"Did I realize a lot of the material I did was schlock? Of course I did! I was constantly endeavouring to find appropriate choices that might cause me to disappear – become a hole in the screen. To take you through some of what I refer to as my ‘atrocities’ – The Swarm was populated by a swarm of stars prostituting themselves. But how could I point a finger at any of them when I was the busiest hooker in the game?"
Monday, October 22, 2012
The 70's was for sure a golden decade for movies, both those made for cinema and then have the more unknown classics made for TV. It seemed to be a new thriller/horror/action/disaster/adventure flick out every week and there's tons and tons of them, more than I ever will be able to see. Unfortunately many of these have never seen the light of day since then (except from Warner Archive, who have released a fine bunch of wonderful TV-movies during the last couple of years) and only survived on obscure video releases or if someone recorded it of the TV during a re-run years after. Because I'm such a nice guy I recently, as gift, got four productions on bootleg-DVDs. No, I don't feel guilty - because I know that if they get official DVDs I will upgrade them directly. One of these was Revenge, from 1971, starring Shelly Winters, Bradford Dillman and Stuart Whitman! What a cast! And it's written by Joseph "Psycho" Stefano!
Bradford Dillman is a businessman, Frank, who one day gets the wrong briefcase back to the office. A woman has his briefcase and she disappears fast in a taxi. He can just wait and see if she will call when she discovers that she's got the wrong one. Later that evening she calls and Dillman goes to get his stuff and meets a strange woman, Amanda Hilton (Shelley Winters), who lures him into his house and beats him unconscious. Hours later he wakes up in a iron cage down in the basement and is accused of something terrible, something he's innocent of doing. When he's been gone the whole night his wife gets worried and hires a psychic, Mark Hembric (Stuart Whitman), who reluctantly starts to help her... but will they find Frank in time, and is really Mark a real psychic?
How about that? Yeah, it's a very simple - but yet soooo effective story, one of those ideas I'm terribly jealous of not coming up with myself (I enjoy writing, and have written a couple of feature length scripts) and if it wasn't because of me being a very nice and honest guy I would steal the story and claim I never seen this film before. It's actually quite similar in tone to Psycho, but with Shelly Winters as a mad mother instead of a mad son, but Stefano also makes it quite different and gives it a few very original and interesting touches of darkness and... yeah, one of those lovely ambiguous endings. It's not clear anyway, but if you've been watching the film and got into the story you will notice something is wrong, terribly wrong.
Winters, Dillman and Whitman all personify their different trademark-characters they're experts on: Winters as the nutcase, Dillman as the square bureaucrat and Whitman doing his tough guy-routine, but with a twist - he's a psychic - or is he? The multiple layers of each characters is something very unique, and only Stefano could have made a quite basic thriller like this something really special by introducing so many shades of grey into the lives of our antagonists and protagonists. Dillman, probably among my ten absolutely favourite actors EVER, hasn't that much to do in this film actually. He's mostly locked inside a cage, in the darkness, looking frustrated. But he's still a great presence. Which reminds me of this excellent interview with him, where he also talks about the fact the he rarely said no to any movie offer and therefore did a lot of trash:
Shelley Winters of course, as usual, owns the scenes she's in and Whitman, another fine actor, is cool and tough, but interestingly enough he's giving us some weaknesses, somewhere a frail personality just trying to make a buck - yeah, I would say he's, somewhere underneath that cool face, a self-loathing character who's sometimes ashamed of his job as a psychic.
Revenge is a damn fine TV-thriller and you who have seen it, what do you think (SPOILERS): is Bradford Dillman really guilty of what he's accused for?
I hope one day this will come out on a nice, restored DVD. It's worth it!