Film Review, Vol. 31 No. 1, January 1981

Posted on 27th December 2016 in "Times Square"
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Cover of UK magazine containing feature artcle on "Times Square"

P. 3 (contents page) Relevant text: 22 TIMES SQUARE The adventures of two teenage girls (Robin Johnson and Trini Alvarado) and the all-night Times Square radio personality (Tim Curry) who gives a boost to their dream of rock stardom.

22
TIMES SQUARE
The adventures of two teenage girls (Robin Johnson and Trini Alvarado) and the all-night Times Square radio personality (Tim Curry) who gives a boost to their dream of rock stardom.

“With an off-beat beauty all her own, and an engaging rasping singing voice, Ms Johnson has enough female virility to fill many films yet, and is already pencilled in for the sequel to Grease.”

 

There’s no arguing with the fact that in January of 1981, the big movie in the UK was Flash Gordon.

 

Despite its title, Film Review didn’t contain an actual review of Times Square, but a promotional article. You can tell it’s not a review because it’s 100% positive.

 

Edit, 14 January 2017: After some consideration, I think this was actually a review, of sorts, and the author had seen the film before composing it. It’s a piece that appears in the next month’s issue of Film Review that’s an unabashed puff piece that might have been written by EMI’s publicity department. I still think this one was more promotion than review, though.

 

The first photo accompanying the article is worth the price of admission, though: a color shot of Robin, Trini, and Tim, taken at the same time as the black and white photo in the UK Press Kit. Also, to my knowledge the shot in the lower left corner, “Robin Johnson sings to her fans in her Sleaze Sisters apparel,” is making its first appearance. The remaining color photo was used as a lobby card, and the black and white photo on the following page is TS-72-8A/14 from the US Press Material Folder, which appeared in the AFD Campaign Pressbook, on the covers of the British and Japanese soundtrack sampler records, in US Magazine, in the Leader, and on one of the strange 2-photo 8x10s that misspelled Robert Stigwood’s name. So far, other than the portraits of Robin and Trini that were used on the soundtrack album cover and the US movie poster, this is the photo that most often helped promote the film.

The one thing the article has in common with most real reviews of the movie is that it ultimately focuses on Robin’s performance as the big reason to see it. It’s also the first mention of Robin’s next scheduled project, as the female lead in Robert Stigwood’s production of Grease 2. Remember that?

TIMES SQUARE

A thought-provoking tale of alienated teenages — their moods, their mad antics and their music

Two runaway teenage girls, a variety of New Wave rock music and a grimy, pristine backdrop of New York make up the ingredients of Times Square (an EMI release), Robert Stigwood’s latest offering to a youthful cinema-going public.

Robin Johnson, a spunky 15-year-old newcomer, plays with admirable bravado the central role of Nicky, a street urchin with destructive inclinations and a yen for musical stardom. In hospital for psychiatric tests, Nicky finds herself in the company of Pamela Pearl (played by Trini Alvarado — from Robert Altman’s Rich Kids), an introverted 12-year-old from a privileged background, also in for tests. Despite their opposing upbringings, the two run away together — from the System that oppresses them both — to lead an exuberant, retaliatory existence on the streets.

It is this slight story-line that makes up the canvas for a gritty but heart-warming story of today’s youth, their problems, their qualities, their understandable misgivings and denied intelligence. They make mistakes — like every young generation before them — but this breed is growing up faster than ever before.

Canadian director Alan Moyle, making his American film debut after a string of successful films and documentaries over the border, conjures up a realistic atmosphere to his scenes beyond the call of Hollywood duty — to the extent you sometimes feel you are watching the runaway duo for real.

Moyle cleverly intercuts his footage with shots of genuine Times Square coke snorters, back street alcoholics, Eighth Avenue prostitutes and pimps, and all the fun of the New York fair. For the climactic sequence he even managed to close 42nd Street’s “Deuce” (a notorious strip of theatres and porno cinemas) for the first time in New York film location history.

Between all this he concentrates his camera almost lovingly on the adventures of Johnson and Alvarado, who have meanwhile taken their anti-establishment hostilities one step further, adopting a dual identity and calling themselves The Sleaze Sisters Not without point!

Under this guise, wearing outrageous costumes pieced together from jumble outcasts and dustbin liners, they tear through the streets of New York begging for money, in their spare time levering tv sets — the ultimate symbol of the bourgeoisie — from the top storeys of Manhattan’s skyscrapers.

It is this singular prank that arouses the interest of the public, and in particular that of a late-night Times Square DJ, played with laid-back relish by England’s own Tim Curry, late of “The Rocky Horror Show”. Providing The Sleaze Sisters with even greater coverage on New York’s air waves, narrating their boardwalk escapades and even allowing them to sing their protests, DJ Johnny LaGuardia becomes the catalyst in Moyle’s story. Like the DJ Curry played on television in “City Sugar”, LaGuardia reaches out from the night to the receptive, confused soul of a young girl wanting, desiring an intimate liaison with an established anti-establishment voice. Here, Curry has two souls to contend with and, even though he is trying to help them and gain public sympathy (by this time the police are now hot on their trail), he is at the same time exploiting them, exploiting their isolation from society, the society which eventually they come to need.

So, Times Square turns out to be many things: an exciting, abrasive look at the uglier face of New York; a compassionate tale of two desperate runaways who find mutual friendship encountering a common enemy; and a musical featuring some of the finest New Wave sounds around, including contributions from The Pretenders, Lou Reed and Suzi Quatro.

But for all Moyle’s perspicacious and sensitive direction, it is young Robin Johnson’s performance that dominates the film. With an off-beat beauty all her own, and an engaging rasping singing voice, Ms Johnson has enough female virility to fill many films yet, and is already pencilled in for the sequel to Grease. □

Karen (DefeatedandGifted) posted her copy of these pages in March 2015.

 

 

Film Review, Vol. 31 No. 1, January 1981;
UK EMI Cinemas Ltd.;
magazine (periodical), AAT ID: 300215389; 29.8 cm (H) x 21.3 cm (W) (work);
1981-01 Film Review Vol 31 No 1 p01_1080px.jpg (cover)
1981-01 Film Review Vol 31 No 1 p03_1080px.jpg (contents)
1981-01 Film Review Vol 31 No 1 p22_1080px.jpg (“TIMES SQUARE”)
1981-01 Film Review Vol 31 No 1 p23_1080px.jpg (“TIMES SQUARE”)
1080 px (H), 96 dpi (images)

 

Film Review, Vol. 30 No. 10, October 1980

Posted on 1st February 2016 in "Times Square"
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“‘I’d sung in a choir when I was 12,’ Robin chirps…”

 

Film Review, Vol. 30 No. 10, October 1980 page 1

 

 

 

 

Assuming that any periodical dated October probably hit the stands in September, here’s a British magazine devoting an entire page to Robin, a month before Times Square’s premiere, and four months before it would open in the UK.
 

 

Film Review Vol 30 No 10 Oct 1980 p8, the first half of "Two New Arrivals on the New Wave of Music", dealing with Hazel O'Connor and <em>Breaking Glass</em>Full page advertisement for "Breaking Glass" (1980)
 

The article is the second half of a two-page spread entitled “Two New Arrivals on the New Wave of Music.” The first arrival is Hazel O’Connor, whose film Breaking Glass opens on September 21st according to an ad on page 41 (another reason to think the magazine was out before then).
 

 

The photo of Robin that accompanies the article is this one, which I believe to have been taken by Mick Rock at the same session that produced the shot appearing on the back cover of the soundtrack album. The photo on the magazine’s contents page is also from that same session. This may have been the only time they saw print.

The article isn’t attributed to any author. I can’t speak to the Hazel O’Connor portion, but the Robin half was composed entirely through clever editing of the press materials we’ve already seen, to make it look like an original interview. Here’s the text as it appears in the article; compare it with Robin’s bio in the Press Kit. (Robin doesn’t “chirp” in the Press Kit.)

THE NEW WAVE OF MUSIC

America’s ROBIN JOHNSON in ‘Times Square’

R08IN JOHNSON also plays a rock star in a film bursting with New Wave sounds, this time an American film — the forthcoming Times Square — but unlike Hazel O’Connor (see opposite) Robin is still only in her mid-teens.

Director Allan Moyle, formerly an actor in films like Joe, Outrageous! and Montreal Main, searched high and low for his young star. With the assistance of an army of talent scouts, Moyle went to youth centres and punk clubs and even placed advertisements in newspapers in the hope of finding his leading lady.

A prospector finally spotted 15-year-old Robin smoking a sly cigarette on the steps of Brooklyn’s Technological High School. Despite the absence of any formal theatrical training — “I’d sung in a choir when I was 12” Robin chirps — Moyle signed her up immediately for the demanding role of Nicky Marotta, a 15-year-old street “delinquent” who dreams of becoming a rock star.

“We were looking for someone who was Nicky,” Allan Moyle explains, “but Robin’s definitely not that doomed child. Luckily for the picture she’s brought a lot more humour to the character than I had originally envisioned. Robin’s youthful innocence and energy buoy what might have been too much of a downer.”

Times Square, the first of four New York-based, multi-million dollar films to be produced by Robert Stigwood — already laughing all the way to the bank with Grease and Saturday Night Fever — is a contemporary drama about two very opposite youngsters yearning for the same dream: success at the top of the rock ‘n’ roll ladder. With a strong musical soundtrack performed by the likes of Patti Smith, Talking Heads and Tom Petty, Times Square takes over where Fame left off. and with a budget of $5½ million is the first New Wave-influenced film backed by a major studio.

“I was standing on the stoop at Brooklyn’s Technological High,” Robin recalls, “when a man gave me this card and said to call the number if I was interested in being in a movie. Well I just thought ‘Oh. another wise guy’, but gave it a shot.” The part of Nicky, a rebellious and spunky runaway, turned out to be a tougher role than young Miss Johnson had envisaged, calling for an intensive programme of voice lessons, singing tutorial and dance and movement classes, as well as performing on the roof of a 42nd Street theatre marquee, getting dumped in the polluted waters of the Hudson River (in December!) and having to chew a mouthfull of roses. “That was pretty disgusting. I’d never tasted flowers before,” Robin scowls.

Robin Johnson is a pretty girl displaying a keen sense of fun, as well as being both witty and talented. She also took to the rigours of film-making like a true professional.

But films aren’t the beginning and end-all of Robin’s life. “I hope Times Square does well, but it’s not the answer to my life, though I loved meeting and working with so many wonderful people. And I’d like to work with Allan again.” Let’s hope for our sakes that Times Square is the success Robin deserves.

Times Square is an EMI film co-starring Tim Curry as an all-night disc jockey and Trini Alvarado (from Robert Altman’s Rich Kids) as the timid 12-year-old whom Robin befriends.

I think that was the final mention of Tom Petty’s association with the movie.

Film Review was published by EMI Cinemas Ltd. Times Square was an EMI film in the UK, so perhaps it’s not surprising that their magazine would create an article from their own publicity materials. That’s what they’re for, after all.

Finally, here’s a better look at the photo from the contents page:Detail of the Mick Rock photograph of Robin Johnson from page 3 of Film Review, Vol. 30 No. 10, October 1980

Karen (DefeatedandGifted) wrote about this article in October 2011.

 

 

Film Review, Vol. 30 No. 10, October 1980;
UK EMI Cinemas Ltd.; 29.8 cm (H) x 21.3 cm (W) (work);
Film Review Vol 30 No 10 Oct 1980 p1_1080px.jpg (cover)
Film Review Vol 30 No 10 Oct 1980 p3_1080px.jpg (contents)
Film Review Vol 30 No 10 Oct 1980 p3_detail2_1080px.jpg (detail of contents page)
Film Review Vol 30 No 10 Oct 1980 p8_1080px.jpg (“Two New Arrivals on the New Wave of Music”)
Film Review Vol 30 No 10 Oct 1980 p9_1080px.jpg (“Two New Arrivals on the New Wave of Music”)
Film Review Vol 30 No 10 Oct 1980 p41_1080px.jpg (ad for Breaking Glass)
1080 px (H), 96 dpi (images)