Saturday, April 29, 2017

DOUBLE EXPOSURE BLU-RAY REVIEW

Based on an original story by director William Byron Hillman, DOUBLE EXPOSURE (1983) also incorporates many elements from his earlier film, THE PHOTOGRAPHER (1974), which likewise centered around a shutterbug and a string of homicides. Essentially reprising the same role, Michael Callan once again returns as Adrian Wilde, the tortured fashion photographer, who, this time around, may or may not be involved in a recent spate of murders plaguing Los Angeles.  Although tenuously connected to the ’74 film, DOUBLE EXPOSURE can almost be taken as a prequel of sorts, and thanks to the first-rate work of Vinegar Syndrome, this rather intriguing film receives its best transfer to date.

After a promising opening wherein an undercover cop—dressed in drag!—is brutally killed by an unknown assailant, who seems to be focusing his attentions on L.A. prostitutes (“Bizarre killings continue to plague Los Angeles!” scream the headlines), a pair of cops (Pamela Hensley and David Young) assigned to the case swear they’re (quote) “…gonna nail him!”  Meanwhile, Adrian Wilde (Callan), a prestigious photographer is suffering from vivid, horrifying nightmares in which he murders his models; but worse yet, he’s having a hard time deciphering the difference between his dreams and reality… especially after a number of these models start turning-up dead for real. 

Hovering conspicuously between a slasher film (“Smile, and say ‘Die!’”) and an erotic thriller, DE benefits greatly from some energetic performances, including that of Hollywood vet Callan as the conflicted and utterly-confounded lead.  At times, he’s quite over-the-top, which only adds to the confusing structure of the film, and in fact, his baffling mood-swings definitely work in favour of the film.  During frequent visits to his shrink, Dr. Frank Curtis, (the great Seymour Cassel), Wilde strives to get a grip on his situation, to no avail. “Listen man, sometimes, it’s gettin’… like the dreams… I can’t tell when they’re real and…”, he exclaims, much to Doc Curtis’ bafflement.  Sure enough, even Curtis begins to doubt Wilde’s sanity as more and more women turn up dead.  For the most part, much of the acting is uneven, but again, this shortcoming actually compliments the far-fetched plot, which also allows director Hillman to seize the opportunity and include some ’80s-style sleaze and violence, which, to be honest, almost seems out-of-place at times: a nude woman getting startlingly and viciously slashed with a knife comes readily to mind.  In lesser, if no-less-significant roles, frequent TV star Joanna Pettet as Wilde’s girlfriend (“You’re the first stranger I ever picked-up!”) also instills a believable vulnerability into her character, even going so far as to provide some surprising nudity while Cleavon Little as a clichéd police chief is always entertaining no matter how small the role. The remainder of the cast is also made up of many familiar faces, including Misty Rowe, who is probably best remembered from Ferd and Beverly Sebastien’s THE HITCHHIKERS (1974), along with Michael Miller’s slasher spoof, CLASS REUNION (1982); the burly Robert Tessier, a distinctive veteran stuntman and character actor who, at the time, probably had his biggest public exposure on television as the Midas Muffler man; as well as future Oscar nominee Sally Kirkland as a prostitute. 

Initially released by BCI in both their After Dark Thrillers and Blood Chills box sets, DE later resurfaced via Millcreek’s Drive-In Cult Classics 32 Movie Set, but all these collections featured an incorrectly-framed transfer that was closer to 1.85:1.  In 2012, through their “Katarina’s Nightmare Theatre” line of DVDs, Scorpion Releasing took their stab at it, finally presenting the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  No surprise, Vinegar Syndrome’s All-Region, Dual-Format Blu-ray / DVD combo is a noticeable step-up in terms of picture quality, boasting sharper resolution and more subdued colours, which makes for a far clearer, better-defined image.  The DTS-HD English audio track also sounds terrific, and as an added bonus, Jack Goga’s score is also offered as an isolated option. 

Unlike Scorpion’s DVD, which featured two commentary tracks (one with actor Callan moderated by Scott Spiegel and the other with DP R. Michael Stringer), that disc also featured an on-camera interview with Callan, which Vinegar Syndrome didn’t port-over for this release.  For their edition, VS has recorded an ‘all-new’ commentary with Stringer, as well including an assortment of newly-produced extras.  Moderated via telephone – or possibly Skype - with VS’ Joe Rubin, Stringer discusses the DE’s relationship to Hillman’s earlier film THE PHOTOGRAPHER and why he chose to shoot the low-budget feature in scope; he also discusses his wide-ranging career and the fate that befell the project at Crown International Pictures, the film’s U.S. distributor.  In the first on-camera interview, Exposing Double Exposure (29m28s), Stringer discusses his beginnings in the industry working as a PA (production assistant) and at various jobs in the camera department, as well as his earlier stint as a DP on Alain Patrick’s BLUE MONEY ([1971] also available from VS).  He also discusses the genesis of DOUBLE EXPOSURE, along with some of the issues he had shooting with anamorphic lenses.  In the second on-camera interview, Staying on Task (19m21s), script supervisor Sally Stringer talks about her early career in theatre and her subsequent migration to L.A. where she met her future husband Michael; her chance meeting with legendary director Orson Welles while she was a stage manager, which eventually led to her working as a script supervisor with Welles; and also, some of her work alongside both her husband and director Gary Graver.  Other extras include the original theatrical trailer and a ‘promotional still gallery’.  In addition, the first 1,000 copies come with a thick O-card featuring some striking cover art courtesy of Derek Gabryszak; a limited edition which, according to VS, has been selling very well—so grab one here before it disappears!


All-in-all, DOUBLE EXPOSURE is interesting stylistically, and thanks to a highly-capable and game cast, is quite engrossing, while occasionally bolstered by bouts of nudity and graphic violence, those enduringly-popular exploitation staples.

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