Saturday, January 14, 2012

STRANGE BEHAVIOR (1981) Dead Kids Say the Darndest Things!

Greg Goodsell here -- Quick! You're on "Jeopardy" and Alex Trebek asks you under the "Obscure Horror Movies" category, "Name a New Zealand film set in the United States with a soundtrack that features legendary New Age Noodlers Tangerine Dream and 'Lightning Strikes' by Lou Christie?" If you say STRANGE BEHAVIOR, you'll be sure to score -- but if you said DEAD KIDS, you might win as well, as this film went under that moniker as well where I'm sure it generated very little business! Although I’m sure there are a few stray people who would pay to see a movie called DEAD BABIES – let’s not go there…

Kids ... don't smoke! It could cause the lights to go out in a big empty house and a person could waltz in and kill you!

We're just a few minutes in, and this teenager bites the big one! Don't worry; this isn't a generic slasher film where kids are brutally slaughtered for laughing at some poor girl's silly hat! STRANGE BEHAVIOR has a lot more on its mind than just hoary old chills. Keep watching!

Ah, bucolic, uncomplicated New Zealand stands in for small town America -- and everything is JUST OFF. It just adds to this film's off kilter allure!

Actor Michael Murphy plays the film's erstwhile hero. Murphy is a stateside acting heavyweight remembered mostly for his work in the Seventies. He has quite a resume -- WHAT'S UP DOC?, SHOCKER, MASH, BREWSTER McCLOUD, and MANHATTAN -- the list goes on and on! Directors and actors Murphy HASN'T worked with would make for a more manageable list.

Here you go -- Dan Shor plays Murphy's son, and he's your typically morose, rebellious teenage son itching to go to college and leave this domestic situation behind -- but he's going to need cash!

... so, he meets up with his buddy, see, and he gets wind of some quick money to be made at the local college, experiments in psychology or what not …

… and here we come to the REAL star of the show, Fiona Lewis, as a dominatrix slash scientist Gwen Parkinson. Lewis lent her considerable presence to such gems as THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS, DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN, THE FURY and INNERSPACE. What did Nietzsche say about women? "So God created woman. In the act he brought boredom to an end." The same applies for Lewis and this movie at hand.

Who wouldn't want to stay after class for Fiona? secretly, Fiona is in league with the town's former mad scientist, Dr. La Sange, who did lots of tricky brain manipulations before he came to a mysterious end. Hold that thought.

Our boys take time out for a costume party. Cue "Lightning Strikes" by Lou Christie, and more pop references than you can poke a stick at? The door is answered by none other than the Flying Nun -- and hold on to your hat, Quentin Tarrantino –

Lily Munster and Jeannie from "I Dream of Jeannie" (unseen) frugging away in the background! I imagine American TV is omnipresent in New Zealand!

And check this out! The party is broken up by a mad killer wearing a TOR JOHNSON mask! If pop culture was sugar, we would have all died of a diabetic coma at this point!

A retro car has its door torn off in a scene that is highly redolent of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE!

While going for a "retro" look in some scenes, STRANGE BEHAVIOR finds lots of futuristic eye candy to sample as well.

The complex with various rooms conducting experiments on teenagers and young people summons forth the image from the classic young adult science-fiction novel, "A Wrinkle In Time." Remember the Man with Red Eyes and the cubicle with the little boy who earlier couldn't keep time with all the other little boys bouncing a ball in front of his house getting a nasty shock whenever he literally "dropped the ball?" SHUDDER.

Great atmospheric shot. A little disorienting but still great.

Uh oh! Looks like one of those psychotic kids -- the subjects of the local college experiments, are at it again!

Selfish kids! Leaving the bathroom in such as state like that and not cleaning up after themselves!

AAAAAAAAAhhhhhh! Dead body, in deference to the film's original title, DEAD KIDS!

Here's the REALLY scary part. This gal isn't FINISHED YET!

And yet another person falls prey to the crazy kids!

Say what you will, but I'm digging on the compositional beauty of all these shots! Fiona Lewis is a big help.

Another futuristic backdrop to some VERY nasty business about to go down! You folks may want to get up for a bathroom break for the next five minutes!

"Now, tell me if this hurts. On second thought, don't tell me. I know very well this will hurt --"

Fiona can work that hypodermic -- but you DON'T want to see what happens next.

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! I told you people not to look!

Love this shot! You can just tell that this burger joint is right across the street from THIS IS IT in BLUE VELVET (1986)! Speaking of which, this film out Lynches David Lynch in many creative ways …

The one withering shot that traumatized a much younger Stephen King when this feature first came out! King would rhapsodize about this scene in the annals of gonad-grabbing terror. GAAAAAAHHHHH again.

Right after wining an Oscar for Nurse Ratched in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, actress Louise Fletcher would appear frequently in horror films! FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC, DRACULA’S MOMMA, INVADERS FROM MARS (the remake) and FIRESTARTER. Here, Fletcher is in yet another horror picture, but in a more sympathetic part, where she gives some needed exposition about a long-ago rival between Murphy and the town’s mad scientist.

So we have this stark shot of Dan Shor, under the control of the mad scientist, about to do some finishing up here! Will Murphy survive?

We'll take Fiona in black and white OR color, thank you very much.

Ever notice how Stanley Kubrick had a fetish for evil men in wheelchairs? Peter Sellers in DR. STRANGELOVE, Patrick Magee in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, the precept in BARRY LYNDON ... Not that this film was directed by Kubrick, but you see a lot of wink-wink-nudge-nudge going on here.

SURPRISE! I am the prick mad scientist everyone presumed was dead! HA!

OH NO! Is patricide going to take place right now? Well, what do you think?


All's well that ends well. Kooky and campy, STRANGE BEHAVIOR is a solid guarantee for a fun night at the movies! You know what's really strange? Michael Laughlin, the director, went on to helm the equally zany 1950s-style alien invasion film STRANGE INVADERS and one other feature before he gave up directing altogether! You may know this flick's screenplay author Bill Condon from the highly acclaimed James Whale biopic GODS AND MONSTERS, among many others. Strange bedfellows indeed.

1 comment:

Exeter said...

Didn't remember this at all!
But there it was, on VHS tape # 272!
(slightly edited for TV, no doubt!)

Monster Music

Monster Music
AAARRGGHHH!!!! Ya'll Come On Back Now, Y'Hear??