He first spies her on the cover of a glamour magazine, pouty and alluring, and then on TV in a perfume commercial, sensuous and inviting. He has to have her, possess her, leave his mark on her. He is Karl Kinsky, a decorated (literally) Vietnam vet obsessed with irezumi, the traditional Japanese art of tattooing. Post-’nam, he plies his learned trade in a Hoboken tattoo parlor. He is played by Bruce Dern, Hollywood’s favorite loony, back when he likely appealed to the ladies. Like Maddy. She’s a model, played by former “Bond girl” Maud Adams (The Man with the Golden Gun, Octopussy). They coincidentally cross paths when a fashion editor propositions Karl to design some temporary tattoos—dragons and anchors and stuff—for a shoot with a nautical theme: scantily-clad women draped across buff, underdressed seamen (Maddy is one of the scantily clad). Obsession, domination, the permanence of ink—all these figure in Karl’s elaborate plan to possess Maddy completely. Bob Brooks never made a theatrical film before or after Tattoo, but he teamed up with Luis Bunuel’s daughter-in-law (!?) to write this schlock, an early ’80s “after hours” drama akin to Bedroom Eyes and Masquerade and I, the Jury (all proudly “now on Fox/CBS” videotape). Apart from a couple of episodes of TV’s Space: 1999 and a stellar made-for-television movie about London cabbies called The Knowledge (1979), Tattoo was it for Brooks. Perhaps the outcry that accompanied the film’s release (its publicity art featured a naked woman bound at the ankles) turned him off filmmaking altogether. Or maybe he just wanted to get Adams in the buff. Mission accomplished, Bob.
(c) 2016 David N. Butterworth