The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Announcement

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--Matt

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Schizoid (1980)

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This is a movie I've been wanting to cover for a long time, but when I finally found it, I decided I'd wait and review it on Halloween. There was something about it when I first saw it on TV, when I was much younger in the mid 80s (we were all much younger in the mid-80s, weren't we?), the whole thing was just creepy, every character, every scene. I wanted to see if it held up to the test of time.

Schizoid is about a woman, Julie, who runs an advice column. After months of group therapy sessions, she's decided to divorce her husband, who also works with her at the paper. A big reason for this is her new love for her therapist, Klaus Kinski. At the same time, Kinski's other clients are turning up dead, stabbed to death with a pair of long, sharp scissors. Could it be Kinski? His daughter (the chick from Angel-- more on that later)? What about the creepy Christopher Lloyd? The only clues are anonymous letters, sent to Julie, describing murderous desires. Luckily Wilhelm from Seinfeld and Frank Fontana from Murphy Brown are on the case.

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All right, so as an adult, this isn't exactly scary, but the creepiness factor still holds up. If you like gore and funny deaths in your horror (like I do), the innocuous stalking and scissor stabbing leaves much to be desired; but from Kinski down, that atmosphere of creepiness is so pervasive it infects every scene, movement, and conversation. I don't know if that does it for you, but if you're a Kinski fan (like I am-- inaugural DTVC Hall of Famer), this is some of his best work. Everything else is kind of dirtier, R rated Lifetime movie of the week, which is kind of cool to me too, but again, might not be enough for you.

Let's look at Kinski, who we haven't had on here in a while. The thing that has always fascinated me about him, was how he would do these films, where the selling point was always as much money as possible for as quick a shoot as possible, and you'd think with that mindset, he'd always mail these performances in, but he never does. It's not hyperbole to call him one of the greatest actors ever. In Schizoid, despite what the name suggests, he's not a raging maniac like we're used to in a lot of his Herzog collaborations. What I loved was seeing the brewing mania within his character as tensions in the story grew-- the way he smoked his cigarette, walked, talked-- it was much more subtle, but no less exceptional. As a DTVC Connoisseur (again, a tongue-and-cheek moniker, for our anonymous Unrivaled commenter), Kinski really is that rare opportunity to see acting greatness, even if the films he's doing it in aren't.

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Equalling Kinski is Christopher Lloyd's role as the disturbingly weird maintenance guy in Julie's therapist group. He does a great job of making the people around him uncomfortable, and making us believe he's really doing that. It would've been easy for him to fall back on his Jim from Taxi routine, or the eccentric Doc he would later be known for in Back to the Future, but he didn't do either. The way he stared a little too long, the way he stood a little too close, the way his sense of humor was a little off, it all worked really well, and again, like with Kinski, it worked well in a way you'd never expect in a 1980 low-budget schlock thriller.

According to Wikipedia, the Golan-Globus takeover of Cannon was in 1979, meaning Schizoid would have been one of the first films they got their hands on. Golan-Globus and Klaus Kinski seems like it would have been a match made in heaven, maybe approaching the Kinski/Herzog collaborations, but I'm pretty sure this is the only film they made together. Perhaps the problem was Golan-Globus tried to get too big, which went against Kinski's career strategy of doing quick and small projects that paid quick. It's interesting to note as well that the fall of Golan-Globus is around the same time Kinski passed away. Two DTV luminaries leaving us for good, and as the 90s became the 2000s, that wave of DTV's Golden Age broke, leaving us with now with crap like Unrivaled...

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As I mentioned above, this had plenty of other guest stars. There was the poor man's Karl Malden, Richard Herd, who played Wilhelm on Seinfeld. Then you had Joe Regalbuto, Frank Fontana of Murphy Brown (also Marvin Baxter in Raw Deal). That pairing might not work today, with the Boston/New York baseball rivalry as heated as it is (Herd from Boston, Regalbuto from Brooklyn). Mr. Kenner at Movies in the Attic will be excited to hear that Donna Wilkes, the star of one of his DTV faves, Angel (link to his review), plays Kinski's daughter. Julie's husband was played by Craig Wassman, who has been in, among other things, the Lorenzo Lamas/Michael Paré stinker The Debt, and an Olivier Gruner film we haven't gotten to yet, Velocity Trap.

I don't know how well I can recommend this to everyone. If you prefer creepiness to savage gore in your horror movie (and let's be straight here, this is more suspense thriller than horror film), you'll probably enjoy it. There are some other aspects as a movie geek that I got down on, especially how in 1980, though this was meant to sell in the burgeoning video market, it was made to be watched in a theater, and there were a lot of devices that would startle someone at a theater that at home, especially with most people watching Mono TVs, don't work. If you're a 70s/80s nostalgia buff, this might work for you.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081459/

6 comments:

  1. This looks like a good horror flick. Love Kinski and Lloyd.

    Did you ever watch the 90's TV show "Deadly Games" with Christopher Lloyd? It was on UPN.

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  2. Yeah, Lloyd is really good in a small role, and Kinski is great as always. I vaguely remember the show you're talking about. Christopher Lloyd has always been an interesting case, because he had one of the most iconic roles of all time in Back to the Future, plus was a popular character on one of the biggest sitcoms ever, Taxi, yet he finds himself on things like Deadly Games. I'll think you'll like Schizoid for those two actors.

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  3. Real deep, manling. Real deep.

    Peruse more grim musings on the subject of love, madness and bad bad movies, here:

    http://sleazeblender.blogspot.com/

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  4. It's not Golan Globus but Kinki actually did one movie with Golan prior to this. Operation Thunderbolt, a 1977 israeli action film that actually get nominated to a Foreign Film Oscar (which is pretty funny given that it ain't very different from something like Delta Force just with subtitles).

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  5. Oh, Kinski was in that one? I've always meant to check it out. That's really cool, thanks for the heads up!

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