The Hearse


Year 1980

Trish VanDevere   as  Jane Hardy
Joseph Cotten as Walter Pritchard  
David Gautreaux as Tom Sullivan
Donald Hotton as Rev. Winston
 
Director - George Bowers
Screenwriter - Bill Bleich

In case you can't read the tagline, it says, "There is a door between life and death that opens for only a moment." What do they mean by that? ("Yeah. What do they mean by that?" - a paean to Soupy Sales) I dunno.

School teacher Jane Hardy (Trish VanDevere) is going through a rough patch. Her husband, her Rock of Gibraltar, left her. So, she loses it. You know, her grasp on little things like reality. Just who you want instructing your little demons in public school.

But she made it to the end of the school year and she didn't kill anyone, so she's going to go away for the summer to a house in rural somewhere that she'd inherited. You know, to recharge the old batteries and maybe find the "it" that she lost.

What's the plot? She's a reincarnated witch or something who can live forever maybe. The only problem with being reincarnated is that you have no memory of your past life. So, it's up to Tom Sullivan (David Gautreaux) to get her in touch with her demonic side.

A scene that I just made up but could easily fit into the movie would go like this...
Tom: "So, uh, you're a witch and your soul belongs to 'The Master'."
Jane: "Uh-huh."
Tom: "Yep. All you have to do is die and you'll live forever."
Jane: "You're scaring me."
Tom: "Sorry."
Jane: "Can I sleep on it?"
Tom: "We're almost out of time. So, no."

Oh, this movie isn't a dismal failure. Even though it doesn't exactly keep you on the edge of your seat, it does force you to be introspective. Often, you'll be asking yourself, "Exactly what in blazes is going on?"

There are a lot of things going on in the movie. Jane moves in. Jane reads her aunt's diary, which is when the story unfolds. Jane has weird dreams. Jane is being driven insane by someone other than "The Master".

The whole thing would be a pretty good view if it weren't for a few things. Like David Gautreaux, for example. He's supposed to be a handsome devil and a gentleman of the highest order. Think Keaneau Reeves with a touch of refinement. In other words, boring and dull.

Is this guy is a heart throb, then drying paint is an aphrodisiac.

But let's take a look as his object of adoration - Jane Hardy. In the movie, the townsfolk alternate between seeing her as a witch and lusting after her because she's a big city woman and that means t-r-a-m-p. Don't ask me how they manage this, but they do.
"Avoid her for the unclean beast that she is!"
"She's hot though."
"You are to avoid the hot evil unclean temptress! I'm going to go check her out in person!"

A drunk outside of a bar treats her like she's got a case of hot pants. So does the Sheriff. And the local boys.

This is Trish VanDevere, fer cryin' out loud! Do you see the picture of the movie at the top of this page? That's her best picture. Why? It doesn't show her face or her short legs. Are the women in this movie's podunk town so scary ugly that Trish VanDevere is a goddess?

Trish VanDevere is another example of a cute girl next door that the casting agent thought he could turn into a siren. She's not a siren. She's cute. All dolled up, she could even be called pretty. But she is not an object of desire that you might want to sell your soul for.

So what's up with the hearse? It's the name of the movie after all, so it has to play some part, right? It does! Oily mackerel! (a paean to Perry Como) The dark chariot of death shows up in her dreams or when she's out touring the countryside at night. She's always driving at night. At eight A.M. she'll go to the store for milk. The sun is shining, etc. But on the trip home, it's about midnight. Cue the hearse.

The hearse often clips her car and runs her off of the road, but her car only gets a scratch or two. Is this lack of damage modeling supposed to imply the supernatural or just bad continuity? And the hearse has a driver who's never explained. Is he supernatural? Is he Tom? Is he Walter Pritchard (Joseph Cotten), the lawyer with a chip on his shoulder? I dunno.

Just a bit about Joseph Cotten. Despite being part of Orson Welles' Mercury Theater, Joseph Cotten rarely did the bigger than life actor bit. A quality character actor, he was never a real star. Still, his ability did not diminish with age and in the few scenes in which he appears, he elevates the movie above college thesis fare.

Besides Trish VanDevere not being a bombshell, there is one thing that really drives me nuts about this movie. Every night, Jane is threatened. Constantly. Besides the episodes with the hearse, people are throwing things through windows, attacking her in her room, moving pieces of furniture around, etc. Every next day, Jane just keeps on going.

If she'd had a breakdown over her husband, I would've thought she wouldn't be able to cope with something like being physically attacked by the un-freaking-dead! But not our Jane. She's made of sterner stuff.

In the end, there's a final battle between Jane and the hearse. Does Jane die? Does the hearse driver die? Is the hearse driver really Tom? Does Tom die? Is Tom already dead? How come Jane's aunt is prancing around? Or is that Jane after regressive hypnosis? Did Joseph Cotten really use profanity?

Except for the Joseph Cotten question, you won't know! They won't tell you, so don't expect it!

Maybe it's supposed to be clever finale like the question mark at the end of The Blob.

You can view this one when you're bored so won't weep excessively time wasted. Don't expect any nudity or cohesion. But, it's not the worst movie ever made.

In fact, if you look at this movie as an example of the confused cinema of the late 70s-early 80s, it's not too bad. (At this time in history, disco was in its death throes and nothing had risen to take its place.)


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