Tim Marsh (Bill Ferrell) makes a lot of money and is married to the sexy and beautiful Wendy (Shannon Tweed) but he still thinks of himself as being a loser. He’d much rather have the life of his old high school buddy, Don White (Ted Prior). Don is a former baseball player who is opening his own car dealership and is married to a much younger woman named Kim (Jodie Fisher).
One day, Don lets Tim drive his BMW, which Don brags was a gift from Ed McMahon. Tim loves the car and, while driving it, feels more alive than he has in years. Don then offers to allow Tim to sleep with his wife. Tim says that there’s no way that he would ever cheat on Wendy but Don insists. Eventually, after a party to celebrate Don’s new business, Tim takes Don up on his offer. The next morning, after Tim has returned home to Wendy, someone murders Kim in her sleep.
Guess who the police suspect?
Dead By Dawn is typical of the low-budget, erotic thrillers that used to dominate late night Cinemax. Most of these films had plots that could best be described as neo-noir and Dead By Dawn is no different. Not much happens in Dead By Dawn. Since there are only four main characters and one of them dies about an hour into the movie, it’s pretty easy to figure out who is double crossing who. The main problem with the film is that it asks us to believe that Tim would cheat on Shannon Tweed instead of getting down on his knees every day and thanking God that a loser like him managed to marry … well, Shannon Tweed.
Not surprisingly, Shannon Tweed gives the film’s best performance. Because of her background as a Playboy playmate and her relationships with Hugh Hefner and Gene Simmons, it’s often overlooked that Shannon Tweed was a fairly good actress who had the ability to be both sexy and believable. She had a down-to-Earth quality to her that was lacking in most of the other direct-to-video vixens of the 90s. She was the sex symbol who you could imagine running into at the grocery store.
When compared to some of the other films that we all remember from late night Cinemax, Dead By Dawn is fairly tame but aficionados of Shannon Tweed’s film career should enjoy it.