It's curtains for you, Mugsy! Curtains!

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Have you ever wanted something sooo badly you would do anything for it? Well, me, I want CURTAINS on DVD. Are you listening, Anchor Bay? I own a 35mm print of this film, and I've only gotten to run it once, so for now I have to make do with the twenty year-old Vestron VHS tape that I've been watching for 15 years. One of the strangest and eeriest movies I've seen, CURTAINS has always gotten a bum rap. This Canadian production had a lot of rumored problems from the word go, and began filming sometime in November 1981 and continued into the following year. The director, Richard Ciupka, had his name removed from the film for reasons I'm not sure about. I attempted multiple times to contact the director in October 1993 to inquire about the film, but he never returned my phone calls. The ending was changed, as were several key plot points, and what results is something of a convoluted narrative, which for some reason, does improve with multiple viewings.

Samantha Eggar and John Vernon star as actress and director team Samantha Sherwood and Jonathan Stryker (yes, yours truly's pseudonym) attempting to bring the story of a mental patient, Audra, to the screen. When Eggar has herself "committed" to an actual mental hospital to research the role, Vernon leaves her there with plans to make the film with a different actress and engineers a casting call at his estate without Sherwood's knowledge. CURTAINS fails to give more than just a hint as to his motivation for doing this (sleeping with two of his auditionees seems to be one reason � what a surprise!), but it does set up some truly frightening set pieces, the best of which include a large, sad-eyed doll on a rain-swept road, a masked killer wielding a sickle on a skating rink, and a chase through corridors inside of a theatrical warehouse which calls to mind the backstage milieu in Michele Soavi's STAGE FRIGHT. The logistics of the murders make little sense, but then this is a thriller, so it's wise not to think too much about it and enjoy it for what it is.

The film's strengths lie in the casting, the music, and the cinematography. Eggar and Vernon are terrific, and Lynne Griffin, an actress we see far too little of these days (she's the suffocation victim in BLACK CHRISTMAS), is hilarious as a comedienne vying for the role. Linda Thorson is great as Brooke Parsons, an elegant actress who discovers Lesleh Donaldson's head in a toilet! Talk about shit-faced�heh!

Paul Zaza has composed a terrific score for this film. The "sting" that punctuates the film's opening title sequence as the word CURTAINS is cut across the screen can also be found in PROM NIGHT, a film that Zaza scored before CURTAINS. I've often wondered if this score was originally composed for PROM NIGHT and then rejected. It's a score worthy of a soundtrack album, though to my knowledge one was never issued, which is a shame because this is one of the film's strongpoints.

I'm a sucker for Canadian horror films that take place in the snow (THE BROOD and GHOSTKEEPER come to mind), and CURTAINS is my favorite. Give this one a chance.

Reviewed by Jonathan Stryker