Blu-Ray Review: Deadly Eyes (1982, Dir, Robert Clouse)

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(Warning! Spoilers Contained Within!)

 Ah, yes, another big time “memory movie” from childhood.

I can’t quite pin down an exact time frame for when I saw it. Let’s see, it hit theaters in 1982, but I distinctly recall seeing it after I saw Of Unknown Origin, that Peter Weller rat flick, which came out in 1983, so I probably saw Deadly Eyes in the mid-80s. Best I can do. I do remember the moment I saw it though; late night on cable, in the living room, everyone asleep in the house but me because I was interested in seeing if this particular rat movie would actually deliver the goods this time.

Up to then the only killer rat movies I had been familiar with was Willard (1971) and it’s sequel Ben (1972), both of which I never saw, and still haven’t seen, but became aware of through a series that used to be on called, That’s Hollywood (1976-1982). Tom Bosley, from Happy Days fame, narrated it and every episode took a particular sub-genre, or theme, and showed clips from various movies while Bosley spoke. I remember there was one on Satan in the movies, and giant insects, but I can’t recall which theme they used for Willard and Ben. Back then horror movies terrified me and one about rats eating people was probably something I could never bear to watch.

I liked Food Of The Gods, but enjoyed the giant insects in that movie more than the rats. I saw Of Unknown Origin and was hoping it was a giant rat Weller was up against, but it wasn’t. That movie left me lukewarm, so when Deadly Eyes (aka Night Eyes, The Rats) came around I wasn’t expecting anything special, what I got in fact was something special.

What I remember most about it was how good the giant rat effects were, the long shots of them running around, which looked really believable, like there were actually dog-sized rats (hint, hint) in the movie. I also remember it was a bloody movie, with a lot of scenes of rats gnawing on freshly killed humans, and the sounds effects that went along with them, the bone crunching, were noteworthy as well. And for some odd reason I have embedded in my memory Lisa Langlois’ unzipped fly in that scene where she puts her pants on and forgets to zip up. I don’t know…that open fly of hers just cemented itself in my teenage brain. And, I believe, it’s still there.

It goes without saying I jumped for joy when I heard Shout! Factory had acquired it for release and after finally seeing it last night and the rest of it today I had a blast reliving those memories of yore. The only thing that was different was the gore; it stood out back then, but didn’t really stand out this time, it was a gory flick to me at 14 and 15 but seeing it again at 45 makes me see how mild the carnage really was. Of course in that intervening time I have seen movies a hell of a lot gorier, which has most likely succeeded in paling the blood the guts of Deadly Eyes. I also thought there was a scene of a rat gnawing on a severed arm, or something. I must have that scene mixed up with another movie.

It’s circa 1982, city is not given, but it was lensed in Toronto, Canada, so I’m going to assume its Toronto and not Toronto standing in for New York. It’s winter and the local health inspector is down at the docks reading the owner of the animal feed she’s just inspected the riot act. It’s contaminated with rats making it useless, and selling it to humans won’t work cause it’s laced with steroids. It’s all burned and this is the catalyst that pushes our mutant rats into the city and into the lives of our characters.

Their food source is gone.

What else can they do but start munching on human flesh.

You’ve got two sets of characters here, the kids (high-schoolers) and the adults. In the kids department you’ve got Lisa Langlois (The Nest, Happy Birthday To Me, The Man Who Wasn’t There) and Lesleh Donaldson (Funeral Home, Happy Birthday To Me, Curtains) playing friends, Trudy and Martha. As the movie starts Trudy and her boyfriend, Matt (Joseph Kelly), are on the outs because she’s got a crush on her teacher, Paul Harris (Sam Groom), who kind of looks like he could be related to Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs (2005-2012) fame. Trudy and Martha have other friends too which are shown at a local get-together at one of their houses.

In the adults department, you’ve got the aforementioned, Harris (Groom) and health inspector, Kelly “Elly” Leonard (Sara Botsford), a brief appearance by Scatman Crothers, who ends up rat food, and various other sundry adults like a Mayor, a rat expert and Elly’s boss who are all on hand to either complicate, help and chew out the main characters.

Our first rat murder is the baby of one of Trudy and Martha’s friend’s, right after they leave that shindig they had. The next death is the mother who follows the trail of blood into the basement and is herself eaten. Now, as the movie continues there is no mention of the kids ever learning what happened to their friend and her baby, which had me wondering how good of friends were they really?

The eventual rat rampage we get as the movie nears its climax is two fold. You get one at a movie theater ala The Blob (original and remake) and one in the subway since they are just adding a new route and the Mayor and all his “people” are there for the ribbon cutting. And, unfortunately, Elly and Paul’s kid, Timmy, are both on that train as well.

I had forgotten all the kids in this film are killed off. Most of them at the theater. Langlois’ trampled body is shown on the stairs, Donaldson goes crashing through a window as she’s swept up by the fleeing mob, and rats eat Langlois’ boyfriend. About the only kid shown that got out of the movie alive was the one who was bitten on the hand earlier and hospitalized.

The movie is supposedly based on James Herbert’s novel, The Rats, and is noted in the opening credits, but I’ve read that Herbert hated this adaptation. I have never read his book, but have always wanted to. By the way, this year is the book’s 40th anniversary and it’s currently getting a re-release this October 1st.

The movie was released this past July 15th by Shout! Factory’s genre sub-label, Scream Factory, and simply put the 1080p 1.78:1 high definition transfer was just gorgeous! Really good colors on this one. Side note: the title card that comes up, though, is not Deadly Eyes, but Night Eyes. I had no idea until recently that it was known by this as well. I knew of its UK title, The Rats, but not the Night Eyes one.

Audio is DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo

Subtitles are in English only.

Extras are as follows:

  • Deadly Eyes: Dogs In Rats’ Clothing (24:05)
  • Interview With Lisa Langlois (18:50)
  • Interview With Lesleh Donaldson (13:48)
  • Interview With Joseph Kelly (13:22)
  • Interview With Special Effects Artist Allan Apone (14:07)
  • TV Spot

In the Dogs In Rats’ Clothing featuette, writer/co-producer Charles H. Eglee, FX artist Alec Gillis and production designer Ninkey Dalton are interviewed. Eglee recounts, among other things, how he met Dalton and how they’ve now been married for decades. He also states that he thinks Deadly Eyes was the last word on killer rat movies and that he doesn’t think, with the high cost of making movies, that another one could ever be done. Obviously he’s not aware of director Alexandre Aja’s big budget, released at the theater, 2010 Pirahna movie. He also mentions he never read James Herbert’s novel and that Deadly Eyes was an homage to Joe Dante’s 1978 Piranha movie.

Some highlights from the interviews:

Lisa Langlois: The reason she did Deadly Eye was because she was a fan of Scatman Crothers; The Nest (1988) was the worst experience of her life; almost had Linda Hamilton’s role in The Terminator (1984); as of this interview her son was about to turn 13 and when he does she’s UN-retiring herself from acting.

Lesleh Donaldson: Claims her character, Martha, from Deadly Eyes lived; talks up her other films, as Langlois did (i.e. Curtains, Happy Birthday To Me, Stone Cold Dead); currently penning a series, and still acts, if the project is right; loves that her all her old genre films have fans.

Joseph Kelly: Had trouble playing dead in Deadly Eyes; saw it for the first time on HBO; didn’t know it was a cult classic until Shout contacted him for this interview; talks Class Of 1984 (1982); still friends with Lisa Langlois.

Allan Apone: No dogs died during the making of this film; never read Herbert’s Rats novel; original title for the film was, Rats, but everyone hated it, they wanted something that would “punch you in the face.”

Despite what Eglee said in his interview I still believe a big screen adaptation, a more faithful one, of Herbert’s novel could be done. It’s just a matter of some big studio committing to the idea and wanting to see it in on the big screen. In the meantime, this version here is a damn fine flick about giant mutant rats, my favorite, and I never thought I’d see it on a blu-ray.

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