Nothing says “I love you” quite like the gift of imploding large buildings. I know that probably sounds like a rather odd, not to mention extreme, way by which to prove your love for a woman, but then none of you is “The Love Bomber.” Women can’t resist a man that can make shit blow up. Why do you think Michael Bay gets laid as much as he does?
Today being Valentine’s Day, what better time to pay homage to one of cinema’s most lovelorn maniacs? “The Love Bomber” was the villain of the 1984 made-for-TV thriller City Killer, the terrifyingly romantic tale of a deranged stalker’s quest to prove his worth to the woman he loves by demolishing infrastructure.
The big three TV networks rarely make original movies anymore; cable networks have been left to pick up the slack. Were it made today, City Killer would almost assuredly be a Lifetime Network original movie if only because they pretty much own the patent on stalker movies. It also probably wouldn’t be nearly as entertainingly preposterous. City Killer was made before the 1989 murder of “My Sister Sam” actress Rebecca Schaeffer that really made the reality of women being stalked something to be taken extremely seriously. This movie tries to take it seriously but betrays itself at every turn, often in amusingly dopey fashion.
Back in ’84 young Heather Locklear was riding a wave of popularity thanks to her roles on the popular ABC programs cop show “T.J. Hooker” and the nighttime soap opera “Dynasty.” Here, sporting the most obscene case of 80s Linda Evans’ hair not actually found on the head of Linda Evans, Locklear portrays Andrea McKnight, a young businesswoman with a flourishing career at a Chicago securities firm and a dark secret: she’s been moving about the country trying to escape the ex-boyfriend stalking her for the past five years.
Leo Kalb seemed like a nice guy at first (she actually claims that their relationship initially began because she felt sorry for him) but she quickly came to realize that he was several McNuggets short of a Happy Meal. When she attempted to break off the relationship, he began following her and calling her and hanging up. Then he put a bomb in her parents’ mailbox. Now Leo has found her again and when she continues to spurn his amorous advances he decides to impress her by causing an abandoned high rise to implode a few blocks from the street corner she’s standing on. Using his former Army Corps of Engineers know-how, Leo decides that the fastest way to a woman’s heart is through controlled detonations. As he tells her, anyone can blow up a building, but to make a building implode like he does takes a special kind of man with a special kind of skill, thus confirming his major inadequacy issues. Leo then calls up a TV station after the initial demolition and threatens to do it again unless he’s paid $2 million and a private plane for two destined for Costa Rica is made available for him and Andrea at the airport. He tells the media to refer to him as “The Love Bomber.”
“The Love Bomber” wasn’t some snarky media creation; it was his idea to call himself such. Why not the Ex-Ploder (He was her “ex”-boyfriend after all) or The Affectionate Imploder? Okay, perhaps those aren’t an improvement. Would you still want to go down in criminal history known as “The Love Bomber”? Conclusive proof that Leo Kalb was more insane than any of us could possibly fathom.
A little romantic advice to all you guys out there: If you want to convince the woman that you’ve been stalking that you’re a changed man, don’t break into her apartment in the middle of the night and wait for her to come home and change into her nighties before popping out of the shadows to assure her that the therapy you’ve been getting is working. It’s just common sense.
As we’ll come to learn later on, Leo’s girlfriend prior to Andrea had done quite a number on his manhood by either making fun of the size of his penis and/or calling him a lousy lover. We never find out exactly but this is what we’re supposed to believe is the root of his psychosis and the reason why he couldn’t accept being rejected by a nice woman that didn’t degrade him. Reminds me of that time last year when that girl ridiculed the size of my penis and I then blew up that oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. I showed her, didn’t I? I showed them all!
TV vet Terrance Knox is quite entertaining playing the part of this poorly written loon. There’s much joy to be had listening to this supposedly menacing madman on the phone constantly referring to the cops as “those turkeys” and chastising authorities for thinking he’s “just some bozo from down the street.” Actual dialogue that gets repeated more than once, folks. The best is Leo’s big denouement at the end when he flips out and tells everybody, “You’re stupid!” Usually you don’t hear such lines coming out of the mouth of a movie baddie that isn’t either 10 years old or a Plan 9 from Outer Space alien.
Step two in his plan to win back Andrea’s heart is to blow up the building she works in. Leo’s not a complete monster so he calls the authorities and gives them fifteen minutes to clear the building. While everyone else evacuates – I’m not making this next part up, Andrea’s portly boss can’t leave without his pet mouse. Just when you’re rolling your eyes at the notion of this guy potentially getting himself killed just to save a mouse, he suddenly experiences a heart attack after taking all of about ten steps down the hall. One of Andrea’s co-workers carries the cardiac-challenged boss down the stairs, but the boss dies and the co-worker has to leaves his corpse in the stairwell so that he can make a break for it himself. Leo detonates the building and this minor supporting co-worker character whose plight had suddenly become a major point of suspense is killed and not one single character gives a damn. A news report later confirms nine deaths; who the other seven were is anyone’s guess? Nobody cares. Leo calls to tell Andrea that he did it so she wouldn’t have to go back to work and this way they’ll have more time to spend together for, like say, a trip to Costa Rica.
The TV reports that the actions of the “Love Bomber” have prompted the complete and total evacuation of downtown Chicago. Because of two buildings being imploded and 9 dead bodies? It appeared as if the evacuation of Chicago was accomplished in all of about three hours, topping the half a day evacuation of Manhattan in the 1998 Godzilla. Helicopters patrol the skies; the National Guard rolls in; martial law is imposed; all because of a guy calling himself “The Love Bomber.”
One thing you’re probably wondering is how in the world did some cheap mid-Eighties TV movie pull off the special effects of huge inner-city buildings collapsing? Six words: stock footage, stock footage, stock footage. If you’ve ever seen the music video for the David Bowie/Queen duet “Under Pressure” then you’ve already seen every single implosion shown in the film.
I do believe City Killer may also currently hold the world record for most person-on-the-phone-trying-to-keep-the-bad-guy-on-the-line-so-the-police-can-trace-the-call scenes in a single motion picture.
Assigned specifically to Andrea’s protection is Detective Eckford (“Eck” as he’s known for short), played by Gerald McRaney, who you may remember from the show “Simon & Simon”. He played Simon. No, not that Simon, the other Simon. Eck is still grieving from the death of his wife and he and Andrea find solace comforting one another in a one-on-one therapy sort of way. Eck will spend so much time staring longingly at Andrea you might begin wondering if he wouldn’t mind bombing a few buildings to try and impress her. As ludicrous as the whole building bombing stalker angle is and the total evacuation of downtown Chicago is, nothing, and I do mean nothing, in this film is more unbelievable than when Andrea and Eck become lovers. Heather Locklear in her prime and “Major Dad” bumping uglies? More like “Ick” if you ask me. Post coitus they will snuggle on the couch and stare at a picture of his dead wife – I kid you not.
Delusional Leo believes Andrea is actually being manipulated by the cops to do him in and throws a major temper tantrum on the phone that is followed up with a rather comical montage of about four more buildings going kaboom. Even more amazing is Andrea – a woman who has spent much of the movie whining about how miserable her life has been on the run the past five years from this lunatic that has now killed several people and left a major US city in a state of terror – gives the authorities grief over their plan to use her as bait in order to give the snipers a clear shot. She’s not mad about being used as bait; she’s made because they plan to kill the guy that has made her life hell in front of her. She finally relents after the power of Gerald McRaney’s mustache compels hers to cooperate. Never underestimate the power of a Gerald McRaney mustache ride.
The sufficiently idiotic finale has Leo setting up one last potential detonation after slipping past the military by driving up in an Army jeep dressed like a soldier and barking orders at the dimwitted guards that instantly assume a guy in uniform barking orders at them must mean he’s a commanding officer. The final confrontation takes place on the roof of the very building he’s rigged to blow. Andrea finally empowers herself by fooling Leo into a false sense of security long enough for both a police sniper and Eck to shoot him. Of course, just shooting him would be too clean an ending; the mortally wounded Leo has to collapse right down on his dead man switch. Fortunately, god bless the power of plot convenience, this particular detonation didn’t cause the building to fully collapse until Eck and Andrea had sufficient time to get into a waiting helicopter and take off.
And to think Heather Locklear probably still believes RETURN OF SWAMP THING was the silliest film she ever starred in.
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