FILM REVIEW - 'Dead Ringer'
(Hollywood Reporter - 592 words -
Issue Date: July 17, 1991)
By JEFF MENELL
NEW YORK -- This heaping helping of Meat Loaf is tasty in parts, but the
mashed potatoes are too lumpy and dessert never comes, leaving one a bit
Made in 1981, ''Dead Ringer'' (not to be confused with the Bette Davis film of
the same name) finally makes its U.S theatrical premiere at Anthology Film
Archives. It is a combination of real concert footage mixed with a fantasy story
line, revolving around the immense and immensely popular (particularly in the
late '70s and early '80s) singer.
Meat Loaf fans will certainly derive the biggest pleasure from this film.
Meat Loaf's first album, ''Bat Out of Hell,'' was a megasuccess, selling more
than 11 million copies. This large, talented, sweaty singer hit the scene like a
tank out of hell and the fans loved him. Now, several years later and about to
go on the road again to promote
his new album, Meat Loaf starts to feel the stress of success. His production
office looks like a war zone and none of his ''people'' are listening to him.
His two agents are either on the phone or playing Space Invaders (remember
that?) while pretending to be taking meetings. Meanwhile, his manager keeps
booking Meat Loaf for interview after
interview, slowly driving the singer insane. The highlight of the film, in fact,
is MacIntyre Dixon, who plays Ernie Weaver, a slightly vacuous, enormously
patient New York interviewer trying to discover the true ingredients of this
Meat Loaf, and believing every false word his subject tells him.
Elsewhere, seemingly in some perpendicular universe, are Russell (Josh Mostel)
and his nerdy brother, Marvin (Meat Loaf), who not surprisingly bears an uncanny
resemblance to his idol, Meat Loaf. It seems that Marvin never talks, but he can
belt out a Meat Loaf tune as well as the original. When they learn that the
great one is going on tour, they make
it their lives' mission to find and maybe, hope against hope, even meet Meat.
The rest of the film interweaves the separate stories as Russell and Marvin
follow the band across the country, just missing them at every turn. It is all,
to say the least, an uneven hodgepodge that is consistently hit and miss.
There are several funny bits in addition to Ernie the interviewer. There's a
Napoleonic punk security guard who harasses anyone trying to get close to Meat
Loaf. This one-man riot act would beat away Meat's shadow if he could.
The concert footage is erratic, in that sometimes we'll only see a few seconds
of a number, such as with ''Paradise by the Dashboard Light,'' and it's more of
a tease than anything else. But watching and hearing Meat Loaf perform is a
treat throughout. He has a great voice and a hypnotic stage presence, making one
wish we could have seen him in concert back then. He also looks as comfortable
in front of the camera as he does on stage.
''Dead Ringer'' is lively, but simple-minded fun. You may moan one or two times,
but on the whole it's worth it.
A Feature Films Production
Director-writer Allan Nicholls
Story Allan Nicholls, David Sonenberg, Alfred Dellentash
Director of photography Don Lenzer
Editor Norman Smith
Songs Jim Steinman
Meat Loaf-Marvin Meat Loaf
Russell Josh Mostel
Ernie Weaver MacIntyre Dixon
Running time -- 101 minutes
No MPAA rating
(US - Color)
Montreal, Aug. 29, 1982
Part light comedy, part musical showcase, Dead Ringer emerges as a pleasently
entertaining film with modest commercial prospects. Story is a bit too thin and
erratic to be fully compelling and headliner Meat Loaf lacks the necessary
popularity to draw the kind of crowds to develop a strong word of mouth
The film emerged from a promotional campaign for the singer's recent album. The
tale centers on the harried life of a rock singer and a parallel story of his
biggest fan. The fan, also played by Meat Loaf, trails his idol unsuccessfully
throughout most of the film.
In between we see Meat Loaf in concert and singing out his fantasies. Comedy
vignettes surrounding his entourage and a pesky television reporter are dotted
through the film.
Actor and Robert Altman associate Allan Nicholls makes his directing debut with
the film. Nicholls has some good ideas technically and artistically but seems
hampered by structuring his film around a specific personality and his music.
Still he manages to provide a more appealing image for Meat Loaf than the
singer's earlier Roadie.
Camerawork, in Super 16m, by Don Lenzer is excellent and remaining technical
credits are all strong. Unfortunately, and unlike recent musical films, Nicholls
was unable to mix in Dolby.
Supporting cast is good and the writers obviously know the musical business as
evidenced in their portraits of business managers, promoters, security and the
like. MacIntyre Dixon as the television reporter with a limited knowledge of
contemporary music, provides some of the film's best humorous moments. However,
his routines don't quite mesh with the comedy style of the rest of the film.
Picture almost demands the audience be die-hard Meat Loaf fans. The filmmakers
might have been better off casting the singer as a fictional rock star. However,
as this is a showcase for his recent music, the prospect was probably deemed
While the film is more than a glorified videodisk, the roots of the project
periodically intrude. As an experimental crossover, the film proves such
transfers have limited potential. However, Dead Ringer should play well in
specialized situations and midnight screenings which tend to attract musical
devotees. - Klad
A Feature Films production in association with CBS Video. Produced by Alfred
Dellentash and David Sonenberg. Features entire cast. Written and directed by
Allan Nichollos. Story, Nicholls, Meat Loaf, Dellentash and Sonenberg. Camera
(color), Don Lenzer; editor Norman Smith; production design, Franne Lee; music,
Jim Steinman. Reviewed at Montreal Film Fest at Cinema Parisien, Montreal, Aug.
27, 1982. Running time 101 minutes.
Meat Loaf/Marvin - Meat Loaf
Russel - Josh Mostel
Richard Monier - Fred Coffin
Ernie Weaver - MacIntyre Dixon
Brink - Alan Braunstein
Waitress - Leah Ayres
Al - Alfred