R, 1990, 97 minutes, closed captioned, Orion Home Video, $89.98.
There's something wild about "Miami Blues," something reminiscent of Jonathan Demme's haunted birthday party style. Though written and directed by George Armitage, this is Demme's first outing as producer, a breathlessly off-kilter reinvention of the gumshoe genre based on Charles Willeford's pulp detective novel. Fred Ward is Moseley, a veteran copper who pits his rumpled wiles against the brute ingenuity of Junior (Alec Baldwin), a frenetic ex-convict who steals his badge and gun. Posing as Moseley, Junior becomes a Robin Hood of sorts, interrupting robberies and making off with the booty to support his American Dreamgirl. Jennifer Jason Leigh portrays Susie, a coed who is putting herself through school as a hooker when she is engaged by Junior, who falls in love with and shortly weds the waif. This is something of a cracked romance, love and death played for laughs behind a white picket fence. "I want a regular life. I want to go to work in the mornings, and sometimes at night," says Junior to his wife upon moving to pastel-pretty Coral Gables. It's Miami Nice, just out of reach and ever so tantalizing. -- Rita Kempley
THE FOURTH WAR
R, 1990, 90 minutes, HBO Video, closed captioned, $89.99.
This Cold War parable from John Frankenheimer takes its title from a quote by Albert Einstein in which the great man states, in essence, that he knows not what weapons will be used if the world engages in a third great war, but that whatever they are, the fourth war will be fought with rocks. So much for profundity. Now ... ready, aim for the screen, fire! Set in 1988 on the Czechoslovak-West German border, where the forces of East and West gaze uneasily at one another across a strip of earth not 20 yards wide, "The Fourth War" is about a career Army colonel named Knowles (Roy Scheider) who can't adjust to the thaw in relations between the superpowers. While the colonel is out on maneuvers with his troops, Czechoslovak forces chase down a defector to within a few feet of where the Americans have stopped to rest. As a result, each side brandishes its weapons, and a war-provoking skirmish seems imminent. Just barely, disaster is averted, but not until Knowles reaches down into the snow and, after cupping the white stuff into a nifty snowball, heaves it at Col. Valachev (Jurgen Prochnow), his opposite number in charge of the Czechoslovak army. Knowles's missile whistles past Valachev's head, smacking the side of his chopper. But Valachev's answering wet one is right on the money. Challenges are made and accepted, and these two renegade colonels spend the rest of the film fighting their own private war. The action culminates in a hand-to-hand, no-holds-barred fight near the border with the armies poised for battle on either side. And as Scheider, who looks 20 years older than he did in his last picture, signals the end by tossing aside yet another snowball, you wish that you'd invested in a nuclear arsenal of your very own. -- Hal Hinson
THE NEXT VOICE YOU HEAR
Not rated, 1950, 83 minutes, MGM-UA, $19.98.
God speaks to mankind by radio in this wonderfully sappy goose-pimpler about the bringing of harmony to Planet Earth, especially the postwar American suburbs. Produced by Dore Schary and directed by William Wellman, this campy drama is appallingly dumb but somehow eerie -- God's drive-time show is broadcast in French, English and a variety of languages, depending on who's listening where. Special bonus: Nancy Davis (Reagan) stars as Mrs. Average Housewife alongside James Whitmore, Jeff Corey and Lillian Bronson in this reverential parable on the small sins of the little people. -- Rita Kempley
R (111 minutes) or unrated (117 minutes), 1990, RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, closed captioned.
"Wild Orchid," starring Mickey Rourke and model-turned-actress Carre Otis, is soft-core MTV and it goes straight to comedy heaven -- that special section reserved for the inadvertently funny. The action -- written by Patricia Lousianna Knop, author of "9 1/2 Weeks," and her co-author husband, Zalman King -- takes place in Rio de Janeiro, where a ravishing young specialist in international law named Emily (Otis) travels with her boss (Jacqueline Bisset) to close a multi-million-dollar deal with the Chinese. There she meets Wheeler (Rourke), an American millionaire who isn't as interested in seducing her as he is in whispering ludicrous pseudo-zen koans into her expectant ears. Over dinner, after the mumbling becomes nearly overwhelming, she says, "You'll have to excuse me. It must be the jet lag ... my emotions keep getting away from me."
"That's all right," he answers. "We all have to lose ourselves sometimes to find ourselves ... Don't you think?"
No, thank you very much, I don't think.
This kind of thing happens again and again, with Wheeler gazing, heavy-lidded, at the virginal, blushing Emily, until finally she succumbs. As Wheeler, Rourke rides a Harley with Easy Rider sissy bars, wears $1,500 suits without shirts -- he has a talent for making the most expensive clothes look as if they came from Sears -- and 30 pounds of bronzer. Bisset, to her credit, is the only one who appears to know that the movie is a near-classic of sexy absurdity. -- Hal Hinson