(Spain - 1974)
Directed by Peter Collinson. Written by David Osborn and Liz Charles-Williams. Cast: Peter Fonda, Cornelia Sharpe, John Phillip Law, Richard Lynch, Albert Mendoza (Alberto De Mendoza), William Holden, Helga Line, May Heatherly, William Layton, Frank Brana. (R, 101 mins)
A regular fixture on the bootleg and torrent circuit, OPEN SEASON was never released on VHS in the US and frequently turns up on a lot of "Why isn't this on DVD yet?" lists. Shot in Spain, England, and Italy, with some exterior work done in Michigan (the old Tiger Stadium is briefly glimpsed along I-75 in downtown Detroit, and there's a drive across the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula), OPEN SEASON (aka RECON GAME) is a Spanish thriller with a British director and mostly American stars that mixes elements of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, DELIVERANCE, and THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, and is an early example of the "insane Vietnam vet" subgenre made popular a few years down the road.
|John Phillip Law, Richard Lynch, and Peter Fonda|
Directed by Peter Collinson (1969's THE ITALIAN JOB), OPEN SEASON takes a while to get going and the psychosexual games and Sharpe's shrieking get to be a little grating at times. The same goes for the goofy antics of Fonda, Law, and Lynch, who often seem more annoying than frightening. But all of that changes and Collinson really kicks it into gear when the hunt begins. With a combination of Ruggero Cini's strange, unsettling "Euro-banjo" (for lack of a better term) score, the use of very quick cuts, and a few instances of grindhouse freeze-framing, the last half hour of OPEN SEASON is an extremely tense and grueling experience. One thing Collinson and the writers don't handle well is a clumsy prologue and an unexpected appearance by William Holden. It probably would've been more effective to keep Holden offscreen until his character really matters, because he shows up for ten seconds at the beginning of the movie, and you know he's legendary Hollywood actor William Holden and he wasn't hired to play a guy dropping a kid off at a birthday party. The twist and the big reveal are telegraphed in the opening scene and it's a big mistake on Collinson's part because you keep waiting for Holden to reappear and then, from a logical standpoint, wondering what kept him from intervening when things were starting to get unpleasant. However shaky the opening is, it does have the not-very-good, yet still weirdly effective and strangely haunting theme song "Casting Shadows," by John Howard, that really sticks with you.
|"Yes, young man. I AM William Holden. And|
no, I don't know why I'm in this."