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Deadly Strangers/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Deadly Strangers
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Deadly Strangers is a truly strange tale whose focus is misperception and identity: who really is the deadly stranger: you, me or that guy over there?

Everything appears to be fine when Belle (Hayley Mills) accepts a ride from a stranger named Stephen (Simon Ward). Belle is traveling on a budget and, as it turns out, fleeing from an attempted rape. Stephen, strange, reticent and creepy, picks Belle up on the roadside and is determined to deliver her to her destination: or so he tells her.

But what is really going on? Both Belle and Stephen are weird: uncomfortable in their own skins and liars. Flashbacks provide us with a bit of information. Belle lost her parents when she was young and grew up with an uncle that sexually abused her. Stephen has a penchant for sadomasochism and is a Peeping Tom. Over the years more than one girlfriend ditched him claiming that he was a freak: and impotent.

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While riding through the bleak, rainy and imposing English countryside, a radio broadcast informs Belle and Stephen that someone has murdered a nurse and escaped from a local insane asylum. Our road trip has become complicated. Is the bearded elderly man that they encounter the escaped lunatic? Perhaps. But maybe it’s the strange gas station attendant, a woman who pumps gas while giggling: half-dressed.  

Director Sidney (Circus of Horrors) Hayers does a splendid job of muddying the waters in this nothing-is-what-it-seems psycho thriller written by Philip Levene. But it’s the performances in the film that make it worth seeing. Mill’s fear and disorientation is palpable: her tears are as real as her screams. Ward’s loneliness and desperation is familiar: his proclivities have gotten in the way of his life. 

Nudity, lewd situations and four on-screen bloody murders are mere distractions. The Final Act is what Deadly Strangers is all about. Although it takes longer than you want it to for the car to arrive; once it does the payoff is satisfying.

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Josiah Howard is the author of four books including the seminal Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide. His writing credits include articles for The New York Times, Reader’s Digest and The Village Voice. A veteran of more than 100 radio broadcasts he is a regular contributor to Grindhouse Cinema Database and in 2014-15 made regular appearances on TV One’s award-winning documentary series Unsung. Visit his Official Website.
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