The Unseen (1981)

R | 89 mins | Horror | 5 June 1981

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HISTORY

       An item in the 14 Jan 1980 HR stated that Gay Goodenough had been cast in the film, however, Goodenough does not receive onscreen credit.
       According to an article in the 12 Dec 1979 Var, Danny Steinmann wrote the screenplay and made his feature film directorial debut on The Unseen. The film, budgeted at $2 million, shot footage at a festival in Solvang, CA, in Sep 1979, and resumed principal photography on 16 Nov 1979. Locations included Solvang and Altadena, CA, and principal photography ended 10 Jan 1980. Briefs in the 14 Dec 1979 DV and the 14 Feb 1980 HR verified the production dates, and noted Steinmann was the director and screenwriter. However, Steinmann used the pseudonym “Peter Foleg” in the film’s credits. Several contemporary sources, including the 7 Oct 1981 Var review and a congratulatory advertisement in the 18 Nov 1980 HR, listed Michael L. Grace as the film’s screenwriter, based on a story by Michael L. Grace, Kim Henkel, Nancy Rifkin and Peter Foleg. However, Grace, Henkel, and Rifkin do not receive onscreen credit. Foleg is credited as the screenwriter, based on a story by Foleg, Stan Winston and Tom Burman,
       The 23 Jan 1980 HR noted that producer Anthony B. Unger made foreign distribution deals for The Unseen in sixteen markets through his Triune Films Inc. The 27 May 1981 Var reported that World Northal acquired domestic distribution rights and the film would open 5 Jun 1981 in Tucson, AZ.

      End credits include the following statement: ... More Less

       An item in the 14 Jan 1980 HR stated that Gay Goodenough had been cast in the film, however, Goodenough does not receive onscreen credit.
       According to an article in the 12 Dec 1979 Var, Danny Steinmann wrote the screenplay and made his feature film directorial debut on The Unseen. The film, budgeted at $2 million, shot footage at a festival in Solvang, CA, in Sep 1979, and resumed principal photography on 16 Nov 1979. Locations included Solvang and Altadena, CA, and principal photography ended 10 Jan 1980. Briefs in the 14 Dec 1979 DV and the 14 Feb 1980 HR verified the production dates, and noted Steinmann was the director and screenwriter. However, Steinmann used the pseudonym “Peter Foleg” in the film’s credits. Several contemporary sources, including the 7 Oct 1981 Var review and a congratulatory advertisement in the 18 Nov 1980 HR, listed Michael L. Grace as the film’s screenwriter, based on a story by Michael L. Grace, Kim Henkel, Nancy Rifkin and Peter Foleg. However, Grace, Henkel, and Rifkin do not receive onscreen credit. Foleg is credited as the screenwriter, based on a story by Foleg, Stan Winston and Tom Burman,
       The 23 Jan 1980 HR noted that producer Anthony B. Unger made foreign distribution deals for The Unseen in sixteen markets through his Triune Films Inc. The 27 May 1981 Var reported that World Northal acquired domestic distribution rights and the film would open 5 Jun 1981 in Tucson, AZ.

      End credits include the following statement: “The Producers wish to thank Mark Brownstein, Sandy Lang and John Linder for their invaluable contributions toward the making of this film.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
14 Dec 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jan 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
28 Oct 1981
p. 5.
Variety
12 Dec 1979.
---
Variety
27 May 1981.
---
Variety
7 Oct 1981
p. 22, 30.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Herbert R. Steinmann presents
in association with Jeffrey C. Ingber
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
WRITERS
Based on a story by
Based on a story by
Based on a story by
Story
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Addl photog
Gaffer
Key grip
Best boy elec
Best boy elec
Best boy grip
Best boy grip
Best boy grip
Grip
Grip
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Const supv
Const asst
Prop master
Prop asst
Prop asst
COSTUMES
Ward coord
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd ed
Post prod sd
Post prod mixer
Post prod mixer
Post prod mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opticals by
MAKEUP
Makeup des by
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Solvang asst
Solvang asst
Loc mgr
Asst to the prod
Prod accountant
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt double
Stunt double
Stunt double
COLOR PERSONNEL
[Col by]
DETAILS
Release Date:
5 June 1981
Premiere Information:
Tuczon, AZ, opening: 5 June 1981
Los Angeles opening: 23 October 1981
Production Date:
September 1979
16 November 1979--10 January 1980
Copyright Claimant:
Triune Films, Inc.
Copyright Date:
17 September 1980
Copyright Number:
PA99502
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
89
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Los Angeles, California, Jennifer Fast, a television reporter, packs for a trip to Solvang, where she will cover a local festival. She is angry at her boyfriend, former football player Tony Ross, who is recovering from a knee injury, and leaves without speaking to him. Jennifer joins her sister, Karen, who is also her TV camera person, and another friend, Vicki Thompson, for the drive. Upon arriving, they learn the hotel does not have a reservation for them, and every hotel in the area is booked for the festival. They drive to Los Alamos, a small town twenty miles away, and park in front of the decrepit Union Hotel. Ernest Keller, the jovial middle-aged owner, reveals the Union is no longer a hotel, but a museum. He tries to locate a hotel for the girls, but everything is full, and he offers to let the women stay in a guest room at his home. They follow him to the remote property where he introduces them to his “wife,” Virginia, a meek, plain woman, who reluctantly welcomes the visitors. Vicki feels ill and stays at the Keller’s house while Jennifer and Karen attend the festival. As Virginia hangs laundry in the yard, Ernest sneaks into the guest room and watches through the bathroom keyhole as Vicki undresses and steps into the bathtub. While Vicki bathes, Ernest returns to the hotel museum and Virginia steps into the chicken coop to sharpen an axe and kill chickens. Vicki lies down to rest, hears a strange sound, and notices the heat grate on the floor rising. She screams as ... +


In Los Angeles, California, Jennifer Fast, a television reporter, packs for a trip to Solvang, where she will cover a local festival. She is angry at her boyfriend, former football player Tony Ross, who is recovering from a knee injury, and leaves without speaking to him. Jennifer joins her sister, Karen, who is also her TV camera person, and another friend, Vicki Thompson, for the drive. Upon arriving, they learn the hotel does not have a reservation for them, and every hotel in the area is booked for the festival. They drive to Los Alamos, a small town twenty miles away, and park in front of the decrepit Union Hotel. Ernest Keller, the jovial middle-aged owner, reveals the Union is no longer a hotel, but a museum. He tries to locate a hotel for the girls, but everything is full, and he offers to let the women stay in a guest room at his home. They follow him to the remote property where he introduces them to his “wife,” Virginia, a meek, plain woman, who reluctantly welcomes the visitors. Vicki feels ill and stays at the Keller’s house while Jennifer and Karen attend the festival. As Virginia hangs laundry in the yard, Ernest sneaks into the guest room and watches through the bathroom keyhole as Vicki undresses and steps into the bathtub. While Vicki bathes, Ernest returns to the hotel museum and Virginia steps into the chicken coop to sharpen an axe and kill chickens. Vicki lies down to rest, hears a strange sound, and notices the heat grate on the floor rising. She screams as an unseen attacker pulls her into the vent. As Vicki struggles to free herself, the vent drops and snaps her neck. Downstairs, Virginia returns, cooks the slaughtered chickens, unlocks a padlock on the basement door, and carries the pot into the cellar where she calls out to someone hiding there. In Solvang, as Karen films Jennifer’s commentary, she notices Tony in the crowd. Karen thinks Tony is good for her sister, but Jennifer asks her to ignore him. However, Tony wants to talk and Jennifer reluctantly agrees to have dinner with him while Karen heads back to the Keller’s house alone. Meanwhile, Ernest sits in an upstairs room at the hotel museum, reliving a past conversation with his father. When Ernest was twenty-nine years old, his father learned Ernest had impregnated his sister, Virginia. Furious, the father ordered Ernest to drop his pants, and planned to castrate his son. However, Ernest murdered his father, and now smiles at the memory. At the Keller home, Virginia notices an overturned table outside the guest room, looks inside and discovers Vicki’s head sticking out of the grate. Virginia hides when Karen returns, and Karen does not notice Vicki’s dead body in the bedroom. She goes downstairs to look for her friend and accidentally knocks over a bowl of fruit, some of which spills onto a floor heating grate. As Karen kneels to retrieve the fruit, the edges of her scarf slip through the grate’s scrollwork. Something beneath the vent grabs the scarf and pulls it, strangling her. In Solvang, Tony questions why Jennifer did not tell him she was pregnant and planned to have an abortion. She claims they are not ready to have a child, and wants Tony to realize that his year-old knee injury ended his football career, but he insists he will play again. Jennifer loves him, but is sad that he cannot face the truth. When Ernest returns to the Keller home that evening, Virginia is in shock and Ernest discovers the two bodies. Virginia is distraught as she hears Ernest go to the basement, where he cajoles their son “Junior” to come out of hiding, and then beats him. Ernest rejoins his sister and insists they must also get rid of Jennifer. Virginia refuses to help, but Ernest warns if anyone discovers what happened, she will be locked in a “padded cell,” and a worse fate awaits Junior. She agrees to cooperate for their son’s sake. Tony drives Jennifer to the Keller’s home, but he is still upset over their conversation and speeds away. It begins to rain as Jennifer goes inside. Karen and Vicki are not in the guest room, so she looks for them downstairs. The cellar door is open, and when she calls out, Ernest invites her to join him in the basement. He claims her friends went for a drive, and asks Jennifer to hold a vent while he screws it in place. Pretending he has the wrong size screw, Ernest runs upstairs and padlocks the door shut. Jennifer looks for another way out, but the bulkhead door is locked and the window is barred. Near the window, she discovers the bodies of Karen and Vicki. Junior, an inbred mutant, comes out of hiding and grabs her. Jennifer tries to free herself and takes hold of the fuse box. When the fuse box loosens from the wall, the resulting shock injures Jennifer, who crawls into a corner. Junior cannot speak and does not realize his strength as he “plays,” tossing a filthy teddy bear at her. Ernest comes downstairs to “tidy up,” and Junior hides beneath a pile of garbage. As Ernest teases his son, Jennifer tries to escape. Furious, Ernest strangles her. However, Virginia runs into the basement and attacks her brother. They fight and Ernest knocks Virginia down. Infuriated, Junior pushes Ernest aside and runs to help his unconscious mother. Ernest attacks Junior, and Virginia regains consciousness as Ernest rams a board with a protruding nail into his son’s head. Virginia rushes to Junior’s side as he dies. Ernest realizes that Jennifer escaped during the commotion. He runs outside into the rainy night. A noise from the chicken coop alerts him to the young woman’s hiding place. Jennifer sees the ax and reaches for it, but Ernest wrestles it from her. A bag of feed falls on him, and she runs outside. However, she is weak from her injury and falls. Tony drives back to the house, and sees an ax-wielding Ernest advancing on Jennifer. He runs to save her, but his knee gives out and he collapses. Ernest raises the ax to kill Jennifer, but Virginia steps onto the porch and shoots her brother, dead. Jennifer and Tony hug as Virginia returns to the basement and cradles her dead mutant son. +

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

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