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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

VHS Vednesday: Lethal Obsession

LETHAL OBSESSION (1987). Directed by Peter Patzak. Starring Peter Maffay, Tahnee Welch, Michael York, and Elliott Gould.

The German-filmed police thriller Lethal Obsession features the acting debut of pop star Peter Maffay (a big star in Germany, but virtually unknown in the US) as the hard-boiled police detective Jan Bogdan. While investigating a gang war, Bogdan is caught in an explosion that kills his partner and costs Bogdan the use of his legs. Bitter but undeterred, Bogdan has a custom-designed wheelchair constructed and sets out to eliminate the two major players, both of whom are known only by their nicknames: "The Ace" (Elliott Gould) and "Dr. Proper" (Michael York). At the same time, he must struggle to repair his relationship with his supportive but neglected girlfriend (Tahnee Welch).
Director Peter Patzak is a veteran of German film and television (though this appears to be his only picture to get any sort of US release). He does a fine job of creating atmosphere and crafting action scenes, though he's limited by the by-the-numbers script.
One side note: As a comics fan, it was difficult for me to watch the movie with a straight face...every time they mentioned the hero's full name "Jan Bogdan," I couldn't help but think of Jon Bogdanove. Come to think of it, even though I have no idea what he looks like, I wouldn't mind seeing Jon Bogdanove as an action hero...
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
After this debut, Peter Maffay once again concentrated on his music, making only occasional acting appearances afterwards. It's not hard to see why; although the dubbing makes it impossible to accurately judge Maffay's performance as a whole, his inexpressive face provides a reasonable explanation as to why his second career didn't take off.
As Maffay's superior officer, the brilliant Armin Mueller-Stahl is likewise hampered by the poor dubbing. The American and British stars (who do provide their own voices) fare much better, though their roles are limited in either screen time (Elliott Gould's role is essentially a cameo, while Michael York's is only slightly more substantial) or substance (Tahnee Welch does what she can with the thankless long-suffering-girlfriend role, but there's not much for her to work with).



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