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The Guardian (1990)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/19/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/13/2016
Having already won an Oscar for The French Connection, Director William Friedkin tackled The Exorcist in 1973, and once that movie became a phenomenon and cultural touchstone, he was immediately labeled by many as a horror director. Friedkin clearly didn't see it that way, as he spent the next period of his career making dramas, comedies, and action-thrillers. In 1987, he strayed close to the genre again with Rampage, a serial killer film which didn't shy away from being violent. But, it wasn't until 1990 that Friedkin truly embraced horror again with The Guardian. Surely, this master of horror was welcomed back with open arms, right?
Phil (Dwier Brown) and Kate (Carey Lowell) are a successful young couple who have just had their first child. As Kate is determined to go back to work, they look for a nanny. After screening several candidates, they hire Camilla (Jenny Seagrove), an elegant British woman who immediately takes to the child. Despite the fact that Phil finds himself attracted to Camilla, all seems fine and she is good with the baby. However, when mysterious circumstances arise, Phil begins to look into Camilla's background and soon learns that all is not what it seems.
A very, very small group of you may be saying, "Wait, The Guardian on television, but it didn't say that it was directed by William Friedkin. It was directed by some guy named Alan Smithee." Ah, that's because Alan Smithee is a pseudonym used by directors who want their names taken off of projects. This typically occurs when the filmmaker doesn't get final cut and feels that the final product was not their vision. I'm not sure why Friedkin took this route, but there was certainly a period where he disowned the movie. Apparently, at some later date, Friedkin changed his mind, as he does appear in the extra features on this Blu-ray Disc.
Perhaps he should have kept his name off of the movie, as The Guardian is pretty much a stinker from beginning to end. The opening text states something about Druids worshipping trees, but it does very little to explain what exactly is going on in this movie. We learn that Camilla -- Although, that's not her real name. We never learn her real name -- goes from family to family, posing as a nanny and then abducting the child when it is one month old. This also involves a large tree which can come to life and move about. (It's implied that "Camilla" moves around to conduct these kidnappings. Does the tree move with her? Is our country dotted with these trees which Druids can use for easy deposit?) Not only does the tree defend "Camilla", there are also a pack of wolves which do her bidding. As for her "powers", these are quite vague until the finale when the movie goes completely off the rails and "Camilla" can suddenly fly.
As if the story weren't all over the place, the tone of the film is as well. If you missed the opening segment and came in when the couple hires "Camilla", you might assume that this is going to be a steamy, erotic film as Phil catches glimpses of a nude "Camilla" and then has a dream about her. But, then we are treated to an attempted rape sequence which goes on for far too long and is pretty intense. And then we have the finale, which plays like it is out of a completely different movie, as The Guardian comes from being a suburban thriller to a true horror-fantasy film. There's nothing wrong with shits in tone in movie, but it must strive for some kind of balance, and The Guardian has none.
I would love to say that if you can look past the lame early 90s fashions (is that enough pleats for ya'?) and haircuts that you'll find a good movie in The Guardian, but that would not be true. The movie is never suspenseful or creepy, as it leans too far to the hokey side. When a movie is relying on a character to finish listening to an answering machine message to generate tension, something has gone wrong. Rumor has it that Sam Raimi was supposed to direct the film some shots in the Brad Hall attack sequence (which goes on forever) certainly look like something out of Evil Dead 2. Having said that, I wish that the production had stuck with the source novel's concept of the nanny being an emotional vampire. Maybe one day Sam Raimi will re-visit this.
The Guardian totally wastes the presence of the great Miguel Ferrer on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Shout! Factory. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear for the most part, but there is slight grain visible throughout the film. The image is somewhat, but the blue tones look very good. The picture is somewhat flat and doesn't show the depth to which we've become accustomed from Blu-ray Discs. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are some definite stereo effects here, as we can the sounds moving from "side-to-side". The bass is OK at best, with most of the audio coming from the center channel.
The extras on The Guardian Blu-ray Disc are loaded with interviews, as the staff at Shout! Factory was clearly able to contact a great deal of people involved with the film. From the actor's side, we get talks with Dwier Brown (22 minutes), Gary Swanson (10 minutes), Natalija Nogulich (12 minutes), and Jenny Seagrove (13 minutes) (this one looks like it came from an older release). We do get to hear from Friedkin (17 minutes), who talks about his goals for the film. (He does not mention having his name taken off of the film. He does admit to not having read the source novel.) Composer Jack Hues (7 minutes) discusses his experience working on the film's score, while Make-up Effects Artist Matthew Mungle (13 minutes) talks about the creation of the nanny's look. Co-Writer Stephen Volk (21 minutes) gives his views on the script and the film. The extras are rounded out by a STILL GALLERY and a THEATRICAL TRAILER.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long