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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

VHS Vednesday: The Swap

THE SWAP (1969/1979). Directed by John Shade and John C. Broderick. Starring Robert De Niro, Anthony Charnota, Jennifer Warren, and Sybil Danning.

The story behind The Swap is far more interesting than the movie itself. It was originally begun in 1969 as an independent film titled Sam's Song, but was never completed. It would have languished in obscurity had it not been for one factor: An early role by an unknown young actor named Robert De Niro. Ten years later, Cannon Films got hold of the footage and took advantage of De Niro's fame...but they didn't just release the original Sam's Song. Instead, they took De Niro's scenes and shot an entirely new movie around it. The new storyline features Anthony Charnota as Vito, the brother of De Niro's character Sam, just out of prison and determined to find out the truth about his brother's murder.

From what footage there is of Sam's Song, it appears to have been a quiet, slow-paced character study, with no indication of violence or sinister goings-on, making for a truly bizarre juxtaposition with the new sordid storyline. Sam, from all indications a decent, ordinary guy in the original film, gets dragged through the mud in retrospect. Most shockingly, Vito discovers that his brother was a pedophile and child pornographer (a revelation which the filmmakers don't seem to think is particularly significant, or even worthy of condemnation). I think that should tell you all you need to know about the thinking behind this movie.

Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?

Apart from De Niro, who was understandably upset by the re-appropriation of his footage, there is one other notable bit of casting: De Niro's love interest Erica was played by Jennifer Warren in Sam's Song. However, when Cannon put together The Swap, Warren was either unavailable or (very likely) unwilling to reprise her role. So, they replaced her with a supposed look-alike...namely, Sybil Danning. What the--??



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