Well, this one's certainly disappeared almost without trace (my local rental outlet appears to be preparing to box or dump its huge collection of VHS, this one presumably among them, and I'd say it's not bloody likely to ever see the light of day again on a DVD release), and although it's nothing like a masterpiece, 'Hostage' is an intriguing and gripping example of the 'woman-in-peril' genre, this time based on an allegedly true story of the young Australian Christine Maresch and her immigrant husband Walter. When we first meet her, she's hitching down the highway, apparently having fled a violent home life. Ending up a carnival worker, she meets a German man who would probably make a great husband - if only Christine actually wanted to have a family...but Walter knows just what to do to trap his object of desire! Even if it's all true as told, it's still exploitation (the abundance of bare-breasted moments from lovely lead Kerry Mack, a real Michelle Williams look-alike, give the game away), and Leonard Maltin's complaint of it being 'disjointed' and 'repetitive'? Guilty as charged - but it's also stylish enough to be eye-catching, yet straightforward enough to be powerful. Frank Shields, the director and co-writer, knows what will hit an audience on a gut level and seize their attention: domestic abuse and terror, children caught in the middle, Nazis (!) and more - but he lets the film go almost totally off-the-rails during an inexplicable scene in the middle section, one which not only trades in offensive depictions of vicious and depraved Turks, but sends a geyser of blood from a villain's slashed throat raining down on our put-upon heroine and her daughter (as if everything else she had to deal with wasn't enough!) It's so excessive and unnecessary I didn't really know whether I wanted to laugh, cry or throw up...but the biggest problem is a vague feeling of emptiness that creeps in as the film's action just stops, and we are filled in as to the fate of this tragic family (accompanied by photos of the real Christine and daughter). It's an appropriately chilling curtain call (especially with that 80s score; I'm a sucker for a sequencer, sue me!) but has the film, messy and slightly sleazy yet ambitious and brave/foolish, really earned the respect of its audience that the true-life association seems to demand? I'm not entirely sure, and I'm probably not going to watch it again in an attempt to find out - but I give it the mark of an effective and above-average film of its type. See it before all copies are locked away and left to rot!
Set in 1980's Australia, this is the true story of a woman whose husband eventually reveals to her that he is an active member of the Nazi party. A real nightmare begins for her.
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September 3, 2019