The film is Double Negative, aka Deadly Companion
Oddly enough, this obscure 1980 film from Canada ties together several threads from recent days:
• In my post about Blythe Danner nudity, I mentioned that she co-starred with Anthony Perkins in one of her two nude scenes, and was directed by George Bloomfield in the other.
• In my post about Elizabeth Shepherd, the first Emma Peel, I mentioned that she had only done a single nude scene. I was wrong. (I’m always pleased to be wrong about matters of this nature!)
Shepherd, Perkins and Bloomfield all worked on this film.
Michael Sarrazin plays a famous journalist who was captured and tortured by terrorists in the Middle East. On his first night home, he finds his wife raped and murdered, but has shock-induced amnesia and doesn’t remember that night, a condition which earns him a trip to the funny farm. A high-powered and loyal ex-girlfriend (Susan Clark) takes him out of the hospital for what she hopes will be a chance for him to relax, and perhaps to rekindle their love. Her plan fails because he’s not into that whole relaxation thing. He’s obsessed with finding out who murdered his wife, a challenge which is totally perplexing since the police failed to turn up any suspects.
The rich ex-girlfriend seems unduly upset that he is so obsessed with solving the murder, and apparently not just because it is interfering with their romance, but because she seems to know far more about the case. In fact, it becomes clear that she absolutely does not want him to find out what happened, and her anxiety mounts as he gets closer to the truth. The fact that she drove him home from the airport on the night his wife was murdered casts an additional cloud of suspicion over her. Meanwhile, she is being blackmailed by a mysterious, slimy character (Anthony Perkins, in full Norman Bates mode), and that may also have something to do with the murder. Is it possible that she did away with the wife in order to reclaim the love of her life, and that ol’ Norman Bates can prove it?
Well, don’t count on it. As the great noir author Jim Thompson (The Grifters, The Getaway) once pointed out, there is only one plot in mystery stories, “Nothing is as it seems.”
I just read back that summary and it makes the film sound far more interesting than it actually is, because the film just can’t stick to the point. The director fills the screen with so many irrelevant scenes and minor characters that it’s difficult for a viewer to keep focused on the main thread, especially since those distractions go on so long and are so poorly paced and confusingly edited. The fact that the amnesiac is played by the ever lifeless Michael Sarrazin further reduces the film’s energy level.
If you just have to know the real solution to the mystery, you can do either of the following:
1. Read Wikipedia’s in-depth summary of the source novel, The Three Roads. It was the last novel that Ross Macdonald, the famous detective novelist, wrote under his real name of Kevin Millar. The novel takes place in 1947, the film in 1979, so some details had to be changed, but the basic story is the same.
2. You can watch the entire mess, which is on YouTube in its entirety. WARNING: Not only does the film stink, but the quality of the transfer is very poor – like a bad second-generation VHS tape. To my knowledge, no better version is available.
The film is filled with cameos and minor appearances from familiar character actors, including Michael Ironside, Kenneth Walsh, Maury Chaykin, Howard Duff, and five of the original seven stars of SCTV (Dave Thomas, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty and John Candy). Don’t be fooled by that casting into thinking that this is a comedy. Nothing could be further from the truth. George Bloomfield just used those SCTV actors because he knew them all well, and realized he could easily slot them into various minor roles that were open.
You see, Bloomfield also directed many early episodes of SCTV, and was truly instrumental in helping the series get through its birthing pains. Bloomfield entered the scene as a co-director about halfway through season one, and was almost single-handedly responsible for the direction of season two, which was completed just before he started Double Negative. In fact, he began directing this film in Toronto before the final ten episodes of SCTV’s season two had aired, which explains why the players from SCTV (also based in Toronto) were so conveniently available for minor roles. For his work on SCTV we owe him thanks, honor and respect, even enough to wash away the sour taste created by his inept direction of mediocre-to-poor feature films.
Ah, yes, I still have not mentioned Elizabeth Shepherd, as promised in my intro. She makes a nude appearance as a girlfriend of Norman Bates, but she has almost nothing to do other than to be naked, and she is irrelevant to the plot. Her role was one of the many distractions I mentioned above, but given that she was naked and sexy, she was at least a welcome distraction.
An actress named Pita Oliver does a full frontal (as well as a sex scene which really can’t even be seen in this poor transfer).
Susan Clark, the female lead, appears topless in panties, but photographed from the rear, so there’s really nothing to see. She may expose some areola in another scene in which she embraces Michael Sarrazin (below), but it seems like a nipple patch, and the most promising frames have been digitally blurred.
Susan did do a topless scene in another film, 1975’s Night Moves, as captured by Oz below: