At 25: “Short Time”

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May 4, 2015 by billysparrow


Short Time

Released: May 4, 1990

Starring: Dabney Coleman, Matt Frewer, Teri Garr, Barry Corbin

As I’ve mentioned before (or I assume I’ve mentioned before…you can’t expect me to go back through all the things I’ve mentioned before on here), the UA theater in the Travis section of Staten Island was the place to be on Friday (and sometimes Saturday) nights for Young Me in the late 1980s and the first bit of the 1990s. This was just as much a testament to the lack of entertainment options for a young teen on Staten Island as it was a sign of my love for cinema. It was pretty much the UA or the mall. Or  listening to Roy Orbison tapes alone in my bedroom. In 1990, I pretty much enjoyed all those things equally.

But when a new comedy came out, it was pretty likely that the UA would be the choice for a Friday night–though it wasn’t a 100% guarantee. Looking back at comedies released around this time, I can see I passed on “Spaced Invaders” and “Ernest Goes to Jail.” And as a side note to that, the fact that I have never seen one Ernest movie remains one of the world’s greatest mysteries. Even I don’t understand it. It seems like something I should have been obsessed with. But it passed me right by

Anyway, seeing as April was a slow month for comedy releases in 1990, I’m guessing that I was itching to get back to the UA on the Friday “Short Time” was released. Because most 13-year-olds in 1990 (or, really, in any year) didn’t find themselves thinking, “Man I have GOT TO see the new Dabney Coleman movie!” But I had that thought, or something akin to it, because I saw “Short Time” at the UA. And, in fact, I almost saw it twice at the UA (long story…eh, not really…I just don’t feel like telling it).

I was so cool.

There is not much from “Short Time” on YouTube, but the trailer sums up everything just fine. And, yes, Dabney Coleman’s character is named Burt Simpson. An homage to Bart (who had been on the air for a few years prior, though “The Simpsons” itself had only debuted in December 1989) or pure coincidence? While you’re pondering that, know that Burt’s partner (Matt Frewer) is named Ernie. And something else in the trailer that should be noted is that incredible doughnut cake given to Burt by the guys in the squadroom. It should also be noted that I would like one of those immediately. No need to wait for a special occasion.

In rewatching “Short Time,” I realized it’s actually not a bad movie. It’s certainly not a movie a 13-year-old should be yearning to see (particularly over an Ernest movie), but it’s got an interesting premise, both Frewer and Coleman are pretty great, and the always reliable Teri Garr and Barry Corbin are in it. So it’s got a lot going for it. Plus, Burt’s son has the same “Griffey: The Next Generation” poster in his bedroom that I had in mine. I feel that we don’t spend nearly enough time talking about Costacos Brothers posters. Let’s invest some time into that in the very near future. Or one of you see if you can get a coffee table book together.

Oh yes, the movie. Right. Well, to fill in some of the parts not discussed in the trailer (and, as a point of clarification, fear not: you don’t have to watch Dabney Coleman have sex; he and Teri Garr are shown in bed after the fact), the main villain in the movie is Carl Stark (Xander Berkeley), who, like quite a few ’80s villains, is all wrapped up in the illegal gun trade. When Burt gets the word that he’s dying (from a rare blood disorder called autotoxic hematosa, though it has the much cooler name of Wexler’s Curtain; it is also not a real disease in case you were wondering/concerned you might have it), he eventually makes it his mission to get Stark, believing that represents his best chance at being killed in the line of duty and thus keeping his dream of Harvard for his kid alive. But before that, he tries to end it all in pursuit of two of Stark’s goons. And it is this scene that the sourcers of YouTube (and cinematic car chase enthusiasts) have deemed to be the one that will represent the movie (though you can watch the whole movie on YouTube, as I did).

Dabney Coleman can really deliver the double-middle-finger salute, no?

So, to sum up, “Short Time” is pretty good, it has an impressive car chase, and I made weird moviegoing choices when I was 13.

See you next time.


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