Back in Catholic High School, we’d often ask the nuns and the priests if there shouldn’t be more than 10 Commandments. It had been quite a few years since Moses came down from the mountain with the tablets. Why hadn’t their been an update to relate to how society had changed in the ensuing years. Of course it never got down to fun ideas for the extra commandments since Sister Mary would eventually say, “You can’t even handle ten, why even guess what the next ones would be.” And we’d go quiet. Sadly The Eleventh Commandment came out in 1986, long after we’d graduated. Although this film is less an exploration of religion than a thriller about a man trying to survive a relative’s attempt to drive him insane.
Charles Knight (Bewitched‘s Dick Sargent) is a rather ruthless individual. When his nephew Robert (Matrix Reloaded‘s Bernie Wright) claims his uncle killed his father and sexually attacked his mother, Charles doesn’t scoff it off. Instead he gets Robert looked up in an insane asylum with a doctor who is going to do his best to put the former seminary student over the edge. They even wire him up for electroshock treatments. But Robert refuses to be broken. He knows that Charles wants him declared insane so he can consolidate control over the family business. But Robert isn’t going to get revenge on Charles. He’s fixated on saving his cousin Deborah (Alien Nation‘s Lauren Woodland). He grabs the young girl and goes on the run with the hopes of keeping her from turning out like Charles. His uncle isn’t happy and makes a deal with a crooked cop to track down Robert and not bring him back alive.
Director Paul Leder had already given us the superbly titled I Dismember Mama before this film. He doesn’t go too over board in the shots and editing. The movie plays like a great messed up TV movie. There is a lot of tension without having the soundtrack signal too much. The film has plenty of backstabbing between family members including a shocking moment when an unexpected character knifes their way into the power structure. This is a perfect disturbed family drama with blood and a body count. There’s quite a few creative kills between the family members and their hired help. Dick Sargent really comes off well when he plays the heavy. He’s not a touch lovable as he dips into the dark arts. Marilyn Hassett (The Bell Jar and The Other Side of the Mountain) also takes this production into a bleak world as the action unravels and she’s not so thrilled with her husband’s plans. The ending really elevates the film was it doesn’t hold back. The Eleventh Commandment is breaks quite a few of the first 10 Commandments.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The resolution on the transfer will make you swear you can see a 12th Commandment. This is probably the best it’s ever looked since it went straight to VHS in America. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono so you’ll get to hear all the backstabbing clearly. The movie is subtitled.
A Lifetime of Preparation (17:13) interview with actor Bernard White during the time of COVID so he’s talking over Skype from a bedroom. He talks about how he studied Hamlet to get prepared for the role. He also got into reading the Bible to get in touch with his character’s religious angle. He explains why his character wears a Michigan State and Catholic high school sweatshirt during the production.
Through the Eyes of a Child (11:55) talks with actress Lauren Woodland. She’s also on chatting via a computer. She talks about auditioning as a child. She landed an Oscar Mayer wiener commercial. This was her first movie. She ended up in the Alien Nation TV series afterward.
Promotional Still Gallery (0:34) are press photos.
Vinegar Syndrome presents The Eleventh Commandment. Directed by: Paul Leder. Screenplay by: Paul Leder. Starring: Bernard White, Dick Sargent, Greg Mullavey, James Avery and Lauren Woodland. Rated: R. Running Time: 93 minutes. Released: September 1, 2020.
Tags: Bewitched, Matrix, The Eleventh Commandment, Vinegar Syndrome