Friday, April 29, 2022

Census Bloodbath: Greek Tragedy

Year: 1984
Director: Nico Mastorakis
Cast: Joseph Bottoms, Kirstie Alley, Keir Dullea
Run Time: 1 hour 43 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Plot: Blind Date, insofar as it has a plot, is about a thirtysomething American man named Jonathon Ratcliff (Joseph Bottoms) who is working in advertising in Athens, Greece and sleeping with his coworker Claire (Kirstie Alley). He kinda wanders around stalking random pretty women, watching them through a telescope. One time he's caught and chased through the woods and hits his face on a tree branch, which renders him blind, though the condition may be psychosomatic, brought on by seeing a woman he believes to be his former girlfriend at a modeling shoot. Anyway, with the help of Dr. Steiger (Keir Dullea of Black Christmas and 2001: A Space Odyssey), he regains a version of his sight with an experimental procedure that transmits a computer input directly to his optic nerve via a device that is housed inside a Sony Walkman, allowing him to see the world around him in a black-and-white outline. Meanwhile, someone with his own Walkman (just because he likes music, not because he needs it to see) has been murdering women with a scalpel. Eventually, about 25 minutes before the film is over, Ratcliff discovers that this is happening and vows to figure out who it is. Any questions?

Analysis: Now, people love to throw out the phrase "(insert country here) giallo" for any non-Italian slasher that has a modicum of style. But Blind Date truly is a Greek giallo. It is entirely a throwback to that '70s format, far more than what actual Italian filmmakers like Lucio Fulci, Michele Soavi, or Lamberto Bava were pumping out at the time. Down to the fact that it centers an American in a foreign land who becomes embroiled in a murder mystery, the way that the key to the solution is hidden in his own memory, the style-over-substance panache, and the fact that it makes not one single fucking lick of sense. 

It literally doesn't even make sense as a slasher, or at least a functional one. For most of the movie the killings aren't even commented upon. We're meant to assume that Ratcliff is the killer I think, but only because we've certainly seen him being an absolute creep, but nobody else ever really mentions the murders and the town is considerably less than rocked by the presence of a serial killer. Eventually the killer is revealed to be someone who we've seen in wide shots a couple times, in a reveal that is probably supposed to be shocking, but by that point anyone with a rudimentary sense of how to watch gialli has already given up trying to piece together anything that's going on.

Unfortunately, the kills are where the film diverges the most from the giallo format. Not in the misogyny though! The women who are murdered almost never get named or speak a line of dialogue (in fact, one of them is speaking but her lines are muted in favor of creepy music), this movie doing nothing to hide the fact that they are literally just bodies to be cut open rather than characters. Because of this gross undercurrent, I am grateful that the film doesn't revel in gory, over the top kills. However, the fact that pretty much every kill has the same M.O. and then cuts away before anything interesting happens makes those sequences deadly dull to watch.

Really, the entire film is far more dull than something this incoherent and strange has any right to be. This is a film where the lead character is introduced wearing a tan blazer over a T-shirt that reads "I <3 My Dentist." Where the eye doctor only tells him that he can use the computer device for a limit of two hours a day after he's already done the procedure and eliminated any chance of him getting his sight back the proper way. Where the killer stalks the final reel in a Speedo (I for one, am very grateful for this decision)

One misstep is pouring the bulk of Mastorakis' weirdo energy into the truly heinous '80s graphics that render Ratcliff's computerized POV. They may have been high tech at one point, but now the seizure-inducing polygons that fly around this film are truly insufferable. Fortunately, the non-computerized elements, which comprise about 94% of the film, are rather stylish. I would hesitate to call the film "gorgeous," but it certainly is always making aesthetic choices that are pleasurable in the traditionally shot sequences, even for mundane moments that don't scream out for an extra dash of style. It's a film that has atmosphere, and while that may be the only thing it has to offer, it at least prevents it from being the miserable slog it very easily could have been.

Killer: David (James Daughton)
Final Girl: Jonathon Ratcliff (Joseph Bottoms)
Best Kill: David is brandishing his scalpel and his hand is hit with a door, which sends the blade slamming into his neck.
Sign of the Times: I mean, you name another year where the plot hinges entirely on a Sony Walkman and the Atari Game Super Breakout.
Scariest Moment: The first time David begins to slash up a woman with a scalpel and you're like "How far is this scene about to go?"
Weirdest Moment: A bunch of friends rush into the bedroom on Jonathon's birthday to shout "surprise!" while he's in the middle of having sex with Claire.
Champion Dialogue: "Look ma, no eyes!"
Body Count: 6
  1. Woman #1 is scalpeled.
  2. Woman #2 is scalpeled.
  3. Blond Guy has his throat slit with a scalpel.
  4. Woman #3 is scalpeled.
  5. Woman #4 is scalpeled.
  6. David gets his scalpel jammed in his throat.
TL;DR: Blind Date is intriguing and stylish and weird, but ultimately too slow-paced and misogynistic to cross the finish line properly.
Rating: 5/10
Word Count: 985

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