White of the Eye (1987)

White of the Eye reviewStarring David Keith, Cathy Moriarty, Art Evans, Alan Rosenberg, Marc Hayashi, William G. Schilling

Directed by Donald Cammell

I first read about this movie waaay back in Fangoria in the video review section… either that or in Toxic Horror, can’t remember which. But thank god I did. In its VHS form, it’s one of the most bland looking boxes you’ll ever see (Note: the far more sylish UK DVD cover is featured here), and it would be easily overlooked if set next to a dud with comparably eye grabbing box art, like, say, Future Kill. Anyone remember Future Kill? I don’t. I remember the box art though!

To say White of the Eye outshone its dull VHS box aesthetic would be a severe understatement – I hope they have changed this detail in subsequent releases of it on VHS or DVD. This movie is a masterpiece, and seeing it last night on the big screen was easily the greatest of the 4-odd times I’ve watched it. In the movie theatre this flick was loud! Nick Mason’s musical score was crystal clear and well suited to the tense and puzzling feel of the film, and the intermittently blaring opera music dialed up the madness seething within David Keith’s frighteningly psychotic character.

Style, you say? You want style, it’s here in heaps. The camera lurks voyeuristically through spare cube-themed architecture, and the austere landscapes around Tucson are captured in spectacular fashion. The murders are Argento-class set pieces – I’d be surprised if Mr. Cammell had seen neither Tenebrae or Deep Red prior to making this film. Past and present play critical narrative roles in the plot; we’re moving back and forth between now and then regularly throughout the film. This detail is handled masterfully – the fragmented and patchy quality of memories is mimicked with grainy film texture and weird transfer, and the style and behaviour of the key characters then-vs-now is well observed. You can see how the years have either matured them or worn them down.

For those who don’t know anything about the plot, David Keith plays Paul White, an audiophile who installs custom hi-fi sound systems into wealthy people’s homes. Murders have been happening in the area, and the tire tracks at the crime scenes match the tires on Paul White’s company van, making him a prime suspect. It doesn’t add up because Paul White is a charismatic nice family guy with whom all the locals get on famously. But then…

I’ll leave the rest for now and let you find out for yourself how far this film goes (I won’t be giving much away by saying that Paul White’s explosive antics make Joe Coleman seem like a lightweight). In terms of madness, this tale gets right to the heart of it in a truly unnerving way. Hearing someone you know is totally insane talk maniacally and passionately about things you’ll never, ever be able to comprehend is a scary thing, and believe me, the nutter in this film is out there…

The bottom line is that you have to see this movie. If you’re lucky enough to have someone like Mitch Davis on the case, you may get to see it on the big screen like I did yesterday, but a decent quality copy on a home system will more than suffice. Just make sure you don’t hire a guy like Paul White to hook up the sound for you…

5 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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