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DANCE OR DIE (director/writer: Richard W. Munchkin; cinematographer: Peter Jensen; editor: Paul G. Volk; music: John Gonzalez; cast: Ray Kieffer (Jason Chandler), Jake Jacobs (Hasbro), Lauri Thompson (Lead Dancer), Rebecca Barrington (Diane), Georgia Neu (Kay); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Richard Pepin/Joseph Merhi; City Lights (PM Entertainment); 1987)
Tells an incoherent story only its creator might possibly love.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A badly made obscure straight-to-video thriller filmed in Las Vegas. The uncanny filmmaker Richard W. Munchkin(“Ring of Fire”/”Evil Obsession”/”Guardian Angel”) is the auteur of this vexing and vague film, that tells an incoherent story only its creator might possibly love.

The liner notes on the VHS box say “Jason Chandler (Ray Kieffer) wants just two things in life: to stay off drugs, and to choreograph a dance show in Las Vegas that rivals Flashdance.” The recovering druggie’s 26-year-old’s roommate Alan deals cocaine from the apartment. When one of Alan’s mobster business partners, called the Turtle, catches him cheating, he shows up one day with his gang at a backyard barbecue and guns down Alan and his guests. Jason is still alive because he didn’t attend the barbecue. But problems arise because the thugs believe he’s hiding the missing merchandise and begin to harass him with threatening phone calls. Jason hires a psychic to help find the missing stash, continues having whacky dreams of dancers in odd outfits and still cruises the neighborhood looking to hit on chicks. When Jason finds the stash, we wonder if he will again become an addict.

Jason might be a loser, but he has two women in his life he cares about–his nutty girlfriend Diane (Rebecca Barrington) and his sincere drug counselor Kay (Georgia Neu).

In the end, Jason has enough balls to put on the Las Vegas show with his inept troupe. The number is so laughably wretched, that it couldn’t be funnier. That might be reason enough for lovers of bad films to find favor with this existential horror story, a film that has its wimpy hero, in the end, awkwardly ask himself if he’s on the right path. Others just might be blown away to see for themselves that the odd-couple roommates keep an aquarium in their backyard and not inside their house.

Patty Kelly sings the title song.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”