blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Visiting Hours (1982, Jean-Claude Lord)

At the beginning, Visiting Hours pretends it will be about network news commentator Lee Grant. Despite being openly Canadian, the film also pretends it takes place in Washington D.C., based on the hate mail responses protagonist Michael Ironside frames on his wall. They never specify, so maybe he did write Grant when she worked in D.C., before she up and moved to somewhere else. Still not Canada, as her news program is called “America Today.”

And while her boss and seeming boyfriend William Shatner has some flexes throughout—particularly in wardrobe, Shatner’s baby blue suit is a look—he doesn’t seem to be running a Canadians mock Americans TV show. Bummer.

The movie opens with Grant interviewing some prosecutor about a case. A woman killed her abusive husband in self-defense, and the prosecutor is very much “that’s not allowed,” a position Grant takes issue with. Bad guy, but lead of the movie Ironside has snuck into the studio to watch her record this interview, and it really pisses him off. Ironside’s character motivation is pretty simple—his dad, who molested him, tried raping his mom once, and the mom defended herself. Hence, kill all women. At least the ones who talk.

Ironside also hates every marginalized group, something potential love interest Lenore Zann notices right before their already awkward date turns into an assault. That scene is where I realized even though she’s top-billed in the opening titles, Grant is not the lead of Visiting Hours, because there’s no reason to have it except to track Ironside’s creep. Zann comes back a couple times later on, first to meet hospital nurse Linda Purl when Purl’s out at the community clinic, then, later on, to try to save the day.

The day needs saving because the cops in Visiting Hours, may they be the Washington D.C. cops or the Quebecois mais angalis cops, are some of the most incompetent cops in movie history. They’ve encamped at the hospital for much of the film because Ironside keeps trying to kill Grant but only manages to kill other patients or staff. The cops can’t figure out how he’s getting in, possibly because they don’t ever figure anything out. Or even try. Visiting Hours lacks doctors and hospital administrators in the story, presumably because their presence would break the movie’s too thin logic.

There are a series of suspense sequences, primarily for Grant or Purl (who Ironside starts targeting because she’s a single mom; her ex-husband was apparently abusive, but the movie speeds through it), and none of them are ever suspenseful. The film’s got shockingly little going for it technically—Lord’s directing is bad, but René Verzier’s blue-tinting photography is worse. The scenes all look bad; it doesn’t matter how Lord or co-editor Lise Thouin cut them. The sound is particularly poorly done in the film, not the actual sound design or editing, but whatever Lord told them to do with it. Or not do with it.

Jonathan Goldsmith’s music is probably the best technical element. It’s usually acceptable, briefly good, rarely terrible.

I’m not sure how you’d write Visiting Hours well, but Brian Taggert doesn’t know either. It’s probably impossible given the movie doesn’t want to sympathize or empathize with Ironside, which is fine, but given most of the film is spent hanging out with him, it’s a problem. It’s also unclear if Ironside could be any better. He’s awful, but how could he be any better. He’s a stone-faced slasher movie villain with boring subplots.

Grant, Purl, and Shatner all do okay given the circumstances, though it’s a blatant waste of Grant. It’s not an obvious waste of Purl (or Shatner), which isn’t exactly a compliment. However, there should’ve been more Shatner and Grant—he gets a kick out of their scenes—whereas there’s probably too much Purl. Terrorizing her little kids is a little much.

Visiting Hours is probably too competent for its own good—there’s no schlock value—but it’s a complete waste of time.

Other than Shatner’s phenomenal wardrobe. At one point, he’s got what appears to be a combination dressing gown trench coat. It’s unreal.

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