Liar's Moon

Director: David Fisher
Screenplay: David Fisher
Stars: Matt Dillon (Jack Duncan), Cindy Fisher (Ginny Peterson), Hoyt Axton (Cecil Duncan), Margaret Blye (Ellen “Babs” Duncan), Broderick Crawford (Col. Tubman), Christopher Connelly (Alex Peterson), Molly McCarthy (Connie Peterson), Tiffany Stettner (Lisa Peterson), Yvonne De Carlo (Jeanene Dubois), Susan Tyrrell (Lora Mae Bouvier)
MPAA Rating: PG
Year of Release: 1981
Country: U.S.
Liar’s Moon Blu-ray
Liar’s Moon

Liar’s Moon, an independently produced romance set in small-town Texas in the late 1940s, arrived in the midst of a two-decade-long cinematic love affair with period adolescent dramas. Kicked off by Robert Mulligan’s Summer of ’42 (1971) and George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973), the trend counted dozens of films throughout the 1970s and into the ’80s—both serious dramas like Buster and Billie (1974), Ode to Billy Joe (1976), The Outsiders (1983), and Racing With the Moon (1984) and raucous comedies like Porky’s (1981) and its sequels and Mischief (1985). Liar’s Moon, despite having a few moments of raucous humor owing to several of the main characters being horny teenage boys, is a straightforward romantic tearjerker in the long-fabled vein of Romeo & Juliet.

The film was the brainchild of Billy Hanna, a Houston-based computer executive who wanted to make a movie, so he put together a script with his teenage daughter Janice (who has since become a prolific writer of comedic romantic novels) and then hired David Fisher, an entertainment lawyer with only minimal film experience, to rewrite the script and direct it. On paper, that sounds like a disaster in the making, but Liar’s Moon turned out to be dramatically better than would have been reasonably expected, even if it hews so very close to every conceivable convention.

The story centers around the romance between Jack Duncan (Matt Dillon), who comes from a hard-working, but relatively poor rural family, and Ginny Peterson (Cindy Fisher), a rich girl who has recently returned to her small hometown after spending four years at a boarding school. Ginny is already dating a handsome and venal Yale student, which is all well and good with her parents, who believe in courting on the same rung of the socioeconomic ladder. After a few awkward meet-cutes involved a greased pig competition at the fair and a mistimed prank by a river, Jack and Ginny realize that they are perfect for each even if society and their parents say different. Jack’s hardworking father (Hoyt Axton) and Ginny’s wealthy, genial grandfather (Broderick Crawford, in his final screen appearance) are both fine with the relationship, but Jack’s mother (Margaret Blye) and Ginny’s father (Christopher Connelly) are both dead-set against it for reasons that we eventually learn are about much more than their disparate economic backgrounds.

Jack and Ginny end up running away together and trying to forge their own life away from the strictures of their hometown and parents, which they find both difficult and deeply rewarding, as it allows them to live life on their own terms and build their relationship without undue pressure from the outside. However, given that the film’s tagline pegged it as “a tragic love story,” we know there are bound to be serious complications and the specter of death, although there ended up being two endings—one “happy” and one “sad” (I’ll leave it to you to learn which one they went with). It is all pretty formulaic, sticking close to time-honored Hollywood principles both romantic and humorous, although it does push at a few boundaries, especially when the specters of both incest and abortion emerge late in the film. Punches are mostly pulled in the end, though, as the film’s goal is to tug at heartstrings, not challenge convention.

Most of the people who worked on Liar’s Moon were relatively new to feature filmmaking. The cinematographer, John Hora, who gives the film an appropriately soft-focus haze, had just a handful of films under his belt, including The Howling (1981) directed by Joe Dante, with whom he would work on several other films such as Gremlins (1984) and Innerspace (1987). Similarly, the editor, Christopher Greenbury, had cut just a few features, including The Muppet Movie (1979), although he would later earn an Oscar nomination for his work on Sam Mendes’s American Beauty (1999). Writer/director David Fisher had never helmed a feature film before, and he would go on to direct just one other, the largely unseen and long forgotten Toy Soldiers (1984), in which a yacht-full of partying college students are kidnapped by Panamanian terrorists (I haven’t seen it, but I have read it described as some kind of bizarre mix of Animal House and Rambo). Fisher is not a particularly great director, but he knows how to stage a scene and get out of the way of the actors. Matt Dillon was well on his way to teen stardom with his first three roles in Over the Edge (1979), Little Darlings (1980), and My Bodyguard (1980). In all of those films he played bad boys—a violent juvenile delinquent, a streetwise camper, and a vicious bully, respectively—which made his casting as a romantic nice guy in Liar’s Moon a significant change of pace (the same could be said for Sean Penn’s casting in Racing With the Moon). Cindy Fisher, on the other hand, had only played bit parts, primarily on television, since she was a preteen in the early 1970s. Meanwhile, the film also features Susan Tyrell, a veteran of both stage and screen, as a seasoned Louisiana prostitute whom Ginny befriends, and, of course, Broderick Crawford, who had won a Best Actor Oscar for his starring role in All the King’s Men (1949).

By all accounts, Liar’s Moon should have been a debacle, but it holds together just well enough to work if you give in to its nostalgic romanticism. Dillon and Fisher make for appealing protagonists who are also genuine in their emotional rapport, and the film has a few things to say about the importance of honesty and how lies have a way of multiplying in their affront over the years, leading to situations that could not have been imagined. We want Jack and Ginny to make it, even as we recognize just how much their romantic challenges play to well-worn tropes. Any incongruencies in the film, including a needless scene of voyeurism that appears to have been included just to justify some PG-rated nudity, can be chalked up to a desire to please the intended teenage audience. The fact that the film has remained in the cultural conscience long after so many of its ilk have faded into obscurity is testament to the filmmakers’ commitment to their vision.

Liar’s Moon MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray

Aspect Ratio1.85:1
  • Linear PCM 2.0 monaural
  • SubtitlesEnglish
  • The Making of Liar’s Moon retrospective documentary
  • “The Music of Liar’s Moon” featurette
  • Alternate ending
  • Trailers
  • DistributorMVD Visual
    Release DateFebruary 8, 2022

    Liar’s Moon comes to us on Blu-ray courtesy of MVD’s “Rewind Collection,” which will tickle the nostalgic bones of those of us who remember going to video stores and seeing shelves of beat-up VHS covers with rating and rewind stickers like the ones included on this release’s slipcase. The film was previously available on DVD, and while I never saw that release, I feel quite certain that the 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer on this disc is an improvement. You have to remember that Liar’s Moon was a low-budget, independent production made by a group of filmmakers without much experience, so visual inconsistencies are most likely inherent to the original source material. The overall image looks good, maintaining an inherent softness that was clearly intended, although there is still room for good detail. The color temperature tends to vary a bit from scene to scene, and some shots are decidedly sharper and more defined than others. The image is generally very clean, with only minimal signs of age and wear. The original monaural soundtrack is presented on a clean, Linear PCM track that manages dialogue, ambient effects, and the music score quite well. Long-time fans of the film will really enjoy the supplements, starting with The Making of Liar’s Moon, a new retrospective documentary composed of virtual interviews with the film’s major collaborators that runs just two minutes shorter than the film itself! Some of it probably could have been trimmed, but the collective interviews with writer/director David Fisher, story writer Janice Thomson (the daughter of story writer and producer Bill Hanna), composer Ray Benson, actor Tonja Walker, set decorator Maria Caso, production manager Susan Vogelflang, and Jeanene Hanna, Hanna’s widow, combine to create a compelling and entertaining narrative. There are tons of great anecdotes about the film’s unlikely production, which makes it somewhat more interesting than the film itself. There is also a separate 13-minute featurette about the film’s music featuring an extended interview with Ray Benson. As with the old VHS copies, the disc also included the alternate “sad” ending, which I wish they had included via seamless branching so you could choose the happy or sad ending when watching the film. Finally, we get both an original theatrical trailer and as videocassette trailer.

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    Overall Rating: (2.5)

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