Code Red releasing apparently has some time-traveling freak hanging out on 'The Deuce' and all those weird regional theaters and drive-ins, back in the '70s and '80s, and shooting forward in time to the present every now and then, with information on the weirdest, lost, schlocktastic movies ever. Yes, that's the worst opening sentence to a review that you've ever read, but it sort of fits with Julie Darling, a truly bizarre and misguided film in its own right. I have no idea of the point behind Julie, other than for turning your brain into vaguely discomfited mush. So let's check it out!
Julie isn't much of a darling. She's manipulative with her creepy father, abusive to her catatonic fraulein of a mother, and a little too cute for her own good. You might even say she's got a little bit of an Electra complex. It's understandable, though, as her freako father, Harold, (Anthony Franciosa) can barely keep his patronizing, smarmy hands away from her. Sure, it's all lovey-dovey daddy daughter stuff, probably meant to show how great a father Harold is, but it's also creepy as hell. At any rate, it's created an atmosphere wherein Julie (a preternaturally cute Isabelle Mejias) feels comfortable casually watching her mother get raped and killed despite the fact that Julie is holding a loaded shotgun at the time.
Julie darling doesn't exactly match such heights of insanity all the way through, though at the very least you'll never be able to grasp exactly what you're watching. Is Julie an evil daughter as in The Bad Seed? Or is she merely a fucked up kid in a fucked up household? More importantly, why tell either story, if you're going to do it inside a hideous house, with clumsy performances, no moral compass, and very little actually occurring?
Mejias and Franciosa make a disturbing duo, their uncomfortably close relationship powerful enough to fuel a real movie, if it weren't for the fact that neither cares to act for their directors. (Yes, Julie Darling needed two directors to complete it.) Franciosa works his hardest to phone it in, while it looks like Mejias was given the first-take blessing whenever possible. However their badly-acted weirdness gives way to a lot of wandering around in ugly rooms, and talking about nothing in particular, while the audience loses any sense of connection to the story or characters, lame as they are.
Though I like to think of Julie as 'simpering evil' in reality she never approaches that, and the movie suffers. Writer-directors Paul Nicholas and Maurice Smith can't, between themselves, seem to muster much enthusiasm to key up the kinky aspects or even imbue much meaning to the story. The result is of a flat, lime-green aspect (dig the walls of their house, man) that feels dispiriting and dull. While the perverse side of me finds this movie's lackadaisical weirdness oddly compelling, the side that breathes air knows it's more like a tepid, inept thriller.
Julie Darling's 1.85:1 ratio presentation is in keeping with the tone of the movie. The 16 X 9 anamorphic widescreen transfer, mastered in HD from the 35mm interpositive, seems about as good as the source material. That is, if the original film stock has a bland look, so does the DVD. Not that it's all that bad for this flatly lit, low-budget, '80s schlocker. At any rate, our Check Disc Screener means my opinion doesn't represent what you'll see on the final product.
Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Audio is of similar ilk, unremarkable on its own, but fully reflective of the poor recording used on the original release. In short, it appears to have been dubbed and synced by someone operating in a pitch-black gymnasium. OK, it's not that bad, but as above, our screener doesn't represent final product.
Dueling Commentary Tracks with either co-star Sybil Danning (who loves herself) and Mejias (who hates everything about this movie) reveal a clear winner. Listen to Danning for about 10 minutes, then switch to Mejias, who makes the movie far more entertaining with her thoughts. In addition, a 20-minute Sybil Danning Interview and a 15-minute Isabelle Mejias Interview cover similar ground. Lastly, a group of Code Red Trailers reveal more weirdness.
On the one hand, you have a tepid, gutless, psycho-thriller about a weird girl with and Electra complex. On the other you have soft-pedaled sleaze, ineptly delivered without much enthusiasm. On the third hand, you have a poorly acted, poorly filmed, poorly written mess. As anyone with three hands will tell you, that's not all bad, so you genre freaks might enjoy punishing yourselves with this stuff, if only for mocking. Rent It if you dare.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com