
Visually, “Foxes” is beautiful to watch in this Blu-ray edition, whereas previous home video issues made the cinematography look murky. “Midnight Express” and “Fame” cinematographer Michael Seresin’s artful camerawork gives the picture a soft-focus and pastel coloring, even managing to make the smoggy sunlight of Los Angeles look like an oil painting. Lyne says he shot some of the Hollywood Boulevard scenes himself, and they give the film an authentic sense of time and place, with glimpses of street life that remind the viewer of a pre-gentrified Hollywood, much like New York’s 42nd Street at the same time.
As Lyne explains, the picture was put together by producer David Puttnam and Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart, who was obviously keen to use the movie as a vehicle for his hottest artists of the time, most prominent being Donna Summer. Her beautiful disco classic “On the Radio” plays over the opening titles, while Cher -- another Casablanca artist -- literally plays on a radio in the opening scene, post-credits. Is it a duel between the two, top disco divas of ‘79-80? Fragments of “On the Radio” repeat throughout the film, taking on a more melancholy tone as the story comes to a close. Euro-disco composer Giorgio Moroder provided the score -- containing echoes of his music for “Midnight Express” (1978) -- and other artists to listen for on the soundtrack include Janice Ian, Foreigner and Brooklyn Dreams. When the girls go to see Angel in concert at the Shrine Auditorium, Lyne confirms in the commentary a suspicion I have had for years: They couldn’t get KISS, who was on tour during filming.
Released between two movies that became classics of the L.A. High School genre, Rock ‘n Roll High School (1979) and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), Foxes dared to silence its teen audience with issues of heavy drug use and overdoses, teen pregnancy, domestic abuse and premature death. In fact, Lyne reveals that writer Gerald Ayres (“The Last Detail,” “Rich and Famous”) based Jodie Foster’s character on his own teen daughter, whom he accompanied to high school and on friend outings to gain more authentic insights into her world. Tonally, “Foxes” is more of a true companion piece to “Little Darlings” (1980), starring Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol, or “The Last American Virgin” (1982), both of which satisfy their audiences’ demands in the sexual-initiation and awkward-high-school-moments departments, but manage to slip in moments of true pathos.
Someday, perhaps, Jodie Foster will participate in reminiscing about the making of “Foxes” as an indulgence to the movie’s fans, as she has done on numerous other commentary tracks of her other, “serious” films. Likewise Scott Baio. In the meantime, Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray is the definitive collector’s edition to date and one to enjoy for years to come.