(director/writer: Mark Reichert; screenwriter: based on the Cornell Woolrich short story “The Corpse Next Door”; cinematographer: Edward Lachman; editors: Lana Tokel/J. Michaels; music: Chris Stein; cast: Dennis Lipscomb (Harlan), Deborah Harry (Lillian), Everett McGill (Larry Longacre), Sam McMurray (Vagrant), Irina Maleeva (Contessa), Terina Lewis (Evelyn–Secretary), Pat Benatar (Jeanette Florescu), Tony Azito (Alphonse Florescu), Taylor Mead (Walter); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Graham Belin; Orion Home Video; 1980)


“Never registers any suspense.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Indie writer and director Mark Reichert supposedly helms the first neo-noir. It sets a weird mood, the acting is artificially strained in its use of monotone voices, the actions are rigid and there’s a contentious weird black comedy (one not suited for all tastes).The low-budget film noir is loosely based on the Cornell Woolrich short story from 1937 “The Corpse Next Door.”The fault the slight film never quite overcomes is that its story about one unlikable paranoid businessman, who goes bonkers after senselessly killing a vagrant, never registers any suspense or makes us care about the downtrodden characters featured. Lead singer for the rock group Blondie, Deborah Harry, makes her film acting debut, but can’t make it rock on because she’s cast in too drab of a setting.

In March 1953, in the working-class industrial city of Union City, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, the loveless, childless couple of neurotic accountant Harlan (Dennis Lipscomb) and his sexually frustrated wife Lillian (Debbie Harry) reside in a small apartment.While the miserable Harlan growls about everything from his dead-end job in the city he hates to someone taking sips from the bottle of milk delivered every morning to his apartment, the ignored Lillian has an ongoing affair with the building superintendent Larry (Everett McGill). Becoming increasingly upset over the milk thefts, Harlan sets a trap and catches the local young war vet vagrant (Sam McMurray) in the act and in a rage accidentally kills him by banging his head against the floor. In a panic Harlan stuffs the bloody body in a Murphy bed in the vacant apartment next door, and gets away with the crime until it’s rented by young newlyweds (Pat Benatar & Tony Azito).

The gist of the film shows how Harlan begins losing all his marbles and goes off the wall in a spell of doom and gloom.The Hitchcockian endingmade watching such a despairingly dull pic bearable, as I couldn’t connect with the disjointed droll-humored quirky comedy but thought the clever bizarre ending was a good resolution.

The hypnotic music is fromBlondie’s Chris Stein, while the cool color visuals are from the cinematography of the respected cinematographer Edward Lachman. What Reichert does well, is get the details right of Jersey in the 1950s.

Union City Poster

REVIEWED ON 11/11/2012 GRADE: B-