Now that sales of "Bad" have leveled off at around $16 million and his world tour is over, Michael Jackson has readied his next assault on your pocketbook.
"Moonwalker," Jackson's feature-length music video, is in video stores now.The 94-minute tape ($24.98) was shown in theaters in Japan, Europe and Latin America, but in the United States "Moonwalker" is exclusively a home-video release.
And the man whose "The Making of Michael Jackson's `Thriller' " remains, at 900,000 copies, the all-time best-selling music video, hasn't lost his knack for packaging.
"Moonwalker" gives the viewer a lot for the money. For less than $25 (thanks in part to the Pepsi commercial that opens the tape), there are seven short music videos, including "Badder," a takeoff on the "Bad" clip; a performance of "Come Together," the first time Jackson, who owns the Beatles' 251-song catalog, has publicly performed a Beatles song; and "The Moon Is Walking," an epilogue by the 10-man Zulu choir from Paul Simon's "Graceland," Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
But the heart of "Moonwalker" is the 40-minute special-effects-laden video for "Smooth Criminal," in which Jackson indulges his love of dancing, science fiction and fantasy.
With Sean Lennon, John and Yoko's 13-year-old son, in a supporting role, Jackson takes on the role of anti-drug superhero, battling the dope-dealing Mr. Big, played by veteran character actor Joe Pesci ("Raging Bull").
The story allows Jackson, with the help of Rick Baker's high-tech effects, to become a human Transformer, turning into a robot and a rocket ship.
But an even more startling transformation can be seen in the medley of Jackson's hits that spans 24 years.
Through vintage clips, the viewer sees Jackson go from the black child star of the Jackson 5 to the sexless, raceless pixie of "Bad."
The tunes, including "Dancing Machine," "ABC," "Off the Wall" and hits from "Bad," sound great, but Jackson's ongoing dissatisfaction with his appearance, shown so vividly, is saddening.
There are some other disturbing glimpses into the psyche of this popular performer.
The Claymation video for "Speed Demon," for example, borrows a page out of Woody Allen's misanthropic "Stardust Memories," showing Jackson and his alter ego, a Claymation rabbit, being hotly pursued by grotesque, demanding fans.
In "Leave Me Alone," currently being shown on MTV, Jackson faces up to all the bizarre publicity surrounding him - his Elizabeth Taylor shrine, his pet chimp, his oxygen chamber, his bid for the Elephant Man's bones.
But he does it in a typically Michael Jackson way, as if all the damaging press was just in fun. Riding in what looks like an amusement-park rocket ship, he grins as he passes huge National-Enquirer-type headlines, pictures of Ms. Taylor and his chimp and a vignette in which he is seen dancing with an elephant-headed skeleton.