Eyewitness (1981)

R | 102 mins | Melodrama, Mystery | 27 February 1981

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HISTORY

       Referring to the film by its working title, The Janitor, a 3 Dec 1979 HR news item announced the casting of Sigourney Weaver and Christopher Plummer. One month later, a 30 Jan 1980 DV article listed the title as The Janitor Doesn’t Dance, and on 21 May 1980, DV announced the title was changed to Eyewitness. The 1 Sep 1981 HR reported the film was released in England with the title The Janitor to avoid confusion with two earlier U.K. films titled Eyewitness.
       A 31 Mar 1980 Twentieth Century-Fox Pictures press release found in AMPAS library files listed Patricia Roe as a supporting cast member, but Roe does not appear in the onscreen credits.
       According to a 24 Jan 1980 LAHExam article and the 30 Jan 1980 DV, The Janitor Doesn’t Dance was inspired by screenwriter Steve Tesich’s four summers as a janitor during college, when he worked “late at night in deserted buildings” in East Chicago, IN. The 6 Dec 1980 LAHExam noted that Tesich admired CBS television news correspondent Leslie Stahl and used her as the model for “Tony Sokolow,” played by Sigourney Weaver.
       Various contemporary sources, including production notes, the 24 Jan 1980 LAHExam, the 30 Jan 1980 DV and the 25 May 1980 LAT, reported that the film was generated by the success of Tesich and director Peter Yates’s first feature film collaboration, Breaking Away (1979, see entry) which received four Academy Award nominations and one ... More Less

       Referring to the film by its working title, The Janitor, a 3 Dec 1979 HR news item announced the casting of Sigourney Weaver and Christopher Plummer. One month later, a 30 Jan 1980 DV article listed the title as The Janitor Doesn’t Dance, and on 21 May 1980, DV announced the title was changed to Eyewitness. The 1 Sep 1981 HR reported the film was released in England with the title The Janitor to avoid confusion with two earlier U.K. films titled Eyewitness.
       A 31 Mar 1980 Twentieth Century-Fox Pictures press release found in AMPAS library files listed Patricia Roe as a supporting cast member, but Roe does not appear in the onscreen credits.
       According to a 24 Jan 1980 LAHExam article and the 30 Jan 1980 DV, The Janitor Doesn’t Dance was inspired by screenwriter Steve Tesich’s four summers as a janitor during college, when he worked “late at night in deserted buildings” in East Chicago, IN. The 6 Dec 1980 LAHExam noted that Tesich admired CBS television news correspondent Leslie Stahl and used her as the model for “Tony Sokolow,” played by Sigourney Weaver.
       Various contemporary sources, including production notes, the 24 Jan 1980 LAHExam, the 30 Jan 1980 DV and the 25 May 1980 LAT, reported that the film was generated by the success of Tesich and director Peter Yates’s first feature film collaboration, Breaking Away (1979, see entry) which received four Academy Award nominations and one win for Tesich’s screenplay. Matthew F. Leonetti, the director of photography on Breaking Away, also reunited with Yates and Tesich for Eyewitness.
       As noted in the 24 Jan 1980 LAHExam and the 30 Jan 1980 DV, the film marked Sherry Lansing’s second film as the new president of Twentieth Century-Fox productions. While several contemporary sources, including the 20 Feb 1980 Var, reported a budget of $5 million, the 25 May 1980 LAT listed it at $6.4 million and an article in the Dec 1981 Rolling Stone, titled Big Bucks, Big Losers, stated the final cost was $8.5 million. Rolling Stone also noted that by Dec 1981, the picture had only grossed $2 million in theater rentals.
       Principal photography in New York City began 30 Mar 1980 after two weeks of rehearsal. During filming at the Metropolitan Life Building, a man wielding a knife chased a wounded man inside, disrupting the scene according to the 1 Jun 1980 LAHExam. Upon seeing the film’s television crew, the attacker fled and an ambulance was called for the victim. The incident was also recorded by a WNEW-TV crew which happened to be at the location filming a news feature about the movie.
       Although an item in the 18 Feb 1981 Var announced the film would open 27 Feb 1981 at New York City’s Loews State 2 and Gotham Cinema theaters, the NYT did not report general release until 18 Jul 1981.

      End credits include the following written statement: “Filmed in New York at Astoria Studio and Claremont Riding Academy.”
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
30 Jan 1980
pp. 3, 38.
Daily Variety
21 May 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 1981.
---
LAHExam
24 Jan 1980.
---
LAHExam
1 Jun 1980.
---
LAHExam
6 Dec 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 May 1980
p. 43.
Los Angeles Times
6 Mar 1981
p. 1.
New York Times
27 Feb 1981
p. 12.
Rolling Stone
Dec 1981
p. 44.
Variety
20 Feb 1980.
---
Variety
18 Feb 1981
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Peter Yates Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam asst
Collaborating dir of photog
Stills
Lighting supv
Key grip
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Set dresser
Prop master
Scenic artist
Carpenter
Const grip coord
SOUND
Prod mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Dog trainer
Dog trainer
Wrangler
Prod office coord
Scr supv
Loc auditor
Casting of extras
Transportation capt
Riding instructions
Tech adv
Video tech
Video seq by
Unit pub
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Janitor
The Janitor Doesn't Dance
Release Date:
27 February 1981
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 27 February 1981
Los Angeles opening: 6 March 1981
Production Date:
began 30 March 1980
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
17 February 1981
Copyright Number:
PA95535
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Ultracam 35 and lenses provided by Leonetti Cine Rentals, Hollywood
Prints
Prints by Deluxe®
Duration(in mins):
102
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Daryll Deever works the janitorial night shift in a New York City office building. When he collects the trash at Long Ltd., Daryll asks Mr. Long to rescind his complaint about Alan “Aldo” Mercer, a fellow janitor who has been fired, but Long refuses. Later, at his apartment, Daryll is “attacked” by his dog, Ralph, playing their usual game before Daryll watches a video recording of the local television news, featuring reporter, Tony Sokolow. Elsewhere, Tony plays piano during a fundraiser at her parents’ apartment. In the crowd, an Israeli woman mysteriously acknowledges Tony’s boyfriend, Joseph, before he steps forward to campaign for funds to help Russian Jews emigrate to Israel. The next day, Tony drives Joseph to the airport for what is supposed to be an unexpected trip to Israel; but after she leaves, Joseph meets the Israeli woman outside the terminal. That night, Daryll works in the office building’s basement and is surprised when Aldo arrives. The men became friends while fighting in Vietnam, and Aldo resents that Asians like Long are now successful in the United States. He does appreciate that Daryll tried to help him get rehired, and is also excited about their planned business venture and Daryll’s engagement to his sister, Linda. Later, as Daryll leaves work, he notices Long’s door ajar and discovers Long’s dead body. Daryll rushes out of the building, not noticing he is watched by an Asian man parked outside. The next day, Daryll is interrogated at Long’s office by Lt. Jacobs and Lt. Black, and claims he saw nothing unusual the previous evening. Daryll leaves as Aldo ... +


Daryll Deever works the janitorial night shift in a New York City office building. When he collects the trash at Long Ltd., Daryll asks Mr. Long to rescind his complaint about Alan “Aldo” Mercer, a fellow janitor who has been fired, but Long refuses. Later, at his apartment, Daryll is “attacked” by his dog, Ralph, playing their usual game before Daryll watches a video recording of the local television news, featuring reporter, Tony Sokolow. Elsewhere, Tony plays piano during a fundraiser at her parents’ apartment. In the crowd, an Israeli woman mysteriously acknowledges Tony’s boyfriend, Joseph, before he steps forward to campaign for funds to help Russian Jews emigrate to Israel. The next day, Tony drives Joseph to the airport for what is supposed to be an unexpected trip to Israel; but after she leaves, Joseph meets the Israeli woman outside the terminal. That night, Daryll works in the office building’s basement and is surprised when Aldo arrives. The men became friends while fighting in Vietnam, and Aldo resents that Asians like Long are now successful in the United States. He does appreciate that Daryll tried to help him get rehired, and is also excited about their planned business venture and Daryll’s engagement to his sister, Linda. Later, as Daryll leaves work, he notices Long’s door ajar and discovers Long’s dead body. Daryll rushes out of the building, not noticing he is watched by an Asian man parked outside. The next day, Daryll is interrogated at Long’s office by Lt. Jacobs and Lt. Black, and claims he saw nothing unusual the previous evening. Daryll leaves as Aldo is brought in for questioning. Tony and her news crew are outside, and she wants to interview Daryll. As her cameraman films, Daryll admits he has a crush on her and asks for a date. When she realizes he has no pertinent information, she is not interested. Darryl asks what would happen if he had information, then walks away. Aldo catches up with Daryll; he claims his sister is his alibi for the previous night, and asks to borrow money from Daryll for a poker game. Tony notices the cops watching the two men and suspects Daryll knows something. That night, when he leaves work, Tony pretends to look for a cab and Daryll offers her a ride on his motorcycle. Daryll asks for a date, but she claims to be busy working before she admits to riding horses on Thursdays. Later, Aldo and Linda dine with Daryll at his parents’ home. Daryll’s father, in a wheelchair, puts down his son’s lack of ambition, but Aldo is excited about the store they plan to open. Later, Linda admits to Daryll that Aldo was not with her when Long was murdered and she does not believe her brother’s claim that he won a lot of money at poker. The next day, Black and Jacobs shadow Daryll and Aldo as they bring a new television set to Aldo’s apartment. The cops monitor Aldo while Daryll goes to the park where Tony rides her horse. They share a picnic and Daryll drops her at her home. Tony is accosted by two Asian men who force her into their car. As the vehicle speeds off, Tony jumps out and runs toward Daryll. One man chases her, but Daryll pulls Tony onto the motorcycle, whips the pursuer with a chain and throws the chain at the car’s windshield, causing it to crash. Daryll brings Tony to his apartment, not realizing Aldo is watching from outside. Inside, the dog scares Tony but Daryll demonstrates it is just an act. He bandages Tony’s cuts and they make love. Outside, Aldo leaves, walking past Joseph who also watches Daryll’s apartment. The next morning, Lieutenants Black and Jacobs follow Aldo as he returns to Daryll’s apartment. Aldo claims that he found a place for their business and won the $50,000 to buy it, but Daryll knows he is lying about the money and about his alibi. Daryll admits he does not want to marry Linda and the two fight until Daryll asks if Aldo killed Long. Aldo storms out and steals Daryll’s motorcycle. Later, Daryll surprises Linda at work and they are relieved to discover that neither is in love with the other. Elsewhere, Tony informs her parents that she is quitting her job to marry Joseph and is surprised that her parents know about Daryll. They deny hiring someone to follow her, but Tony does not believe them. That night, Aldo sneaks into the office building to ask for Daryll’s help. Aldo swears he did not kill Long but does admit he borrowed the money from loan sharks, but cannot repay them because he used the money to buy the store. Daryll lets Aldo hide in the building. Black and Jacobs are parked outside and see Tony greet Daryll as he leaves. Tony admits she is involved with someone else, but agrees to go to Daryll’s apartment. There, Ralph attacks Daryll, but it is no game this time. Daryll manages to get a leash on the dog before Ralph dies, and they discover the animal was drugged. Someone tries to break into the apartment, so they turn off the lights. Daryll attacks the intruder and, during their struggle, the television is turned on and the light reveals that Joseph is the intruder. Joseph rushes out, and Daryll deduces that it was he who killed Long. Daryll wants to call the police but Tony refuses. Later, Joseph defends his actions to Tony’s parents, explaining that Long was the financial middle-man in the Russian Jews’ escape. When Long demanded more money and threatened to expose the plan to rescue six Russian Jews, Joseph murdered him. Believing that Daryll saw him, Joseph insists the janitor must die, but the Sokolows will not agree to murder and insist on speaking with Daryll. The next morning, Daryll’s father arrives at his son’s apartment after an argument with his wife. Meanwhile, Tony’s parents visit her to arrange a meeting with Daryll at her apartment. Joseph learns of the meeting, telephones Daryll and, pretending to be Mr. Sokolow, changes the location. That night, Daryll buys flowers and purchases firecrackers from a girl outside the shop. When he arrives at the location, the street is deserted except for Joseph and the Israeli woman. Joseph shoots but Daryll tosses firecrackers onto the street and, in the ensuing noise and smoke, climbs a fire escape and disappears into a horse stable. Daryll hides among the horses as Joseph follows him up the fire escape and the woman enters from the ground floor. Meanwhile, when Daryll does not arrive at her home, Tony learns about Joseph’s ruse and calls the police. At the stables, Daryll releases the horses and tosses a firecracker to spook the animals. Several horses gallop down a ramp, stopping the woman from coming upstairs. Daryll jumps onto a horse and tries to hide among the racing animals but Joseph shoots him in the arm, knocking Daryll off the horse. Joseph maneuvers toward Daryll, but is caught between several horses and loses his gun. The two men fight as Joseph’s gun is trampled beneath the horses. When the police surround them, Joseph surrenders, but as Tony arrives, he pretends to reach for a gun and is killed by Lieutenant Jacobs. Tony hugs the wounded Daryll. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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