This disappointing Euro-thriller is the first -- and to date only -- movie based on the work of American crime writer John Franklin Bardin.
Philip Banter (Scott Paulin) and his wife, unhappy heiress Elizabeth Foster Banter (Irene Miracle), moved to Spain so Philip could work in the Madrid office of her father's business. Widower Charles Foster (Tony Curtis) has always made it clear that he thinks Elizabeth is too good for Philip, and their marriage has suffered since the move; Charles, whose affection for Elizabeth has incestuous overtones, has more influence than ever over his daughter and her marriage to Philip is suffering. Philip drinks heavily, while Elizabeth consoles herself by throwing lavish parties. After a blow-out drunk, Philip finds Foster a manuscript by his typewriter: It describes a drunken night with Robert "Bobby" Prescott (Gregg Henry) and his girlfriend, Brent (Kate Vernon); Bobby once had a crush on Elizabeth and Philip used to date Brent. The evening ends with Philip and Brent in bed. When Philip gets home that night, there's a party in full swing, and to his surprise, the guests include Bobby and Brent. The evening plays out as the manuscript foretold. More manuscripts appear on Philip's desk, predicting further developments and making him doubt his own sanity; his behavior becomes so erratic that Elizabeth, encouraged by her father, has Philip committed. Is he really losing his mind, or is he the victim of a baroque plan to make him doubt his own sanity?
Born in Cincinnati, novelist Bardin (1916-1981) moved to New York in 1943 and wrote a series of mystery novels, of which three -- The Deadly Percheron (1946), The Last of Philip Banter (1947) and Devil Take the Blue-Tail Fly (1948) -- are widely acknowledged as pulp masterpieces of psychological suspense. Sadly, Spanish-born filmmaker Herve Hachuel -- whose eclectic resume encompasses producing Pedro Almodovar's WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS (1985) and directing episodes of the short lived 1990s CBS detective series Dangerous Curves -- and one-time screenwriter Alvaro de la Huerto stripped Banter of its subtlety and vivid sense of place. Relocating the story from 1940s Manhattan to contemporary Madrid does much of the damage, and the combination of coarse storytelling and an oddly mismatched cast finishes the job. Hachuel's odd assortment of actors includes American-born Miracle, who made a minor name for herself in European cult films (including Aldo Lado's NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS and Dario Argento's INFERNO), aging Hollywood star Curtis, along with future US TV stalwarts Henry (The Riches), Vernon (Battlestar Galactica) and Paulin, whose series credits range from St. Elsewhere to JAG. Neither their performances nor the film as a whole gel.
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- Released: 1986
- Rating: R
- Review: This disappointing Euro-thriller is the first -- and to date only -- movie based on the work of American crime writer John Franklin Bardin. Philip Banter (Scott Paulin) and his wife, unhappy heiress Elizabeth Foster Banter (Irene Miracle), moved to Spa… (more)