BILL’s BIZARRE BIJOU
William D. Carl
This week’s feature presentation:
DOUBLE EXPOSURE (1983)
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if there’s a multitude of drag queens and camp sensibility, if go-go dancers in cages are featured, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.
A “working gal” in a faux fur jacket struts her stuff until she gets to her car, opens the trunk, and gets stabbed through the neck. “She” pulls off her wig as “she” bleeds to death, revealing it was a cop in drag. His partners, Buckhold (David Young of HELLRAISER III, 1992 and NIGHTBREED, 1990) and Fontain (Pamela Hensley of ROLLERBALL, 1975, THE NUDE BOMB, 1980, and especially Princess Ardala on TV’s BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY) show up too late. They phone in that the sting was not a success. Thus ends the first minute and a half of the bizarre erotic thriller, DOUBLE EXPOSURE (1983), also known as WHEN STARS GO SLUMMING FOR EASY CASH.
During freaky credits in a weird repetitive slow motion, we see fashion photographer Adrian Wilde (Michael Callan of CAT BALLOU, 1965, LEPKE, 1975, and MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, 1961) finishing a jog, stripping off his shirt to reveal a sweaty hairy torso (ick), and reading the newspaper, which blasts a headline “Bizarre Killings Continue to Plague Los Angeles!” He leaves his Winnebago, and drives to a session with his psychiatrist (Seymour Cassel, a fantastic character actor from FACES, 1968, COLORS, 1988, INDECENT PROPOSAL, 1993, and RUSHMORE, 1998), where Wilde discusses his impotency and his weird dreams where he kills beautiful women. Hmm….
He “meets cute” with a pretty woman in an elevator, Mindy Jordache (!), played by Joanna Pettett (CASINO ROYALE, 1961, THE EVIL, 1978). They make a date, even though she keeps saying “No,” and he keeps sexually harassing her. He meets his brother B.J., a car stunt driver and bitter divorced dad, who lost an arm and a leg in a car crash, played by James Stacy of POSSE (1975), A SWINGIN’ SUMMER (1965), and SUMMER MAGIC (1963). We also meet Lewis (Don Potter), Adrian Wilde’s extremely gay assistant, who has a bitter feud with B.J., a confirmed homophobe.
Detectives Fontain and Buckhold are called into their captain’s office for a dress-down by their chief, played by Cleavon Little (BLAZING SADDLES, 1974 and VANISHING POINT, 1971).
Adrian picks up Mindy in his Winnebago for their date. So much class! They actually have some pretty good chemistry in this scene, where they get to know each other. She invites him to come take pictures at the rest home where she works. See—this just screams sexy and romantic.
We finally get to witness Adrian at work, taking pictures of beautiful Jeana Keough (THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ORANGE COUNTY, 2006!). She gets in the pool, and Adrian, with a maniacal face, drowns her with a pool net! He wakes up; it was all a dream. Or was it?
Next, we see a hooker strip a bit for the camera, a hooker played by Sally Kirkland (THE STING, 1973, JFK, 1991, and ANNA, 1987). Yes, a Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee flashes her boobies and explains a list of services for cash before being strangled by someone wearing black leather gloves (shades of European giallo).
Fontain and Buckhold are back on the case, dragging the dead model from the pool. Guess it wasn’t a dream! Meanwhile, B.J. and Lewis get into fistfights after B.J. picks up two very young women. B.J. is extremely angry at his ex-wife. Extremely. Hmmm…. That night, the brothers go to a very lame disco, where Chippendales dancers cavort with everyone else on the dance floor. I am confused. Adrian takes a model to bed, but he has dreams of Mindy (a woman his own age as opposed to the models he schtups) as well as dreaming about getting shot in the chest by an angry husband.
The next day, Adrian is shooting a centerfold piece with a model, Bambi (the lovely Misty Rowe of THE HITCHHIKERS, 1972, and a regular on HEE HAW). Then, he is in the woods shooting with a new model, who he gets to stick her head in a trash bag . . . full of rattlesnakes! This is a vicious and really nasty murder scene, and Adrian takes pictures as the woman thrashes all over the place getting bitten. Was it real, or was it Memorex?
By the end of the film, we also get Adrian arguing with his reflection in a mirror; dubious medical ethics; a montage scene on a beach with a rainbow flag kite; the unsexiest kissing scene ever; mud wrestling with Nancy The Naughty Nurse; an appearance by old-lady-character-actor Frances Bay (BLUE VELVET, 1986, HAPPY GILMORE, 1996, PRIVATE SCHOOL, 1983); more murders; and lots of pretty naked ladies.
Who is the killer? Is it Adrian Wilde? His creepy two-limbed brother? His psychiatrist who has taken up photography as a hobby? His eternally angry new girlfriend? His effeminate assistant? You’ll have to watch the film to discover the incredible, whack-a-doodle answer!
DOUBLE EXPOSURE has pretty good acting from the experienced cast, even though it often seems like they are going to tip over the edge from over-the-top to outright hysteria. Michael Callan, who also co-produced, is believable in his role, poking fun at the way older men like younger women and having great mental breakdowns at various points. He doesn’t just chew the scenery; he devours it and spits it back up then devours it again! He comes off as likable and sexy in that Gil Gerard/Bill Bixby manner. He holds the movie together, even when the scenes don’t make a lot of sense. The women are all very beautiful, and they are fine in their roles, which are pretty underdeveloped. Joanna Pettet tries to do more with her older woman role, but often she comes across more as surly and angry. James Stacy is really weird in his role, acting creepy and strange. Of course, this is a giallo, so everyone has to act creepy and strange. Stacy actually lost the arm and leg in a motorcycle accident in 1973. Also, Pamela Hensley playing a tough cop is tons of fun, and she acts like she is having a ball in her scenes.
The film is silly and disjointed due to some unfortunate editing choices, but it’s never dull, even when it goes off on weird side-trips like father-and-son womanizers in silly hats or in B.J.’s stunts. The murders are sick and twisted, without being very gory, and most of the beautiful female cast show off their, um, assets.
I give DOUBLE EXPOSURE three rattlesnakes in a bag out of four.
© Copyright 2017 by William D. Carl