From the murky realms of Hollywood anonymity comes Double Exposure, the 1982 film by writer/director William Byron Hillman. Basically a remake of an earlier Hillman film called The Photographer, Double Exposure is a psychological thriller wherein a fashion photographer, Adrian Wilde (Michael Callan), is plagued by dreams of bloody murder. Not his murder, mind. Rather, the brutal slayings of young models in his employ.
Are these dreams buried memories of his actions? Adrian doesn’t know, and neither does his shrink (Seymour Cassel). But, as bodies continue to pile up, Adrian can no longer deny that he might be a murderer.
In between, audiences are treated to the cringy relationship Adrian has with his stunt-car driving brother, B.J. (James Stacy), and some of the worst detective work ever placed on film.
Here’s what I mean by that.
Adrian and a young, eager model go to a secluded location for an ad shoot, and Adrian then kills the model. Only, he wakes up after and the audience sees it has all been a dream. But, soon after, two detectives right out of a shampoo commercial, Fontain and Buckhold (Pamela Hensley and David Young), arrive at a real murder scene that is identical to Adrian’s dream. This happens multiple times. Okay, so Adrian is killing these women while they are on a scheduled photo shoot, one that the models’ agencies would know about. And yet, cops are baffled until late in the film. That’s some shitty filmmaking.
Normally, that would be a good sign for this film. The problem is, the rest of the production is a drag. This movie is 95-minutes long, and a viewer will feel ever minute of it. Most of the plot has nothing to do with the murder angle. Rather, it’s a character study of Adrian as a middle-aged divorcee, and how he is making a life for himself. New loves, old loves, repairing the relationship with his brother. That, more than anything else, is what this film is about, and it’s occasionally interspersed with a serial killer mystery.
Making a film with lopsided priorities isn’t impossible, but it would have taken a story with much more substance than what Hillman provides. Adrian’s life consists of photographing models during the day, then sleeping with them at night, rinse and repeat. There’s not a lot of depth to Adrian, even though Hillman needs the audience to empathize with the character. Not all of that is Callan’s fault, either. He was up to the role, and I’m sure there was more he could have gotten out of the performance.
It’s difficult to care about any of the characters in this movie. B.J. is a jerk, the detectives are morons, their boss (Cleavon Little) does nothing but yell, and all the models are insultingly vapid. Really, the only redeeming character is, get this name, Mindy Jordache (Joanna Pettet). I feel for her because I think she thinks Adiran is her boyfriend. Mindy, darling, you didn’t meet Adrian’s brother, with whom he is very close, until you two accidentally discovered him taking creepy photos at the beach. You are not Adrian’s girlfriend. And for all that, she ends up wrapped up in the murder plot, too.
Dull, uninteresting, with, except for all the nudity, a production quality indistinguishable from a TV movie of the era, Double Exposure is time I will never get back. It falls way down the Watchability Index, taking over the #208 spot from Eye See You. I watched it, so you don’t have to.