Produced by the ill-fated Vestron Pictures, PAINT IT BLACK quickly ended up on videocassette; in fact, it was one of the last Vestron Video titles out before the pioneering home entertainment company folded. Among the factors in Vestron's demise were losses in its neophyte motion picture
division, but a wide theatrical release for PAINT IT BLACK would probably not have turned the tide. It's a retrograde attempt to revive the Alfred Hitchcock thrillers of yore (especially STRANGERS ON A TRAIN), with an unfortunate emphasis on artifice and contrivance. One wonders if misty
black-and-white cinematography would have served this material better. Johnathan Dunbar (Rick Rossovich) is a struggling Santa Barbara artist in commercial and sexual bondage to slinky gallery owner Marion Easton (Sally Kirkland). Their contract gives her sole rights to his work, and she lures him
into her bed with elusive promises of a one-man show. By chance Johnathan meets Eric Kinsley (Doug Savant), a wealthy but psychotic art collector who is responsible for a series of burglaries and assaults. Eric goes crazy (literally) over Johnathan's creations and murders Marion in order to help
his idol. Of course, Johnathan becomes the prime suspect in the crime. He looks even more guilty when it is revealed that he broke into Marion's office on the night of her murder and scrutinized her ledgers to confirm that she'd been cheating him. Marion's slimy associate, Gregory Paul (Peter
Frechette), has an incriminating business card Johnathan dropped during his break-in, and he successfully blackmails the artist with it; that is, until Eric knocks Gregory off, too. In the meantime, art-broker Daniel Lambert (Martin Landau) takes a serious interest in Johnathan and sells one of
his sculptures to a business magnate. The furious Eric, who wanted the piece for himself, tries to kill Lambert, but Johnathan foils the murder attempt. Knowing now that Eric is guilty but fearing the killer will frame him with the incriminating business card, Jonathan doesn't go to the police.
Instead, he and his girl friend, Gina Hayworth (Julie Carmen), go to Eric's mansion-of-horrors to look for the card. The protracted finale appears to be an homage either to the climax of NORTH BY NORTHWEST or to the Three Stooges; Carmen and Eric dangle off the side of the worst-looking cliff
since the days of Jungle Jim, at opposite ends of a rope desperately held by Johnathan.
Mannered phoniness runs throughout PAINT IT BLACK: the exterior shots are unnaturally lit, resembling studio sets, and the characters and dialog seem to spring from Late Show reruns. Eric's mania, for instance, is attributed to a wobbly metal plate in his head. "Anything can be a work of art," he
declares, "Sometimes you've got to kill to create." And so he does, using death-masks of Marion and Gregory in a subplot more suited to a horror tale set in a wax museum. Kirkland's sultry performance goes way over the top, but since that's appropriate for the material, the viewer really misses
her when she's gone (Kirkland suffers a particularly gruesome death). Rossovich isn't given much to work with as the working man's artist who fixed auto bodies before turning his welding tools to cultural pursuits. Moreover, his easy submission to blackmail goes against his rebel hero pose.
PAINT IT BLACK had a rather troubled production history. Original director Roger Holzberg departed and was replaced by Tim Hunter, straight from his acclaimed work on 1987's THE RIVER'S EDGE. The script was revised so much by Holzberg and Hunter that the original writers, Tim Harris and Herschel
Weingrod, asked for pseudonymous credits. Despite having so many cooks, the film has a fairly consistent tone; however, when all is said and done, it's just a superficial exercise in style without much innovation. Even the musical score quotes Hitchcock, using Bernard Herrman's "Fanfare for `Torn
Curtain'," as well as Strauss' "Voices of Spring" and "Bach Bouree." (Violence, profanity, nudity, sexual situations, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: R
- Review: Produced by the ill-fated Vestron Pictures, PAINT IT BLACK quickly ended up on videocassette; in fact, it was one of the last Vestron Video titles out before the pioneering home entertainment company folded. Among the factors in Vestron's demise were losse… (more)