Friday, January 14, 2022

Worth Mentioning - If Looks Could Kill

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning. 

Scanners, Meryl Streep, and an '80s slasher.


The video stores in my hometown didn't have Scanners, Scanners II: The New Order, or Scanners III: The Takeover, but they did get Scanner Cop when it was released in 1994. Spurred on by positive things I had heard about the original Scanners, and by some cool practical effects imagery I saw in a magazine (probably Fangoria), I decided to rent it. Scanner Cop was the first Scanners movie I ever saw - and while it doesn't have a great reputation, I liked it. I certainly enjoyed it more upon my first viewing than I enjoyed the first Scanners when I finally got the chance to see it.

Scanners franchise producer Pierre David made his directorial debut on this one, and also worked on the script with John Bryant and George Saunders. The title character is rookie cop Samuel Staziak (Daniel Quinn), who was taken in by Los Angeles police officer Peter Harrigan (Richard Grove) when he was a child, after he witnessed his scanner father lose control due to a lack of Ephemerol, the drug that helps scanners deal with the telepathic and telekinetic abilities, and get gunned down. Scanner powers are hereditary, and once Staziak follows Harrigan into law enforcement he learns that his inherited abilities could be beneficial in the line of duty.

Just when Staziak is getting started on the force, someone starts brainwashing people into killing police officers; when they see a cop they see something terrifying and dangerous, from monsters to wartime enemies, and lash out. Since Staziak has enhanced mental powers, he's tasked with finding out who is messing with people's minds. It's a super-powered police procedural story that will eventually lead Staziak to character actor Richard Lynch as mad scientist Karl Glock and future Power Ranger villain Hilary Shepard as his fortune teller sidekick Zena.

Scanner Cop is a silly, fun flick with plenty of action and, just like those magazine images promised, some really cool special effects. It also takes Staziak's scanning abilities ridiculously far, and you can either shake your head at it and be put off by it or you can go along with it and enjoy the insanity. In this movie, Staziak's mental powers are so strong that he's able to interface with a computer just by touching the monitor, and by doing a sort of a mind meld with a villain while they're dying he is able to follow them into the afterlife and take a stroll through their "urban decay" version of Hell. It's mind-blowing that they went there with the franchise... but entertaining. I liked Scanner Cop so much when I saw it as a preteen, I bought the poster when the video store was done with it and put it on the wall of my childhood bedroom.


Three years after working together on the Oscar-winning drama Kramer vs. Kramer, director Robert Benton and actress Meryl Streep collaborated again on the thriller Still of the Night, which didn't go over nearly as well as their previous film and has kind of faded into obscurity. It's not difficult to understand why Still of the Night doesn't come up very often, as there's not a whole lot to it. Really, the most notable thing about it is the fact that it stars Streep and Roy Scheider, and the chance to see Streep and Scheider share the screen in a thriller is the reason I sought it out and watched it.

Scheider plays psychiatrist Sam Rice, and among his patients is George Bynum (Josef Sommer), who works at an auction house. Although George is married and pushing 50 - that's the 1982 version of 50, not the 2021 version of it, so the years were a bit rougher on him - he still makes a habit of sleeping with the younger women he works with. His latest affair was with Steep's character, Brooke Reynolds, who shows up in Sam's office to return the watch George left in her apartment. Why go to Sam with it? Because George has just been murdered and his wife didn't know he was having an affair, so Brooke figures Sam can get it back to the Mrs. discreetly.

Coming in contact with Brooke gets Sam swept up in some trouble, because soon the police are visiting him and trying to get information from him that might aid them in their murder investigation, and it's not long before George's mysterious mistress becomes their prime suspect. Sam knows who she is, but he's not telling... mainly because he's fascinated by her. So now Brooke has another guy who's old enough to be her father giving her the eye, but she doesn't seem to mind. It seems she has a thing for older men, and Sam can probably figure out why when she tells him a story about her father late in the running time. It's okay, he'll gladly benefit from her daddy issues.

Luckily, for the sake of the film's entertainment value, George's killer isn't done knocking people off. Sam isn't entirely sure Brooke isn't responsible for the murders, but he's lusting after her enough to have some doubt.

With Streep and Scheider in the lead (and Jessica Tandy in a small role as Sam's mother), Still of the Night could have been something bigger and better than it is. But as it is, it's quick (just 91 minutes long) and interesting enough to be worth checking out.


A lesser known entry in the minor 3-D resurgence of the early '80s, which also included the high profile releases of Friday the 13th Part III and Jaws 3-D, Silent Madness is basically a Halloween knock-off that begins with a dangerous patient accidentally being released from an overcrowded mental hospital. The staff meant to release John Howard, but the person they actually set loose is the criminally insane Howard Johns (Solly Marx), who immediately goes on a killing spree. He takes out a few random victims, including Paul DeAngelo from Sleepaway Camp and future Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood victim Elizabeth Kaitan, before setting his sights on a specific group of sorority girls attending the Barrington College for Women in his hometown of Barrington, New York.

While the higher-ups at the hospital try to just cover up their mistake by saying that Johns is dead, Doctor Joan Gilmore (Belinda Montgomery) is determined to find out the truth. She goes to Barrington and starts digging into his history, and soon this will lead her to the college. Yes, Howard Johns has gone back to his hometown just like Michael Myers returned to his hometown of Haddonfield, and a doctor is following his trail just like Doctor Sam Loomis followed Myers. The similarities aren't subtle, but Silent Madness is no Halloween. That doesn't mean it isn't an enjoyable slasher in its own right, though.

There aren't many students left at the sorority house, the college is on fall break, but there are some interesting characters there: one is the house mother Mrs. Collins, played by Viveca Lindfors from Creepshow, and another is a student named Jane, who's mainly interesting because she's played by Katherine Kamhi from Sleepaway Camp. There's another student who has a standout moment of putting Coca-Cola on her cereal.

My favorite character in the movie was Barrington's Sheriff Liggett, played by Sydney Lassick, who I know best from his role as an awful teacher in Carrie. Liggett has history with Howard Johns, but rather than join Gilmore in her hunt for the killer he just takes the hospital's word that Johns is deceased - and he has some funny dialogue and line deliveries while he's being unhelpful.

It's not difficult to understand why Silent Madness isn't more popular, but if you're a fan of '80s slashers you probably won't mind sitting through this one.

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