The Big Town (1986) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This film is also called Chicago Blues in DVD release. By any other name, this rose would have thorns just as unpleasant. Oh, my, this is a lame, unoriginal movie!

A small-town boy is successful competing against the locals, but can't achieve any more in Podunk, so our eager hayseed goes to the Big Town to seek his fame and fortune, carrying only a suitcase full of dreams. This gives him a great advantage at the train station, because dreams are light, so he doesn't need to pay a porter, and he's already ahead of the game.

He meets a nice girl.  He meets evil dudes. He is seduced by the Big Town. Having lived clean all his life, the small town maroon gives up his Juicy Fruit and soda pop for a steady diet of Jack Daniels and floozies.  He is seduced by a naughty girl. The naughty girl double-crosses him, and ... well, you know the rest.

This story would have been old hat about a month after the Lumieres screened their first films, and it was pretty much the plot of every film in the 30's. In this particular film, the young man is a wizard at playing craps, and the story takes place in the 50s in Chicago, but it could have taken place in any era after the Civil War, in any American city, and it might have been about singing, or acting, or baseball, or crime, or pretty much anything that one can make a living at in a big city but not in a small town.


  • Diane Lane. Buns in a g-string. Breasts in a sex scene
  • Suzy Amis - one nipple was visible and in focus for precisely one frame.
  • Various strippers (Spangles and g-strings. It's the 50s) .

I didn't really notice that this movie added anything new to the "small-town boy in the big city" story. The plot twists all seemed to be "business as usual", and the dialogue was the usual mundane palaver like:

 "I can change, Cully, I know I can"

 "Sure, ya can, doll, sure ya can. But the odds are against it"

DVD info from

  • no features, no widescreen, no stereo

  • Not playable on Region 1 DVD players - available only in Germany as "Chicago Blues"

The cast consists of a fairly good group of people who were close to the A list in the 80s, like Tommy Lee Jones, Diane Lane, Matt Dillon, Bruce Dern, Tom Skerritt, and Lee Grant. Looking back on it from 2004, perhaps the most interesting thing about the cast is the presence of Sarah Polley as the seven year old daughter of the "nice girl". Dillon seemed unnatural, because he had his usual Brooklyn greaser look, despite a rural Indiana accent. To tell you the truth, I think he did OK with the accent, but it didn't matter, because I kept hearing him talk like Matt Dillon, no matter how he actually pronounced the words.

I ask you, though, if a movie has Diane Lane naked and a score full of 1957 melodies, does it need anything more to be watchable?

The Critics Vote ...

  • Very early in his career, Roger Ebert gave this film 3.5/4. I can't imagine what possessed him. Both of the Washington Post's reviewers took a hearty dump on it.

The People Vote ...

  • A box office thud was heard upon its release. It grossed less than two million dollars.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. A pretty good cast, some decent tunes, and a naked Diane Lane almost manage to make up for a derivative script.

Return to the Movie House home page