30 user 23 critic

Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987)

Writer, ex-con and 40-something bottle-baby Tim Madden, who is prone to black-outs, awakens from a two-week bender to discover a pool of blood in his car, a blond woman's severed head in ... See full summary »


Norman Mailer


Norman Mailer (screenplay by), Norman Mailer (based on his novel)
1 win & 10 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Ryan O'Neal ... Tim Madden
Isabella Rossellini ... Madeleine Regency
Debra Stipe ... Patty Lareine (as Debra Sandlund)
Wings Hauser ... Capt. Alvin Luther Regency
John Bedford Lloyd ... Wardley Meeks III
Lawrence Tierney ... Dougy Madden
Penn Jillette ... Big Stoop
Frances Fisher ... Jessica Pond
R. Patrick Sullivan R. Patrick Sullivan ... Lonnie Pangborn
John Snyder ... Spider
Stephan Morrow ... Stoodie
Clarence Williams III ... Bolo
Kathryn Sanders Kathryn Sanders ... Beth
Ira Lewis Ira Lewis ... Merwyn Finney
Ed Setrakian ... Lawyer


Writer, ex-con and 40-something bottle-baby Tim Madden, who is prone to black-outs, awakens from a two-week bender to discover a pool of blood in his car, a blond woman's severed head in his marijuana stash, and the new Provincetown police chief, Captain Luther Regency, shacked up with his former girlfriend Madeleine. As his father Dougy helps him try to unravel the mystery, he is dogged by the psychotic Capt. Regency, who has it in for Tim as a car-crash that he was involved in with Madeline has left her unable to have children. Flashing-back to the past, Tim remembers the time when he encouraged Madeline to swing with a Li'l Abnerish couple from down South, the fundamentalist preacher Big Stoop and his Daisy Mae-ish wife, Patty Lareine, whose ad Tim had come across in 'Screw' magazine. It's on the trip back that the car crash occurs, since Madeline is incensed that Tim has so enjoyed Patty Lareine's charms. Except for his father Dougy, who is dying of cancer, Tim suspects everyone, ... Written by Jon C. Hopwood

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A love story shadowed by murder. A comedy laced with horror. See more »


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Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

18 September 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Marca do Passado See more »


Box Office


$5,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Ultra Stereo


Color (TVC)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The film was made and released about three years after its source novel of the same name by Norman Mailer had been first published in 1984. See more »


Madeleine Regency: [narrating a letter] My husband is having an affair with your wife. I don't think we should talk about it... unless you're prepared to kill them.
Tim Madden: Oh man! Oh God, oh man! Oh God, oh man! Oh God, oh man! Oh God, oh man, oh God!
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Real Man
Music by Angelo Badalamenti
Lyrics by Danielle Badalamenti
Sung by Pam Tillis
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User Reviews

Dance With This Devil!
25 April 2002 | by toadentannerSee all my reviews

If you have an insatiable appetite for movies and want to get into something unusually tasty then serve yourself this movie tonight!

Important sidebar: if you've already read a critique posted on this site that nay-sayed this piece please do yourself a favor and etch-a-sketch that memory away. Though well-worded, Jack Sommersby's review of Tough Guys Don't Dance is just as equally misguided. For instance, the same gentleman who waxes that he was summarily summoned into Sleepyville three times before he was capable of viddying this work from beginning to end also asserts that it is a film that "you can't quite take your eyes off of." Believe me, you won't have a problem making more than "a bit of sense" from this mixture of the twisted, oddball and suspenseful. In fact even Doctor Dunderhead couldn't help but sleepwalk into a bit of truth when he characterized this Norman Mailer pastiche as "perversely fascinating." You don't need to know Jack to dig this flick the first time through, and you may find yourself revisiting it soon afterwards haunted by its savage and sublime reverbations.

This movie is a MUST SEE for film fans. Ryan O'Neal steps out from under typecasting--which has rendered him ineffective in much of his work--to engage in an often upsetting, yet somehow casual dance with the devil. He, Lawrence Tierney and Wings Hauser serve up sumptuous performances. All the while the supporting cast provides color, depth and character to a plot that is as unnerving as it is both captivating and entertaining.

Ignore Sir Superlative Sommersby's slight of hand and rent this movie! If I'm wrong then blast me back herein. On the other hand, if you like what you see then do me a favor and explain to me what the last phrase of Jaded Jack's review means--"rendering us helpless under power to disturb"!?! In the meanwhile, fellow movie devotee, keep on dancing.

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