Talk Radio

Director: Oliver Stone.
Screenplay: Eric Bogosian, Oliver Stone.
Starring: Eric Bogosian, Alec Baldwin, Leslie Hope, Ellen Greene, John C. McGinley, Michael Wincott, John Pankow, Robert Trebor, Linda Atkinson, Zach Grenier, Tony Frank, Harlan Jordan, Chip Moody.

“Sticks and stones can break your bones but words cause permanent damage”

It’s been difficult of late for director Oliver Stone to find a project that has the same spark or controversy of his earlier work. He was probably at his best back in the 1980’s when he wrote the screenplay for Brian DePalma’s Scarface and directed such visceral works as Salvador, the Oscar winning Platoon, Wall Street and Born on the Fourth of July. The one that seems to be least mentioned in his filmography at this time, though, is the sadly overlooked, Talk Radio; his adaptation of Eric Bogosian’s Pulitzer Prize nominated stage play.
Barry Champlain (Bogosian) is a late night ‘shock DJ’ who doesn’t mince his words when it comes to rebelling against the opinions of his many callers. Night after night he takes calls and the more he rebels, the more he finds that his abrasive statements and scathing personal opinions are nothing more than entertainment for a disillusioned American public.Maybe the reason this entry from Stone has been so overlooked is because it’s not as culturally or historically significant as his aforementioned films. He’s not trawling the war torn lands or jungles of El Salvador or Vietnam, nor even the frantic, greed-infused stock exchange. He’s primarily stuck in one room and primarily focused on one man – essentially making this a chamber piece. But, don’t be disheartened, this brings just as much drama with it’s intense and claustrophobic exchanges. As expected, in such a minimal setting, the film is very much dialogue driven and largely at the command of a ruthless Bogosian. Whenever he’s allowed to deliver his scathing rants and monologues (and there are many) the film has an energy and spark that makes for gleefully fraught entertainment.The callers add as much spice to the proceedings as Champlain though, and it gives Stone a chance to depict the dark underbelly of America. There are calls from psychotic white supremacists, lonely cat people, doped up Rock and Rollers and suicidal lovers. Champlain doesn’t pull his punches, though, he obnoxiously attacks and challenges these people for their contribution (or lack of) to society in general and even when their thoughts mirror the disturbed psychosis of society it also displays that Champlain, himself, is no less tortured than the one’s he sarcastically chooses to insult. As a result, it becomes a scathing indictment of what’s wrong with America. Each caller is a representation of it’s greed, it’s consumerism, it’s self-righteousness and it’s racism. But that’s not all. Stone and Bogosian lure us in, challenging us to question ourselves and question our own contribution to society, our own politics and our own self-awareness. A highly charged and criminally overlooked film from Stone’s catalogue. Dialogue driven it may be but this is a polemic who’s bite is as ferocious as it’s bark.Mark Walker

Trivia: John C. McGinley, known as the most frequent acting collaborator of Oliver Stone, had also appeared in the theatrical presentation of Eric Bogosian’s play.

34 Responses to “Talk Radio”

  1. I’m liking the sound of the premise Mark. Damn you are amazing at recommendations of movies that get overlooked.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! Yeah, I gotta say that I know the poster but knew nothing whatsoever about this or that it was an Oliver Stone movie. I’ve never really liked most of his stuff but I’ve just watched Natural Born Killers for my Blind Spot thingy and liked it quite a bit. I’d maybe give this one a go too. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For the most part, I enjoy Stone movies; Platoon is still my favorite war movie. I don’t know how it has happened that I missed Talk Radio. Thanks for the fine review and the reminder to rent it, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platoon is a fine, fine movie for sure. I’d rate it in my top three war movies.

      It would seem you’re not alone in Talk Radio, though, Cindy. It’s bizarre how many people overlooked it, especially when Stone was quite a name at the time. It must have been a marketing thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice review Mark. Haven’t seen this but I really enjoy Stone’s early work. It’s too bad he’s fallen off the map, stuff like JFK and Platoon are top-notch pictures but his recent movies have been largely unlikeable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Charles. Yeah, Stone’s latest efforts haven’t really grabbed me either but, like you say, Platoon and JFK are superb. I’m also a huge fan of 4th of July. He seems to have lost his edge of late but back in the day, he was a very exciting director. Talk Radio showcases this as well. It’s worth a look, man.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I love Born on the 4th of July too, that’s a classic for sure. Unfortunately Stone hasn’t been able to recapture the excitement of his older work. I’m probably going to see his Snowden movie but I’m keeping my expectations low.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ill probably see Snowden too but Citizenfour captured all there was to capture with Snowden. It seems a bit pointless but I’m hoping with a political spark, Stone can find his feet again.


  5. I remember seeing this in the theater way back when Mark. Definitely one of Stone’s better movies. Unfortunately for me he peaked after JFK. Haven’t like a single film since. Not one. Don’t even bother checking them out anymore. He’s not even on my radar anymore.

    I thought his screenplays for Midnight Express and Scarface were excellent though. Again pre-JFK.

    I don’t have much hope for Snowden with Joseph Gorden-Levitt coming up, do you?

    Bogosian was great at playing one of the most abrasive screen characters ever. A nasty piece of work he was.

    It’s kind of funny to see the slim (Beetlejuice era) Alec Baldwin in this. Can’t think the sequel to Beetlejuice is going to work. Hard to believe that Burton wanted to call the sequel “Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian” since way back in the 90’s. He wanted it to be a beach film meets German Expressionism. Burton even enlisted Daniel Waters (Heathers) and Kevin Smith to write scripts. Luckily Smith replied with, “Didn’t we say all we needed to say in the first Beetlejuice? Must we go tropical?” LOL.


    • I feel the same, Dave. There was a time when I would check out everything Stone done but gradually he faded away. I still liked, Nixon, Natural Born Killers and U-Turn but he was definitely slipping by that point. Alexander and Any Given Sunday were disasters and I didn’t overly care much for Savages.

      That said, I do have some hope for Snowden but is really going to be any better than the doc Citizenfour??

      Ahaha! I had no idea about that Beetlejuice sequel. I have even less of an interest in that. Wtf? πŸ˜‰


  6. At first I was thinking ‘I haven’t seen or heard of this one’ but as I read I began to remember it – pretty sure I watched this with my mum and dad on TV back in the 1990s. It’s a shame Stone’s best days have passed, though I certainly wouldn’t bet against him making one last great film.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’d always heard of this but never even known what it was about. I’ll have to check this out.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Awesome Mark. Great selection of this largely forgotten gem. Stone often gets pegged as the conspiracy guy, but he can also direct a good genre flick and this one is absorbing and has something to say too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Couldn’t agree more, bud. Glad that you’ve seen it and share my enthusiasm for it. It’s a solid little flick from Stone. Can’t quite get my head around why it’s been overlooked.

      Liked by 1 person

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