[review by JA Kerswell]
A thriller with slasher elements from the Greek exploitation maestro Nico Mastorakis. Which is seemingly inspired by classic 1970s Argento and filmed through the prism of early 1980s techno enthusiasm. BLIND DATE has enough to marginally recommend it, but is nearly sunk by an unappealing lead and choppy - sometimes bordering on incoherent - editing and pacing.
|An American in Athens. Johnathan (Joseph Bottoms) is about to be blindsided ...|
A serial killer is stalking the streets of Athens. Posing as a taxi driver, the murderer drops off attractive young women before returning and breaking into their apartments. There he strips them naked before performing amateur surgery with a scalpel. His bedside manner leaves much to be desired, as none of his patients survive until morning.
Elsewhere in the city, Johnathan (Joseph Bottoms), an American publicist for fashion shoots, sees a model named Rachel (Lana Clarkson). She is a dead ringer for an old girlfriend who had been committed to an asylum after being attacked by a gang of thugs. He becomes obsessed and takes to spying on her at her apartment and at a lover’s lane, where she’s making out with her boyfriend David (James Daughton). He is spotted and David gives chase through the woods, only for Johnathan to run smack into a tree. On waking in hospital, he is alarmed to discover that he has gone completely blind. Medics can find no reason for his condition. His colleague and occasional lover Claire (Kirstie Alley) tries to nurse him back to health with such sage bits of advice as, “Blind is better than dead”. However, Johnathan becomes despondent until he is offered the chance to take part in an experimental therapy that would allow him to see - at least in a fashion. The expert (a brief cameo by Kier Dullea, who slasher fans will remember from Bob Clark’s seminal BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)) explains that the contraption will allow him to see computer generated outlines of people and things - and will even enable him to record onto cassette his experiences to playback and savor.
Bolstered by this new found freedom, Johnathan goes back to his stalkerish ways and enters the flat of the model he is obsessed with to watch her digital outline sleeping. It is during one of his nightly excursions that he witnesses the killer leaving the apartment of a young woman who has just been murdered. Because the contraption does not allow him to make out facial details, he cannot tell the identity of the killer straight away but is able to ascertain visual and aural clues to their identity. Johnathan manages to escape their deadly clutches but fears he has accidentally put Rachel on the killer’s hit list. Will he unmask the Athen’s Ripper before he loses his love permanently this time?
|Pre semi super-stardom, Kirstie Alley is sadly wasted in BLIND DATE|
Brian De Palma’s BODY DOUBLE was released in the same year (although BLIND DATE came out first), with these two slick 80s thrillers somewhat cut from the same cloth. Although De Palma’s film is a much more coherent and an altogether better proposition. However, Mastorakis at least proves his thriller chops in several scenes, including an especially tense one where Johnathan, stylish backdropped against a giant neon sign, finds himself atop a multi-storey building pursued by the killer and just one step away from death. Unfortunately, much of the other slasher thriller elements are handled in a curiously pedestrian way, with little build up and precious little blood. The director, however, does ensure most of the of the female cast have at least one topless scene. This includes Kristie Alley, who is sadly largely wasted in her role and is given very little to do apart from be the love interest that Johnathan clearly doesn’t deserve - and who plays no part in the film’s climax bar turning up just before the credits roll. Lana Clarkson doesn’t fair much better as the obsessed about model, who little is asked of apart from looking gorgeous and confused (and often both at the same time). Given that we never do find out if she’s Johnathan’s long lost lover you can hardly blame her.
However, what hampers BLIND DATE the most is the character of Johnathan, who is just too much of a letch to be particularly sympathetic. Perhaps it’s to suggest to the audience that he’s really the killer, although it is very clear early on he can’t be. Fitting the mould of the Argento inspired foreignor-in-a-strange-land amateur sleuth, he simply doesn’t have the charm of, say, David Hemmings or even Tony Musante. The then high tech - although, of course, now highly retro - aspect of ‘curing’ blindness with experimental science seems to be a direct lift from Argento’s celebrated animal trilogy, where he also utilised near science fiction to accent his giallo thrillers. Mastorakis also revels in some of the welcome absurdities of the giallo (although he somewhat implausibly denies the influence of the Italian genre in interviews), with the slightly ridiculous notion that a killer moonlights as a taxi driver (even using a yellow vehicle). He jettisons the ubiquitous black leather gloves (for white latex in the mould of giallo BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA (1971) and Canadian slasher AMERICAN NIGHTMARE (1983)). Other absurd elements include the blind Johnathan driving at breakneck speed through the streets of Athens at night, guided by what is little more than a PONG style video game visual. Plus the little old man who jumps out from behind a bath tub to give a victim-to-be a surprise before chortling home to his wife. Then there is the rather hilariously anti-climactic way the killer meets their doom, which hinges on pure bad luck. Perhaps most absurd of all is the fact that Mastorakis’ Athens doesn’t appear to have any Greek people living there!
|The flash of a blade in BLIND DATE's futuristic/retro plot device|
Given that Greece neighbours Italy, it isn’t surprising that the giallo was especially popular there during the early 1980s video boom. There were even Greek produced gialli-like thrillers, including THE HOOK (1976), with genre fave Barbara Bouchet, and DEATH KISS (also 1976). Mastorakis himself toyed with a variation on the giallo (making his protests about not being influenced sound even more hollow), with DEATH HAS BLUE EYES (again 1976 and released the same year as his most notorious film, the 70s sickie ISLAND OF DEATH). The director never made what could be termed a conventional slasher movie, but approached it with THE ZERO BOYS and THE EDGE OF TERROR (both 1986).
After BLIND DATE Lana Clarkson made the five Roger Corman movies she is best remembered for, but today is sadly notorious as the woman Phil Spector shot dead by accident in his house in 2003. Shannon Tweed was originally considered for the role, and would go on to make a myriad of erotic thrillers that became especially popular in the mid-1990s. Gerry Sundquist, the British actor who played one of the thugs that Johnathan one-ups at the subway station, had a larger role in the Brit slasher DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS. His life ended tragically, too, with his suicide in 1993. The also British-born Marina Sirtis appears as a hooker (who naturally also gets topless); she has since gone on to a successful career and is best known for her STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (1987-1994) character Counselor Deanna Troi.
The end credits to BLIND DATE promoted a sequel, to have been titled RUN, STUMBLE, FALL. It was never produced. Mastorakis clearly didn't see that coming.
female: 3 / male: 2