Written, produced, and directed by William Byron Hillman, Double Exposure (1983) is a movie that blurs the line between fantasy and reality, as a serial killer is operating in the Los Angeles area, leaving behind a trail of dead prostitutes and models. A gritty example of 1980's exploitation cinema, this crime thriller doesn't shy away from violence directed at women, nudity, or gore.
Commercial photographer Adrian Wilde (Michael Callan) drives a Porche, lives in a mobile home, and has crazy dreams about killing people, usually his models while on a photo shoot. He is seeing a psychiatrist, and telling him what is happening, but isn't making much progress. News reports about additional victims continue, but suffering from memory lapses, Adrian can't remember if he was involved.
Adrian gets some support from his ex-stunt driver brother B.J. (James Stacey), who is handicapped by only having one leg, and his new girlfriend Mindy Jordache (Joanna Pettet), who wants to believe in him. Police detectives Fontain (Pamela Hensley) and Buckhold (David Young) are assigned to catch the killer, and after a decoy is murdered with an ice pick, the Chief (Cleavon Little) intensifies the investigation. Because of his association with the dead models, suspicion eventually points to Adrian Wilde.
There are some mean kills, a particularly long and nasty one involves a model being bitten by a poisonous snake, as a dispassionate Wilde snaps photos of the girl screaming and thrashing in agony. Sally Kirland appears in a cameo as a back alley hooker, who displays her wares before having her neck brutally snapped. Comedian Joey Foreman also appears briefly, before making a bloody exit. If you blink you'll miss her, but SNL's Victoria Jackson appears as a racetrack model. The biggest issue with the film is that many of the kills appear to be dreams, so what is real and what is fantasy, isn't always clear. Although the movie serves up a heap of violence, it doesn't play fair with the audience following along looking for clues.
Playing brothers, Michael Callan (Cat Ballou) and James Stacey do resemble each other quite a bit facially. Known for playing Johnny Lancer on the TV series Lancer (1968-70), Stacey lost his left leg and part of his left arm in an accident in 1973, so that's really him moving around on one leg, and even participating in a mud wrestling match, and not some camera trick. With an acting career that was mostly on television, Joanna Pettet makes a rare film appearance. She does a fine job, as there are some sensitive moments, and even she exposes some flesh. Callan also does good job, but his character might be a more sympathetic, if only we could tell for sure, if what we are seeing is real.
With some decent acting performances, Double Exposure isn't total exploitive, misogynistic trash, but there is a fair amount of nudity, and the movie plays games with the audience, to showcase what are often the graphic murders of women. If you enjoy a psychological thriller from the 80's, spiced with some sex, you may want to give this a watch. Making its first appearance on DVD, the film has been remastered, and the "Katarina's Nightmare Theater" edition contains some clips featuring horror actress and hostess, Katarina Winters introducing the film, and also interviewing Michael Callan. Callan also participates in one of two commentary tracks.