Cheesy UK 'Horror Classics' video cover for CURTAINS
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2 and a half stars   Cheese Rating: 50% Fiesty Frommage!

"Six beautiful girls trying to get ahead... when the curtains fall, five will be dead."       and...
"Behind every curtain someone is waiting... something is watching. CURTAINS... the ultimate nightmare."

directed by: Johnathon Stryker (Richard Ciupka)
starring: Samantha Eggar, Linda Thorson, Lesleh Donaldson, John Vernon, Sandee Currie, Lynne Griffin, Anne Ditchburn

(back of video blurb):
       "Six beautiful actresses gather in a remote New England mansion to vie for the most important role of their careers, 'Audra', the psychotic heroine of Johnathon Stryker's heralded new film. Stryker is the legendary Guru, a man nototrious for his methods, both on and off the screen.

       The actresses submit to Stryker's 'desire audition', shadowed by an ageing actress who refuses to admit she cannot play 'Audra'. As the week-end unfolds, with Stryker's dominance fuelling an explosive atmosphere, the trapped and terrified women are mysteriously murdered.

       Only one will survive to be acst in the role of 'Audra' before the final curtain falls."

choice dialogue:

"Excuse me, but I think that's my knife in your back?"

slash with panache?

       "Iíd put a stake through your heart, if only you had one- you BASTARD!", spits an enjoyably hammy Samantha Eggar, as part of a venomous tirade of abuse directed at some poor unfortunate, hidden from the viewer. The rant, it turns out,Slightly less cheesy artwork for the US release of CURTAINS' video cover for CURTAINS is in-fact a theatrical turn; Eggar reading aloud the part of Audra- the insane heroine in a film script, her histrionics for the sole eyes of film director Johnathon Stryker. Convinced the part is hers, but being somewhat of a perfectionist, Eggar decides to go down the method acting route. To research the role of a madwoman she plots to get herself admitted to an asylum; something which even the pretentious Stryker thinks maybe going a bit too far! "If Iím going to play a madwoman I need to know what it is like!" she barks, suggesting that the move may not be so undeserved after-all. After a stunt, where she attacks Stryker in a psychiatristís office, she is indeed admitted to the asylum- with the added bonus of being dragged off replete in a strait-jacket. Surrounded by giggling loons, she is subjected to such terrors as, being tickled repeatedly by a rotund old lady; and soon it is clear that she has taken her research one step too far, as she becomes more and more like the inmates around her....

       Stryker meanwhile has decided that Eggar is too nutty even for him to handle and besides, she is Samantha goes the whole hog in her pursuit of method acting excellence; including getting trussed up in a strait-jacket...safely locked away in an insane asylum; and anyway she is much too old for the part of Audra. He decides to try and cast a younger actress in the role; and to help him choose he invites six very different women up to his remote, snowbound mansion for a leisurely weekend of arch dramatics. One of the women, a stand-up comedian (Lynne Griffin, who was also in Bob Clarkís seminal BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)), describes the ensuing scene with a macabre premonition, "Imagine this, six actresses going to the same house to audition for the same part. Now, it sounds like a lot of fun.... if you like a bloodbath!"

       Eggar learns, via an anonymous friend, that Stryker was more than happy to let her rot in the asylum; and that he has gone ahead and begun auditions without her- "...this time he has gone too far!", she growls; in-between mouthfuls of the Lesleh Donaldson's photo is just one of the one's burnt to a crisp by a scheming and furious Samatha Eggarscenery. Condemned to her imprisonment by her own talent at playing a lunatic she is forced to break out- but not before burning each of the aspiring actresses photographs in a roaring fire...

       Soon the auditions begin in the isolated mansion and those assembled jostle for Strykerís attention. The role of Audra is a choice one and it soon becomes patently clear that there will be tears (and severed heads in the toilet bowl) before bedtime! As one of the characters quips, "Iíd kill for the part!"

       CURTAINS wants to be a sophisticated, upmarket psycho-thriller but comes across more like A CHORUS LINE meets FRIDAY THE 13TH. A muddled production it borrows story-line elements from many different films and styles. On five, of the six actresses expected, sit around the table waiting for Stryker's appearance...the face of it , it comes across like a quintessential gialli- a house full of beautiful women stalked by a masked killer (in the guise of a wizened old crone), whose greed and ambition results in multiple murder. It also smacks of those dusty old-dark-house thrillers from the 20ís and 30ís, where the unseen lurks in shadows and every whispered exchange is eavesdropped by another. And, naturally, it conforms to most of the popular slasher movie conventions- right down to the climatic scenes where the final-girl battles the killer in the backstage area of the full-size theatre alongside Strykerís mansion- (yeah, like every house has one as standard!)

       Visually the film is fairly rich and quite often agreeably quirky- many scenes open with a black curtain swishing back to reveal the unfolding action. There are some intriguing images used- the forest of mannequins hanging from the ceiling is especially successful. And there are a number of scenes which really stand out, One of the many quite striking images from CURTAINS...including the one where one of the women, driving up to Strykerís house for the weekend, spots a small figure standing on the rain slicked highway. On further investigation she sees it is a large doll; its arms stretched out in front of it. As she gazes into its blank glass eyes the porcelain arms shoot forth and grab her! Its a steal from DEAD OF NIGHT (1945), but itís used to good effect.... Another great scene- and perhaps one of the best Ďstalkingí scenes in any early 80ís slasher movie, comes when another of the actresses (Lesleh Donaldson) decides to relax whilst indulging in a spot of ice skating on an isolated frozen pond. When Donaldson bends down to investigate why her ghetto-blaster has stopped working she spots a small hand poking out from underneath the snow. As she digs Lesleh Donaldson attempts to escape the murderous attentions of the killer in the crone mask...deeper she excavates a large doll (the same one that was in the previous scene), and pulls it out of its icy grave. Unbeknownst to Donaldson, in the distance a figure is skating, in slow motion across the frozen pond, towards her. The figure, wearing the old crone mask, reveals from behind its back a lethal looking scythe and soon closes in upon the unfortunate figure skater. Donaldson glances up and her face turns from one of curiosity to one of terror as she realises the murderous intent of her skating partner. An icy pursuit ensues and, without giving it all away, lets just say, itís Donaldson who suffers the ignominy of staring up from a bloody toilet bowl!

       CURTAINS also benefits from a good cast of genre veterans including Eggar who tackles her role as the has-been actress with some relish and who is barely Lesleh Donaldson looking a little... ahem.. 'flushed'. (sorry)able to conceal a wry smile; not surprising given some of the ripe dialogue she has to vent. Slasher movie veterans Sandee Currie (TERROR TRAIN (1980)); Lesleh Donaldson (FUNERAL HOME (1980) & HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981)) and especially Lynne Griffin (BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)), have a riot with the histrionics. As does Linda Thorson (Tara King from THE AVENGERS tv series) as a snobby and insecure older actress.

       Unfortunately, all these good elements donít add up to a particularly good, or even very coherent, whole. CURTAINS was somewhat famed as a troubled production- it was filmed in late 1980, but sat on the shelf until 1983; when it finally got a US release. Also, the director (Richard Ciupka) opted to go under the The killer in the old crone mask closes in on another victim. A still from one of the better, more coherent scenes in CURTAINS...fictional pseudonym of Johnaton Stryker, which more than hints at production woes. Add to that the fact that Linda Thorson was brought in to replace Celine Lomez, who balked at being asked to do full-frontal nudity and walked after completing most of her role- causing many scenes having to be re-shot. Ironically enough there isnít any full-frontal nudity in CURTAINS; at least not in the version I saw. And talking of the version I saw the video box included two pictures that are not in this version of the film- one showing, what I presume to be the director coaching Eggar as she holds a gun aloft; and the other of the the killer, standing on stage surrounded by the seated bodies of all the dead actresses.....(to see these two pictures click here, but be warned... there's major spoilers to be found there!) So, all this goes some way to explaining why the film is so dis-jointed and leaves many questions unanswered- for example, who exactly helped Eggar escape the asylum? But some of the daft plot devices and all too convenient coincidences just smack of laziness- a toilet bowl found to be sparklingly clean only mere seconds after it was previously contained a severed head and was smothered in gore, being a good example.

       However, CURTAINS is well worth a watch as there are so many cheesy thrills to be had; not-to-mention a few genuine chills. Its just a shame though that it is so muddled, which prevents it from being a top notch slasher movie classic.

BODYCOUNT 8  bodycount!   female:6 / male:2

       1) Female stabbed in stomach with knife
       2) Female decapitated (offscreen) with sickle
       3) Female stabbed (offscreen)
       4) Male shot- blasted through window
       5) Female shot- blasted through window
       6) Male found with knife sticking out of his back
       7) Female killed (method unseen)
       8) Female stabbed in the gut