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THE RATS HAVE GOTTEN INTO THE SUBWAY! And somehow, onto the Shout! DVD/Blu-Ray disc line up...
on July 24, 2014
That's right, it's time to review the deadliest of the deadly: DEADLY EYES (1982)--(insert scream here)
Actually, for some reason the distributor on the print offered on the new Shout! Factory discs has found the copy with the title of NIGHT EYES on it--so please don't panic thinking you've gotten hold of the wrong film. Make no mistake: Robert Clouse's film is the one and only quasi-dog/rat masterpiece available on the modern marketplace. I suppose I could ramble on and speak of the great Cosmatos film "OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN" and compare it to this, but, unfortunately, Clouse's movie has nothing to do with rats (well, a little, but it's not ABOUT rats at all). There is a fairly unoriginal love story plot involving star Sam Groom and the lovely Sara Botsford, but poor old Sam is also being pursued by the vivacious Lisa Langlois too, and she's underage and he's been...well...short on romance lately, ha. (Don't worry, he behaves himself and avoids a prison sentence). With all of this silliness in mind, it's a good thing that the producers didn't push too hard for the original title of "THE RATS" because this movie has very little to do with rats, despite the fact that they are the tormentors of the picture and that there is an old professor/scientist type of person who explains a bit about what I like to call "ratology" (played by the gifted but underused Cec Linder). The only real saving grace here is the sadly forgotten Scatman Crothers who, despite his rather short performance, proves to be as enjoyable here as he has ever been elsewhere. He virtually saves what is otherwise a rather sad state of affairs. Yes, as I have written elsewhere, "Deadly Eyes" is an atrocity of a film--but on many levels, it is entertaining, and I do enjoy it for nostalgic purposes, so it isn't completely worthless. But the plot is underdeveloped and thin, the acting is generally non-existent, the special effects are a bunch of crap (despite the fact that I do enjoy the "look" of the dogs in rat costumes) and the film is way too short to even be considered a noteworthy script. Don't get me wrong--I appreciate films that make a lot for little money, and I do enjoy the exploitation angle of films like this, but it's really an insubstantial entertainment that is quite brief and quite pointless in the end. Why the filmmakers attached James Herbert's name to the credits when not one soul could muster the energy to read the source novel is beyond me; Herbert should have taken legal action appropriately, but hopefully (if he did not) he received a payment of substantial worth anyway. This is NOT an adaptation of the Herbert novel at all, as the screenwriters seemed to have invented every other plot point on from the time when the boy gets his hand bitten by a rat. True, Herbert's book would have been too gross and expensive to film but this is a ludicrous movie counterpart at best.
Of course, SHOUT! FACTORY'S effort is pristine, causing me to award five stars (again) to what is essentially a two-star film at best. The interview with writer Charles Eglee is hilarious--he is one of many who confess that they didn't even read the Herbert book! (Most wear a look on their face saying "book--what book?") The credit by the elusive Lanon Smith must have had something to do with the nature of this seriously disgruntled script, but the "Walking Dead" writer certainly didn't help much. Other interviews (with Langlois and Donaldson) are generally interesting and informative, and give a pretty fair idea of how difficult that the business is overall. The print transfer is great looking, and there is a quality soundtrack on display here. Unfortunately, there is no audio commentary offered, which would have gone a long way in explaining the lack of respect given to author Herbert and the transformations of the screenplay under the changing hands that it had to go through. A historian could have offered a great commentary track for this title because it really did need one. As such, the special features are incomplete, but generous nonetheless; I still would have liked to have had the trailer "they have been here for centuries..." but instead we only get a brief TV spot with the "from the bowels of Hell" line or whatever the hell that says.
For all of the negative aspects of this film, it is interesting to finally see it on a good print, so for the overall package I am giving it a solid A-. But if you are looking for a great film, don't go into this expecting grand results.