Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Ugly mad slasher on the loose!
CURTAINS (1983). Director: "Jonathan Stryker" [Richard Ciupka].

"I would kill to be an actress."

Samantha Sherwood (Samantha Eggar of The Brood) is an actress who wants to bring total veracity to her role, so she conspires with her director, Johnathan Stryker (John Vernon), to get herself committed to an asylum. But once inside, Stryker refuses to get her released. Not only that, he decides to audition six other women for the lead role that he had promised to Samantha (and for which she had herself committed and even paid for the screen rights)! An understandably furious Samantha breaks out of the institution, and it isn't long before her rivals for the role of troubled "Audra" are being gruesomely dispatched by an unknown assailant wearing a hag mask and fright wig and wielding a razor-sharp scythe. But the movie has some surprises up its sleeve. Aside from Eggar and Vernon, the only other "name" in the cast is Linda Thorson, best-known for replacing Diana Rigg on the British TV series The Avengers as Tara King. The three leads are fine, and so are the lesser-known cast members, especially Lesleh Donaldson as figure-skating Christie and Lynne Griffin as Patti, who has a stand-up comedy routine. Let's be clear that Curtains is not exactly Psycho, but it is one of the better and more interesting slasher films of the period, along with Happy Birthday to Me. The film has undeniable tension and there are a couple of memorable sequences, such as a murderous attack on Christie on a frozen lake with a skating slasher, and a climax in a theatrical storage room in Stryker's isolated mansion. Robert Guza Jr.'s screenplay has some interesting elements but could have used characters with a touch more dimension [some scenes might have been scripted and cut]; Guza later wrote for soap operas and he also scripted the original Prom Night. Some of the scenes go on too long and are slack. Griffin also had a role in the original Black Christmas; she's been a busy actress ever since. The same is true of Donaldson, who was also in Happy Birthday to Me. William Marshall, who starred as Blacula ten years earlier, is supposed to be an attendant in this but I must have missed him. Thorson also appeared in Ken Russell's Valentino. This is another horror film that features a severed head in a toilet bowl a la The House on Sorority Row. The Comeback also featured a crazy crone with a lethal weapon. Paul Zaza's closing credit music is excellent.

Verdict: Watch out for crones on skates! ***.

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