TALK RADIO (1988). Adapted by Eric Bogosian from his play. Oliver Stone co-scripted and directed. Bogosian is the salesman who (seen in flashback) meets a popular radio host in the store, sells him suits, then himself as a guest of the show.
He is a hit,then a star,which leads to his notoriety as "Barry Champlain,"the manic,abrasive host of Dallas radio station KGAB (a clever cross between "gab" and "KGB"). He gets calls from an incredible number of weirdos,returns them with insults, becomes increasingly psychotic himself.
An odd movie,with elements of Denver radio host Alan Berg and others,like Morton Downey,Jr. (You may remember that Berg's assassination by racists was shown at the opening of Costa-Gavras' "Betrayed.")
Typically in-your-face Stone movie is outspoken. The callers are mostly perverts,flotsam,jetsam and scum,addicts,spaced-outers,fanatics,fundamentalist bigots and religious freaks,anti-Zionist Nazis. Such a disgusting lunatic fringe can easily lead an already hyper person to deep depression.Those people can be so frightening that Bogosian's job becomes dangerous,especially as his motto is "Saying What's Got to Be Said."
The movie is splendidly produced and shot.Stone directs with his usual panache, intensity and will to provoke. By the time the last third is reached, its devastating picture of the U.S. today and its disturbing statements make it oppressive, with ominousness and suspense getting almost unbearable.
Inventive though a bit hokey,is the part of Bogosian's ex,now remarried but still in love with him ("my husband is just a friend"). She calls him from within the studio,while everyone knows whose voice this is.
Bogosian is superb with his James Woods-like intensity. I also single out radio technician Stu who is played by John McGinley. But then all the parts are very well performed.
Note the great scene at a ball game, where Barry Champlain is approached for an autograph by a girl who despises him, tells him so in a crazy, smiling way,then throws on him something that stinks.Just this bit is worth the whole film, which,in any case,is one of the strongest, most original and unappreciated works of 1988. (Edwin Jahiel)