X-Ray / Schizoid Double Feature: Schizoid Blu-ray Review
Written and directed by David Paulsen
1980, Region A, 89 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on August 20th, 2013
Klaus Kinski as Pieter Fales
Donna Wilkes as Alison
Mariana Hill as Julie
Craig Wasson as Doug
Christopher Lloyd as Gilbert
Richard Herd as Donahue
Joe Regalbuto as Jake
Julie writes an advice column for the local newspaper (under the clever title “Dear Julie”) and has recently started receiving threatening mail. The contents promise violence and gunplay and are presented like ransom notes with letters and words clipped from magazines. She contacts the police and tells Doug, her boss/ ex-husband but neither is too concerned. Julie turns to her psychiatrist and the ladies of her therapy group for support and it is not long after this that the same women are targeted by an unseen killer. The police insist there is no connection, but the threats are growing more intense and the murders more frequent.
Dr. Fales is a sympathetic man who is secretly sleeping with Julie and many other women in the group. Life is not completely rosy for the doc however, as his daughter Alison is acting out in fear that he is trying to replace her recently deceased mother. Two additional quirky suspects are the previously-mentioned Doug, obsessed with wallpapering the office, and Gilbert, the only male member of the therapy group who happens to also be a maintenance man in Julie's building.
There is a lot going on in Schizoid, but it all comes down to a bunch of noise that falls flat after the “surprise ending” that is neither satisfying nor shocking. The finale is well-staged, but the motives are a bit weak when it comes to the maniac's identity. The crimes are committed by a figure resembling the killer in Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace, complete with black fedora, gloves and coat. The picture bogs down with endless red herrings that at one point go so far as to ham-handedly dress a suspect in the killer's wardrobe simply for a cheap fashion fake-out.
Writer/ director David Paulsen (Savage Weekend) delivers a competent thriller, heavily influenced by the Italian giallo style of filmmaking, a welcome alternative to the impending wave of slasher films that would rule the 1980s. The biggest problem with the script is that it throws too many characters into the mix that don't really pay off beyond the choice of either offering a victim or a suspect. There are too many conveniences that aid the killer in the crimes, sometimes as silly as a victim not being able to climb over a chain link gate. There are a few additional awkward moments in the relationships that are important, but poorly executed and consequently drag down the overall pacing of the film.
Mariana Hill (High Plains Drifter) is strong in the lead role of Julie, the target of possibly more than one madman. She manages to hold her own in scenes with acting dynamo Klaus Kinski (Nosferatu: The Vampyre), who is uncharacteristically quiet in this performance. Donna Wilkes (Angel) is equally strong as Alison, a girl with serious daddy issues and an uncomfortable introductory scene. Craig Wasson (Body Double) and Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) are both fine as additional suspects Doug and Gilbert respectively. Lloyd gives perhaps the most restrained performance, unlike any he has delivered in the past 25 years.
Schizoid is an uneven thriller with horror overtones that is good for an exercise in style over substance. The film was also released as Murder by Mail, a title that would play better as a TV Movie-of-the-Week. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this film is that it could have been much better if it decided what kind of picture it wanted to be and then focused on those elements. While I won't dismiss the movie as totally worthless, I can't wholeheartedly recommend it either...but it does have nice poster art. Scream Factory has paired X-Ray with Schizoid for this new Blu-ray release and neither selection is individually satisfying, but together they make a decent addition to your home library.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Schizoid looks better than ever. Colors are sharp and black levels are deep with minimal issues of print damage. The film was shot on a limited budget and it shows, but the disc is far superior to the previous VHS release.
The only audio option included is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track that preserves the original mix. Dialogue is always clear and understandable and the music and effects tracks are well balanced and effective.
Dear Alison (11 minutes) is a comprehensive interview with Donna Wilkes. The star discusses her career with an understandable emphasis on Schizoid. She shares stories from her work on such classics as Jaws 2 and Angel. Wilkes tells many great tales that are well worth checking out.
The original theatrical trailer is also included.
Both films are also included on a double feature DVD included in the packaging.
Click to read the X-Ray review.