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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Dancers' Glides Out of Low-Budget Box

August 06, 1993|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Taxi Dancers" (at the Sunset 5 Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. through Aug. 22) is the kind of low-budget genre film that nowadays generally goes directly to the video store, but its writer-producer-director Norman Thaddeus Vane is adept at getting his pictures--for instance, the low-budget "Midnight" with Lynn Redgrave--some kind of theatrical release before that happens. Vane, a throwback to the B-picture era, always manages to bring to his work a sense of commitment, even passion, that sets his pictures apart, no matter how routine or conventional they may be otherwise.

Vane takes a decidedly romantic view of his heroines, who seem improbably attractive for their unglamorous profession of taxi dancing; at least these days, such women, according to Vane, earn $25 an hour instead of "Ten Cents a Dance"--to quote the title of the vintage taxi dancers' lament.

In time-honored fashion we enter the world of the ominously named Shark Club with a newcomer, a fresh young blonde named Billie (Brittany McCrena) with a good figure who very quickly is pursued by both Bobby (Randall Lee Irwin), a pizza delivery boy--and aspiring rock musician--and club regular Diamond Jim (Sonny Landham), a fatalistic Vegas gambler who's a big, gentle, middle-aged guy, wise and kind in his treatment of Billie (but also $300,000 in debt to a Hong Kong gangster). Soon she's learning the ropes from some of the other taxi dancers, primarily the cynical Star (Tina Fite). Other key dancers are the man-hating Mercedes (Mirage Micheaux), the dippy Candy (Michelle Hess) and the drug-addicted Sparkle (Josie Boyd).

Exceptionally well-photographed (by Richard Jones) for such a low-budget venture, "Taxi Dancers" works best as a mood piece, capturing the women's sense of being trapped in their profession through their strong suspicions, intensified over a period of time, that taxi dancing may be the best they can do for themselves. "Taxi Dancers" (Times-rated Mature for nudity, language) is in no way original, but it suffices as a minor diversion that showcases its actors.

'Taxi Dancers'

Brittany McCrena: Billie

Sonny Landham: Diamond Jim

Tina Fite: Star

Mirage Micheaux: Mercedes

An American New Waves release. Writer-director-producer Norman Thaddeus Vane. Executive producer Henry von Seyfried. Cinematographer Richard Jones. Editors Peter Ransohoff, Reinhard Schreiner. Music Jeffrey Silverman, Larry Blank. Production design Dave Blass. Art director Heather Palmlund. Set decorator Susan Monro. Sound Bob Sheridan. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.

Times-rated Mature for nudity, language.

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