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Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

A still from Scalpel (1977)

Scalpel

1977 | United States | 95 min
aka:
  • Woman of the Shadows
  • False Face
  • Watched on Fri Jul 16, 2021 via Arrow Player
    B-: 4 stars (out of 5)

    Blood Rage director John Grissmer’s directorial debut. Robert Lansing plays a plastic surgeon who reconstructs a stripper’s face to pose as his runaway daughter.

    The bonkers setup facilitates Grissmer’s exploration of incestuous desire and doppelgänger dynamics. Having Lansing’s character engage in a sexual relationship with a woman resembling his daughter proves just the beginning. When the real daughter returns home she accepts the doppelgänger’s presence leading to a bizarre triangle.

    The execution hinges on the cast, and they deliver. Judith Chapman convinces in her dual role and Lansing’s great as a gleeful sociopath. There’s a paddleboat scene that had me laughing out loud.

    This quirky sense of humor makes the film. At one point when discussing an inheritance, the script mentions the Gift Tax. I loved that oddball attention to detail. It balances the incestuous undercurrent pervading the story. And said undercurrent keeps the film from veering into total camp. It’s a tonal tightrope Grissmer walks with apparent ease.

    A shame this and Blood Rage were his only films. Both demonstrate a deft ability to take a doppelgänger premise to ludicrous extremes. I wonder what he thought of Dead Ringers.

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