Monday, March 10, 2008

Visiting Hours (1982)

I bet you wouldn't expect to see an Emmy- and Oscar-winning actress like Lee Grant (SHAMPOO) headlining a Canadian slasher flick, but here she is. As Deborah Ballin, crusading TV journalist, Grant is attacked in her home by a misogynist psycho (the always intimidating Michael Ironside, who may have played the role before his star-making turn in SCANNERS, which was released first) who witnessed his mother throwing boiling water on his abusive father. Grant survives the attack and wakes up in County General Hospital under the care of nurse Sheila (Linda Purl).

Ironside's fixation on Grant lies in her highly publicized support of a woman who shot her husband in self-defense, but was found guilty by a jury anyway. So he continues his assault on her by stalking her in the hospital, where he manages to kill nurses, patients, security guards--just about everyone else in the building except for Grant. And when he grows weary of chasing Grant, he sets his sights on Purl, a single mother of two youngsters.

Sharp photography and an excellent score by Jonathan Goldsmith aren't enough to make up for the deficiencies in Brian Taggart's screenplay, which ensures that a huge metropolitan hospital will always be empty when Ironside makes his attacks and that the characters who enjoy sex will be among the dead. Also not helping is the world's most clueless police force that manages to always be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Receiving #2 billing behind Grant is none other than William Shatner, who is pretty much wasted as Grant's ineffectual boss and lover. However, the name cast and the creepy one-sheet were probably responsible for making VISITING HOURS a slight theatrical hit in the U.S. It actually debuted at #2, behind ROCKY III, Memorial Day weekend of 1982. One week later, when STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN debuted at #1 at the box office, VISITING HOURS was still #6, probably the last time Shatner was ever on nearly 3000 motion picture screens at the same time.

Ironside says very little in VISITING HOURS, but plays a very sick dude, whether snapping photos of his victims' last breaths or stalking around naked except for Grant's jewelry dangling from his neck, ears and nose. Fans of Canadian exploitation movies (or "canuxploitation") will recognize mustachioed Harvey Atkin (the put-upon camp counselor from MEATBALLS) and foxy Lenore Zann (also in HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, MURDER BY PHONE and DEF-CON 4 around this time).

VISITING HOURS, sadly, is just not a very good movie, though Ironside and Grant really give it their all.

No comments: