Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Trackdown: Finding the Goodbar Killer (1983)

Network: CBS
Original Air Date: October 15th, 1983

Now I get it.

In the years that have passed since I acquired a copy of Trackdown, I found myself mysteriously drawn to the opening main title sequence, which I’ve seen several times. At first I thought it was the pure kitschiness of it all - listening to Laura Branigan’s Gloria while watching a sea of extras boogie on a glittering dance floor. Of all the made for television movies I’ve seen, Trackdown’s opening remains the single best title sequence I have ever seen. But once the film moved past the opening ten minutes and into the meat of the film, which is a simple police procedural, I always lost heart. Well, I finally gave it the old college try, watched, and rather enjoyed, the whole film.

Where she starts

Where she ends up

However, it took a little background research to make me truly appreciate it. Trackdown asks not to be associated with the 70s shocker Looking for Mr. Goodbar, although it’s almost impossible not to connect these films. Both are about a school teacher leading a double life, and essentially Trackdown is the follow-up to the tragic ending of Looking. George Segal is Detective John Grafton – you know the drill, he’s that hard-boiled but likable guy who’s married to his job, much to the disappointment of his soon-to-be-ex-wife and daughter (Tracy Pollan in a good part). The film mostly follows Grafton as he works the ins and outs of a seemingly unsolvable crime. Along the way he meets the victim’s co-worker Logan Gay (Shelly Hack) and the two begin a casual relationship (slightly mirroring in a G-rated fashion the victim's free love lifestyle but with morals thrown at us). At one point they hit the club circuit in search of the killer. Aside from the opening sequence, this is the second best scene in Trackdown. In fact, it's not that gripping of a film, but because director Bill Persky captures something so vibrantly dream like in those club scenes and because it follows the true crime story of the capture of the killer with some accuracy (and respect) that Trackdown becomes better than it really should have been.

Don't pull no punches, K?

I have seen Looking for Mr. Goodbar once. It was a completely harrowing experience. I have never read the book, nor did I even know it was based on a real life murder. The victim was named Roseann Quinn and at the time, her life and death encompassed all that was spinning out of control in the early 70s. I think because Quinn’s murder occurred right at the beginning of the “free love” decade, people were not prepared for what her death symbolized. And to this day, Quinn continues to fascinate, which is why I’m pleased this movie kept to the facts without proselytizing.

And now I understand why that opening sequence has haunted me all these years. This scene manages to give the audience just enough insight into who the victim was. As the dance floor lights up, your eyes are drawn to one beautiful girl-next-door type who turns out to simply be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Throughout the film Grafton continues to remind us that she was like any girl anywhere. Dark secrets aside, she was just someone who picked the wrong guy and paid for it in the worst way possible. This is why Roseann Quinn's story continues to captivate. Who knew you could get all that from a guy throwing glitter?


Keir said...

Hi! I've been looking for a copy of Trackdown for a while. Would you be interested in a trade? I don't think I have any made for TV movies, but I have lots of shows like USA Up All Night, Commander USA, Monstervision, etc.


Adam said...

Hi Amanda,

My name is Adam. I'm currently in the process of working on an official tribute website for the late character actor Joe Spinell. He had a very small part in this film as a doorman. The film of course is pretty hard to come by and I've been trying to "track down" (haha) a copy for a long time now. I was wondering if maybe we could work out a trade of some sort? Or if not, I'd be willing to purchase a copy off you and give you a personal shout out on the site. Shoot me an e-mail and let's talk -

Crafty C said...

This looks really interesting! I've never seen it but Looking For Mr Goodbar is on of my all time fav movies. I was hoping to find at least a clip of it on youtube but :(

Thanks for reviewing it!