Saturday, July 12, 2014

DEADLY EYES (1982)

DEADLY EYES (1982) 
Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: July 15th 2014
Region Code: A
Duration: 87 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Robert Clouse
Cast: Sam Gordon, Sara Botsford, Scatman Crothers, Lesleh Donaldson, Joseph Kelly, Lisa Langlois

It seems so long ago that my horror-loving mother rented this vermin-infested chiller on VHS and I plopped down in front of the TV eating my pizza while enjoying the giant-rodent menace before me, those were some good times. That must have been almost thirty years ago but I must say that many of this movies cheap charms have stuck with me through the years. DEADLY EYES (1982) was never before available on DVD so it was a great to sit down and revisit it on a format that for better or worse presents it in the cleanest and sharpest format yet. 

Set in Toronto the city is plagued by a horde of steroid-infused grain eating rats which have grown large by Toronto standards - rats of unusual size are not that unusual in New York which is more than likely what it was not set in NYC. The contaminated grain is ordered destroyed by Health Dept. inspector Elly (Sara Botsford, STILL OF THE NIGHT) and when it goes up in flames the rats flee the factory and head to the city sewers where they spread throughout the city. One of the very first first death scenes is quite a shocker when a baby is dragged by the rats down to the basement and eaten. The child's mother finds a blood trail leading to the basement where she finds the blood-soaked jammies before the rodents dispatch her. Even to this day very few movies go for the death of a small child and this one does right from the start - no one is safe!


Enter into the equation a high school teacher Paul Harris (Sam Groom) who has all the charm of a day old fart but somehow captures the attention of super-cute student Trudy (Lisa Langlois, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME) who is totally crushing on him. It's sort of funny the way she throws herself  at him - going so far as to break-in to his apartment and crawl into his bed in her undies. Paul has very little interest in the young woman but her infatuation threaten to derail his budding relationship with Elly - the Health Department inspector from the start of the film. 

After the baby death there's another less deadly bite attack of a teen n the street but up next is an elderly gent who the rats stalk through the park which ends poorly for the old man. After that attack Elly sends her field inspector (Scatman Crothers, THE SHINING)  down into the city sewers to assess the rodent problem.  The scenes of Scatman driving through the sewer tunnels could have been taken straight from THE SHINING - I sewer its the same outfit! Crother's doesn't last long and is no match for the flesh-starved rats and his death scene is humorous as he lobs four-letter words at them before rolling to one side in the most casual sort of way as the rat-costumed dachshunds lick him to death. 



His death sends Elly and Paul to a rat-expert friend of Paul who theorizes based on reports that a new breed of super-rat may be on the lose in Toronto. Armed with this knowledge the Health Department introduces a deadly gas into the sewers which only sends the rats into the subway system where they gnaw they're way through hordes of Canadian passengers there to celebrate the grand opening of the mass transit system. Chewing through the electric cable supplying power to the subway the passengers are helpless to escape which makes quite a feast for the rodents. 

Before the days of digital effect the filmmakers resorted to using Dachshunds dressed in rat costumes for many of the scenes and I must say while it's at first goofy the overall effect of it holds up. Some shots are better than others and while they don't come of as the desired voracious rodents the mass of living creatures rushing towards victims are effective with only the occasional bark ruining the effect. For the close-ups of the rats we have some fun practical animatronic  toothy rodents gnashing at the camera. Sure, it's a little bit goofy but for an early eighties b-movie rat-fest this is a lot of fun. 


I thought the performance from the leads were a bit wooden but they're not awful either.  I would say it was played a bit too straight for the sort of movie they were making. No one is watching this film for the boring love story that goes nowhere - we're watching it for the scenes of bloody rat violence and on that end it delivers. Director Robert Clouse (ENTER THE DRAGON) keeps the film moving along even with the obvious filler material and threads that go nowhere which pads out the running time . 


The last twenty-minutes are a blast beginning with a ravenous attack at a darkened movie theater where movie goers are enjoying a Bruce Lee retrospective when the rodents start gnawing popcorn-popping patrons by the dozens. Another fun scenario features an unfortunate bowling alley employee resetting pins only to end up as rat bait in the darkened inner workings of the venue, this is fun stuff. Eventually the film climaxes in the subway with out main protagonist holed-up in a maintenance cage while holding off the vermin with acetylene torches - but not before the rats take off his finger! 


After thirty years it was a blast to visit the one again. Scream Factory's new widescreen edition looks nice in hi-def and quite a step-up from the murky VHS of yore. The print used for the transfer - with the alternate NIGHT EYES title card - is quite pleasing with strong colors and decent black levels. There's a nice layer of grain and while it's not reference quality this low-budget Canadian horror is sure to please. The audio is capably handled by an English language DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track that is free of distortion and balanced, there are no subtitles. This is a 2-disc set with a standard-def DVD mirroring the feature and extras of the Blu-ray.  

I was surprised the amount of extras on the disc which begins with a brand featurette with interviews from writer Charles Eglee (DEXTER) and art director Ninkey Dalton, special effects artists Alan Apone and Alec Gillis. Writer Eglee speaks of the film being more a tribute to the Roger Corman produced PIRANHA more so than an adaptation of the source material. 


Actress  Lesleh Donaldson (CURTAINS) speaks about her scream queen notoriety in Canada and working on with the cast and the dogs plus she speaks about a few of her other films including HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME with director J.Lee Thompson and STONE COLD DEAD (1979).

Actress Lisa Langlois (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME) who played the blond cutey with the crush of the prof speaks about the audition process and not knowing what director Robert Clouse had previously done till after the shoot. She speaks poorly of Roger Corman and her experience making THE NEST which she says was the worst experience of her life plus almost landing the lead role in TERMINATOR!



There are also interviews with Joseph Kelly and another with special effects artists Alan Apone who comments about working with the Dachshunds and terriers on the film and how hysterical that was at times. There's also a thirty second TV spot for the film. 

 Maybe not the greatest horror title ever to get the Scream Factory treatment but a fun b-movie that's quite entertaining. Great to see Scream unearthing these dusty gems and giving them a spit shine for the fans to enjoy. I f you love b-movie nature-gone-wrong movies like SQUIRM and THE NEST you are gonna want this one, seriously I've watched this three times already.

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