(US - 1982)
Directed by Ted Kotcheff. Written by Scott Spencer, Robert Kaufman and Robert Mark Kamen. Cast: Michael O'Keefe, Karen Allen, James Woods, Peter Fonda, Elizabeth Ashley, Brian Dennehy, Ronnie Scribner, Michael Sacks, Lee Montgomery, Ken Farmer, Cliff Stevens, John Dukakis, Peter Horton, Deborah Rush, Irma Hall, Bill Engvall. (R, 111 mins)
Journeyman director Ted Kotcheff (WAKE IN FRIGHT, NORTH DALLAS FORTY, UNCOMMON VALOR, WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S) had two movies in theaters in October 1982. One was the Sylvester Stallone sleeper hit FIRST BLOOD, a relatively serious drama that introduced the iconic John Rambo, loner Vietnam vet turned flag-draped American killing machine in a series of increasingly ridiculous sequels not directed by Kotcheff. The other was the barely-released SPLIT IMAGE, which only played on 129 screens at its widest release but found a major cult following in video stores and through constant cable airings throughout the decade. Made at a time when Jim Jones and 1978's Jonestown Massacre in Guyana were still in the public consciousness, SPLIT IMAGE followed the very similar 1981 Canadian drama TICKET TO HEAVEN, both involving a young man brainwashed by a religious cult until his family arranges for his kidnapping and subsequent deprogramming. TICKET was nominated for a whopping 14 Genies--the Canadian Oscars--winning four, including Best Film and Best Actor for star Nick Mancuso. SPLIT IMAGE is a bit more conventional take on the subject, with better-known actors for commercial potential, but still has moments of grueling intensity, unflinching brutality, and stomach-knotting suspense.