Curtains (1983)

Rating: C+

Dir: “Jonathan Stryker” [Richard Ciupka and Peter Simpson]
Star: John Vernon, Samantha Eggar, Lynne Griffin, Linda Thorson

The pseudonym used for the director came about after a disagreement between the original helmer Ciupka and producer Simpson – the former left, and the latter shot additional scenes and completed the picture. Stryker is the name of the director of the film within the filn, played by Vernon. He is working on a new film, Audra, and has Samantha (Eggar) in mind for the role. The lead character is mentally disturbed, so to prepare, Samantha fakes insanity and is committed to an asylum. Stryker then pulls a switch, taking six other actresses whom he thinks might be better sutited, up to his home for a weekend’s casting call. Needless to say, Samantha is far from impressed by this, escapes from the hospital to confront Stryker about his deception. But has hanging out with the genuine loonies unhinged her, to the point where she’s responsible for the dead bodies, murdered by someone in a hag’s mask? Or is another of the actresses prepared to kill for the role?

Despite its Canadian origins, this feels a lot like a giallo, not least in a fairly-misogynist outlook. The victims are all women, and even before they’re killed, they’re basically used by Stryker as pawns for his pleasure. When he’s not actively bedding them, he’s making them re-enact “scenes” from the film, which probably should be retitled, “My Fantasies, Volume 3”. However, the decent performances from all involved help lift this up, and the one scene mentioned by just about everyone – on an ice-rink – is justly memorable. On the other hand, the stalk-and-slash finale is certainly over-extended, and the transfer is more than a little murky at some points, though not as bad as Secrets of the Clown. While I wouldn’t go as far as some, and call this an undiscovered classic, it’s by no means as terrible as some of its colleagues in the box-set, even for someone like me, who is not really a fan of the genre. For those who look upon slashers more kindly, this is likely worth tracking down.