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Deadly Eyes (Blu-ray Review)

Deadly-Eyes1982 is one of my favorite years in movie history.  Not only was I born that year, but we got a lot of goodies that we look fondly back at and revere as “classics” now, even if some may not have been back then.  The film we’re talking about today isn’t really one of those I’d be referring to, but like the rest, has achieved success as a cult classic since its rather uninspiring opening and lackluster critic and audience appreciation.  Deadly Eyes (also known as Night Eyes according to the print of the film and also elsewhere simply as Rats) is definitely a fun little production that after a few years marinating and from its relevancy becomes a pretty enjoyable film of the midnight movie variety.  With a group of the right friends and the right vibes, this one easily can please given the scenario.  Dogs in rat suits.  What’s not to love?

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Film 

If you’re going to find one constant in the film, its that Paul Harris is our lead character.  He’s a divorced high school teacher and basketball coach.  Everything in the movie seems to tie back to him in some sort of fashion.  He’s trying to do his best to connect with his son, hangs with his rat expert professor, fends off a student with a crush and starts dating the health department inspector.  Oh and there’s a large batch of grain rendered to be destroyed by said health department inspector after the discovery of steroids being inside.  Also inside are giant rats who take to the sewers and streets of Toronto killing teens and adults alike.  Somewhere in there is Scatman Crothers too!

A fun fact that most people know about this movie is that they used dachshunds in rat suits to portray the killer rats in this movie.  Closeups were with animatronic puppets, but shots of them in clusters and moving were the dogs.  And when you know this, its pretty humorous to see and you can’t see anything BUT dachshunds.  And to get them to “attack” people, the cast and extras loaded their pockets with dog food and treats.  My wife commented that the costumes looked pretty good, but it wasn’t the outfits that were so obvious, it was more the movements for me that gave me a good chuckle.

Oddly, the film is directed by a guy known more for his prowess in the martial arts genre than horror.  Robert Clouse helms the film.  He famously directed Enter The Dragon and “finished” Bruce Lee’s Game Of Death (which the film makes an appearance at the 3rd act turn).  Apparently it was so cold outside and he couldn’t stand it, he only left his trailer when he had to and let some others finish up shots and such.  Speaking of the cold, there are many exterior dialogue scenes that become quite humorous.  You can tell the actors are so cold that they are having trouble naturally saying their lines.  Their mouths look pretty funny in many of the exchanges.

The cast of the film contains a bunch of Canadian mainstays and Scatman Crothers who was coming hot of the heels of The Shining at the time.  Scatman apparently didn’t realize how low budget the film was.  It also features the Happy Birthday To Me reunion of Lesleh Donaldson and Lisa Langlois.  Lesleh is a fun actress who brings a great energy to all the films she’s in and Lisa is definitely an 80s dream boat of a girl.  I’m not familiar with the film’s lead Sam Groom, but apparently he was a pretty big deal in TV back in the 80s and in Canada as well.   I also can’t forget to name drop Cec Linder being in this.  He was Felix Leiter in Goldfinger.

On your own watching Deadly Eyes, the film is not a good one, but definitely an enjoyable piece of low budget exploitation.  Taken as a group, I imagine the film is probably quite a hoot as it does feature possible crowd please moments and some stuff you may want to turn to your friends to share the giggle.  I will say one thing, this film does have some unexpected balls to it to go some of the places it does.  Have some friends over, pop some popcorn, crack open a brew and enjoy Deadly Eyes.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1:78.1

Clarity/Detail: I had never seen this film before, but I just imagined the original quality looking something like a beat down VHS.  I was actually quite surprised (in a good way) how this film looked.  It has a very “hands off” approach to its transfer (a Scream Factory specialty) and allows the image to look as close to its original source presentation as possible.  There is a surprising amount of detail and the image touts a lot of clarity for something that probably didn’t come from the greatest of elements.

Depth: Depth of field is rather average here.  Its not really flat, but its just enough to do the trick and have a good separation of objects and figures from their relative backdrops and surroundings.

Black Levels: Black levels are pretty deep with a little crushing here and there.  This is likely all source related as to probably try and mask some of the cheap effects in the film.

Color Reproduction: Blood and big 80s colors pop really good.  The movie theater at the end of the film is pretty ripe with good colors.  Red and the purple on Lesleh Donaldson’s jacket really stuck out and hit strong.

Flesh Tones: For the most part these are consistent and solid.  They fall on the cold side of things.  There’s a few more rougher looking scenes where the skin is a tad different, but that’s the difficulty of restoring some of these later era grindhouse films

Noise/Artifacts: There is a layer of grain (a plus) with a some dirt, specs and a streak or two present in this transfer.  I like that sort of thing, but modern purists may be slightly bugged in a couple shots.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: This is a pretty weathered track but it fits the feel of the film.  Its really good on the sound effects and balancing the volumes between rat squeaks, dialogue and score.  The subway cars and such at the end of it had a realistic feel to them coming from my speakers.  This track isn’t going to blow anybody away, but in terms of presentations of Deadly Eyes in the past it should!

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is set to a good volume throughout.  There are a some instances of it sounding muffled and at some points being a little too low causing a little buzz.

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Extras 

Deadly Eyes also comes with a DVD copy of the film.  In addition, the cover art has some production stills on the reverse side.

Deadly Eyes: Dogs in Rats’ Clothing (HD, 24:05) – Writer Charles Eglee, art director Ninkley Dalton and special effects artist Alec Gillis take us through the production history of the film with on set stories, off the set stories and how they carry Deadly Eyes through to their careers today.  Gillis especially has a fun anecdote about his work on Alien3 and shows that these folks do indeed watch bonus material too!

Interview With Actress Lisa Langlois (HD, 18:50) – The actress discusses Deadly Eyes as well as her career.  Most interestingly, she was runner up for Sarah Conner in the first Terminator film.  When Linda Hamilton was injured, she actually was then cast and replaced her in the film.  But before she could shoot, producers saw that she was already committed to The Slugger’s Wife which would conflict and create delays anyway.  So, they decided to wait on Hamilton and the rest is history.

Interview With Actress Lesleh Donaldson (HD, 13:48) – Aside from Deadly Eyes, the interview also focuses on two other horror classics she was in; Happy Birthday To Me and Curtains.  She also notes that she never considered herself or others Scream Queens because that name was crafted for Jamie Lee Curtis and now gets loosely thrown around.

Interview With Actor Joseph Kelly (HD, 13:22) – Joseph talks about working on Deadly Eyes and taking his role much more seriously than he should have.  He provides plenty of on an off the set stories and discusses working with Lesleh Donaldson on other projects and how she was a big deal in the young Canadian acting community.

Interview With Special Effects Artist Allan Apone (HD, 14:07) – Apone provides more insight and stories on the film in addition to was Gillis discussed as well as talking about where he was in his career at the time and some of his other acheivements as a blue collar effects workhorse.

TV Spot (HD, :31)

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Summary 

The film is what it is.  You’ll either have an appreciation for it or you’ll turn your nose up.  I found a lot of fun that can be had with it in the right crowd.  Deadly Eyes has a tremendous video presentation considering this kind of film to go a long with a wealthy batch of interviews that make this an easy recommend to vintage horror collectors and Blu-ray collectors alike.  Coming to Blu-ray is one thing, but getting all these interviews and a good transfer is another.  It just goes to show that Scream Factory shows the love to even some of their most obscure or smaller releases.  Pick it up, because there’s always gonna be that night where you’re down for a giant killer rat movie with dogs in rat suits!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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