This month, since the site is currently reviewing every episode of Twin Peaks, each entry in Move A Day is going to have a Twin Peaks connection. Paint In Black was directed by Tim Hunter, who directed three episodes of Twin Peaks, including the one that I reviewed earlier today.
Jonathan Dunbar (Rick Rossovich) should have it all. He is an acclaimed sculptor but he’s being cheated financially by his dealer and sometimes girlfriend, Marion Easton (Sally Kirkland). Things start to look up for Jonathan after he has a minor traffic accident with Gina (Julie Carmen). Not only are he and Gina immediately attracted to each other but it turns out that Gina is the daughter of Daniel Lambert (Martin Landau), who owns the most prestigious art gallery in Santa Barbara. It appears that Jonathan is finally going to get the big show that he has always dreamed of, but only if he can escape from Marion’s management.
One night, Jonathan helps out a man who was apparently mugged outside of an art gallery. The man, Eric (Doug Savant), says that he’s an art collector and that he is a big fan of Jonathan’s work. When Jonathan opens up about his problems with Marion, Eric decides to return Jonathan’s favor by killing Marion and anyone else who he feels is standing in the way of Jonathan’s success. Because of the way that Eric artistically stages the murders, the police suspect that Jonathan is the murderer.
Depending on the source, Paint It Black’s original director was either fired or walked off the project and Tim Hunter was brought in to hastily take his place. According to Hunter, he spent the production “shooting all day and rewriting all night.” Paint it Black is a standard late 80s, direct to video thriller but it is interesting as a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock. Hunter taught a class on Hitchcock at the University of California at Santa Cruz and Paint it Black is full of shout outs to the master of suspense. Marion’s murder is staged similarly to a murder in Frenzy. There are frequent close-ups of scissors, a reference to Dial M For Murder. Probably the most obvious homage is the character of Eric, who appears to be based on Robert Walker, Jr’s character from Strangers on a Train.
Rick Rossovich was best known for playing cops, firemen, and soldiers in movies like Top Gun, Navy SEALS, and Roxanne. He’s not bad in Paint it Black but he is still not the most convincing artistic genius. Doug Savant and Sally Kirkland were better cast and more enjoyable to watch. In fact, Kirkland is killed off too early. The movie loses a lot of its spark once she is gone.
Paint It Black may not live up to being named after one of the best songs that the Rolling Stones ever recorded but Tim Hunter took unpromising material and shaped it into something that is far more watchable than anyone might expect.