As a society, we faced a lot of heartache and loss in 2020 on pretty much every front. Over in the world of film, one of the losses that hit the hardest was the death of Joel Schumacher in June. To take a surface view of his films, you would find quite the eclectic body of work ranging from Falling Down to The Phantom of the Opera. Schumacher is perhaps best known around these parts as the man who took over the Batman films from Tim Burton, which we will just say was quite the experience. Whether you loved his films or you hated them, you have to admit that the man was unpredictable in a really interesting way. Even going back to his early days, you find yourself baffled by the fact that his second feature as a director was D.C. Cab from 1983. That’s right, Schumacher directed a comedy starring Mr. T and a cadre of familiar 80s faces about a ragtag group of cab drivers who get into the most un-PC situations. It is hard to classify this film as good, but it is certainly an experience that should not be forgotten to time. Let us raise a glass to Schumacher as we lovingly reflect upon this wild feature.
To dissect the plot of a film such as D.C. Cab is folly on behalf of all parties involved, but we shall do so regardless. Our gateway to the rough and tumble world of D.C. cab driving is the fresh-faced Albert (Adam Baldwin, Full Metal Jacket), an amiable fellow who wants to get into the cab business for reasons that are beyond my comprehension. Maybe it is the simple fact that his father’s old army buddy Harold (Max Gail, Barney Miller) owns the D.C. Cab Company and he figures he has a job available if he wants it. Little does Harold know, but Albert will be the best thing that ever happened to his company. Harold welcomes young Albert with great excitement, and he throws him into the deep end by tasking him with riding around with the various colorful cabbies who make up D.C. Cab. You see, Harold’s business is more than a little rough around the edges. In the world Schumacher has created, these individuals would likely be more at home in an asylum than out on the street with customers. In essence, the perfect scenario for a ragtag 80s movie.
The most glaring example of this is the gleefully unhinged Dell, embodied by the manic Gary Busey in a performance that is casually racist and unrepentantly sexist – right in Busey’s wheelhouse. You have the womanizing Xavier (Paul Rodriguez), who is looking to drive his cab long enough to find some rich lady who will make him a kept man. There is the cartoonishly over-the-top Tyrone (Charlie Barnett – always with rollers in his hair), who might just have a few secrets up his sleeve. Perhaps most famously, you have Samson (Mr. T), the good-natured, level-headed driver of the bunch who mostly wants to make sure the kids in the community can have a role model besides the pimp with the tricked-out car. For the most part, these are not fully fleshed-out characters, they are a means to deliver the most amount of gags possible in 1-hour-and-40-minute runtime. There does need to be some semblance of growth, though, which leads to these underdogs fighting back against a society that is trying to usher them out. A deus ex machina of a windfall helps them a great deal in this respect.
As with many films of this era, this production is presented almost like a live-action Looney Tunes adventure. Everything about this film is bright and colorful, both literally and metaphorically. The story is unrealistic and baffling. I mean, warring cab companies already set up a heightened reality, but then you throw in an unrelated kidnapping plot? The jokes are extremely crude and low-brow. No group is spared from the shrapnel that is these politically incorrect joke grenades. Most of it is not very funny when viewed with modern eyes, but the energy is so wild that you cannot help but be transfixed by all of the wild places this film goes. The movie does get dragged down by an underdeveloped love story between Albert and a young waitress (Jill Schoelen) that could not have been given less depth. As mentioned before, D.C. Cab is not a good film, but it is such a unhinged experience in which everyone gives 110% effort that it is easy to find some charm in it. This film is painfully entrenched in the 80s, so those who appreciate that era of over-the-top cheese might want to make room for this.
D.C. Cab gets an upgrade on Blu-Ray courtesy of Kino Classics with a 1080p master in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer is sourced from a problematic older master provided by Universal Pictures that does everything it can to eliminate the natural appearance of the production through digital manipulation. This disc features sharpening that leaves this transfer plagued with waxy looking shots and a glaring lack of natural film grain. There are some nuanced, vibrant colors that make the film pop in a visually exciting way. Unfortunately, skin tones do not look natural, and the presentation really suffers from black crush. The presentation is lacking the fine detail you would hope for from a Blu-Ray upgrade. While the film may not be the most coveted film, it feels like one that would benefit greatly from a new master.
This new Blu-Ray comes with a lossless DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mix that captures the intention of the film really well. The dialogue holds up wonderfully, coming through clearly without being stepped on by the score or sound effects. The environmental effects are delineated nicely from the idling of automobiles to the chattering in bustling locations. The track avoids any instances of age related wear and tear or distortion. This is a film bursting at the seams with music including an infectious title theme from Irene Cara. The songs maintain a pleasing fidelity as they fill up the room. This is a track that represents the film in a loving manner. Optional English subtitles are provided on this disc.
- Audio Commentary: Film Historian/Filmmaker Daniel Kremer and Film Critic Scout Tafoya give an informative commentary track that goes into many of the technical and behind-the-scenes details about the production and talent involved with the film. The track is packed with interesting tidbits that go a long way to enhancing your enjoyment of the film.
- Radio Spots: Four minutes of radio spots are provided here that play up various angles of the film.
- Trailers: The two-and-a-half-minute theatrical trailer for D.C. Cab is provided here. Trailers for My Bodyguard, Bustin’ Loose, Moving Violations and Veronica Guerin are also provided.
D.C. Cab is a film unburdened by the need to be grounded or cohesive in any real way. This is meant as a sincere compliment. Joel Schumacher created a heightened world in which he could gather all of these disparate comedic personalities and make them interact via a paper-thin, convoluted plot. It would be disingenuous to call this one a hilarious cult classic, but it is fair to say it is a curious experience that one must embark upon to believe. Kino Classics has given this one a Blu-Ray with a mixed-bag of an A/V presentation and a few interesting special features. This one will not be for everyone, but those who appreciate oddball comedies from the 80s will want to check this out for themselves.
D.C. Cab is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Kino Classics has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.