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Deadline
(1981)
 

Director: Mario Azzopardi                   
Cast:
Stephen Young, Sharon Masters, Marvin Goldhar


In the 60s, the makers of soft-core sex movies were starting to push the envelope, and as a result they sometimes incurred the wrath of local censorship boards and lawmakers. So what they started to do was to inject a few minutes of "redeeming social value" in their productions, usually at the end of the movie. (Russ Meyer's Vixen has a famous example of this.) This way, the makers of these movies could claim that their movies were not excuses to simply show exploitation material, and that in these movies you could find examination of "serious issues".

Deadline, though not sexploitation, reminded me of these movies. Take an early scene in the movie, when successful horror writer Steven Lessey (Young) has been invited to lecture on his writing at a big city university (though the movie's $850,000 budget seems to have limited the production to use a small classroom and about twenty people to listen to the lecture.) After introducing Lessey, the head of the university then says, "Let's watch a scene from his latest film....", and starts a 16 mm projector that shows a scene from Anatomy Of A Horror. In short, the scene consists of a telepathic black goat (!) that uses its psychic powers to start up a highway snowplow. The snowplow chops off an arm and a leg from the poor mechanic working on it, and the blood just squirts here. The scene then ends with the bloody decapitated head of the mechanic bouncing along the ground.

Okay, now the makers of Deadline have to justify the showing of this extremely gratuitous scene by some social discussion. Lessey subsequently lectures the audience with sound bites like, "Good literature is simply insight into the familiar," and "The best book functions like a key to the soul." But that isn't enough for the audience - a heckler from the audience gets into the following argument with Lessey:

Heckler: Do you mean your horror is a language of the times?
Lessey: I can only speak in the language of our times to comment on society.

Shortly afterwards, they argue again:

Lessey: I think horror represents a way of relating to numerous events that otherwise we'd never be able to relate to.
Heckler: Well, I don't want to identify with horror! (Audience laughter)
Lessey: Well, that's tough. (Louder audience laughter)

Of course, this is complete and utter bulls**t. Deadline is pure and simple trash, disguised as a serious look into the nature of horror, and what "true horror" supposedly is. Or is it? That's because these "serious looks" are actually treated in an awesomely serious manner. It really feels that writer/director Azzopardi was trying to be serious at these points. But instead, these sequences, especially when they are attempting to be as dead serious as you can imagine, are unintentionally funny in a great way. A lot of the great bad movies out there were trying to be serious in their intentions, and Deadline shares that not-so-proud tradition.

Oh, the movie tries so hard to be serious, but hilariously screws up at every turn. The plot of the movie centers around Lessey, a workaholic horror writer who is obviously inspired by Stephen King. He is so occupied with his work, he doesn't see his personal life falling apart. He neglects his three children so much, he doesn't notice when one of his sons (around ten) calls him a "motherf**ker". He does notice his wife has started sniffing cocaine, but upon discovering a packet of coke in his wife's coat, all he does is say (almost wistfully), "That's all there is to it. She's a bitch."

Lessey is unable to write the way he usually does, for he's suffering from writer's block and pressure from his agent to complete a book (or script - it's never made clear if Lessey writes books aside from screenplays) before the title occurrence happens. Part of his problems come from a change in his way of thinking. He tells his agent, "I'm not writing crap anymore! I'm talking about the ultimate horror!", and in the course of the movie we see scenes from his writing, sometimes edited into the movie with no warning and no reason at all. First we see a full-frontal nude woman taking a long shower, which turns into a shower of blood, causing her to slip and drown in a bath full of blood. Next, we see a grandmother tied up on a bed by her young grandchildren, who soak her in gasoline and toss a match, burning her alive. One scene has a fetus committing suicide (!), and my favorite has a mad Nazi scientist electronically altering a punk band's music so it causes the rib cages of some winos to burst out of their chests. All of that is the ultimate horror? Eventually, (much later in the movie), we discover that those scene were just story ideas that Lessey considered, but later rejected. So what was the point of showing all those scenes, except maybe for some extreme gratuitous violence? You've gotta love this movie.

Steven Young, when wearing glasses, actually does resemble Steven King a little. But that's about the only good thing you can say about his performance here. He is completely out to sea here, and even his mere presence soon starts to bring unintentional laughter, one reason being that he can't stay more or less on a single kind of performance. Just about every scene he's in with the actress playing his wife have them speaking incredible brain dead dialogue in very unenthusiastic performances, that it's no wonder both characters usually end up hitting each other before the scene is finished. One scene where he shakes his son, he himself is shaking so much that it looks like both actors are having seizures. Much of the time he acts like he's drunk or stoned, so you can imagine how he acts when his character is drunk. (This scene, where he also brings a bunch of hookers over, brings us nudity and lesbian kisses, but does nothing for the story.)

And there are countless ridiculous things to find fun about Deadline, when you are not soaked in the randomly injected gory sequences. There's a subplot about the latest movie Lessey is working on, which is still shooting and screening dailies, despite the movie's release date being two weeks away. There are countless dumb arguments, with people arguing just for the sake of arguing. There's a scene at the movie shoot where it appears no one knows how to properly make a movie - including the makers of this movie! And there's a lot more. Does this sound appealing to you? I'm sure it is, and you'll no doubt feel greatly rewarded when you find this obscurity. It seems to have been "special" enough to be released more than once (!) on video, however, and one of those times was on K-Tel Video - which I think is somehow appropriate.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: The Devil's Rain, Eternity, Sunday In The Country

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