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Retro Review: THE WIND (1987)

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THE WIND
(US - 1987)

Directed by Nico Mastorakis. Written by Nico Mastorakis and Fred C. Perry. Cast: Meg Foster, Wings Hauser, David McCallum, Robert Morley, Steve Railsback, John Michaels, Tracy Young, Summer Thomas, Michael Yannatos, Dina Yanakou. (Unrated, 92 mins)

I'm always happy to see any '80s obscurity from the video store glory days get a lovingly-assembled Blu-ray release, but at the same time, we have to wonder if the well's getting a little dry or if the priorities are being misplaced when faced with the resurrection of something like 1987's THE WIND. Directed and co-written by Greek exploitation auteur Nico Mastorakis (ISLAND OF DEATH, THE ZERO BOYS, IN THE COLD OF THE NIGHT), THE WIND is just out on Blu-ray from Arrow Video (because physical media is dead), with a pristine restoration and a booklet with a well-written essay by film historian Kat Ellinger that dutifully attempts to find thematic subtext, in the process putting more thought into the film than Mastorakis ever did. Shifting his operation from Greece to Hollywood around 1986, the now-79-year-old Mastorakis was a key player in the early days of direct-to-video, and his films were ubiquitous in the inventories of every video store in existence from the mid '80s to the mid '90s. There's been a primarily nostalgia-based resurgence of interest in his work in recent years, though some of these Blu-ray releases demonstrate a definite sense of style (he loves silhouetted, backlit-fog shots) when seen in restored, remastered form and in their proper aspect ratios, and his independently-funded projects almost always demonstrated a higher-than-expected attention to quality production values. Similar to Roger Corman, a few future big names found some work on Mastorakis crews: nearly a decade before THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, Frank Darabont was an assistant art director on 1986's THE ZERO BOYS, and several Mastorakis films--including THE WIND--were scored by a then-unknown Hans Zimmer, years before becoming an 11-time Oscar-nominee and Best Original Score winner for 1994's THE LION KING. And like Corman in his drive-in heyday, Mastorakis' low-budget films were profitable enough with the worldwide demand for home video product that he had the payroll to secure the services of actors who might've been in a slump or on the downside of their careers, but were established professionals whose names or faces would attract new release wall browsers looking for something to rent when their first choices were checked out on a Friday or Saturday night.






But THE WIND, which hit VHS back in the day courtesy of the great Vestron offshoot Lightning Video, only manages to live down to nearly every negative association with the term "straight-to-video." It's a horror film that isn't scary, a thriller that isn't suspenseful, and it's got a cast of familiar, reputable actors wasting their time in something that not only wasn't good enough for the big screen, but wasn't even worth $2 to watch at home on a slow night. Mastorakis never made a great movie, but he made some that were at least entertaining, and THE WIND (released in some parts of the world as THE EDGE OF TERROR) has to be one of his worst. In a rare lead, Meg Foster and her always-captivating ice-blue eyes star as pulp genre novelist Sian Anderson, who's taking some time away from L.A. and her boyfriend John (David McCallum) to go to a remote Greek island to work on her latest book. She rents an ancient villa from British expat islander Elias (a typically harumphing Robert Morley), who informs her of the secret passageways and tunnels that were constructed under the buildings in early A.D. times as a safe place to retreat in case of attacking ships. He also tells her, in a truly clumsy bit of bush-league foreshadowing, to disregard the closets that he's left locked because "they don't contain anything valuable...just my son's hunting weapons!" The surrounding villas are deserted, and the only other person hanging around is unreliable, Detroit-born handyman Phil (Wings Hauser), who's left the place a mess and acts twitchy and weird from the moment he first appears. Elias has had just about enough of Phil and is about to fire him when Phil snaps and kills him. Hearing a noise outside, Sian looks out of a window and sees Phil burying the body. Phil also sees her see him burying the body, and so begins a night of terror as Sian barricades herself in the villa, but Phil, knowing other ways in, cuts off the phone and keeps popping up and chasing her around as violent winds kick up and howl throughout the night.


A sort of REAR WINDOW-ish home invasion thriller on a deserted Greek isle (Mastorakis shot the film on the island of Monemvassia) at least provides some occasionally interesting atmosphere, but THE WIND doesn't have nearly enough material to sustain interest for an hour and a half. Phil keeps getting in the villa, Sian keeps getting away, he disappears for a while, then he turns up again and the process repeats. The villa isn't very big, so Foster and Hauser move strangely slow and with little urgency during these "suspense" sequences. Sian's initial reaction to what she's witnessed and having a sickle-wielding Phil coming for her is played so oddly nonchalant that for a while, it almost seems like Mastorakis is setting up some clumsy twist. Sian talks to herself a lot, so you might think that she's imagining all of it, or what we're seeing is her book playing out onscreen as she workshops the plot machinations in her head. That would've been predictable, but it would've been something. THE WIND just seems to kill a lot of time, like Mastorakis is just dragging things out until he has enough footage to call it a feature-length movie. That's especially the case with a nothing role for Steve Railsback as Kesner, an American boat captain stranded at the village police station because of the high winds. He appears 50 minutes in and ends up checking on Sian after John places a phone call to the local police, then makes a quick exit a few minutes later when he's killed by Phil.


Speaking of actors with nothing to do, McCallum never leaves L.A. and makes a few brief appearances beside what might be his own swimming pool, on the phone telling a terrified Sian to lock the doors and that he'll get the cops to check on her, and the next time she calls, he's floating around the pool seemingly without a care in the world. And that's the last we see of him. Hauser as an unhinged psycho killer is usually a can't-miss proposition, as anyone who's experienced his iconic performance as crazed pimp Ramrod in 1982's VICE SQUAD can attest, but even he's coasting through on autopilot here, probably more interested in the Mastorakis-provided Greek vacation and maybe wrapping things up early so he can take a day and check out the Parthenon. The whole Greek setting is largely superfluous until a final, slow-moving chase manages to show off some scenic Monemvassia locales before Phil's hilarious, windy comeuppance (four guys are credited with operating the wind machine, and they definitely earned their pay). Foster was always a solid actress who never really got the shots she deserved (does anyone remember that she played Cagney in the first six episodes of CAGNEY & LACEY before CBS execs deemed her "too aggressive" and feared viewers would perceive the character as a lesbian, leading to her being replaced by Sharon Gless?), and while it's nice to see her in a starring role, it's in a film that's completely unworthy of her talents, and one that probably didn't need the deluxe Blu-ray treatment. Still, I'm glad it exists...I guess.



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