FILM REVIEW - 'Dead Ringer'

Hollywood Reporter - 592 words -

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 unsatisfied.

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.


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

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.

Dead Ringer

(US - Color) Variety Magazine

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 campaign.

Meat Loaf/Marvin - Meat Loaf
Russel - Josh Mostel
Richard Monier - Fred Coffin
Ernie Weaver - MacIntyre Dixon
Brink - Alan Braunstein
Waitress - Leah Ayres
Al - Alfred

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 unviable.

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 Nicholls. 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.