Film #319: CURTAINS
2 out of 5 stars
The American slasher film has a confusing and seemingly meandering history. Spawning from Noir, the German Krimi film, and the Italian Giallo, the art form has its moments of brilliance (Mario Bava’s TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE, Bob Clark’s BLACK CHRISTMAS, and Joseph Zito’s THE PROWLER to name but three), but it also has it missed opportunities and botched visions. As usual, Sturgeon’s Law (which states that “ninety percent of everything is crap”) applies. Sadly – for this discussion – 1983’s CURTAINS is a perfect example of the latter.
Directed by Richard Ciupka under the pseudonym Jonathan Stryker (who is the male lead character in the film itself), the film stumbles its way through its unfocused 90 minute run time with John Vernon (ANIMAL HOUSE, OUTLAW JOSEY WALES) being cast as a supposedly enigmatic and hyper-sexual director. Think of that: Dean Wormer from ANIMAL HOUSE getting his swerve on… it’s just gross. Samantha Eggar (THE BROOD, THE EXTERMINATOR) makes her way from one bug-eyed scene to another while the supporting cast (which includes Linda Thorson of THE AVENGERS) seem to be there for a decidedly bloodless body count alone. Look for THE CROW’s Michael “Top Dollar” Wincott cast as the winsome – and ultimately doomed - Lothario. The infuriating thing about CURTAINS is that the story feels thin… padded, like a short stretched to feature length. Scenes drag on and a confused and ultimately bone-headed script unfurls before our collective indifference. As a historical document of the times in which it was made, there are some interesting footnotes (the casual albeit icky sexuality, the seeming obliviousness to how offensive “play rape” is, and nonchalant use of cannabis are all indicative of – but not exclusive to – the films of the early ‘80s), but, all-in-all, CURTAINS is a minor footnote to an otherwise one-note sub-genre.
And that brings us to Synapse films - who are the folks who released CURTAINS – and why they’d spend so much time ‘preserving’ such an admittedly mediocre film?
What makes the release of a film like CURTAINS in this format interesting is that it is yet another second (or third or fourth)-tier horror film from the ‘80s - lost classics in many people’s minds - getting a museum-like going-over by Don May, Jr and the gifted kids over at Synapse. The list of films they’ve released so far is pretty darned impressive (with titles such as 1982’s THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, James Glickenhaus’ THE EXTERMINATOR, Frank Henenlotter’s FRANKENHOOKER, the little-remembered 1975 bondage flick THE IMAGE, Scott Spiegel’s INTRUDER, Bill Lustig’s MANIAC COP, the Dolf Lundgren muscle-fest RED SCORPION, James Muro’s STREET TRASH, Hammer’s VAMPIRE CIRCUS, and the newly released PROM NIGHT) and offer some deep pulls from the world of genre film. The CURTAINS disc features a brand spanking new 2K high-definition transfer from original vault materials of the film, a remixed 5.1 Surround soundtrack, an extensive Behind the Scenes documentary (which, to be honest, is far better than the film itself), a few interviews, an audio commentary by film stars Lesleh Donaldson (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME) and Lynne Griffin (BLACK CHRISTMAS), and a trailer. All in high def, computer-enhanced, color corrected, exhaustively researched, and packaged with love.
Again, the question is… why?
It’s not like CURTAINS (or any one of the thousand films like it) deserves such fetishistic treatment. No, I know I may be in the minority here. I mean, the film does have its fans and god love ‘em, but culturally, the film was barely a blip on our collective radar. Still… it’s nice to see someone caring for these old films in a matter that may very well be above what they deserve.
So yeah… a hearty thumbs up to the sublimely obsessive folks over at Synapse who devoted far more time and energy than a film like CURTAINS might merit, but by them giving it such care, the package and the presentation makes it worth the price of admission.