DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
SPECIAL EFFECTS (director/writer: Larry Cohen; cinematographer: Paul Glickman; editor: Armond Lebowitz; music: Michael Minard; cast: Eric Bogosian (Chris Neville), Zoe Tamerlis (Andrea Wilcox/Elaine Bernstein), Brad Rijn (Keefe), Kevin O'Connor (Lieut. Delroy), Bill Oland (Detective Vickers), Richard Greene (Emil Gruskin), Heidi Basset (Director's Assistant), Steven Pudenz (Thomas Wiesenthal); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Paul Kurta; MGM Home Entertainment; 1984)

 
"An uneven homage spoof on auteurs like Hitchcock, Powell and Ferrara."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

An uneven homage spoof on auteurs like Hitchcock, Powell and Ferrara. Director-writer Larry Cohen's ("God Told Me To"/"It's Alive!"/"Hell Up In Harlem") murder mystery has an intriguing premise and some wonderful New York attitude sequences and Cohen's clever cynical take on filmmaking, but there are too many dead spots and the awkward finale all but drains the life out of the finished product.

Andrea Wilcox (Zoe Tamerlis) is an aspiring young naive actress who left Oklahoma and her earnest husband Keefe Waterman (Brad Rijn) and young son to be in the Big Apple in pursuit of her career. Hubby tracks her down posing in a scanty costume for a bunch of photographers and forcibly drags her back to her dumpy Lower East Side apartment so she can pack her bags to return home and be a proper mother. To make hubby jealous, she lies telling him that she's dating famous film director Chris Neville (Eric Bogosian, his screen debut) and then flees by climbing out the bathroom window. Andrea steals hubby's car and goes to the failed Hollywood director's posh weirdly decorated SoHo townhouse, that has a powerful William Blake picture hanging on its wall, and gets promised a part in his next picture if she goes to bed with him. The director got canned from his last pic for going over budget with special effects and not giving the studio the kind of film that could generate a box office for its big-budget. In bed, there's a rose on her pillow. Chris says "he likes flowers because they're so beautiful and they die so quickly." When things don't go right in the sack and she calls him a loser, the smug director strangles her. Chris keeps a hidden camera in his bedroom and filmed her death, which he gets sleazy lab technician Gruskin (Richard Greene) to develop.

Meanwhile, after Andrea's body is found in her hubby's car in Coney Island, lead investigating NYPD detective, Lieut. Delroy (Kevin O'Connor), arrests the hubby as the prime suspect. But Chris pays to get him a top criminal lawyer (Steven Pudenz) and puts up his bail. The slimy monstrous director hopes to make a comeback by filming a realistic low-budget murder mystery based on the Andrea murder and hires a reluctant Keefe to play himself and the detective to be a technical adviser. Chris then follows Keefe's suggestion and hires charity shop volunteer worker and Andrea lookalike, Elaine (also played by Zoe), to play his wife in the movie.

How it all plays out is diverting, as the scheming twisted director, desperate for a hit movie, wishes to use the actual footage of the strangulation and hopes to frame the nice-guy hubby after pretending to be his friend. Unfortunately things get too muddled to be anything more than an interesting project, as it lacks the finesse and detailed structure of Hitchcock's Vertigo or the droll humor of Powell's voyeuristic Peeping Tom--films it seems to emulate. But it does remind me in some strange ways of the no-budget Ferrara rape/revenge thriller Ms .45 (in which Zoe was also the star).

REVIEWED ON 6/6/2010       GRADE: B 

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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