Scorpion Releasing // 1983 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // February 21st, 2012
Smile and say die!
Double Exposure has one of the most frustrating openings that I've seen in some time and I wonder if people grabbing it on video thought their VCRs were going haywire. It starts with a man running, but you can barely see him because the frames are staggered, creating a horrible looking ghost effect on the image. It's certainly intentional and utterly ridiculous once a paper boy tosses the morning edition in slow motion through the air. Trust me, it stops fairly quickly and the movie really is better than that. It's not great, mind you, but at least that terrible effect quits.
Adrian Wilde (Michael Callan, Cat Ballou) is a photographer living the easy life. Taking pictures of models, hitting the town, and travelling around in his motor home have been great for a long time. But he's having these terrible dreams where he's killing his models, only to find them dead in the morning. He's cracking up and can't remember anything, so he can't help but convince himself that he's the murderer. The cops are pretty convinced of that, too, and he has to race to prove his innocence before they catch him.
Double Exposure may be strictly B-level fare, but it has a big enough cast that I'm surprised it never received wide distribution. It isn't a group that wows the viewer, but with the likes of Joanna Pettet (Casino Royale (1967)), Cleavon Little (Blazing Saddles), Pamela Hensley (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century), and Seymour Cassel (Faces), along with early appearances by Victoria Jackson (UHF) and Sally Kirkland (Excess Baggage), it seems like something that would have been bigger on the cult circuit. One could easily say that's it's because the movie isn't very good, and they're mostly right, but that never stopped plenty of even worse pieces from getting seen.
The big reason for its forgotten status appears to lie in the fact that the film doesn't really belong cleanly in any one genre. While it is marketed as a slasher film, it mostly doesn't work there, nor does it really work as the psychological thriller it aims for. Director William Byron Hillman (Ragin' Cajun) tries to cut it both ways by giving the audience seedy exploitation and a coherent murder mystery, but doesn't get either one right. The body count is there, but there's not a lot of creativity in the kills. More than that, the victims are just random models we don't hear about before or since, so their deaths have no weight and the ensuing investigation is pretty weak. In trying to be both things at once, Double Exposure goes absolutely nowhere. I didn't care what happened to any of these characters for a moment and the only reason I didn't guess the ending after the first few minutes of the film was that I had already given up.
Scorpion sent a screener for review of the latest entry in Katarina's Nightmare Theater, featuring ex-wrestler host Katarina Leigh Waters, but the final release should be consistent with what is on this disc. There's a lot more that could have been done with the transfer, but it looks fairly decent. There's some dirt and damage here and there, but the colors have the kind of cheap, washed out look I expect from '80s exploitation. The sound mix is similar, with a little bit of noise, but not enough to be distracting. Our host returns to conduct the special features, as well, which includes an interview with Michael Callan and two full commentary tracks. Neither is particularly fascinating, but I appreciate them putting the effort into quality releases of marginal movies like this.
Double Exposure is an above average entry in Katarina's Nightmare Theater and, while that might not say a whole lot in general, it's a decent film that works better than it probably should. It's not all that great, but it's reasonably entertaining. It's not all that big an endorsement, but you can definitely do worse than this one.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Rated R