Friday, January 8, 2010

Eyes of a Stranger (1981)

So, I realize I've been MIA for a while. Nothing serious. I didn't die or anything like that. I didn't stop watching shit. All that happened was I got a little burned out from working two jobs, one of which is in retail. Put the retail together with the holiday season and you can maybe imagine not having the energy to write after getting home around midnight (with an early wake up looming the next morning). I'm gonna try to be better about this kind of shit in the new year. I've already scaled back my hours a bit at the second job. Of course, that means less money to buy booze but I guess I'll have to make do. I also realize that I've got no top ten list for 2009. I'll try to get something done by the end of the January. Gotta be honest, not sure if I saw ten movies from 2009 that I loved enough to fill up a list. Not sure I saw enough movies I hated to fill up a list either. Oh well, I'll try to get something but I gotta be honest again: I'm not a big fan of compiling lists.

Anyway, 2010 is off to a good start. I watched this little picture from the early 80s with a very (too?) young Jennifer Jason Leigh called Eyes of a Stranger. Tom Savini did the effects but I have a feeling most of the gory shit was cut out. The guy that directed that Nazi zombie movie, Shock Waves, directed this as well. Basically, what we got here is Rear Window by way of The Miracle Worker. Jason Leigh is the Helen Keller part, rendered deaf, blind, and mute by a childhood trauma (involved abduction and other unsavory details). She now lives in a luxurious apartment building with her newswoman sister, Jane Harris (Lauren Tewes), in Miami. Meanwhile, there's some psychopath going around the city prank calling women, fondling their breasts, and then murdering them. Thankfully, Leigh is sheltered from this kind of stuff since she can't read the paper, listen to the radio, or watch her sister deliver the news reports.

Turns out, their apartment tower has a twin. What are the chances the killer lives directly across from their balcony? In a city of millions, I would figure not very good but since this is a movie I'd say the odds are more likely 1:1. The picture does a poor job of concealing the killer's identity. I mean, it could only be that creepy businessman who comes home late one night, parks in the garage (while Jane watches), has blood on his shirt, and disposes of some suspicious garments in the trash. Jane is already paranoid as indicated by the scene(s) where she interrupts her news casting partner to reiterate that women should report anything they see that appears out of the ordinary (1981 predates 9/11/01 so this is some eery shit).

Jane figures out which apartment the guy lives in (via some Nancy Drew-ish type bullshit) and then begins an investigation of her own. At one point, she even steals his key from the super, snoops around his place, etc only to have the creep come home mid-snoop, leading to a daring escape by swinging down to the balcony below. The suspense from this picture is generated not by the killer's identity, but, I guess, by who will live and who will get their head hacked off and shoved in a fish bowl. I can deal with this type of suspense.

John Disanti plays the killer as sort of a blank. He's good. We know the guy wears suits but we don't know what he does for a living (besides raping and murdering). We know he's got resources which allow him to get ladies phone numbers and also know when they are home or at work alone. His abilities frequently border on the supernatural such as the time he calls the secretary that's working late at her desk. She flees to the elevator and he calls her there. Then she flees to the her car in the underground garage and I'm pretty sure he's gonna be waiting for her in the back seat. See, here's what doesn't make sense about this scene. It becomes established that the secretary heard music on the other end of the phone. Jane discovers that this music came from the cuckoo clock in the killer's apartment. Now, how in hell did the killer get from his apartment (where presumably he called from) to the parking garage - miles away- in a matter of seconds? Wait, am I actually dissecting Eyes of a Stranger? Moving on.

There are a couple effective scare scenes. One involves a stripper, as these type of scenes usually do. Our killer (who, by the way, sorta looks like Raymond Burr) follows a stripper home from her club (plenty of boobies there). She gets home, takes a shower. We expect a slow Hitchcockian build up to her death. Not really. Immediately after starting her shower, she turns around (more boobies) and sees the killer with his face planted on the shower door. It's jarringly unexpected, which is why it works so well. The other scene involves Jennifer Jason Leigh being home alone only to have the killer break in, strangle her seeing eye dog, and then fuck with her. His fucking with her involves rearranging things around the apartment. At first, it's kinda silly but quickly progresses to disturbing. Of course, he wildly underestimates Jason Leigh's character. Yes, we see her breasts. I'm still not sure if she's of appropriate age. I guess I could look it up but I don't really want to know the answer.

Anyway, this is a pretty good picture. As far as Rear Window knock offs go I'd say it's about on par with Mimic 3 and Abominable. There's not an original bone in it's body. The cinematography is pedestrian. The performances are mostly solid though, especially John Disanti as the killer and Jason Leigh (in a mostly silent performance). It's probably worth your time. This was Jennifer Jason Leigh's first performance. Also, her breasts.


elmo said...

Sounds bad enough to have been written by James Patterson.

I remember feeling like a perv while watching Pan's Labyrinth, when the girl was bathing. Del Toro's fault, really.

maggie said...

Hey you wouldn't know where I can get some good links to any porno sites would ya?
Just kidding. Don't approve this comment.
ps HI

Megmo Eskimo said...

Sounds like quite the breast fest! Humorous review as always.