Wednesday, June 28, 2017

DEJA VU (1985) (Blu-ray Review)

DEJA VU (1985) 
Label: Olive Films 
Rated: R
Region Code: A
Duration: 95 Minutes 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Anthony Richmond 
Cast: Shelley Winters, Claire Bloom, Richard Kay, Frank Gatliff 

This Cannon Group reincarnation-thriller is a new one to me, never watched it before, never even heard of it, but the synopsis reminded me a bit of the Kenneth Branagh film Dead Again (1991) so I thought I'd bite, and to be honest, after watching it I feel that perhaps Branagh might nicked a bit of this for 80s obscurity for his own film, though his movie far outclasses this mess of a supernatural tinged melodrama. 

Here we have both Jaclyn Smith (Charlie's Angels) and Nigel Terry (Excalibur) in a dual roles, Terry plays author Gregory Thomas, whom at the open of the film is at the cinema with his fiancee, actress Maggie( Smith). The movie they're watching is a doc about a famous 1930's ballerina named Brooke Ashley who died in mysterious fire, along with her lover and mother. Gregory is taken by the character of Ashley (Smith, again), also commenting on the uncanny resemblance between the doomed ballerina and his actress fiancee. Afterward he cannot shake the story and decides he will take a break from writing his new novel, to the chagrin of his increasingly irritated book agent, to write a screenplay about the life and death of the ballerina. 

His new found obsession with the ballerina coincides with Maggie leaving town for a role in a new movie, with her gone he is able to throw himself into the research, beginning with scouring the public record, which only gets him so far. His research brings him into contact with a friend of Ashley's, a Russian psychic named Olga (Shelley Winters, Tentacles). Gregory comes to the realization that he is the reincarnated soul of Ashley's lover, a ballet choreographer named Michael Richardson. He is haunted by vivid dreams and remembrances of his previous life as the dancer's lover. Gregory is guided by the psychic, enabling him to travel further into his mind to explore his past life while he tries to solve the mystery of their deaths. The flashback sequences are well done, good period costuming, both Smith and Terry are decent, but it is Claire Bloom (Clash of the Titans) as Maggie's overbearing mother, driven to separate her star dancer daughter and her lover, that steals all the scenes she's in, they should have incorporated her character a lot more.

As Gregory becomes more and more obsessed with what caused the fire in the 30's that took their lives his own relationship with Maggie begins to break apart, strange things begin to happen, someone kills their cat and he begins receiving threatening letters in the mail. It all leads up to some crazy reincarnation-possession love story with a decent twist and a turn right at the end. 

This is an adaptation of the novel Always, by Trevor Meldal-Johnsen, the material feels like it should have been something more, more poignant, deeper, more deftly executed but in the hands of Golan and Globus it's an odd affair, add a first time director to the mix and you have a film that lacks nuance and style. This is a reincarnation-mystery that lacks, despite a promising set-up and a nice twist at the end. The cinematography is uniformly bland, which is a shame, because Pino Donaggio (Dressed To Kill) offers up a nice lush melodramatic score that seems suited for a tragic love story, but it's a decidedly "meh" affair. 

Terry and Smith have zero chemistry, in either lifetime, and their love scenes are overly-tame, they're a miscast couple with no passion, but Terry does offer up some fun over-acting during fitful slumbers, plagued by bad dreams, wildly flailing about in his sleep, another time he is momentarily possessed while holding a locket that belonged to the ballerina, the moments is jarring and weirdly executed, ending in a weird freeze frame, it's an odd choice. Winters is fun as the heavily accented psychic, she's always a blast, and her character's penchant for vodka is probably closer to the real Winters than you could ever know, haha.   

Audio/Video: Deja Vu (1985) arrives on a bare-bones Blu-ray from Olive Films in 1080p HD framed in 1.85:1 widescreen looking rather poor in my opinion. The image is soft, colors are muted, details are obscured, the blacks are weak, there's  unpleasant artifacting, and it looks as if it's been digital-noise scrubbed to death leaving facial features looking plasticine. Not helping is the rampant use of soft focus cinematography, further robbing the image of any detail and crispness. A rather bland love scene features some awful blown out whites and contrast, ugly stuff. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio does the job, the romantic Pino Donaggio score sounds good, it just wasted on this movie though, never once does the movie match the passion implied in the lyrical phrasing. Optional English subtitles are offered, there are no extras on the disc. 

This reincarnation-thriller has some keen ideas floating around but there's no focus, it doesn't follow through, it's miscast and I cannot help but wonder if it had been in better hands the story could have been serviced so much better, but as it is this is just another trashy Cannon thriller, but if you're a fan of trashy thrillers at least it's now on Blu-ray.  2/5