“DEATH GAME” (1977)

Starring: Sondra Locke, Seymour Cassel & Collen Camp
Written by Anthony Overman & Michael Ronald Ross
Directed by Peter S. Traynor

Polly Staffle Rating: ***

When a bunch of studio executives get together and talk about possible films to remake, “Death Game” should be at the top of the list. It’s obviously been forgotten by most people. The only DVD release it has is by Cinema Pops, which doesn’t have a functioning website. It’s not available for rent at Nextflix or Blockbuster and there are few reviews for it on rottentomatoes.com. So essentially it is relatively unknown and unseen. The other thing that makes it such a good choice, is that it has a lot of potential.

The film, also known as “The Seducers,” has many elements of a 70’s shocker classic. It is raw and realistic. I was actually surprised I had never heard of the movie before. I accidentally stumbled across it looking for an 80’s Joe D’Amato film called “Endgame” which has yet to be released on DVD. “Death Game” does have a goofy theme song “Good Old Dad,” which plays over and over throughout the movie, that seemed vaguely familiar, but I don’t believe I had ever seen this film before. (If you are going to view this film anytime soon, I suggest you stop reading now as I will be explaining in detail what goes on in the film and how it can be updated and made better in a remake. By the way, it is $5.99 on Amazon.com).

“Death Game” is quite the find about a happily married man alone for the weekend until two girls show up on his doorstep, bringing both ecstasy and misery into his life for the next two days. Let’s just say a lot of explaining will have to be done when the wife gets back home. Character actor Seymor Cassel plays the lead male named George. Clint Eastwood’s old flame Sondra Locke is Jackson. Collen Camp, whose credits include the Bruce Lee film “Game of Death,” as well as “The Last Porn Flick,” “The Swinging Cheerleaders,” “She Devils in Chains,” and the role of Playmate Miss May in “Apocalypse Now,” is Donna.

Fans of Locke, if there are any, get to see her and Camp nude in the film. There is also a threesome that almost feels pornographic, although you don’t really see much detail. The three are in a hot tub and the scene is shown mostly with two different views of various activities superimposed on top of each other, as 70’s “boom-chicka” music and overdubbed moans play on the soundtrack. The scene is effective, but goes for too long.
The morning after the threesome, George wants the girls to leave, but they aren’t having it. He threatens to call the police and they inform him their ages are 15 and 17. The girls then proceed to tie him up and torture him in mostly childish ways such as throwing every bit of the food in the house on him and holding a pretend trial charging him with assault on minors. The girls dress up in lingerie of George’s wife and have fun giving themselves over-the-top makeovers with her cosmetic items.

They also drown a delivery boy in George’s fish tank coffee table in the film’s only death scene. The girls didn’t want to involve the delivery boy. He just gets in their way. George is who they are after. Their interest is causing him as much suffering as possible. It’s not that he did anything to them personally. He is just a representation of what they don’t have. He is a father that wants to be good to his family. He is a successful business man and he provides his family with a nice life. George is also a representation of the men that have manipulated and used them. He is a hypocrite. He is a husband that cheats on his wife. He has casual sex with two underage girls and simply wants to toss them aside. In the end, the girls do not kill George. They let him go, probably assuming he will be tortured even more when his wife comes home. The goofy main theme plays again and the girls joyfully walk down the street. A van comes out of nowhere and mows them down. The end.

Now if I was to remake this film, I would really play up the angle dealing with the trial and there would not be a delivery boy killing. You could keep the fish tank coffee table and dunk George’s head in it, but have this be completely personal. First, we have to see how good a person George thinks he is, or at least strongly imply to the audience that he is a family man and committed to being the best husband and father he can. Open with a scene of him and his wife in bed and he is telling her how much he loves her and he is going to miss her and the kids over the weekend. She tells him its okay if he goes to a co-worker’s bachelor party and he says that he doesn’t want to. Show some interaction with the kids. Show him at work being hit up about going to the party, then have him say he wants to just go home and watch some movies and rest. Then we have the girls show up and seduce him a little more then they do in the original. Director Peter Traynor’s George doesn’t take a whole lot of convincing to do the threesome. George thinks it over for all of five seconds before committing adultery with two girls he’s just met. To be more effective, have him walk in on them in the hot tub nude, but when they try to get him to join, have George reject the girls and tell them to get dressed. He is a little freaked out, so George starts hitting the bottle. The girls then come out all dressed up in his wife’s lingerie. He’s now even more freaked and starts telling the girls they have to leave. They go get dressed, but now it is pouring down outside and the phone and power goes out. George says he’ll drive the girls somewhere. He drives to wherever it was they wanted to go, but no one is home. They say they have no place to go and reluctantly he drives them back home. When he gets back, he is hitting the bottle some more. He tells them they can spend the night in his guest room, but they have to be gone by the time he wakes up. He goes to bed. Shortly there after the girls crawl into the bed with George and the threesome occurs. The next morning the girls tell him they aren’t leaving. The torturing then ensues. We feel for George. We are more understanding of how he got in this predicament and we are sympathetic. Then we have the twist. During the fake trial, we learn one of the girls was sexually molested by George years before. At first he denies this. We don’t believe it either. George finally admits it and breaks into tears. He explains that he was sick and out of control. George apologizes a hundred times over. He tells them he is medicated now and he fights his bad thoughts. The girls ask how many times he had molested or raped someone. We see flashes of George doing unthinkable things. We are no long on his side at all. Our sympathy turns to the girls. This time they shoot George. They leave and the film appears to be over, but George isn’t dead and he gets in his car and runs them over.

I could actually see Robert Forester (Max Cherry from “Jackie Brown”) playing the role of George and Sarah Polley (“Dawn of the Dead”) and Rob Zombie’s wife Sherri Moon as the two girls. A few other possibilities for the girls could be Rachel Minor (“Bully”), Angela Bettis (“May”), Eliza Dushku (“Wrong Turn”) or Jessica Biel (“Texas Chainsaw Massacre”). I pick these actresses because they have done roles that show they can pull off sympathetic with a dark side. In the updated version, the girls wouldn’t have to be underage. If you went that route I would go with unknowns that could range from 15-25 so their ages are never in question. If you wanted a younger George, I could see Simon Baker (“Land of the Dead”) or John Stamos. Uncle Jesse from “Full House? Yeah, I think him, Baker and Forester would all be good choices because they are handsome, charismatic and likeable. And if you wanted to make George creepy, you could go with James Spader, who seems to love playing in films involving sexual deviants. If you want to play up the sex in the movie, Larry Clark or someone along those lines could direct. If you want to play up the horror side, Rob Zombie or someone like him would be a great choice. I can write the screenplay if you want. Just shoot me an email and we’ll talk. The film is probably public domain, but you get your people to check that out and… Wait. Who the hell am I talking to? I think I accidentally started typing a letter to Lions Gate in my review. Regardless, you would have yourself a hell of a remake and a damn good film.

“Death Game” has the meat to be a fantastic film. If someone would have just tossed in some potatoes, carrots, onions, broth and spices into the slow cooker with it, you would have a pretty good stew. The thing with stew is, not only is it excellent today, it’s great as a leftover meal days later to take to work. “Death Game” is like a raw piece of meat tossed in the slow cooker with some black pepper, onions and bouillons and turned on. Days later when you get it out to take as a lunch, it’s great, but not completely satisfying. It’s not stew and you beat yourself up for what it might have been.

- CCF, March 2006

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