Of Unknown Origin DVD Review
Written by Peter West
DVD released by Warner Home Video
Directed by George P. Cosmatos
Written by Chauncey G. Parker III (novel, The Visitor) Brian Taggert (screenplay)
1983, Region 1 (NTSC), 88 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on August 5th, 2003
Peter Weller as Bart Hughes
Jennifer Dale as Lorrie Wells
Lawrence Dane as Eliot Riverton
Kenneth Welsh as James Hall
Louis Del Grande as Clete
Shannon Tweed as Meg Hughes
"You may spend 20% of your time thinking about him. He spends 100% of his time thinking about you!" Clete the handyman.
Bart Hughes (Peter Weller), a Wall St. advertising executive is a self made man. He has a beautiful wife (Shannon Tweed, Playmate of the Year 1982), a great son, and his career is on the rise. His prize possession is his brownstone home that he has completely renovated. He's even prouder that in spite of the fact that his wife's father is super rich, he's done it all on his own! Hughes' wife and son leave to holiday with her father, leaving Bart alone to catch up on his backlog of work.
Upon arriving at his luxurious office at the World Trade Center, he finds that he is about to get the big promotion. What more can go right in his life? Well, something is about to go very wrong. That evening his dishwasher overflows, flooding his kitchen. He calls the handyman from the apartment building next door and they find a hose all chewed up. Clete the handyman tells Bart that this is from a animal, probably a rat. Bart being the independent man, not one to call a exterminator, decides to catch it himself.
The rat eludes all of Bart's initial attempts to trap him. Chewing up the simple mousetraps and still getting the bait! Bart decides to declare war on the elusive rodent. Steel traps, rat poison and even getting the most reliable method of exterminating...a big old cat. The rat has declared war too! Food is destroyed, glass items broken, now Bart can't even sleep in his bed at night. All during this "war", Hughes' work continues to pile up, his boss and overly concerned secretary get very worried about him. Bart may lose the very promotion he just recently received.
Tension builds as the confrontation between man and beast comes to a head. Hughes at his wits end, decides it's either him or the elusive creature! His career on the line, his family due to return, Hughes has lost patience and maybe his sanity as well. Filmed in Montreal, Canada to simulate a New York City background, Of Unknown Origin is a well crafted thriller with man facing his oldest enemy. Who will win? Man or beast? Maybe they both lose...
Winner of Paris International Film Festival Awards (1983) for Best Picture and Actor, Of Unknown Origin is an above average thriller. Unlike the comedic remake Mousetrap, this battle is serious business. The movie strikes at basic human fears of being alone, vulnerability while sleeping and the disgust of having a dirty creature in your home. The story is simple, man versus beast, however the voracity and ingenuity of the rat is intriguing. The rat is one bad mother...
If the movie was made today, we would probably have much more vivid gore and special effects. For its time Of Unknown Origin delivers! We are also treated to the obligatory "shower scene" with Shannon Tweed, that gives the movie extra points from me. The secretary played by fine Canadian actress Jennifer Dale obviously wants to do her boss, and is very dedicated by making him his morning coffee. Boy those were the days...
At a retail of $19.99 and available at the Warner site for $14.99, Of Unknown Origin is a smart buy. Weller's first starring role before RoboCop, Tweed's first on-screen appearance add to the significance of the film. If you don't buy it, at least give it a rental. Watch it at night and with the lights off, then listen for those strange noises in your home that night!
Video and Audio:
Warner presents Of Unknown Origin in it's OAR of 1.85:1. The anamorphic transfer is very solid. This is a very dark movie, which adds to the "unknown" presence of the intruder. The movie looks the best it has since it was released in 1983.
Preserving the films original soundtrack in Dolby mono, Of Unknown Origin has an excellent score. Sharp, clear, free of distortion and hiss, the sound works very well in escalating the confrontation.
Warner includes the theatrical trailer, cast and crew biographies, and a running commentary by director George P. Cosmatos and star Peter Weller. The commentary is a interesting listen, revealing a lot of information on how the movie came about and was filmed. Being this was Weller's first starring role, he talks sentimentally about how this assisted his career.