Deadly Eyes (1982, 87 minutes, Shout! Factory), based on James Herbert’s novel The Rats, centers on a multitude of vermin that kills scores of people in Toronto. The cause of the rats’ violent behavior originates from their consumption of a dangerous corn grain, and it’s up to a health inspector (Sarah Botsford) and a basketball coach (Sam Groom) to save the day.
Directed by Robert Clouse, the filmmaker behind the Bruce Lee films Enter the Dragon and The Game of Death, the horror-thriller’s main attraction is watching dachshunds fit into rat suits and pretend to terrorize Toronto. One of the project’s screenwriters, Chic Eglee, is the showrunner for Hemlock Grove. Although Eglee lovingly describes Deadly Eyes as a “silly” film, it does have its merits.
Lisa Langlois (Happy Birthday To Me) is particularly watchable as Trudy, a nubile teenager who overtly seduces the coach, who thankfully spurns her advances. Although Deadly Eyes is a rat film, the narrative’s middle section deals with the budding romance between the film’s adult leads (Groom, Botsford). All that lovemaking, however, takes a backseat during the film’s third act, as Coach Harris engages in a flame war with the terrifying rats. Scatman Crothers shot Deadly Eyes after The Shining, and he also has a pretty memorable encounter with the vermin.
During the Hemlock Grove press day, series showrunner Chic Eglee briefly reflected on his experience working on Deadly Eyes (he served as a writer/producer on the project).
The movie is a total guilty pleasure, and Shout! Factory has put a ton of extra trimmings into the Blu-ray DVD Combo Pack. Deadly Eyes Special Features include a TV Spot and the following segments:
- Deadly Eyes: Dogs in Rats’ Clothing (24:05) – A behind the scenes look at the making of the movie with interviews from members of the crew. Art director Ninkey Dalton, screenwriter/co-producer Chic Eglee discuss the challenge of placing dogs in rat suits. Eglee and Dalton bonded during the production of Deadly Eyes and are still married to this day.
- Interview with Actress Lisa Langlois (18:00) – Langlois admits that she hid Deadly Eyes from her work resume for years, but she’s warmed up to the film thanks to its cult status. The actress also talks about her early work with French filmmaker Claude Chabrol, collaborating with John Huston in Phobia, and auditioning for The Terminator. Langlois has a plethora of wonderful anecdotes in the feature, so it’s definitely worth watching.
- Interview with Actress Lesleh Donaldson (13:48) – Most of the discussion has her reminiscing about Deadly Eyes, and she also talks about her experiences shooting Curtains and Happy Birthday to Me. The best anecdotes comes from her memories of working with Happy Birthday to Me filmmaker J. Lee Thompson. Towards the end of the interview, Donaldson also added that she’s focusing her career these days as a writer. “It’s a mess, and I think that’s what the charm is,” added Donaldson. “People go and want to see this car crash of a movie, but they also want to get freaked out and scared and watch great kills.”
- Interview with Actor Joseph Kelly (13:22) – Most of the segment has Kelly discussing his memories of Deadly Eyes, but he also briefly reflects on his audition for Class of 1984 (the movie co-stars Michael J. Fox). Kelly ends the interview asking fans to check out his 2010 coming of age film Summer Eleven, a project he wrote and directed (it also stars Lisa Langlois).
- Interview with Special Effects Artist Allan Apone (14:08) – If you want to know the intricate details of fitting dachshunds into rat suits, this segment is for you!! Apone also talks about his affection for actors Lisa Langlois and Scatman Crothers.
Here’s one of the more terrifying scenes from Deadly Eyes:
The Deadly Eyes Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is now available on Shout! Factory’s site.