Sunday, October 27, 2019

WHITE OF THE EYE (1987) Blu-ray Review

Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 25
Total First Time Views: 12
Amount raised for AMAZON WATCH: $2,069.00

White of the Eye (1987) d. Donald Cammell (USA) (110 min) (1st viewing)

When a serial killer begins stalking housewives within a wealthy and isolated desert community outside Tucson, AZ, audio technician Paul White (David Keith) is targeted as the prime suspect of the vicious mutilations. Charles Mendoza (Art Evans), the cagey CID agent called in on the case, isn’t entirely convinced our local sound expert is the killer; enlisting the assistance of Paul’s flinty wife Joan (Cathy Moriarity), the investigation unearths the seedy underbelly of the small town and the multitude of seemingly ordinary citizens who make up its population.

At a time when slick, erotic thrillers like Jagged Edge, Fatal Attraction, and The Morning After were gaining traction at the box office, this wildly off-kilter piece from writer/director Cammell (Performance, Demon Seed) refuses to be boxed in by conventional standards, defiantly kicking out against expectations. The result is a unique, intriguing effort that rewards viewers’ patience and open-mindedness by delivering a wealth of memorably bizarre Twin-Peaks-before-Twin-Peaks sequences and characters before its literally explosive finale leaves you breathlessly wondering (in the best possible way) what the hell you just watched.

A former painter, Cammell enlisted cinematographer Larry McConkey to realize his unique vision, with sweeping helicopter shots of stark, bleached-out desert landscapes filling the screen trading beats with seemingly incongruous close-ups (meat slowly turning over a spit, twisted stereo wires, reflections in copper cookware). One of the busiest high-profile Steadicam operators of the 1990s (Goodfellas, Miller’s Crossing, The Bonfire of the Vanities, The Silence of the Lambs, Basic Instinct), McConkey quickly became a favorite of Brian De Palma, Paul Verhoeven, Quentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese, but based on his work here, it’s a shame we didn’t get to see him show his full range more often.

Of the two murder scenes showcased, both conjure favorable comparisons to Italian giallos despite being quite different in content and tone. The first, which opens the film, sees a young woman murdered in her kitchen, her head shattering a microwave oven door while bloody meat slices and red wine spatter the immaculate white floor.

The second sees our victim grabbed from behind, turned upside down, and rendered unconscious via a pile-drive movement of her head into the floor. (Haven’t seen that before.) She is then wrapped in a bath towel, tied up with wire, and submerged to drown in the bathtub, with the killer eagerly watching from above. Both scenes are cut to perfection by the late, great Terry Rawlings (Alien, Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner, Goldeneye), who had started his career as a sound editor before crossing over to the visual side, and highlighted by a rare theatrical score by Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason and Rick Fenn.

In the lead role, Keith (An Officer and a Gentleman, Firestarter) is clearly relishing fleshing out the idiosyncrasies of his opera-loving redneck, a simple family man with a deeply complex inner life. His scenes with onscreen daughter Danielle Smith feel organic and rich with history, from their pizza-eating rituals to teaching their dog to balance a cookie on its nose. Equally fantastic is Moriarty, lodging a memorable return to the screen after a six-year hiatus following her devastating 1981 car accident; it’s shocking to realize this was only her third screen role after Raging Bull and Neighbors. As the big city girl trapped in a dusty small town, Moriarty’s smoky voice, flaxen blonde locks, and snarling inner fire leave an indelible impression in her scenes opposite Keith and/or Alan Rosenberg (Miracle Mile) as her former lover.

The rest of the cast are well-used, with veteran character actor Evans (Tales from the Hood) doing his best “oh, one more thing” Columbo impression, and Alberta Watson (Madeline on TV’s La Femme Nikita) on hand as the bored sexy “rich/kept woman” asking Paul to put his fine-tuning expertise to work in a different way. The script – co-written by Cammell’s wife China, based on Margaret Tracy’s novel Mrs. White – provides myriad opportunities for all involved to create a curious collective where even the smallest character has a moment to shine. (Witness lawman Marc Hayashi’s powder puff sampling in the Whites’ bathroom!)

While not an unqualified masterpiece, White of the Eye is definitely deserving of a wider audience to appreciate its offbeat and unusual charms.


NEW “Into The Vortex” with actor Alan Rosenberg

NEW “Eye Of The Detective” with actor Art Evans

Audio Commentary by Donald Cammell biographer Sam Umland

Deleted scenes with commentary by Sam Umland

“Into The White” with cinematographer and Steadicam operator Larry McConkey

Alternate Credit Sequence

Flashback sequences prior to the “Bleach Bypass” process

White of the Eye is available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:


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