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Mute Witness (1994)

Cast: Marina Zudina, Marina Zudina, Oleg Yankovsky, more...
Director: Anthony Waller, Anthony Waller
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Columbia TriStar
Genre: Foreign, Suspense/Thriller, UK
Running Time: 97 min.
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Korean
    see additional details...

A mute American working on a low-budget movie runs afoul of the Russian mafia in this internationally produced thriller. Billy (Marina Zudina), a special-effects makeup artist who is unable to speak, is in Moscow working on a cheapie slasher flick directed by Andy (Evan Richards), her sister's boyfriend. Late one night, Billy returns to the set to pick up some equipment and stumbles on what appears to be the filming of an actual snuff film. Watching, unseen, as an "actress" (Olga Tolstetskaya) is bludgeoned to death before her very eyes, Billy flees the set, pursued by the snuff film's crew. Eventually, she escapes and tells her story to her sister, Karen (Fay Ripley), and Andy. The film crew convinces the police that it was simply some special effects that Billy witnessed, then they start a deadly cat-and-mouse game with the hapless Americans. The intrigue soon leads Billy and her friends to "The Reaper" (Alec Guinness), the shadowy financier of an entire snuff-film underground. Director Anthony Waller's screenplay for Mute Witness began as a tale of gangsters in 1930s Chicago, but he rewrote it to take advantage of Russia's analogous present-day climate -- and the country's cheap sets and labor. Unexpected problems, from a diptheria epidemic to unexpected fines at the customs gate, nearly sank the production. The director convinced Guinness to appear in the film several years before principal photography began; the veteran thespian was paid nothing for his scenes, which were shot in a single morning in Germany. ~ Brian J. Dillard, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Moot Homage by hamano September 8, 2006 - 10:15 AM PDT
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
This is a very entertaining film if you watch it with your Mystery Science Theater 3000 glasses on. The director's main claim to fame is helming An American Werewolf in Paris. Here, it looks like he saw what Woody Allen did with Stardust Memories and A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy and was totally awed. "Look what he did with the works of his heroes Fellini and Bergman!" So Anthony Waller decided to pay tribute to HIS favorite director, who.... is.... Brian De Palma??? There are cheap gags, film-making inside jokes, a lush orchestral score, playful editing and camera work, Hitchcock moments, full frontal heroine nudity, all the stuff De Palma usually has in his bag of tricks.

The casting is interesting. The "mute" American girl who can hear perfectly well but cannot vocalize at all is played by a Russian actress who looks kinda like Sally Field from the Flying Nun days. Too bad she can't talk in the film... I bet she has a cute accent! Then there's an almost-but-not-quite-posthumous cameo by Sir Alec Guiness as "The Reaper"... a refined Russian mob boss with a veddy veddy English accent. Or maybe it was the ghost of Obi Wan Kenobi.... (Apparently his scenes were shot 9 years before the rest of the film and this ended up being his last movie appearance.) In any case, if you're running out of things to watch, you'll get some laughs out of this one if nothing else.

Smart Thriller by Brockton October 10, 2003 - 12:48 PM PDT
4 out of 5 members found this review helpful
I loved this movie. It starts out looking like a low budget slasher movie, and, once it's grabbed you, takes you through a series of twists and turns. It's smart, yet dumb where it needs to be, funny, and scary. Interesting cameo from Alec Guiness as the mafia chief.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.88)
49 Votes
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