Now that Eli Roth’s remake ‘Knock Knock‘ is being released (see previous post) its original ‘Death Game’ (a.k.a. The Seducers) (1977) is getting some attention. Is it a forgotten gem that now finally is getting its due? I’m afraid not.
The film starts of with a message stating: ” This motion picture is based on a true story. It should serve to remind us that fate allows no man to insulate himself against the evil which pervades our society.”
Highly unlikely, in the case of the Coen brothers ‘Fargo‘ we at least knew for sure it was not a serious statement.
The story of ‘Knock Knock’ closely follows that of ‘Death Game’. There are some minor differences, the children are only mentioned in the original but are not seen. The family is absent during father’s day whereas it’s the fathers birthday in ‘Death Game’. The pet has been changed from a cat to a dog and the lady of the house is not an artist, so the house is not covered with her art sculptures. No Iphones, no Uber apps … and the movies resolution differs as well.
It’s interesting to see how many (now) famous people were involved in this project, many of whom may no longer wish to be reminded of it. Except perhaps for the two female leading characters Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp. Sondra Locke is best know for being a former girlfriend of Clint Eastwood, she starred in 6 of his feature films (The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Gauntlet, Every Which Way But Loose, Bronco Billy, Any Which Way You Can, and Sudden Impact) and since their highly publicised break up has done little else. She acts as an executive producer on Roth’s remake.
Colleen Camp has a little cameo in the remake and acts as one of its producers and has had a steady acting career every since, including roles in ‘Apocalypse Now’ and several Peter Bogdanovich films to name but a few.
Bil Paxton -who would later star in several James Cameron films a.o. ‘Aliens’, ‘Titanic’ and blockbusters like ‘Twister’ and directed the solid thriller ‘Frailty’- was assistant set decorator on the film.
The art director on ‘Death Game’ was Jack Fisk, who was art director or production designer on all of Terrence Malick’s films, ‘There Will Be Blood’ and ‘The Master’ by P.T. Anderson and several David Lynch films. Fisk’s wife, the famous actress Sissy Spacek was a set dresser on the film. A job she also had on De Palma’s ‘Phantom of the Paradise’, her husband being the production designer. At the time of ‘Death Game’ she had already played the lead in Malick’s ‘Badlands’ and received an Oscar nomination for best actress for De Palma’s ‘Carrie’, both films for which Fisk did the art direction. Spacek also helped out her husband and David Lynch on ‘Eraserhead’ and would later star in yet another Lynch film, ‘The Straight Story’.
Seymour Cassel who was a John Casseavetes protégé plays the male lead. The voice you hear in the film is clearly not his and was obviously dubbed. I have a sneeky suspicious he’s not to proud of the film even though he’s not that bad in it. Since the early 60’s Cassel can with high regularity be seen on the silver screen and in later years starred in several Wes Anderson films + opposite Sam Louwyck in Tom Barman’s ‘Turnpike’ video.