Models on film are eye candy, but models in a horror film are slasher fodder, and star/producer Michael Callan gets more than his fill in DOUBLE EXPOSURE, a Crown International release given an HD upgrade by Vinegar Syndrome.
Photographer Adrian Wilde (Michael Callan, THE CAT AND THE CANARY) shoots centerfolds, high profile advertising campaigns, and exciting driving stunts. He also has plenty of easy bimbos throwing themselves at him. All that is missing from his life is meaningful relationship. Not only is he unable to form meaningful connections with women, he is prone to terrifying nightmares in which he brutally murders his models (who soon turn up dead afterwards in real life). Could he also be responsible for the brutal murders of a number of Los Angeles prostitutes (and one police officer in decoy drag) being investigated by Fontain (Pamela Hensley, BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY) and Buckhold (David Young, MARY MARY BLOODY MARY)? Adrian’s psychiatrist (Seymour Cassel, FACES) is not so sure that Adrian’s nightmares are only in his mind anymore but Adrian’s stuntman brother BJ (James Stacy, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES) – the character, like the actor, lost an arm and a leg in an accident – is adamant that his brother is innocent. As Fontain and Buckhold close in on the club where Wilde and the dead models have all been seen – in between getting chewed out by their chief (Cleavon Little, BLAZING SADDLES) just to pad out the investigation storyline – Adrian’s nightmares get more vivid and he worries for the safety of his new love Mindy (Joanna Pettet, THE EVIL).
DOUBLE EXPOSURE is a mess of a thriller, but an entertaining mess. Director William Byron Hillman (RAGIN' CAJUN) and Callan had previously collaborated on the similarly-themed black comedy THE PHOTOGRAPHER in 1974 (Grindhouse Releasing reportedly has the uncut negative materials for this film), and DOUBLE EXPOSURE came out of an initial attempt to shoot additional scenes to fix that film. The murder scenes are novel (and one is startlingly abrupt and graphic) and the nightmare/reality merging scenario helps cover the disjointed scripting, as does the score by Jack Goga (THE LAST DETAIL) who had also composed music for THE PHOTOGRAPHER. Callan and Stacy have a convincingly fraternal relationship here and their scenes together are compelling, and Callan seems to enjoy going off the rails for his nightmarish murder scenes (as well as a monologue rant to photos of his victims). Adrian’s romantic relationship with Mindy is less developed, but Pettet is charming as usual (and does her only screen nudity here), while co-star Misty Rowe (THE HITCHHIKERS) belies her initial bimbo persona and gives a sweet performance as a centerfold model who hits it off with BJ. The off-kilter atmosphere also allows for some comic tone shifts that seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy drama, and the sibling relationship between Adrian and BJ probably could have been dropped into such a film with Pettet and Rowe in pretty much the same parts. The Fontain/Buckhold/Police Chief scenes came from a different film, since Hensley and Little maintain an energy in their scenes that makes it seem as if they are in their own film. The cast also features Don Potter as Adrian’s comic relief gay assistant, Robert Tessier (STARCRASH) as the proprietor of “Le Hot Club,” (with L.A. LAW’s Joanna Frank is his alimony-demanding ex-wife), and future Oscar nominee Sally Kirkland (ANNA) as a prostitute. Playboy Playmate Jeana Tomasina (BEACH GIRLS), Debbie Zipp (THE CHEERLEADERS), former SNL comedienne-turned-batshit-crazy Tea Party activist Victoria Jackson (CASUAL SEX) appear as some of Adrian’s models. Playboy Playmate Kathy Shower (FRANKENSTEIN GENERAL HOSPITAL) appears as a mud wrestler, BACHELOR PARTY's Brett Baxter Clark is visible in the club scenes as a Chippendales dancer, and Terry Moore (MIGHTY JOE YOUNG) figures into an infidelity nightmare in which Adrian gets blown away by a jealous husband (Ken Scott, FANTASTIC VOYAGE).
Released to panned-and-scanned tape by Vestron Video, DOUBLE EXPOSURE got its first DVD releases through BCI and Mill Creek at the times when they first held the rights, but those anamorphic widescreen releases were framed at 1.78:1. Scorpion Releasing's 2012 "Katarina's Nightmare Theater" DVD was the first to present the film in its original Panavision (2.35:1) ratio. The disc featured two commentary tracks: one with cinematographer R. Michael Stringer (THE FORBIDDEN DANCE) and script supervisor Sally Stringer (TRICK OR TREATS), and the second with star Callan, as well as a video interview with Callan. Vinegar Syndrome's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen Blu-ray transfer is derived from a new 2K scan of the original 35mm camera negative and is brighter, slightly more colorful, and reveals slivers of additional information on all four sides of the frame. The film was shot on high-speed Fuji film but the night scenes and day-for-night scenes still look grainy but a little less murky. As with the earlier transfer, red and blues stand out but the HD image and the enhanced textures give an extra sweaty intensity to close-ups of Callan going off the rails in his murderous dreams and lurching into camera in the aftermath. The original mono mix is offered up in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 while Goga’s score can also be audited on its own on a Dolby Digital 1.0 track. Optional English SDH subtitles are also provided.
Director Hillman has recorded a new commentary track (in a nice change for Vinegar Syndrome's telephone commentary tracks, Hillman is present while the moderator is on the phone) in which he discusses how THE PHOTOGRAPHER's tone and content were hemmed in by Avco Embassy's requirements and how DOUBLE EXPOSURE was conceived as sort of a prequel to the former film, charting the mental deterioration of the protagonist and expanding his background. The violent content was upped over the previous film to reflect the times, including the then-current serial killing sprees in the Los Angeles area. Hillman discusses Callan's part in the development of the film and his part in getting Pettet (a friend of his wife), Cassel, and Stacy (Hillman reveals that he had written the role of BJ with his missing leg and arm before Callan suggested Stacy), and how game future Oscar nominee Kirkland was to play a prostitute. He also admits to drawing on Stacy's bitterness following his accident (that also claimed the life of his fiancée) for the character, and that character actor Tessier had suggested the rattlesnake death (having worked as a snake wrangler himself). Hillman also touches upon the gaps in his filmography, including a long sting at Universal where a television series development deal never came to fruition. He also mentions his plans to work on another project with DP Stringer.
Stringer appears in the new interview “Exposing Double Exposure” (29:26) in which he discusses how he got into filmmaking working on crews in between small acting assignments, going from production assistant to grip to the camera crew. On his first film as an assistant cameraman, Gary Graver (DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN) left him to take over as DP when he got a call to work for Orson Welles. His first official job as a cinematographer was Alain Patrick's BLUE MONEY and he still cringes at the final product. He became involved with THE PHOTOGRAPHER through production manager Norman Deming (THE BIRDS) and contends that it was after screening some of the extra scenes meant to be inserted into the film that Hillman and Callan decided to turn it into an entirely new film (on the Scorpion disc, Callan said that someone on THE PHOTOGRAPHER threatened to sue them if they used any footage from that film). THE PHOTOGRAPHER's Panavision lensing is the reason that DOUBLE EXPOSURE was also shot using anamorphic lenses, and Stringer is of the opinion that the film does not lend itself to Panavision (citing the many scenes in the camper and the difficulty of shooting them with lenses that could only focus as close as four feet). He also discusses his work for John Cassavetes on A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (on which he and Gary Graver operated additional cameras in some sequences) and THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE by way of touching upon his prior friendship with Cassel.
In “Staying on Task” (19:21), script supervisor Sally Stringer discusses her work in a repertory theatre company in New York and coming out to Los Angeles to visit her club owner brother whereupon she met future husband Michael. While visiting the set on which he was working, she got to meet Welles who recruited her to take over as script supervisor on a project, although she would learn more about the job working with Hillman (and about the job of production manager while she and her husband worked with Graver). Of the film, she recalls that Cassel was distracted by personal issues and had to be fed his lines, and that the film's production manager Bruce Fritzberg (H.O.T.S.) scheduled the climactic beach shoot for a night when the location was overrun with people fishing for grunion and that Michael had to erect a circular tarp around the set so that Stacy would not be distracted by onlookers. As nice as the new extras are, fans of the film may want to hold onto the Scorpion disc as well since the commentary tracks offer information and anecdotes not covered here including more background on the Stringers' relationship with Graver and Welles, while Callan provides more background information on his fellow cast members than Hillman was able to provide on the VS track (Potter was his roommate in New York, his future public relations agent sister appears as an extra) as well as his feeling about the script and the shoot. Also included is the film's theatrical trailer (2:50) – framed at 1.78:1 – and a promotional still gallery. The first 1,000 copies directly from Vinegar Syndrome come with an embossed limited edition o-card designed by Derek Gabryszak (also seen on the reverse of the inner cover). (Eric Cotenas)
BACK TO REVIEWS