Thursday, July 9, 2015

Eyes of a Stranger (1981)

Plucky reporter Jane Harris is fixated on the recent murders of multiple young women.  She's so wrapped up in it that each newscast Jane interrupts others and goes off script, accompanied by the eye rolling of her co-anchors.  She urges their viewers to report any strange encounters to the police.

Janes younger sister Tracy lives with her. When Jane's boyfriend asks her to live with him,  Jane brushes him off because she believes he'll come to think of Tracy as a burden. When there were  children, Tracy was kidnapped. When located, she was deaf, mute, and blind.  With proper foreshadowing, Jane notes that doctors could find nothing physically wrong with Tracy, so it seems to stem from mental trauma.

At a downtown Miami strip club, the bartender tells a waitress that  he's nervous about her walking home alone due to all this hubbub about young women being murdered in town.  The waitress seals her fate by cracking, "Don't worry, Al. If I can handle this place, I can get myself home in one piece."

While she does manage to get home in one piece and watch Shock Waves on TV, she is the target of a series of threatening phone calls. Thinking back on our intrepid reporters advice, she reports the calls to the police and says she thinks she's in danger.

Even though a serial killer is actively dispatching ladies in the city, the police sigh at the inconvenience of the sixth call of the night from a hysterical woman who watched the news.  They promise to stop by the apartment the next morning and take a report.  Our poor waitress hangs up the phone and ponders which dress to wear to her own funeral.

Meanwhile Jane arrives home late that night and pulls into her parking spot in the apartment complexes garage. A few minutes later another car pulls in nearby and she notices a man looking around nervously.  He changes into a new shirt, and throws his stained shirt into the garbage. Hmmm... late night... shifty guy.... stained shirt... murders.  Jane wonders if perhaps the killer is living in her apartment complex.

She becomes convinced the man, named Herbert Stanley, is the killer.  Well, his name could very well be the source of his rage since both first and last names conjure up the image of a slight teen in high-water pants with slicked down hair and overly large glasses.  

Jane is going full on sleuth mode and annoying her boyfriend with the constant "I know he's the killer" talk.  Her boyfriends concern proves justified when Jane takes it upon herself to call Herbert and tell him she knows what he did.  Even though she's a freakin' reporter on the nightly news in Miami, it doesn't occur to her to disguise her voice.  It also doesn't occur to her that calling someone a "phone freak" is pretty specific, and heretofore, an unheard of phrase.  Oh Jane, what hell have you wrought.

While it's nothing spectacular, I was entertained.  This flick plays like a made for TV movie, but then out of nowhere there's some swearing, a little  nudity, and a decapitation.  Jane is played by Lauren Tewes, aka Julie from the Love Boat. That's another reason I assumed it must have been made for TV.  The movie introduces Jennifer Jason Leigh as Tracy.  Watch for the weird scene with the stripper swinging her leg around like her knee has no bones.  It's perplexing, slightly horrifying, and probably signals the onset of early joint disease.

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