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Kind of a disappointment here from the otherwise interesting Peter Collinson, who's 1974 sleaze-0-rama OPEN SEASON is one of the truly great overlooked cult movies from the 1970s. He even brings along the late John Phillip Law from that movie but chooses to lock him up in the basement during the majority of the film's big shebang sequence, giving him little more to do than pry open a door and take a shower. His role could have been played by anyone.
The movie is a remake of a highly regarded Noir thriller of the same name that better judgment suggests one investigate instead -- I was in this for John Phillip Law, so my disappointment is more on seeing his usually bizarre talents go so wasted. The story revolves around a fetching young woman played by Jaqueline Bisset who goes mute in the face of danger owing to a boringly typical childhood drama. There's a family matriarch who sleeps with a .38 under her pillow, a duplicitous doctor played by Christopher Plummer who may be the key to a series of murders of likewise handicapped but fetching young women, a scruffy amoral police detective who couldn't be more ineffective if he was trying to be, and a bunch of unlikeable types sitting around waiting for a rich elderly to die off so they can claim their piece of the pie.
In other words this is a Scooby-Doo type plot with a couple of murders thrown in to beef it up. The most effective element of the film is the sprawling, ornate mansion that the movie is mostly set within, which does become effectively creepy once the power goes out during an electrical storm with a killer prowling the grounds. Director Collinson composes some interesting shots looking out from under the furniture that sort of reminds one of hiding under stuff as a kid when frightened. There is an intriguing use of color and some imaginative camera angles, but those elements aren't what we watch stuff like this for.
As a made for TV movie (CBS) from the 1970s it's not bad, with a first rate cast, some interesting supporting players, a decent disappearing corpse sequence and a respectably staged lightning storm, but what of it? The movie apparently enjoyed a theatrical release overseas, mostly due to the strength of the names in the cast, and is a comparatively rare film not having found a re-release on DVD just yet, and probably never will. The problem is coming up with elements to recommend it for and other than another obscure, nutty, somewhat sinister John Phillip Law supporting role I can't come up with much. Jaqueline Bisset looks marvelous as usual and the unseen hero saving the day at the end was a pleasant surprise. As a whole however it's just not a very involving or absorbing story, well staged for the budget involved, but then again so is your basic trip to the bus station on YouTube.
So here's another "I don't know ..." kind of movie. If low budget made for TV horror is your bag this should definitely find it's way onto your schedule at some point and used VHS copies are relatively inexpensive & not difficult to acquire (just search for the title on Amazon: it's there in spite of what the IMDb's link box says). With a bag of popcorn on a rainy otherwise boring night it would probably come in handy, and for John Phillip Law devotees you should probably grab a copy now before they all fall to pieces.
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