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Claus Mueller

Claus Mueller is  Senior New York Correspondent

New York City based Claus Mueller reviews film festivals and related issues and serves as a  senior editor for Society and Diplomatic Review.

As a professor emeritus he covered at Hunter College / CUNY social and media research and is an accredited member of the US State Department's Foreign Press Center.



Dead on Arrival, Stephen Sepher, USA, 2017

Dead on Arrival by Stephen C. Sepher is an extraordinarily captivating film ranking high on all criteria one can apply to a film noir thriller and bringing it close to an artistic exercise in film making.


We have the story’s lush location in Louisiana’s bayous, a superbly executed production design relying on the facilities the sleepy small town offers with its country roads and water ways, and sets ranging from junk yards to the local seedy night club with its assorted collection of misfits. All of it is captured through superb wide screen cinematography by John Garrett.


For this film Sepher has assembled a cast of actors who deliver a more than convincing performance of the intriguing and original characters they are portraying. Add to it the range of their broad characterizations compressed in the 24 hour period Dead on Arrival covers and the changes they experience and one understands the distinct acting skills the narrative requires. There are clean detectives and corrupt police officers, beautiful women of leisure performing in the local strip club and at private parties, members of the local mafia, a transvestite working as a server, and Hans Dunkel (Chris Mulkey) a bi-polar drug addicted insurance agent. Topping off this intriguing cast, is a pharmaceutical sales person from California, Sam Collins (Billy Flynn), selling vaccines, a man who has a hard time supporting his family, Dr.Alexander (Billy Slaughter), a well-connected local figurer known for his expensive tastes and escapades and Jessie (Christina Allen), a night club dancer who turns out to be an essential contact for Sam. In this fast moving thriller running only 97 minutes, these diverse characters are all tied to Dr. Alexander.


Sam Collins is found semi-conscious next to his car on a highway and diagnosed in the local hospital as having been poisoned with a deadly substance giving him only 24 hours to live. In a flashback to the previous night during a New Year’s Eve wild party is presented. The gathering is given by Dr. Alexander in his luxurious villa. Sam fits in very well in this scene and engages in drinking, gambling and cavorting with call girls.  Dr. Alexander had signed a contract buying vaccines solving Sam’s financial problems. Sam leaves in the morning hours and wakes up in medical care, learning about the poison and that has only about 12 hours to live. He escapes and tries to discover who tried to kill him. Jessie helps his pursuit but as Sam’s state deteriorates he can no longer articulate his thoughts and stops communicating. The viewer observes Sam as a mute stumbling center of what follows next. Walker, the dirty cop, who is closely tied to Dr. Alexander, pursues Sam, killing those he suspects having been in contact with him. Whether or not Sam will survive remains unclear until the end.


Billy Flynn delivers a superb enactment of Sam making his 24 hour demise credible. Chris Mulkey as the sex obsessed, bi polar insurance agent Hans Dunkle gave an equally memorable performance. Stephen C.Sepher who also wrote the screen play for the film and was its producer with Rory Fradella and Kim Barnard, assembled and directed a top-notch cast of actors.   With its absorbing and compelling Deep South tale, Sepher’s Dead on Arrival holds the fascinated attention of the audience, enables identification with the principle characters and delivers a film that transcends past films in that thematic genre.

Claus Mueller


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