Deadly Eyes: Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Directed by Robert Clouse
Written by Charles Eglee
1982, Region A, 87 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on July 15th, 2014
Sam Groom as Paul Harris
Sara Botsford as Kelly Leonard
Scatman Crothers as George Foskins
Lisa Langlois as Trudy White
Lesleh Donaldson as Martha
Joseph Kelly as Matt
Cec Linder as Dr. Spenser
A horde of marauding rats are terrorizing the city of Toronto following the incineration of a contaminated stockpile of grains they once called home. The mega-charged vermin have grown to the size of dachshunds and are eating everything in sight, including a toddler, the babysitter, an old man in the park and a few others for good measure. The health department is doing its best, but is constantly forced to play catch up when trying to contain this potential nightmare. The city's first plan of attack is to fumigate the sewer tunnels, but many of the creatures are able to escape and head for more upscale accommodations, including a school, a movie theater and the new subway line!
Sam Groom (Deadly Game) stars as Paul Harris, a basketball coach at either a local high school or college – the age of the actors playing students makes it difficult to say which. The always-pretty Lisa Langlois (The Nest) is Trudy White, the cheerleader determined to ball the coach, going so far as to sneak into his bed one night only to be rebuffed. Coach Harris has his sights set on the much older Kelly Leonard (Sara Botsford, Jumpin' Jack Flash), the local rat-catching health inspector. Their middle-aged love affair does nothing to encourage me to root for this couple, but instead makes me question why Harris would reject smokin' hot Trudy and ignore his 5-year-old son to bang the rat lady? The legendary Scatman Crothers (The Shining) walks through his role as disgruntled city worker George Foskins long enough to collect his check and Cec Linder (Goldfinger) wrestles a giant rat puppet in his basement not long after delivering a healthy dose of rodent folklore. Trudy's friends are relatively worthless, but Lesleh Donaldson (Happy Birthday to Me) and Joseph Kelly (Class of 1984) are at least fun to watch, as they appear to have a firm grasp on what kind of movie they are in.
Deadly Eyes (aka The Rats or as it is credited on this print, Night Eyes) is part of the odd sub-genre that includes titles like Willard, Ben, Graveyard Shift, Burial of the Rats and other assorted films, including a trio that all somehow share the simple name Rats (1984, 2002, 2003). While I myself do not have a fear of these animals, I can appreciate their place within the horror community. This film is very loosely based on the novel The Rats by James Herbert, but screenwriter Charles Eglee (television's The Shield, Dexter) admits to never having read the book, and instead using Joe Dante's Piranha as inspiration. The script wisely dismisses the notion of character development and focuses on more rodent action set pieces. There is some disconnect, however, where high camp and practical reality collide, as nobody questions the disappearance of friends and the news media doesn't cover the attacks in a movie theater or during a high-profile subway event with government officials present.
Robert Clouse (Gymkata) made a name for himself directing the Bruce Lee classics Enter the Dragon and Game of Death (seen playing during the movie theater rat attack) for legendary Hong Kong production house Golden Harvest (who also distributed this mutant rat film). While he may deliver some small level of suspense to the finale, this picture is more about the camp value of puppets and small dogs dressed up (seriously) in rodent costumes terrorizing the city. Deadly Eyes was another staple of late night cable TV in the '80s and I was never really a fan. Watching the film as an adult has surprisingly introduced me to a silly movie that is more entertaining than it really has any right to be. If Clouse was in on the joke when directing this picture, the man is a genius. The only thing really missing from this type of flick is an abundance of nudity. There are a few titillating moments, but it's up to the rats to keep the kids tuned in to this one. Luckily, these little guys are up for the challenge and they even scream like wildcats when attacking their victims! Is this the best killer rat movie you'll see all day? Maybe...unless you just really like watching killer rat movie marathons. Either way this one is dumb fun.
Video and Audio:
Having suffered years of the muddy VHS release and equally shoddy late-night cable TV screenings, I am pleased to report that somebody finally gave a shit about this film and ordered up a new HD master, and the results are pretty spiffy. Gone are the murky mysteries of the third act and now viewers can see what the hell is going on as puppets and puppies are rescued (for better or worse) from the shadows. Presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this new transfer while not perfect, goes a long way to correct the hideous releases of the past.
The original DTS-HD 2.0 English mono track is the only audio option and luckily it's a good one. Nothing too crazy to involve the surrounds, but just some well-balanced center channel fun. Music cues are strong but never at the expense of the dialogue, which is clear and free from any distortion. English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Starting things off is the retrospective piece Deadly Eyes: Dogs in Rats' Clothing (24 minutes) offering new interviews with Writer Charles Eglee, Production Designer Ninkey Dalton and Special Effects Assistant Alec Gillis. Each offer candid insight to their time involved with the production, working with Director Robert Clouse and how it feels knowing you're working on something less than award-worthy.
Up next are a quartet of interviews that include special effects artist Alan Apone (14 minutes) and cast members Lisa Langlois (19 minutes), Lesleh Donaldson (14 minutes) and Joseph Kelly (13 minutes) each sharing their thoughts on the film and how they became involved. We also get some insight into where they were at that point in their careers (in 1982) and what they are up to currently.
Lastly, a brief TV spot offers a glimpse of the original marketing for the film.