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eighties horror you might have missed

The Sender (1982)

UPDATE: my friend at A Cloister of Wolves just put up an awesome set of screenshots for The Sender - check them out.

This is a story that's been told before, but back when Quentin Tarantino was working at a video store in Manhattan Beach, he created an alternate cut of one of his favorite films, The Sender, using extra footage culled from a videotaped television broadcast. The resulting tape was the one that he rented to customers - apparently he still has a copy of it. Later Tarantino was responsible for connecting its director, Roger Christian, with John Travolta, which is how Battlefield Earth became a film.

Christian first garnered acclaim with an Academy Award for his gritty set decoration on Star Wars in 1977, and shortly after for his production design work on Alien. In 1980, his short Black Angel ran as an intro to the theatrical release of The Empire Strikes Back (and still has yet to be released in any format).  The Sender was his first feature-length film and marked the debut of actor Zeljko Ivanek. It fits nicely into a series of late-70s/early-80s films fascinated with psychic phenomena and psychic manifestations, including The Fury (1978), The Shining (1980), Scanners (1981) and Firestarter (1984).

What I noticed while watching The Sender is how well it is planned out, starting with the opening scene, in which the main character is lying on the ground in a pile of brush, seemingly dead. As the story progresses, we learn more about how he ended up there and of his relationship with a very creepy mother. Much of the film takes place within a  psychiatric facility, where John Doe #83 is able to project both his thoughts and dreams onto his doctor, as well as the other patients. The cinematography by Roger Pratt is excellent (he who would go on to be DP on Brazil and Tim Burton's Batman). There are some amazing effects shots of John Doe's psychic power being externalized, particularly when undergoing electroshock therapy - each of the doctors in the room are pushed up onto the walls in slow-motion, while all of the glass in the room shatters, then everything reverses back to where it was. Another favorite moment is a scene towards the end where he destroys a television set, which then starts playing a loop of "information, information, information...". The score is by Trevor Horn, who also composed for Excalibur, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and Angel Heart. Let's hope this one makes it to blu-ray sometime soon!

(sorry about the quality on the clip; that was the closest thing to a trailer I could find!)

Interviews with Roger Christian (great stuff in here)

Comments

So glad to see someone bring up this film. I loved it back when it first came out and wonder about it now and then. Would have loved to have seen the Tarantino edit!