The Hunger (1983)
For any serious cinephile, there are certain to be some movies that although it might not be particularly well-made, they somehow manage to find a little corner of your mind where they can take up permanent residence. Perhaps particular scene makes an indelible impression or one or more of the primary cast that are among your favorite performers, but it persists in your mind far longer than you might think it should. During the times that I review schedule is rather light, I have the habit of going back to my collection and revisiting some movies that included in this category. The movie might interest him upon I first watched my late wife in the Waverley theater in Greenwich Village, ‘The Hunger.' At that time there was some buzz surrounding the film because of its leading man, David Bowie. Several years previously this iconic musician began shifting the focus of his career to films. After the very enigmatic freshman effort of ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth,' most of the fantasy music was anxious to see how this new aspect of his talent was developing. In addition his costar was one of the most significant cinematic exports from France, Catherine Deneuve. The cast also included an upcoming actress was a natural part of the growing movement of midnight films, Susan Sarandon, we all knew from her role as Janet in ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’. At this point in time Mr. Bowie has recently passed away in Ms. Sarandon is one of the most eclectic actresses in television and film as well as a dedicated activist. One of the most enjoyable things about revisiting duds such as this flick is to re-examine the early works of some of entertainments most significant performers. But the exceptional interest in vampires permeating the media as an added degree of interest in returning to this movie that been in the back of my mind over 34 years.
Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) is a vampire, was endured through the centuries remaining vital and beautiful. Unwilling to go for eternity alone, the area takes a human lover turning them into one the undead. The latest companion was John (David Bowie), who was turned in 18th century France. He is a talented cellist who was seduced by Miriam’s beauty and the promise of eternal life and youth. They currently reside in New York City where there is an ample supply of sustenance. As the movie opens, Miriam and John are in a trendy nightclub, or they encounter a young couple, adventurous and sexually fluid. Before the evening could progress, the far couple has their throats slashed by a blade hidden within an Ankh pendant, swiftly with a well practiced procedure, and after sating their blood thirst, the bodies are taken to the basement, disposed of in a furnace. This townhouse was well equipped with a lifestyle, opulent furnishings, and a convenient means to clean up after dinner; your natural pair can usually pose as a wealthy couple with John teaching classical music to private students.
Over two centuries John and Miriam have enjoyed their eternal existence. Without warning, they took a drastic turn for the worst. Miriam’s promise of eternal life in youth was only half true. John began to age an accelerated rate, the many years beginning to catch up with him. Exacerbated by insomnia robbing John of even a few hours of relief is accelerated deterioration leads into an inevitable conclusion. The centuries are feeding on human blood did sustain his life but not his youthful vigor. At this rate, John will be truly dead in a very short time. Hoping to find a solution to plight they contacted the gerontologist, Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon). Along with her partner/boyfriend, Tom Haver (Cliff De Young), their research has yielded promising results of slowing the effects of aging in primates. John and Miriam are hopeful that Dr. Roberts be able to reverse the accelerating degeneration of the beautiful young doctor is of the belief that John was a senior man suffering from some delusions. Unable to find any hope at the clinic John and Miriam angrily leave.
Desperate to regain his youth John attacks one of his students, a young woman named Alice Cavender (Beth Ehlers). She unexpectedly stopped by the townhouse to inform John that you would not be able to make the next lesson. John voraciously murders and feeds upon her to no avail. This invokes the ire of Miriam Redman grooming Alice as our next companion once she became of age. Submitting to the torment of his plight begs for Miriam to kill him, but unfortunately, eternal life precludes that option although the deterioration will continue. Miriam takes John to the attic, placing him in a reading coffin. The room filled with similar containers each holding Miriam’s former companions, traps or eternity existing without any hope. Become very complicated when the police come to the door searching for the missing Alice.
The film represents a genre that had become quite popular during the 80s, the erotic thriller. A side effect of the MPAA’s rating system is that more explicit films were produced remaining marketable with an ‘R’ rating. This provided access to lawmakers to include mature themes including nudity and violence that previously would not be permitted in most theaters. Technically this rating would limit the audience for teenagers have been gaining access to ‘R’ rated films since the institution of the new system. Although relatively minor by today’s standards 34 years ago the bloodshed and sexuality of the film, particularly with well-known actors, generated a significant amount of interest. This movie does hold a certain place in cinematic history as the freshman effort for Tony Scott, brother of Ridley Scott. Although he never was able to match the directorial height of his brother, Tony did exhibit a similar penchant set up exceptionally attractive from a visual perspective. Although the screenplay written by Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas was pedantic, unable to add a significant novel spin to a perennially favorite theme, the only difference between this and the plethora of similar movies that are gone before it was the exotic overtones infused with a blood fetish.
So much of what is shocking in this film has now become sufficiently routine as to migrate to movies and mainstream television successfully. The somewhat explicit depiction of lesbian sex demonstrated the directors to eschew a realistic depiction for the look of an erotic dream.
The weakest part of this movie is undoubtedly the script the story that is unable to unfold sufficient consistency to engage the viewer fully. The one saving grace, as it were, is the primary cast exhibits the unique son. Ms. Deneuve for a career on a classic beauty as eternal as a Renaissance statue ideally suited for a vampire enduring through the ages untouched by the ravages of time. When juxtaposed beside the down to earth attractiveness Ms. Sarandon they achieve a smoldering sensuality to a sex scene that lasts regardless of changes in societal sensibilities. David Bowie is always had such a unique look and persona that he draws people to him regardless of his current endeavor. Many musicians have made an attempt to become actors, but few have done so with the success and panache exhibited by Mr. Bowie. His androgynous look fits with the aesthetic of this movie giving it an edge that otherwise would be unattainable.