Crapmeister George Cosmatos has directed such commercial junk as Sylvester Stallone in Rambo II & in Cobra, but he also has at least one actually fine film under his belt, & it is Of Unknown Origin (1983).
It's in essence a one-man show starring Peter "Robocop" Weller in a man-against-rat tale of obsession. Weller's personal deterioration in his home & at work is a story of considerable power all by itself. Add the fact that every time he goes home he has to cope with this nasty & far-too-clever invader, & you have the makings for a film of real merit.
The rat effects are laughable; when Weller dances around with a big plastic rat on his neck, I wasn't always sure I was supposed to be laughing so hard. Some bits are definitely comical in a very intelligent manner (watch for the moment when Weller breaks something the rat failed to destroy), so I assume the lack of budget for a convincing animatronic rat was made into a comic-relief bonus on purpose.
But the comedy never spoils the credibility of Weller's plight, his emotional collapse, & his growing obsession, as it's not about the FX, it's about Weller's performance as a man who is either falling to pieces inside, or becoming so focused on this one thing that he can no longer function in any other context of being alive.
I felt that the rat could've been a physical manifestation of his own obsessiveness; but it could also have been that the rat's destruction of the physical environment had a sympathetic effect on Weller's mind. It became as necessary to kill that rat as it would be to kill a worm that was tunneling through one's brain.
Given the lowgrade lousiness of Cosmatos' other films (including Weller starring in Leviathon -- Weller's good in it, even though that film stinks), it really amazes me that Of Unknown Origin is so extremely good. Could Cosmatos do such good work repeatedly if given the choice, or is this a fluke?
As seems often to be the case with films that refuse to be sufficiently stupid & narrowly definable, this one started out with problems with the distributors when it was first completed, as it fell into a grey area of not being sufficiently a monster-movie to distribute as horror, but being way to strange to distribute as drama or straight thriller. I think both thriller-fans & horror-fans tired of the same old stuff will really get a kick out of this one.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl