Saturday, February 7, 2009

Deathdream(1974)d/Benjamin "Bob" Clark

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Not a day goes by where I don't ponder how much I miss the late director of this entry,Benjamin "Bob" Clark,the man responsible for the original Black Christmas,Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things,and later on,Porky's and perrenial holiday masterpiece,A Christmas Story.The man was truly a gifted artist with a remarkable vision,and his take on "The Monkey's Paw",written by genre staple Alan Ormsby(who has a cameo and handles the brilliant special makeup effects with a young assistant by the name of Savini!),is a creepy atmospheric classic of seventies cinema,a seething social commentary of the Vietnam war,and one of my personal all-time favorites.The cast is tremendous,from The Godfather's John Marley to then-newcomer Richard Backus,and everyone in between.It used to be you couldn't have a horror movie conversation without this movie or Clark's other work getting namedropped multiple times.That's the way it always SHOULD be.Those of you who've never experienced it,really oughta pick up the Blue Underground dvd ASAP and do yourselves the favor.This is what horror is all about.
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If war isn't Hell,it's gotta be a close second.
Andy Brooks(Richard Backus)eats communist-administered hot lead death in Vietnam.When an army captain breaks the tragic news to Andy's family,his father(John "Horsehead" Marley)and sister(Alan's then-wife and "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things' uber-weirdo,Anya Ormsby)are devastated,consoling each others' tears with hugs,but his mother(Lynn Carlin)refuses to accept what she's heard,slipping into a state of repudiatory shock,clutching a candle and rocking back and forth into the blackness.Later that night on a darkened Florida highway,a truck driver picks up an unseen hitchhiking soldier,returning home from Vietnam.The next morning his corpse is discovered by the authorities,propped up in the driver's seat of his cab,throat savagely slit and drained of blood.When the Brooks are awakened from their sleep that night by a noise at the front door,they're shocked by the unexpected sight of their son's return from the war.Immediately Charles notices that the bloody conflict has changed Andy,who sits in the rocker at great lengths,staring off ominously,before disappearing when the sun goes down.The family throws a picnic for him in the backyard which goes horribly wrong when Andy abruptly grabs one of the neighborhood kids before turning his hateful violence on the family pooch,chucking it through the air towards an early dirt nap.Television news broadcasts about details surrounding the dead trucker spark Charles' curiosity,who schedules a surprise vist for Andy from Dr. Allman.
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An officer(director Clark himself!)examines the gruesome aftermath of Andy's return.
When Andy follows Allman back to his office,he allows the doctor to examine him,revealing that for all intents and purposes,he is a walking corpse(!).He thanks the physician for his efforts with several scalpel blows to the midsection,helping himself to Allman's blood via a hypodermic needle,momentarily quelling the perpetual rot of the dead flesh on his cadaver(!).Meanwhile,Andy's sister Cathy decides its high time that her brother reunite with his best girl,Joanne(Jane Daly,also of CSPWDT fame),setting up a romantic double date at the drive in.Andy spends the majority of the date void of emotion,hiding his increasing fleshrot behind a turtleneck,leather gloves,and sunglasses(!!!),and when Joanne notices her beau's decay,he kills her,sparking panic and chaos at the outdoor theater.He recklessly drives home,where Charles cannot bring himself to shoot his rapidly rotting namesake,and his mother hurries him out to the car,where he is shot with no effect by approaching policemen.A highspeed chase to the cemetery ensues,the desperate woman hauling her son to an open grave and headstone where he had primitively scratched his name and birth/death dates with a rock.The police arrive on the scene to find Christine weeping as Andy futilely tries to bury himself,finally dying for keeps this time.
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Everything doesn't look fine,Bob.
Also released as Dead of Night(not to be confused with the excellent Dan Curtis/Richard Matheson 1977 television anthology),and La Morte Dietro la Porta(The Death Behind the Door) in Italy.Christopher Walken was also considered for the role of Andy,but Backus nailed it with his soulless stare of hate,and was cast instead.Clark had planned to ressurect Children Shouldn't... as his career had taken a decidely goofy turn as of late,helming such forgettable fodder as Baby Geniuses and its sequel,and made-for-television fare like The Karate Dog and Maniac McGee,but an unfortunate car crash claimed his life in 2007.Ormsby took the directorial chair for Deranged,and later uncredited for Popcorn(1991),as well as writing the script for My Bodyguard(1980),and most recently,for television shows like Nash Bridges and The Substitute at the outset of the '00s.Backus scored himself a prolonged role on soap opera,Ryan's Children,before moving on to tv shows like Spenser:For Hire and Law & Order.This entry enjoyed a long run on late night horror shows,and deservedly so.Clark's powerful Vietnam allegory where Americans die in battle,and those that don't,return home as zombies,remains effective and somewhat poignant during our current crisis in the Middle East.Still one of the choicest horror movies of the 70's,I often find myself sitting down for a revisit.The highest possible scale rating,and a sincere recommendation is what I bestow upon it.
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Andy(Richard Backus)is just looking to find his way home.
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15 comments:

Balberith said...

I HAVE to see this movie as well, especially since you posted some great screen shots. Damnit B.W., why can't you just live closer so I can just snag your movies... You could be my video rental store :)

Samuel Wilson said...

I second all you say about Deathdream, but when you talk about Bob Clark you ought to mention Murder By Decree along with all the others, and ahead of some of them. Enjoy your award, by the way.

beedubelhue said...

Murder by Decree,of course,how could I have bypassed it!Classic Clark,superior Holmes v. Ripper film,outstandingly cast!One of my favorites,no doubt.Uncle S.,you're the goods!Vicky,we'd have to work out things like LATE FEES...

prasad said...

superb post buddy...
keep it up

Balberith said...

Haha! I get movies when and as long as I want ;)

beedubelhue said...

How can I argue with that?

doc said...

Its Doc

beedubelhue said...

So...you DO give a fraaaaaack what your friends think of ya!WELL GOOD FOR YOU!

doc said...

I'm sorry I didn't have theGUTS...

doc said...

You missed the last two...they were great...ends on Fri.
Give me a buzz, they are running the entire lot of them on Fri.

beedubelhue said...

I saw the whole frakkin' series.Thumbs up for the Colonel.Something else pops up when I think of Starbuck.Kara Kara Kara!

doc said...

Capricahhh

beedubelhue said...

I also liked Caprica-ahhhh.

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