1985 happened 30 years ago and so did I. Now I’m looking back at the films from the year of my birth. Join me, won’t you?

Too-Scared-to-Scream-(1985)Too Scared To Scream (Tony Lo Bianco) 94 min
Release Date: January 4th, 1985
Cast: Mike Connors, Anne Archer, Leon Isaac Kennedy, Ian McShane, John Heard, Murray Hamilton

Writer(s): Neal Barbera, Glenn Leopold
Synopsis: Someone is killing women in a luxury New York high-rise apartment and the head doorman, Vincent (Ian McShane) is the prime suspect.

Review: How is this not a better known film? We open on Ian McShane applying makeup as Charles Aznavour’s “I’ll Be There” plays and things only gets stranger from there. The next thing we know, we’re in the back of a limo with a young model and her sleazy boyfriend—he ashes a cigar on his driver’s head and accuses the girl of having herpes when she says she doesn’t want to sleep with him—and by the end of the 10 minute mark, she’s gotten naked, talked to her pet mina bird (“You better shut up or I’m going to be arrested for assaulting a mina.”) and been stabbed to death. THAT is how you open a fucking movie!

This isn’t to say that the whole thing is totally breathless—it’s still very much of its era in that respect—but every few minutes or so, someone drops a great line of dialogue, or the guy from the back of the limo shows up again, naked and with cigarette burns all over his ass and a tie in his mouth (“Morey’s ass looked like an ashtray at a Lucky Strike convention. Almost makes you want to give these things up.”). We’re mainly following Detective Dinardo (Connors) as he tries to solve these murders, so there’s a patina of old cop procedurals to everything despite the film’s willingness to go for broke (see: the ashtray ass). But there’s a cleverness to the procedure that keeps things from becoming too much of a chore, like when Dinardo meets an informant at his job (handing out flyers for a strip club) and the informant continues doing his job, shouting at customers and peppering in bits of information for the detective. That’s the movie in a nutshell: smarter and more entertaining than you expect it to be at every turn.

My only guess as to how people passed this up is that it’s not much of a slasher and the leads aren’t anything like the dead teenagers of the era. Mike Connors was TV’s Mannix and Ian McShane was a nobody at the time (an terrific nobody). It’s also not particularly scary, which—granted—is a problem. But McShane is totally bonkers here and part of me wishes Michael Mann had seen him in this and considered him for the role of Dr. Lektor in 86’s Manhunter. He’s playing the kind of crazy that you only get with classically trained actors who can quote Shakespeare as effortlessly as reciting the alphabet. The film was originally called “The Doorman,” and while I’m glad they changed it—McShane is the prime suspect from the hop, so no need to lean on that any harder—it’s absolutely his movie. He walks on air, even through the trashiest, most cliched moments of momma’s boy psycopathy, like when he force feeds his wheelchair-bound mother pieces of birthday cake, laughing maniacally as icing smears on her face.

Oh, and Leon Isaac Kennedy, Two Sweet from the Penitentiary movies is in this! And John Heard shows up at the end for a tiny role! And Anne Archer does an insane, duck-lipped dance to instrumental 80’s music! I was expecting to find some hidden gems on the margins of this year, but I wasn’t expecting to find something this good this soon. If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you can watch this for free right now. Do that.

Better Off Dead or The Sure Thing?: The Sure Thing.
Next Up: Avenging Angel
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