Deadly Discovery (1992): Indiana Woes

Dave takes a look at a regional action flick that doesn’t quite cut it.

You’ve heard that story about the movie nut who worked in a video store and wrote his own movie, right?

This isn’t that one.

Instead, this tale of fandom and filmmaking replaces Quentin Tarantino and the sun-kissed oceanfront of Manhattan Beach with the rural serenity of North Greensburg, Indiana: the home of Tom Barker Video, the eponymous concern of a bona fide film preservationist. Speaking to the Greensburg Daily News in 2019 [1], Tom Barker – an Indiana University graduate who started out as a camera operator for local station WTTV – shared his obsession for bringing archive material into the digital age. From transferring 35mm nitrate film, to digitizing entire libraries for large companies, Barker has been helping people to restore their antiquated audio and visual artefacts from years gone by for four decades.

But as far as his sole movie-making endeavour, DEADLY DISCOVERY, is concerned – well, let’s just presume he hasn’t got round to clarting that up that…

The beginnings of Deadly Discovery trace back to 1990 where, in partnership with Marjorie Sly, a self-proclaimed “local entrepreneur” who made her money in aerospace, Barker formed Tele-Cine Films: a company that made only this single picture in the four years they existed.

Ike Walters (Walter Baziak) is a city cop faced with an appearance before the Grand Jury in a pivotal narcotics case. In the wake of a bloody shoot-out that leaves four men connected with the case dead, Richard Junger (Steve Russell), the District Attorney, suggests that Walters should take a short vacation to remove himself from the firing line. For his break, the choice of Greentown is met with a stern warning from Junger (“Stay away from Greentown. It’ll be more trouble than it’s worth”) – but Walters is keen to pay a visit to the home of his former partner, Stetson Avery (Jack Rooney), so presses ahead regardless. Dressed up to the nines in a pressed pewter suit, he stands out among the dungaree-clad residents of this backwater town – and when local waitress Renee Dupa (Kerol Rae) catches his eye, Walters starts to uncover a conspiracy that goes to the very top of the judicial system…

Across the spectrum of regional action movies of the early ’90s, Deadly Discovery sits alongside lowly misfires like David A. Prior’s Lock ‘N’ Load (1990) and Bill Dever’s Mountain Fury (1991). Its main flaw lies in the casting of Baziak, who seems genuinely ill-fitting as the main character. A more dynamic lead would have elevated the film. After all, his co-stars aren’t too shabby: Rae shows an ability to play hysterical with aplomb, the late Rooney is pleasantly assured, and a toupee’d Russell camps it up as a pantomime villain.

In fairness to Barker, Deadly Discovery is directed with a pleasing degree of competency – even if the cinematic landscapes of Greensburg and nearby Shelbyville provide a foolproof canvas. And in true jack of all trades fashion, the filmmaker takes the job of editor alongside co-writing, producing and directing  – and pens the lyrics for the end credits’ musical number too.

By all accounts, Deadly Discovery failed to get a VHS release upon completion and eventually surfaced on either side of the Atlantic via a couple of barely-known budget DVD labels just after the turn of the millennium (Digital Video Dreams, anyone?). As rare as hen’s teeth when it wrapped, now lingering en masse on eBay… Go figure.

USA ● 1992 ● Action, Thriller ● 85mins

Walter Beziak, Kerol Rae, Jack Rooney, Steve Russell ● Dir. Tom Barker ● Wri. Tom Barker, Terrie Solomon

[1] Barker Well Known for Film Expertise by Pat Smith, Greensburg Daily News, 24th April 2019

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