The Dark Backward (1991) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Dark Backward (1991)

The Dark Backward




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Dark Backward Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

Writer/director Adam Rifkin's The Dark Backward is set in a dark, grimy, garbage-strewn urban netherworld, where a company named "Blump's" apparently owns everything. Marty Malt (Judd Nelson of The Breakfast Club) is an unhappy garbageman who moonlights as an atrociously unfunny standup comic. His best friend and fellow trash collector, Gus (Bill Paxton), is the only one who laughs at his jokes, and his sincerity is questionable. The obnoxiously exuberant Gus plays an accordion, which he always carries with him. Marty is seeing Rosarita (Lara Flynn Boyle), a waitress, but she doesn't seem too interested in him, either. One day, Gus convinces a talent agent, Jackie Chrome (Las Vegas circuit staple Wayne Newton), to check out Marty's act. Jackie isn't impressed. Marty's luck seems to take a turn for the worse when a large lump starts growing on his back. He goes to a quack doctor (James Caan), who calls him a wimp and puts a Band-Aid on the lump. The lump continues to grow, eventually becoming a full-sized arm. While Gus uses Marty's newfound freakishness to impress his obese girlfriends, a horrified Rosarita breaks up with Marty, and he gets fired from the club where he does his act. Marty is despondent until Gus brings him to see Jackie, who, it turns out, has always dreamed of finding a real three-armed comic. Re-christened "Desi the Three-Armed Wonder Comic," and with Gus now providing musical accompaniment, Marty gets a fresh start on his career. The Dark Backward received devastating reviews upon its initial release, but has since developed a minor cult following. The film also stars Rob Lowe and King Moody, who was the original Ronald McDonald.more
Rating: R (Brief scenes of bizarre, comic sensuality)
Genre: Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Adam Rifkin
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 21, 2007
Columbia Pictures


Wayne Newton
as Jackie Chrome
James Caan
as Dr. Scurvy
King Moody
as Twinkee Doodle
Carrie Lynn
as Nicolette
Anna Berger
as Mrs. Malt
Tom Hodges
as Marjorie Zipp
Theodocia Goodrich
as Mrs. Bielfuss
Charles Winkler
as Dirk Delta's Assista...
Landon Godfrey
as Unfamiliar Waitress
Robert Gannaway
as Denny Ginkle
Scott Goldman
as Mouseman
Adam Rifkin
as Rufus Bing
Ingrid Rifkin
as Cigarette Girl
Elizabeth Sokol
as Lady Wrapped in Gauz...
Steve Bing
as Basketball Player
Tony Markes
as Muscle Man
Jason Logan
as Man Behind Counter
Milicia Kastner
as Dirk's Babe
Libby White-Cooper
as Dirk's Babe
Tony Cox
as Human Xylophone
Tanya Banks
as Human Xylophone
Cindy Sorenson
as Human Xylophone
Arturo Gil
as Human Xylophone
John Hayden
as Human Xylophone
John Patrick Hayden
as Human Xylophone
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News & Interviews for The Dark Backward

Critic Reviews for The Dark Backward

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (2)

Full Review… | August 30, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

May 12, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

just too off-putting

Full Review… | August 22, 2007

Odd and twisted, The Dark Backward has plenty to thrill admirers of ugliness and enough food for thought to interest the rest of us too.

Full Review… | August 20, 2007
Apollo Guide

A seriously weird, seriously cool surreal black comedy.

Full Review… | April 9, 2007

Strange and hilarious

April 23, 2004
Lawrence Journal-World

Audience Reviews for The Dark Backward


A spectacularly unfunny comedian finally find success--sort of--when an arm begins growing out of his back. Bizarre, hard-hearted black comedy in the spirit of John Waters. Form follows plot premise: if you can't be funny, you can at least be grotesque enough so people won't be able to look away.

Greg S

Super Reviewer

Judd Nelson is Marty, a garbage collector (or sanitation engineer, whichever you prefer) who moonlights as a stand-up comedian. Bill Paxton is a true sleaze-ball of a friend/agent that decides exploiting a third arm that has grown out of Marty's back is a sure shot way to achieving stardom.

The dude has a third arm growing out of his back and that's not even the main part of the plot. This is a truly bizarre movie with Judd Neslon in a role like most have never seen him in. I really hate comparing to other films, but the easiest way to describe it is the dark surrealism of Naked Lunch with the dark humor of The King Of Comedy. If there was ever a film developed solely for a cult audience, it's this one. Sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes it's a bad thing. I hated this movie the first time seeing it. The next evening, I watched it again.

El Hombre Invisible

Super Reviewer


A dark comedy for fans of the bizarre.

Anthony Valletta

Super Reviewer

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