Saturday, July 22, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Deja Vu (1985) - An Olive Films DVD Review

Jaclyn Smith stars in the fantasy-mystery DEJA VU (1985), recently released on DVD and Blu-ray by Olive Films.

Smith, the erstwhile Charlie's Angel, may be an actress of limited range, but I've always had a soft spot for her. Needless to say, she's a beauty, and I found her a particularly winning presence in period TV-biopics such as JACQUELINE BOUVIER KENNEDY (1981), GEORGE WASHINGTON (1984), and FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE (1985).

Claire Bloom, who costarred in FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE, also appears in DEJA VU, which was released the same year. She plays Smith's mother in both films, which is apt casting as there is a vague physical similarity.

DEJA VU concerns a writer named Greg (Nigel Terry) who becomes fascinated with a long-deceased ballerina, Brooke Ashley (Smith), after seeing her in an old film.

Coincidentally, Greg's fiancee Maggie (also Smith) is the spitting image of Brooke -- save for her bad blonde '80s shag haircut -- while Greg looks a great deal like Brooke's choreographer love, Michael (also Terry).

Greg considers writing a screenplay about Brooke, and as he delves into her past he comes to believe he and Maggie are the reincarnations of Brooke and Michael.

The film turns into a mystery/horror movie as he receives dire warnings from the Great Beyond not to delve into Brooke's past; the warnings include the killing of Maggie's cat, a big no-no for me as a viewer!

I hoped to find something interesting in checking out this film, finding the London setting and the idea of Smith as a ballerina appealing, but I found it both desultory and silly. Everything from the very long, pointless bed scene which opens the film, to Michael being possessed with a woman's warning voice coming out of his mouth, to Maggie's hairstyle were just...bad. Shelley Winters as a medium who hypnotizes Greg? Also bad. Dead cat? Very bad.

Smith's Maggie is a complete enigma, more of a placeholder than a flesh-and-blood character, although some of the reason for that is revealed as the film goes on.

Furthermore, great opportunities to show off the city of London were wasted with boring, flat photography in a dull color palette. The cinematography was by David Holmes.

It's not often I'm that dissatisfied with a film, but there you have it. It was a very long 90 minutes, and by the time it crawled to a close, I really didn't care what the answers to the mysteries were.

DEJA VU was directed by Smith's then-husband, Anthony B. Richmond. This was the sole directing credit for Richmond, a cinematographer whose career began in the '60s and continues today.

The Olive Films DVD print looks fine. There are no extras.

While this film disappointed, Olive Films has overall done great work resurrecting lesser-known films and making them available to viewers once more. Happily Olive recently released another '80s film, SHAG - THE MOVIE (1989), which I found a lot of fun. Unexpected discoveries such as that one keep me trying out unknown titles, because you never know when you'll find a hidden gem, or at least an entertaining film worth seeing!

Thanks to Olive Films for providing a review copy of this DVD.


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