Fish-Flavored Baseball Bat

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Too Scared to Scream

This week's not-on-DVD rental:

TOO SCARED TO SCREAM (1985). Directed by Tony Lo Bianco. Starring Mike Connors, Anne Archer, Ian McShane, and Maureen O'Sullivan.

When a fashionable, expensive apartment building is plagued by a series of brutal murders, Lt. Alex Dinardo (Mike Connors) is on the case. A young undercover officer (Anne Archer) is assigned to act as a decoy, moving into the building and keeping an eye out for any suspicious characters. Who could the killer be? Is it the refined, ever-so-helpful night-shift doorman (Ian McShane)? Or perhaps the doorman's mute, paraplegic mother (Maureen O'Sullivan) isn't quite as helpless as she appears? Or is it...well, actually, the movie doesn't really give us any other suspects. Oh sure, we're introduced to a number of other characters, but they're not given enough activity even to become red herrings. Of course, I'm not giving too much away when I say that the most obvious suspect is not the killer (in fact, the back of the video box gives THAT away), but when the actual murderer is revealed, it comes completely out of left does the killer's motive: Frustrated Homosexual Desire. It's a flashback to a different social milieu, and not in a good way.
Apart from the stereotypes, Too Scared to Scream is an odd little's not really a slasher flick (most of the violence occurs discreetly off-screen, although there are some bloody bodies on display after the fact), but could pass for a feature-length episode of a TV cop show (apart from the aforementioned blood and a couple of gratuitous nude scenes). Overall, it's not a bad's the sort of picture where everybody involved took what they were given and gamely gave it their best (while wondering whether it's worth their best).
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
Most of the principals acquit themselves admirably; Mike Connors and Anne Archer make an appealing cop-buddy duo, and Ian McShane is effectively creepy as the too-soft-spoken, mother-obsessed doorman (a long way off from Deadwood). Maureen O'Sullivan, stuck in a role which requires her to be both mute and immobile, works her facial muscles for all they're worth and manages to bring some expressiveness to a character that the film treats more like a prop than a person.
The supporting cast features a number of familiar faces, none of whom are given much to do. (It's only been a few days since I watched the movie, and already I've completely forgotten how Murray Hamilton figures into it.) Leon Isaac Kennedy, playing Connors' partner, becomes a third wheel when Archer joins the investigation. Prolific character actor Val Avery has a cameo as a blase coroner, making pleasant chit-chat with the queasy Archer while he sifts through the remains (a situation which was pretty much covered in the opening credits of Quincy). Perhaps the most thankless role goes to John Heard as a lab technician delivering some test results; at least Val Avery had something besides straight exposition to work with.
Charles Aznavour's probably not including the theme song "I'll Be There" in his repertoire of greatest hits, either.



At 6:32 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

All right! Good to see you writing up the movie reviews again!

Weirdly, I was just today thinking about "Honeymoon Killers" and wondering what became of Tony LoBianco. Well, I guess we now know as of 1985.

I'd be interested to see Anne Archer's performance in this. She always seemed relegated to "faithful wife" roles, and was such a revelation in "Short Cuts." Seeing her as a cop would be fun. (See also: Laurie Metcalf, "Internal Affairs")



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