Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Film #59: Of Unknown Origin

Greatest rat movie ever made? Forget Willard! Get outta here, Ben! Don't even think about mentioning Ratatouille! Instead: check out Of Unknown Origin, the killer rat extravaganza to beat all! The late George Pan Cosmatos (Tombstone, Cobra) directed this 1983 Canadian production starring Peter Weller as a successful white-collar executive with a hot wife (Shannon Tweed), a little tyke, a new brownstone, and a helluva problem. When the wife and kid go out of town, he's starts noticing little details...scratching behind the walls, a turd here and there, a chewed-through box of oatmeal,
that sort of thing. Doesn't take Weller long to figure he's got a non-paying roommate in his picture-perfect home. Wait...did I say little? Make that BIIIG--a roommate with a tail that I'd say was, oh, maybe an inch or two in circumfrence.

So he does the usual--lays out traps and so forth. Nope. The thing's too smart for that! So he goes and gets advice from a super exterminator (Louis Del Grande from Scanners), who tells him he's got have a female rat in his perfect house, and that means awful trouble. Thus begins this all-out war between man and rodentia! It's a smash-up, I hafta say.  Let's just say the place is gonna a little retouching when all is done.

Peter Weller delivers a strong performance in the frustrating and very physical role as the stressed-out husband (his long dinner table monologue about the history of the rat is both informative and creepy). One could look at Of Unknown Origin as really being about Weller's surpressed anger at his own demanding domesticity; his war with the rat could be his boxed-in male rage coming out full-force (on a female rat, at that). Supposedly set in New York but obviously filmed in much cleaner Montreal (the presence of Canadian actors Del Grande and Maury Chaykin confirm that), the film looks sharp, with some very eerie close-ups of our furry heroine. Of Unknown Origin is edited effectively by Robert Silvi; largely a film without dialogue (thought it has some great lines here and there), it'll leave you wondering what's behind YOUR walls. Just try not to think about it, okay, or you might end up as crazy as this guy!


Lisa said...

You will be pleased to know that the talented writer/actor Louis Del Grande is a great friend of one of my neighbors here in Nova Scotia! Of course I loooove Peter Weller in anything...not the warmest acting presence but so smart (onscreen always and in real life) and he should have become a major major star as Buckaroo Banzai! Thanks for giving a shout-out to this ratty classic! :-)

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Dean, Weller's offices are in Place Ville Marie, viewed from many angles, and his "brownstone" is on Bishop Street, both in downtown Montreal, a city with a much more "lived in" looks and feeling than the "very clean" Toronto!
Come up and visit us, sometime.


Dean Treadway said...

I'd love to! As for the clean comment about Montreal, I only meant to say that it's definitely not New York in the movie. Canadian films have this wonderful look and feel to them that is indescribable, too, and this one has that quality in spades.