Alcoholic truck driver Don Barnes (Dennis Hopper) has a queasily libidinous interest in his adolescent daughter, Cindy – known as “CeBe” (Linda Manz) – who is obsessed with punk rock, Elvis Presley and CB radio. His obsession with his daughter is counterpointed by his disinterest in his weak and promiscuous drug-addicted wife, Kathy (Sharon Farrell).
The film opens with a horrid sequence with Don – who is guzzling from a bottle and nuzzling CeBe (who he calls “gorgeous”) while driving a huge trailer truck down a highway – ploughing into a school bus packed with kids.
The sequence is interrupted just at the point of impact between the big rig and the bus, and we don’t see the bloody aftermath of the crash, just Don awakening as if from a nightmare. We’re led to believe (or to hope) that the awful scene we witnessed is only a nightmare.
It is only later in the film – at a totally unexpected moment and almost out of the blue – that director Dennis Hopper chooses to bring the school bus crash back to us in all its sickening detail.
The film is the story of what happens to Don Barnes and his family after the crash.
It’s a dark and bleak film, but it’s also an extraordinarily sensitive psychological study and examination of dislocation and pathology in an all-too-easily recognisable working-class family. The film resonates with an understated but intense sexual tension and conflict emanating from Hopper’s character, a man who seeks the (sexual) approval of his daughter that he is unable to obtain from his wife.
Dennis Hopper was initially hired as the star only, but on the second day of shooting, differences arose between the director and the producers. As a result, Hopper was asked to handle the directing chores too.
Made in Vancouver for just $800,000, Out Of The Blue was presented at the Cannes Film Festival but struggled to find a distributor back home in Canada.
Vancouver punk band The Pointed Sticks appear in concert as themselves.
Linda Manz died on 14 August 2020 after battling lung cancer and pneumonia. She was just 58.
CeBe (Cindy Barnes)
Leon Ericksen (as Eric Allen)
Francis Ann Pettit
The Pointed Sticks