50 Movies for 50 States Part Two: The `80s — #18 – Maine, Film – High Frequency (Qualcuno in ascolto)

High Frequency (1988), produced by Cinecitta, Reteitalia and Union P.N., distributed in the U.S. by Forum Home Video, directed by Faliero Rosati, written by Vincenzo Cerami, Franco Ferrini and Faliero Rosati, with Vincent Spano, Oliver Benny, Anne Canovas and David Brandon, cinematography by Pasqualino De Santis, original music by Pino Donaggio, edited by Anna Rosa Napoli, filmed in Vinalhaven, Maine

It was not easy finding a copy of this movie. Seriously.

I’d be as bold as to say you’ve never heard of the Italian-made thriller High Frequency (Qualcuno in ascolto) although I have a feeling many of the people reading this post came across it after specifically searching for the movie on the web. If you’re one of those people, you probably saw it on cable late one night and wondered “what *was* that weird movie about the old guy and the little kid who sit around watching this lady on a camera hidden in an apartment?”

Congratulations. You’ve reached maybe like the only review of High Frequency on the web. Also, good for you. I’m certain that you have fond memories of it. The impression I get from the user reviews on IMDb is that most people who saw this movie in the late 1980s enjoyed it.

I’d never heard of High Frequency — Hell, I’ve rarely heard of any of the movies I’ve watched for this project prior to seeking them out — but I did find the plot intriguing enough to want to watch it. You may find it intriguing as well.

The basic story is this: A boy living on an isolated island off of Maine (Danny) befriends an older man (Peter) stationed at a relay station in the Alps, whom he meets randomly over a shortwave radio. The two hit it off immediately, as it turns out they have some things in common. Mostly, they’re both pretty lonely. Peter, who works alone at the station in the Alps, is basically cut off from the outside world — his only companion is a pet rabbit, Pierre. Danny lives alone with his mother. His father went “missing at sea” years ago, thus explaining his obsession with the shortwave radio — he’s hoping to contact his father one day. It becomes clear pretty early on that Danny sees Peter as a surrogate father figure.

When a strange feed shows up on one of the satellite sources that Peter is monitoring, THE PLOT THICKENS. The feed appears to be streamed from a hidden camera in the room of someone’s home. Two men enter the room and, after a brief conversation, one of the men shoots the other. Peter thinks momentarily that perhaps he’s watching a movie, but after hours of watching this stationary camera, starts to believe he may have just inadvertently witnessed a murder.

Peter tells Danny about what he saw and the two begin to work together to try and figure out the location of the camera. After getting rid of the victim’s body, the shooter has remained on the scene of the crime and has now been joined by a woman. Peter and Danny are concerned that the shooter may target the woman next.

THIS woman

Peter and Danny eventually discover … wait. You didn’t think I was going to tell you any more did you? Part of the fun of High Frequency is watching the mystery unravel.

You’re going to need a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief to enjoy High Frequency. Without that, you’re going to be wondering the whole time why Peter and Danny didn’t just immediately go to the police — or why Peter is even trusting a kid to help him solve a murder in the first place. There’s also a pretty ridiculous deus ex machine ending that might leave you scratching your head, although if you watch enough Italian cinema, you’ll just chalk it up to the type of wackiness that usually comes along with that country’s cinematic output. Viva Italia! A fun little film. A hidden gem. What ever you want to call it.

The island off the coast of Maine where High Frequency was filmed worked well in complementing Danny’s sense of loneliness. It’s a beautiful location. You can smell the brine. SMELL IT. Makes me want to eat chowder.

It’s hard to believe this movie isn’t Canadian, I mean … look at that haircut.

Most of this review I wrote months ago. That was before I got a job. My job for the first two years of Critical Masses’ existence was taking care of a baby. A baby that liked to sleep — those types of babies are rare, I’m told. It provided me a lot of time to write. Now I have a “real” job again and am going to try and keep this going. We will see…

Do you care about this personal stuff? Do you want to hear more? Should I stick to movies? My life isn’t that interesting.

Apparently High Frequency is on YouTube now. But it’s in Italian. If you speak Italian, check it out.

  Next week (maybe): MARYLAND

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