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Double Exposure (Blu-ray Review)

Director William Byron Hillman wrote and directed a film in 1974 called The Photographer. That film focused on a photographer that had a blood lust and killing spree on the models which he made a living taking pictures of. Funny enough, that also starred Michael Callan. Hillman wanted to revisit that film, but with a more dark, serious and violent approach to the material. He even keeps the same name of the photographer and actor who plays him. That resulted in 1983’s Double Exposure (Which the director refers to as a “prequel”) which has been restored and is getting released in a new special edition Blu-ray by Vinegar Syndrome. Pre-order your copy now for release on April 25th on regular (Or the limited to 1,000 edition) DVD/Blu-ray Combo Pack.

Film 

Adrian Wilde is a prolific photographer whose specialty is shooting nude models for men’s magazines. His life starts to unravel when he begins to experience strange and almost lifelike dreams in which he murders the very women he’s been photographing. What’s more is that he soon discovers that they might not be dreams after all. Has he started to lose touch with reality; is he a calculated killer attempting to create an unbelievable alibi; or is something much more sinister and deadly afoot…

Wilde may be the name of the film’s protagonist, but its also how I felt looking at this film and trying to put together that it was made in 1983. Everything about Double Exposure feels right out of the 1970s. Not completely a grungy B-level grindhouse fare, it certainly does feel like one of the 42nd Street features most of the time. Take that nudity/violence/gore twang and mix it with a bit of a TV movie/soap opera fare and you’ve got yourself an interesting little thriller.

Double Exposure really wants to be something in the vein of a Alfred Hitchcock by way of Brian De Palma, but doesn’t seem to have the gusto in the scripting and editing to really achieve the success of those all-time great auteurs.  For one, the film has its bait and idea, but things tend to get muddied and either uninteresting or busy with keeping things from the audience to help piece together the mystery or have any clue what is really happening. While, I like to give credit on not being able to tell dreams from reality, this movie isn’t really able to handle that very well because this is a film where you should be able to tell both apart. This isn’t some sort of avant garde arthouse venture.

I’m not too familiar with lead Michael Callan, but apparently this was to be a comeback of sorts for him or his first quality project in some time. He’s quite enjoyable in the right mindset here. His performance ranges from solid television dramatics to good fun camp. One of the best bits in the movie is a trifecta of goodness from camera work to editing to acting in which he goes full lunatic and rages out against himself, speaking to himself in different shots and reflections. Its borders going too far over the time, but winds up cooking it just right. Joanna Pettet actually puts in some solid supporting work as well, albeit in a nervous performance. Also, look for Saturday Night Live vet Victoria Jackson to pop up quickly in a scene.

No, its not perfect, but its decently entertaining and very watchable.  Double Exposure feels like it could have been an HBO or Showtime original back in 1983 if they had been around or made such efforts. There’s fine line between grindhouse feature and Sunday Night made for TV movie look and feel to it. Overall, there are some really encouraging and talented takeaways from the film that make it worth at least a rental or research kind of watch for forgotten films.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Double Exposure comes newly transferred from the original 35mm camera negative. When well lit, this sucker looks mighty fanciful and impressive. Its sharp and crisp, ripe with plenty of detail. The darker this one gets, the heavier the grain can be at times. Not a bad thing, you keep that. There are good detailings on grass an dtrees, as well as sand and clothing textures, fabrics and fuzz and good looks at things like dirt film and fingerprints on a car windshield.

Depth:  As mentioned, the better lit a scene, the more impressive the 3 dimensional work is. There is a nice, cinematic movement that comes on really smooth. People and objects appear really well rounded and very solid and well rounded in appearance.
Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and well saturated. With the darkness comes a lot more grain. Details keep strong on hair follicles, clothing patterns/textures and other black/darker color things in the film. No crushing was witnessed on this viewing.

Color Reproduction:  The film maintains a palette of more natural coloring with a lot of lifelike looking blues on many a denim shirt, jacket or pants. Red comes through nice deep in blood and can bump out a little bit on shirts. There are some good uses and popping or yellows and greens as well.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones appear very natural in their look and keep it scene to scene for the duration. Facial details are strong in close-up and medium shots with sweat beads, wrinkles, dried blood, pores, stubble, lip texture, make-up lines and more coming through quite clear and clean.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a heavier layer of grain in dark scenes, but this is rather clean.

Audio 

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

Subtitles: English SDH (Only available by surfing)

Dynamics:  Double Exposure features a pretty handsome mono mix that feels loose and free with its sound presentation. It manages a healthy and balanced blend of the vocals, score and sound effects. None of them ever steps on the others toes. Effects really give a good, layered, and lifelike feel to them, grabbing ever bit of the foley sound it can. While its on the lighter end, the deeper sounds do come through enough in moments.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. Minimal analog distortion. Sometimes when a character gets loud, the mix peaks (not the audio track). Diction is on point and well tracked here.

Extras 

Double Exposure comes with the DVD edition of the film. There is currently a limited pressing of 1,000 for a very sturdy and well done slip cover. It also features a reversible cover with alternate artwork.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director William Brian Hillman – The commentary just kind of starts with no introductions or anything. Hillman is clear and professionally mic’d, with the moderated sounding like they are coming in over the phone. Its plenty informative and really contains no dead spots as the moderator keeps some good open questioning going.

Isolated Score By Jack Goga

“Exposing Double Exposure” (HD, 29:27) – Interview with cinematographer R. Michael Stringer. A very honest interview in which he talks about people’s careers at the time of shooting the film. Michael talks of actors in slumps, one who how was in legal trouble, who was professional and who wasn’t. He discusses how he got to where he was, from wanting to be an actor to a grip to shooting his early movies and meeting his wife. During his story he also will anecdote other movies he worked on like ones with John Cassavettes and Orson Welles.

“Staying On Task” (HD, 19:21) – Interview with script supervisor Sally Stringer. She also tells how she met her husband (The cinematographer) and how he helped her move from theater to film. Like her husband, she gets really honest and deep into making the film and what it is to her to be a script supervisor. She has a little more to put in about director William Byron Hillman and credits him with learning a lot about her job. An interesting anecdote from this, Sally talks about a secret coded language they would use on the set for things and gives some examples (IE Fellini = 8 1/2).

Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:50)

Promotional Still Gallery – Featuring posters, lobby cards and newspaper ads.

Summary 

Double Exposure is a bit entertaining, a bit confusing at times and feels a bit of a relic of the 70s while being an 80s film. This Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome feels anything but a relic as it has a nice fresh video transfer with a fresh sounding audio track. The extras a pretty good, too with some real good honesty in the interviews. If you’re in for this one, you really are getting your money’s worth on this release.

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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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