Review: ‘Happy Birthday To Me’

'Happy Birthday To Me'

There is considerable evidence that whoever created the advertising campaign for "Happy Birthday To Me" never bothered to see the picture, or at least forgot it quickly. "John will never eat shish kebab again," the catchline screams over artwork not taken from the film, which also does not have a character named John.

There is considerable evidence that whoever created the advertising campaign for “Happy Birthday To Me” never bothered to see the picture, or at least forgot it quickly.

“John will never eat shish kebab again,” the catchline screams over artwork not taken from the film, which also does not have a character named John. “Steven will never ride a motorcycle again,” the advertising adds, ignoring the minor matter that it was Etienne, not Steven, who gets his in the spokes.

What’s more, the picture promises ‘six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see,’ a bit of an exaggeration. The first murder is a throat slashing, perhaps the 9,000th seen in films like this to date, followed by two commonplace stabbings and one death by fireplace poker.

The motorcycle strangulation is a bit unusual, but barely seen and the guy crushed by the barbells would have to be counted as a suicide since, if the film were logical, he had plenty of places to dump the weights besides on his own body. That leaves the shish kebab, which is only a variation on previous themes.

Ordinarily, it might seem unfair to judge a film by its advertising, but since films like this get slapped together for the hardsell, it’s as good a standard as any.

Certainly, there’s nothing to be said for the acting, direction or story, which is monumentally stupid, dependant throughout on a frail girl to kill and carry the bodies away so they can’t be found, taking time out along the way to dog up a casket and haul away the contents.

In her film debut, Melissa Sue Anderson clumsily carries the suspense of whether she is or isn’t the killer, with director J. Lee Thompson helping her with clouds of confusion that just get dumber and dumber until the fitful finale.

Har.

Happy Birthday To Me

Canada

Production

A Columbia Pictures release, produced by John Dunning and Andre Link. Directed by J. Lee Thompson. Features entire cast. Screenplay, John Saxton, Peter Jobin, Timothy Bond. Reviewed at the Burbank Studios, May 13, 1981.

Crew

Camera (Metrocolor), Miklos Lente; editor, Debra Karen; sound, Richard Lightstone; production design, Earl Preston; music, Bo Harwood, Lance Rubin. (MPAA Rating: R). Running time: 108 MINS. Original review text from 1981.

With

Virginia - Melissa Sue Anderson Dr. Faraday - Glenn Ford Ann - Tracy Bregman Alfred - Jack Blum Steve - Matt Craven Maggie - Lenore Zann Rudi - David Eisner Amelia - Lisa Langlois Hal - Lawrence Dane Mrs. Patterson - Frances Hyland Estelle - Sharon Acker Etienne - Michel Rene Labelle Greg - Richard Rebiere Bernadette - Lesleh Donaldson Lt. Tracy - Earl Pennington

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