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Cult Caravan: The Cartier Affair (1984)

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Posted June 7, 2012 by Ramp.ie in Ramp Archives
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Zealous and pedantic fans of Joan Collins and David Hasselhoff will have to forgive me. Their 1984 made-for-tv, wannabe-screwball crapfest The Cartier Affair (in which they come together like a kitsch immovable object meeting a camp unstoppable force) caused me to fall asleep. Twice. Plus, I missed the end.

It is, therefore, with some difficulty that I separate the facts (the mental, mental facts) from the fictions of my fevered dreams. I may have filled in gaps, or tidied up loose narrative threads. Doing more asleep than the screenwriters did when fully conscious.

To (attempt to) summarise: The Cartier Affair sees bumbling ex-con David Hasselhoff pretend to be a gay secretary so he can steal Joan Collins’ jewels and repay his debts to gangster Telly Savalas. Astonishingly, none of that is dream-stuff.

Joan, as she has done for practically her whole career, plays herself (or at least the “herself” she has spent her professional life creating). Her improbable name (mixing hints of jewels with bigger hints of sexual predatoriness) is Cartier Rand: disenchanted glamour-puss star of a shit daytime soap. She wants out. She wants to do stage work, to push herself as an actress. To escape the icon of seduction and excess she has become.

“I am Cartier Rand!”, she bawls at one stage, “Whoever that is. That’s not even my real name!”. Yes, very non-good as The Cartier Affair undoubtedly is, it dares to, well, go a bit Meta. With Joan playing herself, playing Alexis Carrington, who in turn (of course) is a version of the “herself” Joan created to replace and eclipse the real herself (whoever that is, or isn’t). It’s like Being John Malkovich meets Last Action Hero, penned by Murder She Wrote hacks.

In what may well be the campest scene in film/TV history, Joan and Der Hoff (her “gay” secretary remember) go jogging. Bedecked in sweatbands, leg-warmers and other “Let’s Get Physical” accoutrements. Set your brains to “Jesus!”.

In their defenses (and to be scrupulously fair) they actually carry off their poor-man/woman’s Katherine Hepburn/Cary Grant double-act with a reasonably deft comic touch. She (of course) cutting and über-bitchy. He wide-eyed and naïf. But, sexual chemistry? There is zero. Less than zero. A big, black, anti-sex hole of zero. Doesn’t stop them getting it on and humping each other though. Bleeerrgghh!

It’s a fist-chewingly unsettling sequence. One that rivals, for sheer non-erotic upsettingness, the oiled-up, muscled-up, soft-focus fuck-fest between Sharon Stone and Sly Stallone in The Specialist. Don’t watch if you ever want to enjoy physical intimacy again. Do watch if you’re drunk and bored.

This article is by John Byrne and originally appeared on Fustar. Reproduced with kind permission.

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