Release Date(s)1983 (July 29, 2014)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: A
I’m always continually surprised by the amount of slashers that came out during the 1980’s. It was an absolute craze in those days. More of them were made during that decade than any other, or so it seems. And no matter how many I’ve seen, I just seem to stumble upon more of them. New titles will pop up from out of nowhere that are virtually unknown to me, and Curtains certainly fits that bill.
Curtains died a pretty miserable death when it was first released in 1983. It’s one of those movies where there were mixed agendas about its content, and the results certainly reflect that. At times the movie wants to be a psychological thriller, then at other times it wants to be a slasher. There are also times when it just isn’t sure how it wants to fill its time. On the flipside, it somehow manages to be a memorable movie of sorts because of all of the different ideas crammed into it. It’s just the story, pace, and tone where it tends to falter. Both plot and subplot elements tend to get left behind, while characters disappear entirely without any explanation as to what happened to them. But, as inept as it is, it still leaves you with some memorable images (the killer in the old lady mask, in particular).
The story, at least the best that I can discern, is that a woman goes into an insane asylum at the insistence of her director/lover in order to research a role for the stage. She winds up being affected by the experience and misses out on the chance to play the part. After her director drops her like a stone, he begins looking to fill the role by seeing a number of other “available” actresses. But when his former lover is released and comes in to audition, strange things begin to happen, and someone begins offing the actresses one by one.
Besides just being a movie lost to obscurity, Curtains is also a movie that its fans lobbied for a proper DVD release for years, going so far as to create an online petition to stir up interest. It finally wound up on an Echo Bridge Home Entertainment DVD release along with three other movies, but it was Synapse who decided to acquire the rights to and restore the film. While watching it, it’s easy to see why it was such a long-forgotten movie. It’s not particularly good, but it has a lot of ideas that were unfortunately sabotaged due to interference from the movie’s producers. It plays almost like a giallo, even going so far as not identifying the killer until the climax. In between the kills is a lot of padding, and nothing approaching proper character development either. The crew of people that were hired to make the movie went in with the intention of making a slow-paced thriller, but once it was jerry-rigged with afterwards and became more of a mindless slasher, even they admit to how poor the final product is.
Thankfully, fans of the film, or just genre fans who have been eager to see the film for many years, can finally see it for what it was; and my opinions aside, I’m just glad that it exists for them and that people now have a chance to see it. The making of the film itself might be more entertaining than the film itself, but while watching it, you can’t deny that it was not shot well, had a good cast, some effective scenes, and some original ideas. The girl’s head floating in the toilet is a good example of something that I haven’t ever really seen in a movie before, slasher or not. So my advice is not to go into Curtains with high expectations and just appreciate a low budget movie that, while uneven, does have a little something to offer.
As with all Synapse titles, only the best care has been taken with Curtains in high definition. According to the back of the case, it has been “lovingly re-mastered in 2K resolution from original vault materials virtually untouched for over 30 years.” The results are spectacular. This is a beautiful presentation of such a low budget film, one of the best so far from Synapse. It’s an incredibly organic-looking presentation with a stable field of grain. Image detail is abundant; and whether it’s in a close-up, a mid shot, or a wide shot, both background and foreground elements have an amazing amount of fine detail. Colors are wonderfully rendered with strong primaries and very authentic skin tones and textures. Black levels are quite deep, and both brightness and contrast levels are stable. There has been no excessive digital tinkery after the fact, and only the most minor of film debris has been left behind, which is nothing more than some light speckling here and there. For the audio selection, there are two options: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. While the 5.1 audio doesn’t offer an immense amount of sound activity, it doesn’t really need to in this case. It certainly gives the film a little bit more atmosphere, opening up the rear speakers for plenty ambient moments, as well as giving the film’s score a boost. Dialogue is priority here, being very clear and precise, and the dynamic range between all of the elements is appropriate without going overboard. The 2.0 track is probably more authentic, but the 5.1 track still has plenty to offer. All in all, it’s a perfect presentation top to bottom. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
For the extras selection, Synapse has put together an excellent package. This is a film that absolutely NEEDS Special Edition treatment so that we can hear more about what went into the making and unmaking of it. First up is an audio commentary with actresses Lesleh Donaldson and Lynne Griffin, which is moderated by Edwin Samuelson; a set of vintage audio interviews with producer Peter R. Simpson and actress Samantha Eggar that run, more or less, like an audio commentary; the Ciupka: A Filmmaker in Transition vintage featurette; the terrific featurette The Ultimate Nightmare: The Making of Curtains retrospective; and finally, the film’s original theatrical trailer. That may not seem like much, but it’s a very thorough amount of extra material that delves pretty deep. Other than some deleted scenes, these are perfect extras.
Curtains certainly won’t win any awards for being a film with even pacing or without tonal shifts, but it’s an interesting film with more to offer than one might think. And after many years, it has been fully restored to the highest quality and definitely worth picking up and checking out.
- Tim Salmons