Well howdee and hucklebucks, it’s Burl, here with a movie set in America’s great Southwest! The picture is White of the Eye, and it’s a movie I remember seeing when it was newly out on video, and thinking was very stylish indeed; but I was never quite sure if I really liked it much! Well, looking at it again, as I did just last night, I find a movie that’s occasionally very silly, but is strange and intense and certainly very watchable!
We’re in the sunbleached suburbs of Tucson, where bored, wealthy wives wave their petals back and forth like desert flowers, and a madman killer, whom we see only as a pair of legs and a huge eyeball, is picking them off in ritualistic murders that hearken back to Manhunter! (Ha ha, this movie was shot before the Michael Mann picture came out, so I’m certainly not calling copycat!)
In the meanwhile we get deep into the story of Paul and Joan White, played respctively by David Keith from Firestarter and The Great Santini and Cathy Moriarty from Matinee and Raging Bull! Paul builds and installs audio equipment (Ha ha, I wonder if his business card reads “Paul White, Audio Consultant!”), and, as a series of grainy flashbacks tell us, he and Joan met when Joan and her disco-loving boyfriend (played by Alan Rosenberg from Stewardess School and Miracle Mile) pass through town on their way from New York to Los Angeles!
Well, the police, led by dogged inspector Art Evans – a familiar face from Fright Night and Die Hard 2 and Class Reunion and Into the Night – start moving in on Paul, believing him to be the killer due to his truck tires, which are so much talked about in the pictures that eventually characters are begging other characters to stop talking about the tires already! Ha ha! And I’m going to drop a spoiler here, so if you don’t want to know the movie’s twist, best stop reading! But it’s a twist so expected that, for me, it hardly even counts as one! (Though that may just have been one of my rare moments of plotguessing prescience!)
Anyway, the upshot is that Paul, despite apparently in possession of a perfect alibi due to his supposed affair with lusty customer Alberta “The Keep” Watson, is in fact the madman killer! The whole last act, where he paints his mouth red and, as his little daughter says, puts on a bunch of hot dogs (ha ha, it’s actually dynamite) and chases his terrified wife around, is pretty crazy, and I would say that David Keith, despite being no Keith David, and despite being the worst actor in Firestarter by a long chalk (and that’s saying something), does a pretty good job being Mr. Loonytunes!
The whole crazy thing was directed by Donald Cammell, a fascinating, tragic figure who only got to make four movies in his whole career, or maybe three and a half because he co-directed Performance; or maybe even just two and a half because he took his name off the last one, Wild Side; and then killed himself about ten years ago! Of course we’ve all seen Demon Seed, and that’s a pretty good picture in its way, but so is this one! It gets goofy, like when Paul uses his mystical moan to determine where the speakers should go in a room, but mostly it’s a strangely realistic portrayal of an extremely unrealistic situation! All the acting is good, and I particularly liked Marc Hayashi, from Chan Is Missing and Angel, in the role of an Asian good-old-boy deputy! A very likeable character, ha ha! In fact all the cops are strangely likeable in this picture!
It looks great and pulls off some marvelous, harrowing sequences, but on the other hand I found the musical score intrusive and unappealing, and there were some slow and repetitive bits! On the whole it felt like a fancypants version of The Ghost Dance! So, not quite a masterpiece, but a very unusual work of 1980s horror! I’ll give White of the Eye two and a half piledrivers!