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September 1, 2017

Movie Review: Double Exposure (1983)

Directed by William Byron Hillman

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

“You want me to stick my head in a fucking trash bag?”

Adrian (Michael Callan) is a nudie photographer whose exciting lifestyle hides lots and lots of personal problems. Plagued by nightmares where he brutally murders his models, he is led to believe that he may be performing them unconsciously during blackouts when some of his subjects start turning up dead. Seeking help from a psychiatrist, Adrian express his concerns to Dr. Frank Curtis (Seymour Cassel) in a starkly appointed office dominated by a naked muscleman statue. In the meantime, two very unconvincing undercover police officers Fontain (Pamela Hensley) and Buckhold (David Young) try to make sense of all the bodies piling up. Adrian has a fling with flirty blonde Mindy (Joanna Pettet). In one incomprehensible scene, Adrian is seen drowning a model in a swimming pool after she refuses to let go of the swimming pool net he’s wielding to push her under the water. Could Adrian’s former stuntman brother and real-life double amputee James Stacy be involved somehow? Growing ever more disjointed and choppy, the film grinds to a most unconvincing twist ending.

This reviewer has a history with Double Exposure. I wandered into the film on cable TV after the credits rolled way back when and was shocked that the station chose to screen such a sleazy, graphic thriller in the middle of the day. Joanna Pettet doing graphic nude scenes! Cleavon Little, a scant nine years after his lead role in Blazing Saddles (1974) reduced to walk-on parts in lowly slashers! The heartless exploitation of Stacy’s diminished physical status! The gory knife murder of a topless model! All playing out before my disbelieving eyes after lunchtime on my living room TV. The presence of well-known names in the service of body count pic that had it been produced two years later would have been shot on video. Double Exposure became one of those “I saw this weird god-awful thing on TV and I don’t remember if I saw it or I dreamed it” – ironically, a predicament suffered by the film’s protagonist. Rewatching it on Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-Ray|DVD combo recently, I now ascribe this to the film’s choppy editing and scenes involving actors that don’t interact with the narrative at large. The most remarkable facet of Double Exposure is that it’s a definite grindhouse feature with sex and violence slathered on with many noteworthy Hollywood actors, leading to a discombobulating experience. The only thing I can liken it to is seeing actress Louise Lasser – who played the lead character in TV’s “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” which was widely seen and followed as a cultural barometer of the Seventies appearing in the not-good-at-all regional horror flick Nightmare at Shadow Woods (aka Blood Rage, 1987) – which also recently had a breakthrough digital release!

No good, Double Exposure remains highly entertaining. Those walking in expecting sex and violence won’t walk away disappointed and those in search of snarky laughter will find plenty to enjoy. A,mong the extras: an audio commentary by director Hillman, and two long-extended on-camera interviews with director of photography R. Michael Stringer along with his wife script supervisor Sally Stringer. Married for more than 40 years, they spin marvelous stories about working with Orson Welles, the New York stage and their odd journeys through the worlds of mainstream and off-road cinema.  Sally Stringer laments that the film students of today find little value in older films, and if this includes Double Exposure … well, that’s to be expected!

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