Live! From Death Row (1992)

livefrom0820 Horror Movies for $7.50 — Part II of XX.

Alana Powers (Joanna Cassidy) is outside the prison where serial killer Laurence Dvorak (Bruce Davison) is to be executed that night by “Big Keyboard” for creating an alternative.  One hour before the joyous occasion, she will have an exclusive interview with him.

The usual crazies are shown protesting outside the prison.  Special scorn is reserved for the people who respect human life (of the victims, that is) as they carry misspelled signs or wear t-shirts that say FRY ‘EM despite the fact there is only one guy being executed.

Like most “journalists” Alana can’t help fawning over a man who has killed 27 women, calling his acceptance of his fate admirable.  “Mr. Dvorak, you are a brilliant man, self-taught lawyer, contributor to several legal journals”, blah blah.  Meanwhile, the governor’s denial of a reprieve is harshly described as vehement.

livefrom01During the interview, the guard stupidly allows Alana to have a pencil on the table.  This despite the fact that last year at that prison an inmate killed his lawyer by jabbing an Eberhard-Faber in his lawyer’s sound-hole.  As Dvorak’s hand inches near the sharpened pencil, the guard really lets him have it — by snapping his fingers at him.  Dvorak pulls his hand back, but a few seconds later knocks the pencil off the table.  As the guard goes to pick it up, Dvorak bashes his head into the table, takes his gun, and takes everyone in the execution chamber hostage.

livefrom03Whatever value this film has had better start here.  Although there is a good cast, the cheesy music and amateurish direction have just about sunk it already.  Paradoxically, it appears cheaply shot on video, but the scenes that are supposed to be shot through the newsman’s camera look even more video-er.

Dvorak has Alana introduce him on camera again.  With her butt on the line, she now refers to him as a murderer and a psychopath.  He carefully poses his fellow death row denizens — which somehow include a woman — for the camera and asks Alana to start again.

livefrom04Dvorak promises the audience a discussion about “the truth of the death penalty . . . and then someone will die . . . yes, someone will die. And you will see it right there in your living room.  It won’t be a sanitized TV series death.  Blood will flow onto your carpet.”

Because what better way to convince the public that the death penalty is wrong than to equate murdering an innocent person to the execution of a tried and convicted serial killer.  And ruin their carpet to boot.

Alana talks to the woman, who is in jail for killing her children.  She calmly tells Alana that she wasn’t crazy when she did it; her husband wanted to take custody of them — so of course the child-killer is irresistible to Alana.  If she had also shot a cop we might have had some girl-girl action.

livefrom05Even when Alana surreptitiously speaks to her producer about the SWAT team preparing to rescue them, she refers to her rescuers as “stormtroopers.” As someone once said, “You have have to go to college to be this stupid.”

It would have been forgivable if this character was just a flaming criminal-loving do-gooder, but no effort is made to portray Alana that way.  In fact, her character is really supposed to be a bitchy, driven newswoman.  The sympathy toward the killers really just seems to be the natural inclinations of the film-makers shining through.  I suspect they believe all people think just like them; certainly anyone they ever deal with.  Well, except them racist tea-baggers what pay their salaries watching’m on the tee-VEE.

livefrom07The warden cuts the power, and in retaliation, Dvorak straps the guard into the electric chair. Turns out he had been taken hostage by prisoners once before and raped repeatedly for 17 days.  Christ, who was managing that stand-off, Janet Reno?

Since then, he has taken his revenge out on the prisoners.  Dvorak is ready to throw the switch to electrocute the guard, but the child-killer volunteers to take his place.

Things do not go exactly according to Dvorak’s plan.  There are deaths, but some are off-camera.  The group is able to maneuver Dvorak into Old Sparky, and someone finally does the right thing.

I can’t say it is a criminally bad movie.  I think Cassidy does some good work to prop up an average script and robotic direction.  And Art LeFleur is always welcome.  Davison’s role could have been made riveting with a more intense actor, though.


  • This is a better than average transfer for one of these collections.  The colors and resolution are fine.  They are so good, in fact, that for the first time I realized how bad Joanna Cassidy’s teeth are.  From the front, no problem.  From the side, very jagged and there might even be a tooth missing — or at least double-spaced.
  • Joanna Cassidy is a fine actress, but she really shows her acting chops by sincerely plugging this low-budget joint on E!  You were in Blade Runner, for God’s sake!
  • Not to be confused with Live from Death Row by Mumia Abu-Jamal, which is no doubt on Alana’s bookshelf.

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