The Comeback (1978)

FEBRUARY 12, 2013


Along with Rollin, another filmmaker I meant to spend more time with at HMAD is Pete Walker, who made a number of horror/thriller types but so far I've only seen two: Schizo and Frightmare, both of which I enjoyed but had reservations. And now The Comeback also fits that bill - it's kind of a dull flick, but it's got enough oddball moments and bursts of excitement to make it worthwhile. Netflix also added his House Of Whipcord; as long as it's not edited I'll check that one out soon - I promise!

There's actually only two murders in the movie; one in the first few minutes and another around the halfway point. Both are actually pretty terrifying; not only do they come out of nowhere, but the killer is wearing an old crone mask (always creepy) and slices like crazy at his (her?) victims, giving it a bit of Psycho shower scene flair and (in the 2nd murder) helping to shock the movie back to life. But that's it for kills, leaving it a couple short to qualify as the slasher movie it SOUNDS like on paper. The plot concerns an aging pop singer (Robert Redford lookalike Jack Jones, best known for singing the Love Boat theme) who goes to this big ol' countryside estate to work on his comeback album, but he keeps hearing strange noises and voices, including that of his ex-wife.

It's an awkward approach to take; we know his wife was murdered, but he does not, so while he is thinking she's perhaps harassing him we think it might be a ghost, but since she was killed we KNOW that he has an enemy in the supporting cast, rendering the attempts at making this a ghost movie rather ineffectual. Thus, it's also easy to figure out that someone's trying to drive him mad, and with such a small cast (and two characters taken out of contention; one via death and the other location impossibilities) it's not hard to figure out who is behind it, leaving just the "why" to be solved. And you can't do that until the villain explains it all in the final few minutes, because it's based on information the movie never even really hinted at, so it doesn't quite succeed as a mystery either.

But they certainly give it the ol' college try, particularly with the red herrings. Everyone seems like a possible candidate for being the killer at one point or another, and even the innocent ones are a bit odd. His manager/producer dresses up in women's clothes when he's alone, his love interest is way too eager to be with him despite what looks like a 15 year age difference, the gardener reads books about Chinese symbols for no reason and talks at length about "tree surgery", etc. Ignoring the logic issues, any character could have been the killer and it wouldn't have been a letdown (they all have fairly equal screentime, too). One thing that bugged me in Scream was the attempts to make her dad seem like the killer, but come on - he was only in a single scene before taking off, so that would have been a major disappointment (hell, the movie is so long it might have even taken the audience a second to remember who he was), so at least the movie avoids that problem (even though, again, it's a bit easy to spot who it is).

And it's not like I'm shocked by the movie's sluggish pace - both of the Walker films I mentioned before had the same problem, and could all stand to lose 10-15 minutes of their runtime. So I factored that in when I sat down (meaning: I drank a late cup of coffee so I wouldn't nod off; it mostly worked), though even with that handicap factored in it was still asking a bit much of us at times. Jones doesn't really get proactive about the situation until the final 15 minutes - at that point he still doesn't even know that his ex-wife is dead! Then there are all these go nowhere bits, like when some girl begs the manager for an audition - who cares? TWICE we have to hear him wonder aloud about why his old apartment has a new carpet and smells like bleach, which is slightly grating the first time since we've known for a while why that is, and you can also expect to be tempted to check Twitter or Facebook when he sings one of his songs - yeesh. I know I have questionable music tastes (I'm listening to a Spotify playlist of Hinder ballads as I write this!) but this is some sub-Barry Manilow stuff here, and since the motive actually involves his fame as a beloved entertainer, they could have come up with something less horrendous for him to sing. Unless it's all supposed to be played for laughs, then it's amazing.

If you dig 70s euro-thrillers, you'd probably dig this one, though Schizo remains the best of Walker's films that I've seen - I'd start with that. But if you have no appreciation for this era at all, this won't help you change your mind.

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. Definitely check out House of Whipcord when you get a chance. It's not perfect, but it's my favorite Walker film.


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