Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Larry Cohen's Perfect Strangers/Blind Alley

I bought an old VHS cassette of a film that seems not to have been released on DVD: Larry Cohen's Perfect Strangers AKA Blind Alley, Umpikuja in Finnish. It's from 1984 and shot on very low budget, with only a small cast. I thought this was a very interesting film, even though not very good on all accounts. I read somewhere that this was shot already in 1981, but released only three years later.

Perfect Strangers is a mob thriller of a hit man who commits murder on a back alley and is witnessed by a seemingly mute three-year old kid, Matthew. The hit man is forced to make contact with the kid's mother and eventually kill the kid. The hit man, a charming sociopath, makes the woman fall in love with him in order to get to Matthew. Seems like the guy falls in love, too. We never actually find out.

There's much of interest here. There are some pretty good suspense scenes, especially the one with the kid playing around in the hit man's apartment with the mob bosses threatening the hit man. The local scenery is good. The three-year old kid seems totally plausible - I thought it was a small wonder Cohen gets so good a performance out of him! There are some interesting connections to the cult classic Liquid Sky: the female lead, Anne Carlisle, had a double role in that, and there's also a weird private eye played by Otto Von Wernherr who also featured in Liquid Sky.

What's more interesting is the film's connection to the women's lib movement: Anne Carlisle's character is a single mother who takes part in the feminist demonstrations. We also see some pretty convincing scenes of the feminists' meetings and the support they provide for Carlisle's character. This is connected with Carlisle's ex-husband who's violent and aggressive, even at one point snatching the three-year old Matthew. Cohen doesn't take sides, but this is a far cry from any Hollywood movie depicting feminists and their cause. An easy way out in the film would've been the ex-husband turning good and fighting the hit man. Cohen doesn't take the easy way, which is always for good.

However, there are some negative things to be said about Perfect Strangers. The actors are not very good, and some of the characters are not very well written - especially the lieutenant assigned to the case of the back alley murder. The hit man's and Anne Carlisle's relationship seems a bit implausible or at least far-fetched. You'd think a woman like Carlisle wouldn't fall in love with a guy like the hit man. He's played by Brad Rijn who's actually pretty good-looking, but is also totally in a different league than Carlisle.

But all in all, a very interesting little movie, which should be available on DVD. (A small note: the Finnish VHS publication has the same image on the cover as the one I found on the web, displayed above.)

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