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Perfect Strangers - Perfect Strangers (Blu Ray) [Vinegar Syndrome - 2020]

Perfect Strangers aka Blind Alley is a 1984 thriller written and directed by exploitation/horror king Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, Q the Winged Serpent, God Told Me To). It’s a bleak low budget crime drama that doesn’t get the same level of love as some of Cohen’s other more well-known titles, however, Vinegar Syndrome’s new Blu-ray release hopes to change that with this sharp new 2k restoration.

Professional hitman Johnny  Ross (played by Brad Rijn who seemed to work almost exclusively with Cohen having appeared in the director’s Special Effects, The Stuff and Return to Salem’s Lot) murders his latest victim in a New York alley, but is seen by a small boy called Matthew (Matthew Stockley), who witnesses the event through a hole in his fence. The boy’s mother, Sally (Anne Carlisle (Liquid Sky, Crocodile Dundee and Desperately Seeking Susan) see’s the body of the victim and takes Matthew back indoors promising not to get involved in what has happened. Johnny is concerned at having been seen by the boy and decides to start a relationship with his mother to find out just how much he knows. The couple begin a steamy relationship and Johnny starts to spend a lot of time with both Sally and Matthew who barely speaks at all. Johnny thinks the boy doesn’t remember anything and begins to soften to him and his mother, and when his mob bosses want the boy rubbed out he begins to look for ways to get the three of them out of New York. Add into the mix, the boy’s errant Father Fred (John Woehrle, Pride of Lions, Deadly Illusion) who starts sniffing around his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, and you get all the contents for an interesting noirish potboiler.

Perfect Strangers is another in a long line of exploitation thrillers set in New York during the early days of the 1980s. Vastly underrated this is one of Larry Cohen’s most underappreciated movies and remains a good smart, solid thriller with a good cast and some great shots of New York peppered throughout including shots of the much missed Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre.

The Blu-Ray is struck from the sparkly new 2k restoration authorised by Vinegar Syndrome and looks very good. The whole film is shot in soft focus, but the print is as clear and crisp as can be and the colour balance is very good. The disc also features some good bonus material namely an interview with the film’s female star Anne Carlisle and an archival interview with director Larry Cohen, alongside the usual photo gallery. A nice touch, as with most Vinegar Syndrome releases, is the reversible cover, something that is always appreciated by collectors of these titles.

Once again Vinegar Syndrome have given new life to an underappreciated gem, bringing back to life one of the forgotten films of one of New York’s most celebrated exploitation directors. As with all of Cohen’s films that are set in New York, Perfect Strangers operates as a love letter to the city that features so heavily throughout his career. If you like Cohen, I would recommend spending some time with this often-overlooked gem.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Darren Charles
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