Posted by: jgurner | January 18, 2011

The Cheap Bin – Bagdad Cafe

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anita and I pull a lot of movies from the various DVD “cheap bins.” Quite often, they are movies we’ve never even heard of or may have only heard the name. Sometimes we decide to get it because of the cast, or the blurb on the case or we thought we heard something good about the movie. Sometimes I don’t have a clue why we get them. But, since these are often the bulk of the movies we watch, I thought I’d start doing an occasional review. Often, these movies are years, even decades old, but, it’s nice to take a look back at something that might actually be really, really good.

BAGDAD CAFE

1987;  Starring: Marianne Sägebrecht, CCH Pounder and Jack Palance; Directed by: Percy Adlon

Big Lots – $3 bin

The only thing I knew about this movie before digging it out of the cheap bin was the title. When you first look at the DVD case, you notice all those little award logos that they often sprinkle across cases when it’s one of those award winners absolutely no one is going to see and ends up being shown a 3 a.m. on IFC or the Sundance Channel. But, the title caused me to pick it up and one of the actors, CCH Pounders, made me go ahead and decide to get it.

The Story: A German woman (Sägebrecht) gets in an argument with her husband while on vacation in the U.S. and walks away carrying only a suitcase. She comes across a run-down restaurant and hotel operated by Pounders and decides to stay. From there, the movie goes into her building relationships with Pounders and the other colorful characters that frequent the Bagdad Cafe and Hotel. You pretty much know from the onset how it’s going to play out, but that doesn’t matter. The fun is watching the interactions between the characters and the changes that come around to everyone as a result the woman’s decision to stay at the hotel.

Pretty much everyone that has anything to do with the Bagdad Cafe could only be described as “quirky” from the main characters all the way down to the local sheriff, who only appears in a couple of scenes. Together, they all paint an interesting picture of this hole-in-the-wall dive. From the onset, Pounders is a ball of fury and doesn’t seem to have a volume any lower than 11. And, to me, she made the movie. Ever since I saw her in the TV series The Shield, I’ve been a fan. She takes a great character and an interesting script and runs with it.

It may be a 24-year-old movie, written and directed by a German filmmaker, but with a timeless portrayal of friendship, it definitely stands the test of time and is well worth plucking it out of the cheap bin if you come across it.

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