Double Exposure (Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack)
Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
Released on: April 25th, 2017.
Director: William Byron Hillman
Cast: Michael Callan, Cleavon Little, Sally Kirkland, Joanna Pettet, Pamela Hensley, Seymour Cassel
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Directed by William Byron Hillman, 1983’s Double Exposure follows a freelance photographer named Adrian Wilde (Michael Callan) who roams around California in his fancy mobile home and who seems to make a pretty decent living taking pictures of sexy ladies. Unfortunately, things aren’t all wine and roses in Michael’s world – see, he’s constantly plagued by horrible, vivid nightmares in which he brutally murders his models. Adrian’s been seeing a shrink named Dr. Frank Curtis (Seymour Cassel) in hopes of dealing with whatever is causing this problem for him, but nothing really seems to be helping.
Also on the scene is Michael’s brother, a stuntman named B.J. (James Stacy) who, despite having lost the limbs on the left hand side of his body, manages to drive muscle cars like a bat out of Hell. Sadly, B.J. also went through a nasty divorce when his wife left him after the accident. Regardless, life goes on and things seem to be turning around for Michael when he meets a pretty blonde named Mindy Jordache (Joanna Pettet). They hit it off and start dating, but what at first seems like nothing but a good thing soon heads south quickly when some of the girls who have been modeling for Michael start turning up dead in increasingly gruesome ways. Out to catch the bad guys are a pair of cops, Fontaine and Buckhold (Pamela Hensley and David Young respectively), under pressure from their boss (Cleavon Little) – but will the cops catch the killer before he strikes again? Mindy had better hope so…
A kinda-sorta remake of Hillman and Callan’s earlier collaboration, The Photographer, this picture moves at a good pace and features some pretty slick camera work. It’s a fairly tense film with some decent kill scenes and a fairly high nudity quotient made with a fun cast of B-movie veterans and set to a fun score. The film’s biggest flaw is simply that it’s not all that difficult to figure out who the killer is, which does sap the film of some of its suspense. The picture does manage to get most everything else right, however, and if a lot of what we see unfold on the screen seems hammy or campy by modern standards, you can’t fault it for lack of entertainment value. The scene where Adrian and Mindy head to the beach is worth the price of admission alone, simply because it’s so goofy – they walk hand in hand in the surf, the stop to make nice with a small Hispanic boy and his family, they fly a giant rainbow colored kite and then they stop to kiss passionately as the sun starts to set behind them.
Callan makes for a fun leading man here. Sure, he overdoes it in a couple of spots and his breakdown in the later part of the film sees him chew through the scenery like a rabid beaver but he carries the film. Joanna Pettet makes a reasonably believable love interest for him and they actually have a bit of legitimate chemistry together, even when they’re not befriending random kids at the beach. Cleavon Little is great, if completely underused and the rest of the cast are good here too. Like most other Crown International Productions, Double Exposure makes great use of its California locations and if the finished product didn’t take home any Oscars when it came out, it’s definitely worth revisiting as a fun mix up of slasher and thriller staples.
Vinegar Syndrome presents Double Exposure in its proper 2.35.1 scope aspect ratio in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that is ‘newly scanned and restored in 2k from the 35mm original camera negative.’ There’s the expected amount of grain, but that’s not a bad thing at all, and there’s very little in the way of actual print damage outside of a few white specks here and there. The image is clean and stable and there doesn’t appear to be any obvious noise reduction or artificial sharpening applied here. Contrast looks good, colors are reproduced very naturally and there are no issues with any obvious edge enhancement or compression artifacts. Detail and texture are typically quite impressive and all in all, this offers a very nice upgrade over the previous DVD release.
The English language DTS-HD Mono track on the disc is also good, with clean and clear dialogue, properly balanced levels and good depth. There are no issues with hiss or distortion to note and Jack Goga’s score is mixed in nicely against the performers, never overpowering them or making things tough to follow. Optional English subtitles are included.
Extra features for this release start off with an audio commentary track from director William Byron Hillman moderated by Joe Rubin (who chimes in via telephone or Skype from the sounds of things). He gives a fairly scene specific talk that details the history of the film, noting that it is basically a sequel to The Photographer which he made in 1974. He talks about how the film reflects some of what was happening in Los Angeles at the time, how it was important to him that he be able to use Michael Callan again in the lead and the importance of his performance in this picture. He then talks about the differences between The Photographer and Double Exposure, why there’s such a noticeable increase in sex and violence in the later picture, scouting locations for the picture, the film’s fairly rushed production schedule, the difficulty of shooting action sequences versus dramatic sequences, casting the picture, changes that were made to the movie as the started making it, working with editor Lawrence Bridges and Crown International making some changes to his original cut of the film. All in all it’s a good track. There are a few times where Hillman goes a little quiet but Rubin is always able to get him talking again by asking some interesting questions.
Also on hand is ‘Exposing Double Exposure’ which is an interview with cinematographer R. Michael Stringer. This half hour piece starts out with Stringer talking about his love of movies growing up and how there was a cowboy movie studio called The Melody Ranch nearby that he visited as a Cub Scout. This got him interested in working behind the camera, and he then goes on to talk about how he got his start in the business working as a production assistant. This lead to learning gripping and lighting and then eventually he made his way to working as a cinematographer. He then goes on to discuss some of what he did while working on Double Exposure, talking up some of the challenges that arose because of various lenses that were being used, working with Hillman on the picture, interactions with some of the cast and crew (he tells some interesting stories about Seymour Cassel) and plenty more.
Script supervisor Sally Stringer is interviewed next in a nineteen minute long piece called Staying On Task. She talks about how as a teenager she belonged to a repertory company in Manhattan where she majored in theater arts. She then talks about how she got into working in the Off Broadway scene in New York City before moving to California to help out her brother who had opened up a performance space called The Bla Bla Café. From there she met Michael Stringer and made the transition from working in theater to the film business. She then tells some interesting stories about working with Orson Welles and John Cassavetes, how her experience as a stage manager wound up landing her work as a script supervisor for Welles and then eventually what it was like working on Double Exposure.
The disc also includes the film’s score available as a separate audio track, a theatrical trailer, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release a DVD version of the movie with extras identical to those found on the Blu-ray disc is also included inside the clear Blu-ray keepcase. Last but not least, Vinegar Syndrome has also supplied some very cool reversible cover art. None of the extras from the Scorpion Releasing DVD have been ported over to this disc (two commentary tracks and an interview with Michael Callan).
The Final Word:
Double Exposure isn’t the be all end all of eighties thrillers and maybe it’s a little on the predictable side but Michael Callan’s nutty performance makes this absolutely worth your time, particularly if you have a thing for early eighties slashers. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray debut for the picture is a good one, presenting it in excellent shape and with some choice supplements too.
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