The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Deadly Eyes

Deadly Eyes, released in 1982, has a cult following, but it's surprising that following isn't bigger. This is an utterly insane piece of schlock that belongs in the category of movies so bad they achieve a certain level of entertainment. Director Robert Clouse had previously helmed Bruce Lee's seminal Enter the Dragon, along with some other notable “chop socky” flicks. By the early '80s, though, he was doing this film – a movie about giant rats terrorizing a city. No lying here: Deadly Eyes is deadly terrible. But you'll have a fantastic time watching it nonetheless. It is available in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack from the fine folks at Scream Factory.

The movie opens with Toronto's health department ordering a pile of contaminated grain to be burned down. With nowhere else to go, the mutated rats living inside that pile scamper free and begin running amok throughout the city. The main human character is Paul Harris (Sam Groom), a high school teacher continually fending off the advances of a hottie student, Trudy (Lisa Langlois). He's also dating a health department inspector, Kelly (Sara Botsford). Scatman Crothers co-stars as one of Kelly's fellow workers, who is assigned to inspect the sewer system when it becomes clear the “super-rats” are scavenging for food down there. There is a great need to get the problem under control, as the mayor is about to open a new subway section. If the rats are still around, it will be a fiasco.

Deadly Eyes is perhaps most remembered for the bizarre way the filmmakers created the illusion of gigantic rats: they dressed Dachshunds up in rat costumes. That's right – the rats are played by dressed-up dogs. It actually sort-of works in a few shots. The more gruesome moments are done with rat puppets that are noticeably fake. They make the dogs look great in comparison. That's hilarious, as are some of the movie's “kills.” A sequence in which the rats induce panic inside a movie theater is delightfully goofy, as is a scene where they invade a bowling alley. At least one moment is genuinely disturbing. Early on, one of the rats kills and eats a toddler. Something like that probably wouldn't make the final cut these days.

The stuff with Paul's romantic life and feelings of temptation toward Trudy are less interesting. Deadly Eyes has a lot of underdeveloped characters and stilted dialogue that drags it down whenever the rats aren't on-screen. The performances are also, shall we say, a bit stiff. Nonetheless, there's plenty of gloriously cheesy rat action on display here to give fans of bad movies a few good giggles. Deadly Eyes is perfect for those nights when you have sarcastic friends over and want to watch something you can all wisecrack about.

Blu-Ray Features:

Scream Factory's Blu-Ray is loaded with the quality special features we've come to expect from the company. “Dogs in Rats' Clothing” is a 25-minute retrospective documentary featuring writer/co-producer Charles Eglee. While admitting that the film is terrible, he openly expresses how much it means to him, as he met his wife – the production designer – while making it. Eglee also reveals a juicy piece of behind-the-scenes gossip: one of his tasks on the movie was making sure there was enough marijuana to satisfy Scatman Crothers. The feature is also filled with reminiscences from special effects artist Alec Gillis about using Dachshunds to portray the rats. It's simply one of the all-time great bad movie stories.

Cast and crew interviews constitute the bulk of the other special features. Actress Lisa Langlois gets her own 19-minute interview, in which she discusses getting cast as the teenage temptress, in addition to offering memories of making this low-budget production. Actress Lesleh Donaldson talks about how Deadly Eyes led to a career in other exploitation fare. Actor Joseph Kelly is on hand, too, musing on, among other things, a grisly death scene. Finally, special effects artist Allan Apone offers further thoughts on the dogs-as-rats phenomenon. A TV spot can be found on the disc, as well. All told, these features add up to about an hour in length.

The bonus materials are very well done, adding insight into what is undoubtedly a cinematic curiosity of the highest order. Scream Factory's Deadly Eyes combo pack will delight fans of big screen cheese, no pun intended.

For more information on this title, please visit the Scream Factory website.

Deadly Eyes is rated R for gore, sexuality/nudity, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.

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