Five-year-old Janie Bennett (Golden Globe nominee Danielle Brisebois)
happily lives with her foster parents Miles and Sheri Bennett (Sharon
Farrell), oblivious to the fact that her insane birth mother is
attempting to kidnap her. When the birth mother, Andrea Fletcher, and
her boyfriend Jude (Richard Lynch), a carny, do attempt to kidnap the
girl, Andrea cannot go through with it.
Writer-director Robert Schnitzer was influenced by the European
directors of the 1930s and 40s, as many American directors of the 1970s
were. This influence is evident, and definitely has an Italian
sensibility about it. And to keep costs low, the state of Mississippi
provided cop cars, the fire department created "rain" with their hoses
and a real carnival that happened to be in town was used as Jude's work
environment. This makes the film look bigger than it was.
The casting of Richard Lynch was a great decision, catching him before
he got any bigger. Lynch was hired, according to Schnitzer, for his
"widely divergent moods" and for just being "unique". Lynch, in turn,
claimed to be influenced by "Rififi" and "Psycho" in his acting. And to
some degree the legendary mime Marcel Marceau, which is evident.
Baseball fans will notice a cameo from Roy White, the multi-World
Series winning New York Yankee (and coach). This is especially amusing
considering Schnitzer had no knowledge whatsoever of sports and did not
even know who White was when he appeared in the film. (He was an active
player during shooting.)
What I love about this film is the unusual score from opera composer
Henry Mollicone, especially in the second half. Although the movie has
plenty going for it as a slow-burning horror story with carnival
overtones, the music really makes it stand out.
The film had mixed reviews. Leonard Maltin called it mediocre, saying
its "muddled script works against the eerie atmosphere in this
supernatural tale." A more positive review by Video Hound's Golden
Movie Retriever called it "a well-done para-norm tale." Maltin is
probably right for the most part, as the script could have been
tightened... but that makes it no less eerie!
Arrow Video has cleaned up the picture and put this film on their box
set, American Horror Project Vol 1. Thank you, Arrow! We get plenty of
special features on the disc, too: Audio commentary with
director-producer Robert Allen Schnitzer, who (of course) knows
everything about the production. He also has a very sarcastic sense of
humor that makes his stories all the more amusing -- are his tales of
the turtle wrangler true or just a joke?
The Arrow disc has a brand new interview with composer Henry Mollicone.
And an interview with actor Richard Lynch, which covers "Premonition"
but also touches on acting in general, such as his work on "Scarecrow"
with Al Pacino. If that is not enough, we even get three Robert Allen
Schnitzer short films: 'Vernal Equinox', 'Terminal Point' and 'A
Rumbling in the Land'. These films are so rare that IMDb does not even
know about them.