Director: Robert Clouse
Writer: Charles H. Eglee
Cast: Sam Groom, Lisa Langlois, Sara Botsford, and Scatman Crothers.
Length: 87 min
Label: Shout! Factory
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- “Dogs in Rats’ Clothing” Featurette with Charles Eglee, Ninkey Dalton and Alec Gillis
- Interviews with actors Lisa Langlois, Lesleh Donaldson and Joseph Kelly, and SFX Artist Alan Apone
- TV Spot
Shout! Factory’s imprint, Scream Factory, have made quite the name for themselves. Quickly becoming a fan favorite among the horror community, Scream Factory has released some of the best horror films to date. But that isn’t to say that all of their films are as brilliant as Halloween II or The Burning. No, in fact, it could be argued that Scream Factory love to reissue a few fun projects; films that make us laugh more than make us quiver with fear. Deadly Eyes is one of these films. Released in 1982, Deadly Eyes is a loose adaptation of James Herbert’s The Rats. However, while the film is certainly far from an artistic romp in horror, you may be surprised to learn that Robert Clouse (Enter the Dragon) directed the picture. Now, thanks to Scream Factory, we have the chance to see every laughable detail of the costumed-Dachshund rats in crisp 1080p HD.
The plot of the film is fairly straightforward: a group of rats, having fed on contaminated grain, mutate into overgrown, merciless monsters and wreak havoc on Toronto’s citizens. However, Deadly Eyes doesn’t particularly play like your standard early-’80s horror film/creature feature. The film would actually seem to exist as a slightly more morbid counterpart to late 50s creature features like The Killer Shrews or Attack of the Giant Leeches. Padding the film, the “B plot” of the film revolves around Paul Harris (Sam Groom). A single high school basketball coach, Paul spends most of the film fighting off the advances of high schooler Trudy (Langlois) while falling in love with health inspector Elly (Sara Botsford). Where the film fails is that it seems to fall somewhere between aware and unaware camp. Not outright aware or oblivious of its downfalls, it fails to latch strongly to either formula. What is left is a fun, if not flawed and aimless, film.Starting off the killings with the death of an infant, Clouse’s film is rather dark at times, going farther than one may expect. But, the inferior practical effects of the rats undermine any chance the film has at serious darkness. As very little exists that give us Clouse’s opinion of the film, it is hard to say what he was going for. If this was a vapid attempt at a money-grab during one of the financial booms of cinematic Horror, or if his vision was just weakened by the film’s low-budget and poor effects is left to be determined. However, a fairly bland script and forgettable performances seem to point to the former. The direction is strong enough, making suit of what he had to work with, but the film lacks a strong sense of style that can be seen in his other works.
That being said, the film is far from meritless. In fact, Deadly Eyes is charming and enjoyable. We mean…what is not to love about Dachshund’s dressed up to look like killer rats? For the close-up shots, puppets stand in for the rats, and in almost all of the film’s medium and long shots, the dressed-up dogs “attack” actors—an effect that was procured by filling the actors pockets with treats. In an odd sort of way, the underlying mannerisms of the dogs, despite the violent behavior in the film, cause the rats to look kind of adorable. The juxtaposition makes for an interesting experience. A “popcorn movie” with laughs in just the right—or maybe wrong—places, Deadly Eyes won’t move you, but will sure as hell amuse you.
If you’ve been paying attention to Scream Factory’s releases, you can probably expect what the 1.78:1 1080p HD transfer of Deadly Eyes looks like. On these less iconic pictures, Scream Factory offers a fine but far-from-perfect transfer. Scratches, dust, and other age related signs of wear are certainly present. But, despite a few hiccups, the color depth and grain are kept surprisingly well-intact; skin tones look natural, saturated reds pop, and overall contrast is nice. The blacks are well preserved and the highlights are strong enough to offer vibrancy to picture. The trade off with Scream Factory is always that, while the picture may be subject to a few issues, they refuse to overly process the transfers; so that means that no edge enhancement or signs of digital restoration are noticeable.
Likewise, audio is standardly preserved. There are signs of damage and hiss, and overall the track is slightly muddy, but nothing in the mix is overly disruptive. Despite a few muddled moments, the mix is well balanced. Ultimately, the audio track falls somewhere in the middle, neither Scream Factory’s strongest, nor their weakest effort.
Deadly Eyes may not be loaded with features, but some of the interviews included are well worth the time investment. Particularly, the interview with Lisa Langlois is highly entertaining. For half the interview, it would appear that Langlois is trying to justify her place in cinema history through the consecutive name-dropping of filmmaker after filmmaker she has worked with. But there is a vulnerability, even an excited modesty, to her. She comes off as genuinely in love with her craft, and despite the inclination you may feel to chastise her seemingly vain nature, Langlois has a discreet charm that cannot be denied. She even ends her interview with a message to upcoming filmmakers to contact her about projects, exclaiming that she is excited to work with the next great talents. The featurette, “Deadly Eyes: Dogs in Rats’ Clothing”, features interviews with writer Charles Eglee, SFX artist Alec Gillis, and production designer Ninkey Dalton. This 30-minute documentary covers most of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the film, including a few funny tidbits about working with the dogs. Overall, you get the impression that none of the involved members are too proud of Deadly Eyes, but that doesn’t stop them from having a good time reminiscing. Also included are interviews with actors Lesleh Donaldson and Joseph Kelly, and the dog wrangler on the picture, Alan Apone. To round out the features, Scream Factory includes an original TV Spot.
Deadly Eyes is a film like The Killer Shrews, in that it is far from a serious effort. But if you allow yourself some room, you can have a lot of fun with this picture. This is definitely a Blu-Ray that you can pop in when with a group of people to have a good laugh. A modest, but not exhaustive, transfer allows the film to look and sound as good as it probably ever has. If for nothing else, Deadly Eyes is worth the price of admission alone for the chance to see a gathering of cute dogs in low-budget rat costumes.