Friday, February 12, 2016

Surrogate, The (1984)

... aka: Blind Rage
... aka: Infidélité fatale (Fatal Infidelity)
... aka: Mielipuoliset murhat (Insane Massacre)
... aka: Schizophrenia
... aka: Split Person

Directed by:
Don Carmody

Pretty much anyone who grew up in the 90s into the early 2000s should be pretty familiar with the erotic thriller. After all, these things helped get many of us through puberty. They were playing every single night on cable channels like Showtime and Cinemax. They were filling up video store shelves; not that you could necessarily rent them if you were of a certain age, but they were there. Since 1980, North American soft erotica has become increasingly more explicit to where now it's about as close to hardcore as you can possibly get without actually being hardcore. In the 90s, the sex scenes were still mostly on the very soft side of things because these mainstream features had to cut it as actual movies with plots, production values  and attention paid to the photography, score, etc. After all, these had budgets and were shot on film, not on smart phones or with 200 dollar digital cameras like they do it today. These movies even had their own stars and many of these ladies became fairly well known and could sell a film all on their own. Nowadays, there really aren't soft or hardcore porn stars, at least not like there used to be. Skip back to the 80s and the sex scenes in soft-core were even less explicit than the 90s (or even the 1970s for that matter). Oftentimes in 80s erotic thrillers there wasn't even any sex at all, just a good amount of nudity, as is the case with this one.

The biggest name in soft-core during the 90s boom was undoubtedly Shannon Tweed, who seemed to star in every other erotic thriller made that decade. Tweed was involved in beauty pageants and modeling in her native Canada before posing for Playboy magazine and becoming their Playmate of the Year in 1982. With her star on the rise, she landed a recurring gig on TV's prime time soap Falcon Crest and moved on to feature films (mostly B movies) and numerous TV guest spots from there. She stayed busy enough throughout the 80s that by the time she made a real name for herself in late night erotica, she was well into her 30s and continued in the genre well into her 40s. The Surrogate was one of her first major film roles and also the very first erotic thriller for the actress. Of course this kind of erotic isn't the erotic of the 90s and it certainly isn't the erotic of today. This is a psycho-thriller / mystery first and foremost that just happens to have some sexy scenes thrown in.

Too much boozing, late nights at work and other stresses and insecurities are taking their toll on Frank Waite (Art Hindle), a luxury car salesman, and his wife Lee (Tweed), who's living off of inherited riches. As far as sex is concerned, forget about it. The two haven't been intimate in quite some time because Frank's having a hard time with his hard time. Or as Lee so compassionately tells him “I'm ready and willing... when you're able!” Frank's anger starts boiling over not only at work but at home. He stabs his desk with a knife and screams at Lee, “I could break your God damn neck!” It's getting so bad that he's having rage-induced black out periods where he can't remember what he's done. All of that seems to coincide with a serial killer's murder spree being investigated by tired detective George Kyber (a very disinterested acting Michael Ironside). Someone's running around gouging out eyeballs and making victims look like pincushions and Frank just so happens to emerge from several of his black out episodes near the crimes scenes.

Frank's psychiatrist, Dr. Harriet Foreman (Marilyn Lightstone), has run plenty of physical tests but nothing is coming back that would explain Frank's extreme anger, so she chalks it up to Lee making him feeling inadequate and hands the frustrated husband the business card of one Anouk Van Derlin (Carole Laure), a sex surrogate / fantasist, to help them sort out their sex life. Anouk shows up at the Waite's one evening dressed in all black leather and manages to turn on both Frank and Lee with simple sex talk in her soothing French-accented voice and light touching, but the repressed Lee feels “dirty” after the experience and wants no more of it. Unfortunately, Anouk isn't quite done with them yet. While the wife's away, she shows up unannounced and uses her alone time with Frank to seduce him into some violent, kinky sex that makes a complete mess of their condo. She shows up again several more times to terrorize (and attempt to blackmail) the couple, but is she also the killer?

Another chief suspect is Lee's flamboyant best friend Eric, an antique dealer who's seen in full drag snooping around at many of the crime scenes and is referred to as a “lunatic faggot” by Frank, who hates that his wife spends so much time with him. Since Eric is played by Jim Bailey, a top female impersonator back in the day, we're also treated to such scenes as him dressing up as Bette Davis and stabbing a melon with a butcher knife. The cast also includes Gary Reineke as Frank's backstabbing lawyer friend, Barbara Law as one of Frank's flirty customers, Vlasta Vrana and Ron Lea. Jackie Burroughs also has a bizarre, amusing cameo as a kinky older lady who likes to dress up like a little schoolgirl and wants to get spanked with a giant lollipop (!)

Even though this is classed as an erotic thriller, the audience has to get their kicks mostly with sex talk and three Tweed nude scenes. Laure, a multi-talented beauty who not only acts (she's perhaps best known for the genuinely shocking SWEET MOVIE) but is also an award-winning writer and director and has a successful music career, has just one very brief topless scene. Though not as edgy now as it probably seemed back in 1984, this is competently made with good production values, has (mostly) passable acting and an OK mystery script (by the director and Robert Geoffrion) with some amusing dialogue and a pretty decent twist at the end. This is the only directorial credit for Carmody, who is now a major Hollywood producer, to date. He started out working on David Cronenberg movies.

This was shot in the winter of 1983 in Montreal under the title Blind Rage. The budget was around 1.5 million dollars. After its initial VHS release (on the Fox Hills label in the U.S. and on the Medusa label in the UK) and some TV airings, this one vanished for awhile until a Real 3-D version (!!) turned up on Amazon in 2012.



crow said...

As I mentioned on a response to you on my blog it is cool to see you back. I have read call your new reviews. I haven't seen this particular Shannon Tweed film. Ironside has made a lot of varied appearances during his film career.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Thanks! This is definitely better than most of the movies Tweed did in the 90s and 2000s. And yes Ironside has, though this may be the worst performance I've seen from him.

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