Release Date: July 28, 1985
Cast: Richard Widmark, Keith Carradine, Kathleen Quinlan, Michael Beck
Writer(s): David Ambrose, Richard Smith, Richard Parks, Les Alexander
Synopsis: The lone survivor of a devastating car accident may or may not be a man who murdered his entire family on his youngest child’s birthday. With no memories and a reconstructed face, Allen (Carradine) tries to start a new life, even as a detective from the past (Widmark) insists that he may be the killer.
Review: Blackout is a prime candidate for a remake, even if they already put together a really cool, interesting cast the first time around. The three leads, Carradine, Quinlan and Widmark are doing solid work here, particularly Widmark as Detective Joe Steiner. His face is an elaborate, concentric set of tree rings, barking wearily at reporters who flock around the front door of a crime scene. “You know as much as we do,” he says, as if for the thousandth time. They don’t make old men like this anymore, who at 80-years-old still seem capable of hunting down and catching a man who murdered his entire family.
Allen Devlin (Carradine) may be that man. His character being brought back to life from a car crash that wipes his memory and destroys his face. He’s the only survivor of that wreck and one of two men who might be the killer Detective Steiner is looking for. But no one knows that, not even Devlin. Not until Steiner sees his picture in the paper and comes asking questions.
This is such a great idea for a thriller, it’s a shame that the execution is so mired in the constraints of other TV movies at the time. There’s a red herring in Mike Patterson (Beck), a local cop who resents Devlin for Florence Nightingale-ing his nurse girlfriend (Quinlan) out from under him. But the story is better served as an update of Shadow of a Doubt, examining a marriage as it curdles under fear and suspicion. There’s a bit of that here and Carradine is perfect as the sweater clad, middle class nobody who doesn’t seem capable or at the very least conscious of his murderous past, but still has a Nashville-ian edge about him.
Oh and you may be wondering about the poster, which personally haunted me as a kid scanning the shelves of my local video store for years. The fetish mask makes a later appearance in the film and becomes prominent from that point on, but it lacks context to really work. For those of you hoping for a sleazy exploitation film or giallo, look elsewhere. As it is, this is a perfectly fine little thriller with a lot of room for improvement.
Better Off Dead or The Sure Thing: Somewhere in the middle
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