FIEND (1980)
Director: Don Dohler

A native of Baltimore, Don Dohler is probably the second most famous low budget filmmaker to work in that vicinity (John Waters being the first). A bon afide film fanatic, Dohler founded Cinemagic Magazine in the 70s and wrote a number of film-related books while concocting his own Z-grade features. His first effort was THE ALIEN FACTOR (made in 1977), followed by this, 1980's FIEND. Both of these got ample coverage in Famous Monster of Filmland but remained obscure except to the few that rented them on video or gazed at them on the late night boob tube.

FIEND (also known under the more fitting title, "Deadly Neighbor") opens with a red glowing life force traveling from the sky into a graveyard. A corpse is resurrected from the ground and immediately assaults two lovesick teens. Strangling them, he gains energy (through more glowing red special effects) and is able to revive is otherwise decomposing appearance.

Under the name Mr. Longfellow (Don Leifert), he moves into suburban Baltimore (the literal shooting location) as a successful violin instructor(!). He likes to hang out and give lessons in his cold basement, listen to bad synthesizer music, drink wine from goblets, and knife up 8x10 photos in his spare time. Worst yet, he has to keep killing to stay alive, so more neighborhood folk (including a small child), end up murdered. Mr. Longfellow's nice next-door neighbors (Richard Nelson and Elaine White) become suspicious of his noisiness and pasty look, so they play detective and give a big plug for the director's book, Film Magic.

Shot on 16mm for peanuts, FIEND has bad lighting, poorly composed cinematography, and sloppy editing, but Dohler was able to mount a fairly interesting thriller without blood, breasts, and profanity--all very common in 1980. The make-up and effects aren't too bad at all and even though some of the acting is laughable, the actors seem to have been into trying their best. Don Leifert (veteran of Dohler movies) is very hammy as the ghoul with an enormous mustache who talks like Paul Bartel, and Baltimore character actor favorite George Stover (also in some early John Waters films) is on hand in a nerdy role. Don't expect a masterpiece, but if you want to see what someone talented could do with a movie camera (prior to the days of camcorders) and a bunch of friends and family, this is a decent late-night time filler.

Retromedia's DVD of FIEND looks better than you'd expect. Presented full frame (intended ratio), some dark scenes produce picture grain, but the print source is in very good shape, and colors are stable. The audio has its limitations, but plays fine.

Extras include a fairly amusing blooper reel that proves that nearly every actor on the set worked the clapboard as well! There are two still galleries, one dedicated to George Stover himself! Bruce Holecheck wrote some fun liner notes ("Don Dohler has again crafted a backyard genre effort for less cash than most folks spend on a haircut") for the back cover. (George R. Reis)