Through Naked Eyes was an ABC TV movie, but it missed its calling as a PG rated cable thriller. David Soul and Pam Dawber star as inhabitants of twin skyscraper apartment buildings in Chicago. Both are avid sex pervert voyeurs: he has binoculars, and she outdoes him with a big ol’ telescope. Talk about lens envy! They discover they’ve both been looking at each other through the windows, so they start dating. If that sounds weird, remember that 1983 was only a couple of years out of the 70s, when people used to pick each other up in the produce department of the grocery store.
This love story may feature a kinky meet cute, but hold onto your handcuffs, cause there’s a bummer, man. A knife wielding killer is running around both buildings, and the police really want it to be David Soul. You see, Soul is a flutist with some fancy orchestra, and symphonic wind players can be a bit….intense. Before you get offended, I’m allowed to say that because I played the French horn for 10 years. I was the worst one in my row! So I know what I’m talking about. But there’s also a red herring in Dawber’s married literary agent (she’s a writer as well as a peeping Tammy) who really wants her to keep having an affair outside of marriage with him. One of the detectives has been looking through the windows as well. The killer could be any random person, and you know what? It is!
According to a police psychologist played by the surprisingly super attractive at the time Fionnula Flanagan (I think of her as the creepy housekeeper from The Others), the killer is doing this because he’s impotent. Wham, bam, case closed. Actually, we never find out why he’s doing it, and that’s just one of the story flaws in Through Naked Eyes. His list of victims makes no sense. He kills old dudes as well as young women, and even kills security guards, with their sexy blue polyester uniforms. Another minor problem: if you’re gonna have a movie with the word “naked” in the title, someone really ought to get naked! There’s also a heat wave of which much is made. Soul was doing so much sweating while being awkwardly blonde and horny I thought he was doing his impression of William Hurt in Body Heat, and I hoped Dawber would try to get him to kill her agent. But the heat ultimately meant nothing either, nor did Soul’s fractious relationship with his dad. At least when the dad stormed off after the two of them had a fight about what a weirdo his son was, David Soul ran after him and sang “Don’t give up on us, Dad.” OK, he didn’t do that, but it would have been a lot cooler if he did.
I have to say, though, unsatisfying plot aside, I appreciated Through Naked Eyes because it was directed by the great John Llewellyn Moxey, who has helmed some of my all-time favorite films such as The Night Stalker, Home for the Holidays (1972), and his best-known theatrical film, City of the Dead. And I loved the synth score by Gil Melle, whose space age keyboard noises so impressed me in A Cold Night’s Death. But I wish the whole film had matched the focused intention of the last shot, when the threat is over, and we’re for some reason now watching the two leads on a TV screen. The camera pulls back to reveal….not a security guard watching closed circuit TV, but another cameraman, filming the screen. Moxey and screenwriter Jeffrey Bloom (Blood motherfucking Beach, Flowers in the god damn Attic) are clearly trying to make a point about voyeurism, but it must’ve got lost among all the different themes they threw out. Maybe the audience is the real voyeur, but if that’s so, then the filmmakers are just as guilty for showing us this sleaze lite as we are for watching.
I tell you what: if I ever decide to become a stabby serial killer I’m getting me a pair of those two-tone brown Isotoner gloves, instead of the cliched black ones. How many killers have been caught because they insist on using the inevitable black killer gloves? It’s like trying to be a successful kidnapper while driving around in a dirty white panel van. No one takes you seriously.
Don’t blink, or you’ll miss John Maroney and Dennis Farina playing, what else? Cops!