Strange Behavior (1981)

Review

Why are you hearing about this 1981 film today? Not because of director and co-writer Michael Laughlin, whose career may have ended after he wrote the notorious Town & Country in 2001.

No, the other writer was Bill Condon, who not only wrote Gods and Monsters, he also wrote the script for Chicago (not that that’s such a Herculean effort). So riding on Condon’s rising star comes his first film, made when little Bill was just 26 years old. He even appears in the opening scene, sneaking a cigarette before he gets killed (in shadow) as the first of several offings.

Well, the story of Strange Behavior is a familiar one about a serial killer and a manhunt that leads the cops (headed by Michael Murphy) to the local highschool, where inappropriate psychology experiments are underway. Which begs the question: Are highschool psychological experiments ever okay? Bygones.

Strange Behavior is one of those scrappy little movies that you can’t help but enjoy to some extent, though its low-budget concessions and very rough script make it hard to love. This is a cult movie and a party flick (and in fact it has one of the best party scenes I’ve ever seen, complete with an impromptu dance number and a Tangerine Dream soundtrack. We need more dance numbers. We need more Tangerine Dream.

As for star Murphy and co-star Louise Fletcher (that’s Nurse Ratched to you), they’re the most forgettable part of the film. It’s always a mistake to headline a teen slasher movie with a bunch of boring grown-ups. But forgive Condin and Laughlin. They were kids, oblivious and ignorant. They didn’t know what they were doing, and in his commentary track (with some of the stars of the film), he freely admits this, laughing his ass off throughout the 87-minute running time. Can’t blame him.