Release Date(s)1974 (September 9, 2014)
Studio(s)Euro-American Pictures (Scorpion Releasing/Kino Lorber)
- Film/Program Grade: D
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: C+
Love him or hate him, Oliver Stone is undeniably a fascinating and polarizing figure in American filmmaking. The Oscar-winning writer and director loves to court controversy, specializing in hot-button topics like American politics, past and present, and movies like Natural Born Killers that were lightning rods for trouble before they were even released.
But back in 1974, Stone was a two-time Yale drop-out, a Vietnam veteran and a recent graduate of NYU’s film program. His movie experience was limited to helping out his former Yale classmate Lloyd Kaufman with a small role in the pre-Troma comedy The Battle Of Love’s Return and helming a short student film called Last Year In Viet Nam. So it comes as little surprise that Stone’s debut feature, the low-budget shocker Seizure, is every bit as ragged as most first-timers’ efforts.
A group of friends (I guess, although I’m hard-pressed to imagine how these dissimilar people even met, much less started hanging out together) gather at the country home of horror novelist Edmund Blackstone (Dark Shadows’ Jonathan Frid). Blackstone has been plagued by dreams where three characters he’s created, The Queen of Evil (Martine Beswick), a hulking mute executioner called Jackal (Henry Judd Baker) and The Spider (Hervé Villechaize), invade his real life and kill everybody. Subsequently, the three characters invade his real life and kill everybody.
That’s about all there is to Seizure but Stone and co-writer Edward Mann keep things overly complicated by throwing in all sorts of weird relationship dynamics among the guests. There’s the obnoxious businessman (Joe Sirola) whose wife (Mary Woronov) is cheating on him with another guest (Troy Donahue). There’s an older gentleman (Roger De Koven) who acts and talks like a psychiatrist but if he is one, he evidently isn’t very good at it. His wife (Anne Meacham) has lengthy conversations with her first, deceased husband and the second husband is pretty well resigned to that as the new normal. Of course, all this personal drama just becomes background noise after the Queen shows up and forces everyone to participate in a horrifying Foot Race of the Damned. I swear I’m not making this up.
Stone is reaching for a blend of fantasy and reality here, the kind of nightmare logic that works so well in movies like A Nightmare On Elm Street. It proves to be too much of a stretch for the young filmmaker. Seizure is a plodding bore filled with characters who we either don’t really get to know at all or who are so nerve-grating we don’t want to get to know them. The movie ostensibly seems like it’s about Frid’s descent into madness. We’re supposed to wonder if maybe this is all in his head. But we lose track of him several times to focus on other characters and events he’d have no way of knowing about. Worst of all, virtually everything that’s meant to be frightening just comes across as goofy and ludicrous. The scariest thing about Seizure is how shamefully it squanders its overqualified cast.
For years, it was extremely difficult to see Seizure. Now, thanks to Scorpion Releasing, it’s just extremely difficult to watch (insert rim shot here). The Blu-ray purports to be a new HD master from the original vault elements. It’s a good transfer but it’s not a very well-shot movie. It looks fine for what it is and the audio sounds fine for what it is. I guess we shouldn’t be shocked that Oliver Stone didn’t participate in the special features (although he did record a good-humored audio commentary for The Hand, so who knows?). But in addition to the trailer, we do get new on-camera interviews with two members of the cast. Interviews with Mary Woronov are always great and this one is no exception. As far as I’m concerned, she should be interviewed for movies she had nothing to do with. I’m sure she’d have an opinion that would lead to some great stories anyway. The interview with Richard Cox is also interesting, especially when it delves into his later career, notably opposite Al Pacino in William Friedkin’s Cruising.
Cult aficionados will have a hard time resisting Seizure. What other movie offers the opportunity to see so many cult movie icons together in the same place? But it really is a tedious movie. Even The Hand represented a step up for Oliver Stone and that’s saying something.
- Adam Jahnke
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