Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dead Silence (1989)

Directed by:
Hugh Gallagher

Here's the exact type of cheap-o video I absolutely love reviewing here: Hardly anyone has ever seen this sucker! The film was available through mail order only back in the day, has never been released to DVD and, as of this writing, is not even listed on IMDb. I cannot locate any poster artwork or a VHS sleeve for it... granted there even was any poster artwork or a VHS box... and there is nary a review anywhere online for it. Written, produced and directed by Draculina magazine publisher Hugh Gallagher, this extremely obscure shot-on-video cheapie was made prior to Gallagher's straight-to-VHS "erotic gore" trilogy, which kicked off with 1990's low-budget-gore-and-nudity soaked GORGASM. The opening sequence of Dead Silence takes place in a prison. Since this film has a budget that didn't extend far beyond purchasing blank VHS tapes to load into the camcorder, the "prison" is basically just a white room probably located in some office building. There, an obese judge (Flint Mitchell) shows devil-worshipping serial killer and death row prisoner Sam Mason (Brad Foltz) compassion by informing him "See you in hell" as he's strapped to an electric chair. The prisoner seethes back, "You can count on it!" before receiving a lethal dosage of electricity.

Not long after, our bleached-and-feathered heroine Terri (Cindy Weichbrodt) is busy typing away on a computer, possibly working on this film's credits, which were taped directly off a computer screen. The executed man sneaks into her home and attacks her roommate. Being the wonderful roomie she is, she hides in her closet and watches the psycho tazer her friend unconscious, fill a bottle with her blood and then stab her to death. Oh wait, that's all just a nightmare! Whew. The psycho then pops up from behind her chair and slashes her throat. Oh wait, it's just a nightmare-inside-of-a-nightmare. Fooled again! Terri is the reporter whose investigation helped put psycho Sam behind bars. Her boss Neil (Ron Scroggins) wants a follow-up story and watching a TV program called "Super Natural" gives her an idea. How about she go to Sam's grave, put a tape recorder on it and try to record audio of Sam's restless spirit? Sure, why not. Terri goes to the cemetery, sets up the recorder on the grave and the decides to take a nap in her car.

Grave-digger Martin (Kevin Patterson), who's apparently been living in his car, stumbles upon the recorder, plays the tape and then manages to get himself possessed by Sam's spirit. He then spends the rest of the movie chasing Terri through the woods, first in his car and then by foot. A young couple tryin' to get lucky get unlucky as the possessed psycho runs into them and the boss goes to see a carnival psychic (played by the director's wife, Paula Gallagher), who talks about how Sam may have completed a Satanic ritual sacrifice of 13 people before dying, which would give his spirit immortality.

Probably around 99.5 percent of the movie going public is going to find nearly everything about this one to be pathetic and laughable. And if one doesn't have an affinity for unintentional laughs, most are going to be downright bored. I've seen a lot of bad acting in my day, but this movie may contain the absolute worst and most wooden "acting" I've ever come across in one of these things. To the film and director's credit, there IS a genuine attempt to build up excitement. They get to wreck a car and a motorcycle and there are even some minor stunts here (performed by Patterson). There's also a fair amount of blood; including neck slashings, a hand getting ripped off and a decapitation. That said, these scenes are usually staged and photographed so ineptly that they're rendered completely ineffectual. I couldn't really tell just what in the hell happened to our heroine at the end, either.

Some people seek out movies simply because they're obscure. Dead Silence is for those people and no one else. The running time is just 62 minutes.


Naked Obsession (1990)

Directed by:
Dan Golden

Sounds like one of those generic, interchangeable erotic thrillers you could stumble across flipping through the channels at 3am, right? Yep. Sure does. But titles can be - and often are - deceiving. This is actually something of a gem, made in the early days of direct-to-cable and video erotica when these movies, first and foremost, had to cut it as actual movies, with at least a semblance of a plot, actors with talent and / or some artistry. This one has all of that, as well as a sharp, funny and sometimes insightful screenplay. Though there's plenty of nudity, strip acts and some kinky sex thrown in for good measure, what this is really about is a man in the midst of a mid-life crisis who feels like he's living a lie and is ready for a reevaluation of what's truly important to him. Behind the pretty wife, the nice house in the respectable neighborhood and the cushy job with plenty of room for advancement lies a man who feels unfulfilled and bored by it all. City councilman Franklyn Carlyle (William Katt) is that man. He's on the fast track to becoming the city's mayor and, working in conjunction with an opportunistic lobbyist (Tommy Hinkley), has come up with just the project to seal the deal. Dante's Square, the "bad" area of the city filled with derelicts, drunks, prostitutes, strippers and other undesirables, could use a renovation. Eliminate the trash, build a mall, some condos and a church; "clean up the city" and the election is his for the taking.

Late one night, Franklyn decides to scout Dante's Square when someone yanks him out of his car, hits him over the head wth a 2x4 and steals both his wallet and his wheels. When he comes to, a homeless man named Sam Silver (Rick Dean) is hovering over him. Though a drunk, Sam is no idiot. In fact, he's intelligent, witty and has a real way with words. "Life ain't permanent. Don't take it so seriously," he tells the shaken politician before taking him to the seedy Ying Yang strip club. The pay phone's busy, so Sam buys Franklyn a drink instead and the two decide to sit down and enjoy the show. Beautiful, flirtatious dancer Lynne (Maria Ford) is immediately drawn to Franklyn and vice versa. After performing her routine and Franklyn's about to head out the door, Lynne shoots him such a shy, sweet smile that you just know Franklyn's not going to forget about her. In fact, he's back there the very next night, but not before trying to ignite some passion into his sterile marriage to the uptight Saundra (Wendy MacDonald), who's simply not interested.

Heading back to Dante's Square, Franklyn runs into both Sam and Lynne once again. He makes sure to pay Sam back for the other night with a bottle of booze (he prefers it blood red and warm) and decides to give Lynne a lift back home, where she introduces the reserved politician to the joys of oxygen deprivation sex. Though things get a little rough, both part ways happy. The following day, Franklyn - scared he might get exposed for the affair - returns to Lynne's apartment to ask she keep things confidential, only to discover her being hauled out on a stretcher with a rope wrapped around her neck. A detective (former 49ers linebacker Roger Craig) immediately chases after him until Sam intervenes and then things get even stranger as Sam proves to be not quite human and in possession of some otherworldly powers, Franklyn's wife turns out to be having an affair of her own with the lobbyist and other people turn up dead.

Considering I could probably watch Ford perform strip acts for 90 minutes and be perfectly content with just that, this has the added bonus of humor, originality and visual style (neon-lit nights and some interesting black-and-white sequences). The film is well-made, well-written, imaginative and unpredictable, and the cast is also pretty good, with Katt doing a fine job in the lead role and Ford bringing her usual sweetness and vulnerability to a role that would have come off as just trashy in most other's hands. Apparently the director was originally going to cast porn queen Ginger Lynn Allen in the role. Glad he didn't. The big revelation here, though, is Rick Dean as the wise, enigmatic vagrant who describes how all cities need a balance between the dark and the light to cater to an individual's unique taste and tries to convince Franklyn that he's better off learning to embracing his repressed dark side: "There's nothing wrong with the dark, you spend half your life in it. The problem is most people have their eyes closed." Talented character actor Dean (who sadly passed away in 2006) is great in this role; one of the largest and most memorable of his career. He'd play a somewhat similar part in Stripteaser (1995), which was also set in a strip club and again starred Ms. Ford.

It was produced by Roger Corman and released by Corman's Concorde / New Horizons label on VHS. Unfortunately, there is no DVD as of this writing. Hope that changes one day. Also turning up in the cast are Elena Sahagun as Franklyn's loyal and overly protective secretary, director Fred Olen Ray as the strip club MC, porn actress Madison Stone (who appeared in Ray's Evil Toons the same year) as a stripper and an unbilled Michelle Bauer as a table dancer.

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