80's Thriller Throwback: Tightrope

A Class-A Suspense/Thriller That Needs to be Recognized For it's Brilliance

by robotGEEK

Here's another in a long line of Eastwood flicks I never got around to until now. No real reason really, I guess I just never heard anything about it and when I rely on word of mouth rather than critical response, films like this can slip through the cracks. And it's a shame, since this is easily one of my new favorite Eastwood flicks.

Based in part on the Golden Gate Killer case (which at the time this was made wasn't solved), Tightrope tells the story of a New Orleans cop on the trail of a serial killer and rapist. When the killer starts targeting and taunting Wes Block (Eastwood) and his family, things start getting increasingly dangerous. 

I really and thoroughly enjoyed this one a lot. I'm always weary of thrillers because if they're not handled properly, they can really fall flat, even if the story is strong. In the wrong hands a tight thriller can easily turn into a doldrum drama. But thankfully, writer/director Richard Tuggle (screenwriter of Escape from Alcatraz and director of the underrated 80's thriller Out of Bounds) is up to the challenge and not only does he deliver the goods competently his first time out as a director, but even manages to surpass my expectations at nearly every turn.

At times feeling like a standard cop procedural, and at others like an 80's horror slasher, it's in the craftsmanship that sets this one apart. Eastwood does a fine job as per usual, where he doesn't really seem to have to try anymore at this point. He just always seems like he's naturally playing Harry Callahan no matter what other film he's in. But the film keeps a pace that never gets tedious or dull, and Tuggle's slick visuals often surprised me. The constant jazz score, in keeping with the New Orleans vibe, only adds to the films sleazy undertones and subject matter, making it feel all the more real and uncomfortable.

Rumors are that Eastwood would often take over directing duties when Tuggle took too long, which sounds pretty accurate when knowing Eastwood's fast method of filmmaking. He was pretty hands on with Michael Cimino on Thunderbolt & Lightfoot I hear, oftentimes making him only do a few takes and not the many, many that Cimino has been known for. And to be honest, I can feel Eastwood's hand all over this. So much of it "looks" like it was shot by him, because his previous directing effort was the excellent Sudden Impact, and this film looks and feels a lot like that one, which is a good thing.

On a final note, as I mentioned earlier, this story was inspired by the Golden State Killer case, which was still happening at the time this film was made and was known as The Bay Area Rapist at the time. Considering that the case wasn't solved or cracked (that would take a few more decades) at the time, the similarities are strikingly incredible. Even more so when you find out the specifics of the case today and who the Bay Area Rapist/Golden State Killer was. It's crazy and fascinating.

Tightrope is a slight departure for Eastwood, where I can only imagine the subject matter being a bit risque and controversial at the time, and the film is all the better for it. It's easily one of Eastwood's best films and now one of my personal favorite from his filmography. Here he plays a deeply flawed person, who struggles with his own demons and impulses, walking the Tightrope as they say.

Richard Tuggle would only direct one other film after this, the highly underrated and sadly forgotten Out of Bounds in 1986.


Blu-Ray Review: Deadbeat at Dawn (1988)

Jim Van Bebber's notorious, blood-drenched cult classic Deadbeat at Dawn rises again on the advent of it's 30th anniversary, newly restored for the first time on Blu-Ray. Fully locked and loaded with a raft of new extra's, see Deadbeat as you've never seen it before - in all it's head-busting bone-crushing glory!

The very definition of DIY, independent filmmaking (VanBebber quit film school and used the remainder of his student load to fund the production), Deadbeat at Dawn surpasses it's low-budget origins to create revenge movie that delivers more thrills and bloody spills than all of Chuck Norris' films combined.

Deadbeat at Dawn is one of those films that you never stop hearing about. Released in 1988, it immediately became a cult classic and has remained one of the most sought after tapes ever since. If you ever stumble upon one of these rare and hard to find VHS tapes out in the wild, you pretty much struck gold. Since it's initial VHS release, it's gotten a few DVD releases which also don't come very cheap, and it's cult status continues to grow.

Now the fine folks over at Arrow Video have released the definitive version we all need to have. The new transfer brings out all the vivid colors on the shot on film classic. We also get a healthy dose of extras to dig into, so let's get started.

Goose (Jim VanBebber) has a girlfriend who wants him to quit the gang life. When he does, the gang leader of The Spiders doesn't like it, and orders his girlfriend murdered. When Goose discovers who was responsible, he's hellbent on revenge and formulates his revenge during the gang's big bank heist.

What can I say? Deadbeat is fucking awesome. After finally having seen it, I certainly understand the love for it. And I can tell you, had I seen this when I was a teenager, it would have supercharged my love and desire to become a director. You see, in my early teens through my early 20's my friends and I made an insane amount of home movies in the horror and action genre's. For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a director. It was my biggest passion, next to comics. Of course that desire fizzled the older I got, but man, had I seen this film back then, I'm pretty sure I would have done anything to get there.

You see, Jim VanBebber not only made this film, but he literally did almost everything in it. Credited as writer, director, star, editor, makeup effects artist and stunts, VanBebber's blood sweat and tears are all over every inch of this celluloid. He may not be the most natural actor, but he's really trying. You can tell. And besides, it's not his acting chops that you're interested in. No sir, because once the film hits the halfway mark, it turns into a balls to the walls action flick that will blow your mind with just how the hell he was able to pull it all off considering it's pretty much a DIY flick. I mean, it's incredible, and I can kick myself for not having seen it sooner.

• Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements, supervised and approved by writer-director Jim VanBebber
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed PCM mono audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Brand new free-wheeling audio commentary with Jim VanBebber (’Goose’, The Ravens’ Gang Leader), actor Paul Harper (’Danny Carmodi’, The Spyders’ Gang Leader) and guest Cody Lee Hardin, moderated by filmmaker Victor Bonacore (Diary of a Deadbeat: The Story of Jim VanBebber)
• Jim VanBebber, Deadbeat Forever! – a brand new retrospective documentary on VanBebber and the Deadbeat legacy by Filmmaker Victor Bonacore, featuring first-time interviews, super-rare footage, VanBebber’s college films and much, much more!
• Archival 1986 behind-the-scenes documentary – Nate Pennington’s VHS documentary on a failed Deadbeat shoot
• Outtakes, newly transferred in HD
• Four newly-restored VanBebber short films – Into the Black (1983, 34 mins), My Sweet Satan (1993, 19 mins), Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin (1994, 14 mins) and Gator Green (2013, 16 mins)
• Jim VanBebber Music Video Collection, featuring never-before-seen Director’s Cuts
• Chunkblower – promotional trailer for an unfinished Gary Blair Smith-produced gore-soaked feature film
• Extensive Image Gallery – Never-Before-Seen Stills!
• Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing by Scott Gabbey and Graham Rae

For a film shot on video in full frame 30 years ago, the fine folks over at Arrow did a bangup job with the transfer. The stark grittiness contrasted with the strong vivid colors are a sight to behold, with the almost pink hued blood-drenched chaos only adding to it's magnificent color scheme. The extra's are where the real magic is though. On top of a slew of his short films, the full length feature documentary Diary of a Deadbeat is worth the price alone, but you also get a healthy dose of other extra's to dig into so really, it's a no-brainer. If you're into cult films, this is a must buy.