Love Sounds episode from TV series The Hitchhiker, aka La musique adoucit les morts (Le Voyageur) (Dir David Wickes, 1984)
Basic plot: Kurt Hoffmann, a classical music composer, hires Eric Dunlap to create the ultimate sound system for him. Whilst working for the Hoffmann’s, Eric takes a fancy to Kurt’s wife Veronica. They begin an affair and the sound system Eric created betrays him by blasting out his and Veronica’s “love sounds” to the unsuspecting Kurt. Kurt takes his revenge on his unfaithful wife and her lover but Eric’s creation has a life of its own – he’s put his soul into the machine – and it in turn takes its revenge on Kurt.
Cast: Kurt Hoffmann / The Maestro – Klaus Kinski; Veronica Hoffmann – Belinda Bauer; Eric Dunlap – Stephen Shellen; Geoffrey Butler – Ron Lee
Filming location: Unknown
Release date: 13 November 1984
Availability: Not available on DVD, I purchased an old VHS video and a friend kindly converted it for me so I could take the screen caps (thanks, Tim!). The video is fairly cheap if you can find it – mine cost a few quid from Amazon. The video I got was called Dead-Time Stories Volume 3, which has 2 other short films on it (Face to Face and Last Scene) – the other films are worth a look but they are trashy so don’t expect too much from them… Each episode of The Hitchhiker was apparently introduced by a hitchhiker, but this aspect of the film is not included in the video version.
The film in full – *SPOILER ALERT*: I should tell you first that Lovesounds is only about 25 minutes long and although it’s from the TV series The Hitchhiker, each episode is self-contained, so this is in fact a short film. I’m not mad keen on short films because I don’t like how they (generally) impart so much information in such a short time by using a kind of shorthand to tell/show you loads of details that they don’t really have enough time to cover.
So we know that Kurt Hoffmann is a talented classical music composer because:
- he’s called “The Maestro”
- he has a bust in his dressing room
- he has b+w photographs of himself looking eccentric but debonair on his dressing table
- we can (vaguely) hear rehearsals through a speaker in his dressing room
But he is a bit of a tyrant and we know this because:
- we can hear him bawling out the orchestra (we never actually get to see them, presumably because it would be way too expensive for this production)
- he tells his assistant to sack the cellist even though she’s been with the orchestra for ten years
He’s also very impatient and we know this mainly because he keeps on going on about how long he’s been waiting to get his special sound system built. Get a life, Kurt!
Geoffrey Butler – what is there to say about a character who answers the telephone once and who tries to object (but is given short shrift) when Kurt tells him to sack the cellist. Bit part.
Veronica Hoffmann – Kurt’s wife is young and pretty, like a better looking Isabelle Adjani. But there’s not a lot more you can say about her. At least for the first few minutes, on the surface Veronica’s marriage to Kurt appears to be happy. But that’s the problem with Veronica, everything is on the surface and there doesn’t seem to be anything much underneath. Apart from the hidden shallows, that is.
She says her decision for marrying Kurt was based on the fact that she wouldn’t need to make any further decisions in life after that and wouldn’t have to think about what she wanted anymore as Kurt would do this on her behalf. That said, she only has to think twice when the stereo systems/ electronic “whizzkid” Eric tries it on with her; he gets a slap in the face the first time and her bare breasts in his face the second time. Love interest and nothing more than that.
Eric Dunlap – can be summarised as follows: big bad hairdo (a mullet with highlights); ugly footwear (black moccasins worn with white socks); very clingy/needy (he’s had one roll in the hay – well, laundry room actually – with Veronica and he’s already asking her why she’s not yet left her husband); a stereo systems/electronic “whizzkid” (apparently). Eric reckons that his systems are so good because he doesn’t just build them; he “creates” them and “nurtures” them. He builds up his role somewhat (embarrassed about being “the hired help”, maybe?) and hyperbolises his work, saying “It’s like a woman when she gives birth – I give birth.” Erm, no you don’t, Eric! “Then when I’m finished, I, erm, I leave a part of myself behind.” Now, unless he’s impregnating all the housewives whose husbands pay him to “create” and “nurture” and “give birth” to systems for them, I’m not quite sure what he’s supposed to be leaving behind. Apparently, though, it’s a part of his soul. And there was silly old me thinking that he just went to Richer Sounds, bought whatever was on special offer and hooked it all up with a few cables!
Eric is wet – he moons around Veronica and strokes his stereo system (he does, I’m not making it up!), whispers sweet nothings to it as if he’s trying to seduce it, calling it “baby” and almost begging it to work for him, “Don’t fail me this time, baby”. I thought he was supposed to be the expert, but it seems that he just creates the machine and then the machine decides whether it wants to work for him or not. And his flirtatious behaviour is so embarrassing that it’s no wonder Veronica pushes him in the sea. Furthermore, please don’t let me have to see the kissing with tongues again (Eric is as eager as a dog and actually licks Veronica on the chin at one point) or the soft-focus love scenes that appear to have been lifted from a David Hamilton film. Eric has very white buttocks. Eric is a knobber.
“Baby” / the revolutionary sound system – not a character, strictly speaking, but possibly an entity or some such. “Baby” is a little bugger and won’t work when Kurt tries to log on but this is probably because he refers to the system as his “new toy” and because he is mean to Eric (the birth mum) and calls him incompetent (to be fair, he is though) and he doesn’t have much time for Veronica (to be fair, in his place neither would I). “Baby” is a bit mischievous though as he/she/it (what gender is a stereo system, anyone know?) gives Kurt electrical shocks for getting annoyed when it doesn’t work. I do love the fact that the effects and equipment are so basic though – it looks like a Tandy TRS-80 hooked up to a hi-fi and a shotgun directional mic. And when “Baby” starts working and reacting (ahem! some lights flash on and off, that kind of thing) and voicing Eric’s thoughts (O, Veronica! I love you!), it’s all like a cross between Sparky’s Magic Piano, A Flock of Seagulls and a whale song recording. And Eric must have made a big mistake when he created “Baby” because he/she/it ultimately gives him away to Kurt when he plays around with the directional mic and tunes in to Eric and Veronica’s “love sounds”. O yeah, baby.
Kurt Hoffmann – you have to love Kurt even if just for his over-enthusiasm for a piece of crappy equipment. The way he smiles his toothy grin and just indicates to Eric that he only wants to use the equipment and not have him explain at length how many watts of power are in each channel etc, he’s such a child. That is Kurt all over – throwing tantrums (he tells Eric, “If you expect to be paid, you’d better perfect your performance before you invite an audience”), showing off to the boring middle-aged polyester wearing dinner guests, and having no time for anything that does not greatly interest him. He and Veronica appear to be happily married but she quickly tires of his behaviour when she notices that he is more interested in his new machine than in her (“Well, nothing counts today but my new machine”); that he is most concerned that she wash the blood off her hands when she cuts herself on broken glass and not at all concerned that she might be in pain or need medical treatment; that he’s not interested enough to look at her outfit for the dinner party; that he dismisses her when the machine is working, telling her, “Please, darling, I want to listen to my music now.” Of course that’s not enough reason for her to justify having an affair though, is it?
But the storytellers want us to believe that Kurt is evil so they get Klaus Kinski to play him (good move!) and when he’s asked by Eric to pick a number for his log-on, naturally he picks 666. He always gets his way, or so we’re told: “The Maestro always gets his way”; “You’ll get your way, Kurt, you always do.” That doesn’t make him evil as far as I’m concerned but I guess firebombing the boathouse when he discovers his wife and her mullet-haired lover in flagrante delicto possibly does.
The whole scene leading up to this finale is amazing – Kurt is listening to his music on his new machine, waving his arms in the air as if conducting an orchestra and/or practising boy band dance moves, and then he decides to play around with his directional mic, as you do. Eventually he tunes into Eric and Veronica who’ve been doing the soft-focus David Hamilton love scene stuff in the boathouse and at this point he realises what is happening and he runs like the clappers from the house into the garden and over to the boathouse. My god, I wish I could have got a good enough screen capture but it just wasn’t clear enough – the sight of Klaus Kinski running so fast straight towards and past the camera is hilarious for some unknown reason. Possibly because the film is so bad and yet he is still making an effort, which seems pointless somehow.
This scene allows for one of the typical Kinski-isms – looking through a window with bars on it (Klaus does this whenever he can, ie, whenever there is a window with bars available on set):
There is also ample opportunity throughout the film for my favourite Kinski-schtick – hands in pockets (Klaus does this whenever he can, ie, whenever he has pockets and whenever he can get away with keeping his hands in them). I love the fact that he manages to keep his right hand in his pocket all the while that he is typing with his left hand:
And, just for my amusement really, here are some other hands in pockets pictures:
Anyway, going back to the finale – keeping you on tenterhooks, aren’t I? – yes, Kurt sees Eric’s white buttocks through the barred windows and goes bat-s*** crazy, locking the fornicators in the boathouse, spraying the building with gasoline and then setting fire to it. Brilliant! I can’t say they quite deserved that but who’s gonna miss them anyway? He won’t want Veronica anymore as she’s just cuckolded him with mullet man and he doesn’t need the mullet man either as he’s already got the sound system working.
But Kurt, who looks totally dejected after he’s burnt the lovers alive, poor thing, doesn’t realise that Eric had put part of his soul into the sound system and it’s now spoiling for a fight with the man who destroyed its maker. First of all the machine switches itself on and starts replaying Eric and Veronica’s “love sounds” and when Kurt tries to switch the machine off, his sheet music flies off the piano, the lights all start switching on and off, and then the machine gives Kurt an electric shock which sends him flying across the room. The sounds continue to taunt Kurt and he continues to try switching the machine off but it will not stop and so he tries to break the machine and winds up in a mess with more sparks flying from the machine, the cocktail cabinet exploding (uh?), blood all over his face and the fantastic grand finale – Kurt with his bloody face held in his hands, sitting on a chair which spins around faster and faster until his bust sculpture of a classical music composer EXPLODES!
That’s your lot. Yes, it’s bad – but it’s so bad that it’s good. I’ve seen it four times now and I’d watch it again. So long as I can skip over the embarrassing love scenes; especially the chin sucking bit…