NYC in Film

Finding movie locations in the Big Apple.

He Knows You’re Alone (1980)

Released during the height of the Golden Age of slasher films, He Knows You’re Alone is about a jilted groom-turned-maniac who stalks and kills random brides-to-be. Considered a rather middling horror film that is often described as an inferior clone of Halloween, it’s probably most notable for casting future Oscar-winner Tom Hanks in his very first feature film role. 

Even though it looks like it takes place in some generic small town, He Knows You’re Alone was actually filmed on New York’s Staten Island. Shot in December of 1979 over a period of just 15 days, this modest little slasher film highlights several parts of NYC rarely seen in films. While not great,  He Knows You’re Alone has always held a special place in my heart, probably because I saw it dozens of times on cable while growing up. Plus, I’m always a fan of any movie that was shot in New York’s lesser known boroughs — specifically, the Bronx and Staten Island.

So, just in time for Halloween, let’s take a look at this relatively unknown horror film taking place on a fairly rural-looking Staten Island.

 

Movie Theater Kill

After a woman is murdered during a movie, police arrive at the former Hylan Plaza Cinemas at 107 Mill Road, Staten Island. (Note: These modern pictures were taken in 2017, shortly before the theater was demolished.) 

 

Inside, Detective Gamble, whose fiance was murdered before their wedding, discovers that the victim in the theater was also a bride-to-be.

 


This opening sequence, whose murder scene likely inspired the beginning to Wes Craven’s Scream 2, was made up of three different locations. While info on the web varies a bit, the exteriors were definitely shot at the former Hylan Plaza Cinemas.

Days before its opening in April 1966, visitors check out the marquee of the Hyland (named Fox Plaza Theatre at the time). 

Located in the New Dorp district of Staten Island, the 1,150-seat movie theater first opened in 1966, under the name Fox Plaza Theatre.

By the time He Knows You’re Alone was being filmed, the theater’s name had been changed to Hylan Plaza and been converted into twin theaters. About 15 years later, the theater got subdivided again, this time into 5 screens (although the original plan was to expand it to 7 screens).

Then in January of 2017, after 50 years of business, Hylan was forced to close its doors as plans were being made to demolish the entire shopping center. Today, there’s a large indoor mall called the Boulevard on that site, which has an upscale theater in it called the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

Luckily —although unbeknownst to me at the time— I was able to take pictures of the old theater just weeks before it was torn down.

A 2017 view of the Hylan Plaza Theatre shortly before its demolition.
A 2021 view of the new “Boulevard” Mall on Mill Road where Hylan Plaza used to sit.

As to the interior scenes from this sequence, most of them were shot at the magnificently ornate St. George Theatre, located not too far from the Staten Island ferry terminal. A palatial 2,800-seat theater designed in both Spanish and Italian Baroque styles, the St. George opened its doors on December 4, 1929 as a movie & vaudeville house.

The exterior of the St. George Theatre, 1931. (From the Staten Island Historical Society.)

After its opening, the St. George Theatre became an immediate success, rivaling many of its more famous Manhattan competitors. The theater operated as movie & vaudeville house through WWII, seeing such stars as as Al Jolson, Kate Smith and Guy Lombardo on its stage, then continued as a movie house until 1978. But at the time He Knows You’re Alone was being filmed, the theater going through a transitional phase, trying its hand at being a dinner theatre, a nightclub and even an antiques showroom — none of which were major successes.

For the rest of the 20th century, the St. George more or less remained shuttered, continuously facing possible destruction. Thankfully, in 2004, a not-for-profit organization was formed and was able to raise the funds needed to save the building and open it to the public again. Today, it serves as a cultural arts center that hosts a variety of live programs and special events, including annual screenings of classic films.

A still from the 1980 film featuring actor Paul Gleason (top), compared to a 2004 view of St. George Theatre’s concession stand (bottom).

Aside from He Knows You’re Alone, the St. George Theatre was also used in the finale of the 2003 Jack Black film, School of Rock and Woody Allen’s 2017 period drama, Wonder Wheel.

A modern view of the extensive seating area inside the St. George Theatre.

As to the actual killing scene where the victim was stabbed through the back of her chair, some sources say it was done at the former Lane Theater in New Dorp, but it’s hard to know if this is true. One thing’s for sure, it was not shot at the St. George since that theater has stadium seating that clearly doesn’t match the scene. 

A production photo of the stabbing scene, featuring actor Tom Rolfing as the “bride killer” (clearly propped up by something on his seat).
The inside of the Lane Theater at 168 New Dorp Lane, 1988.

However, since I haven’t been able to confirm this location with any reliable sources, and since you can’t see any real details in this part of the sequence (aside from the seats which have since been removed from the space), I decided to not include it with my “before/after” images above.

The interior of the Lane Theater under construction circa 1998. (Photo by Mike Falco.)

That being said, it’s certainly plausible they shot it at the Lane since they shot a good portion of the film in that area of Staten Island, including one scene directly outside of the theater (see “Window Shopping” below), which was still in operation at the time.

A circa 1984 tax photo of the Lane Theatre when it was temporarily closed for business. (Note the SOS message on the marquee.)

The Lane was a simple little theater that opened in 1938 and lasted until 1990 (although, judging by its appearance in a circa 1984 tax photo, the theater was not in continuous operation during that period). After it stopped showing movies, the Lane was used as a concert hall and nightclub, followed by a short stint as a comedy club, before finally becoming the Crossroads Church in 2012.

Even though it’s now a church, many of the movie theater’s original flourishes are still intact, including its streamlined marquee and neon sign — both of which have been landmarked since 1988.

 

The Elk Lodge

Sitting on the porch of the Elks Lodge at 3250 Richmond Avenue, Amy Jensen says goodbye to her fiancé, Phil, who’s going out of town for a bachelor party

 

As the couple walks towards their friends, Paul tells Amy that her ex-boyfriend, Marvin, better stay away from her while he’s gone.

 

Meanwhile, the “bride killer” arrives on a bus which parks in front of the neighboring Boy Scouts center.

 

Then, as the couple approaches the bus, they pass through what is now a fenceline.

 

The men load their bags into the car and head off to their week-long bachelor party in the woods.

 

As the men drive away, we see the killer conspicuously watching from behind the Boy Scouts center, standing near Drumgoole Road.

 

The action suddenly jumps by about 3 miles to an empty lot at 84 Cloister Place, where the three ladies get into their car.

 


Because the landscape was so rural, this was one of the more perplexing locations to figure out, but was one of the most intriguing ones as well, and I was determined to find it.

To figure out this location, the only real clue I had to go on was the cryptic numbering and lettering on the side of the white barn-like structure (third “before/after” image above). I eventually figured out the lettering BSA stood for Boy Scouts of America and I assumed the 841 was their troop number.

With that, I thought it would be somewhat easy to find out where that troop was headquartered in the 1970s, but the only Troop 841 I could find a reference to was in Rhode Island.

Finally, I asked Blakeslee, my research partner, to take a stab at it, and he eventually came back with an address on Richmond Avenue. He found it after noticing some additional lettering at the top of the building that said BPOE, which he figured out stood for Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Turns out the 841 was the lodge number for the Elks who had a charter with the local Boy Scouts.

When I checked out the location in Google Street View, it looked promising, but I wasn’t able find any specific matching elements. Then, after I went through the 1980s tax records of that area, I found an image that matched the barn-like structure in the film.

An unlabeled 1980s tax photo on block 5613 (top) compared to a still from the 1980 film (bottom), both of which feature the same BSA lettering.

Unfortunately, the tax photo was unlabeled, so even though I had an idea of the general vicinity, I didn’t know the exact spot of the buildings seen in the film. However, when I went to the location in person, I did manage to match up the houses along Drumgoole Road which appeared behind the lurking killer in one shot, thus confirming I was at the right place.

Unfortunately, several condos have since gone up and now block any views of the houses from where the camera was placed for this part of the scene. But if I moved closer to the road, I was able to get a clear view of the houses, even though it was technically from the wrong vantage point.

A still from the film with a collage of 1980s tax photos of the corresponding houses, along with their address numbers.

After visiting the location and looking around, I was pretty sure the Boy Scouts center had been torn down. But because the extant Elks building had been remodeled a bit and numerous condos had been erected on the property, I couldn’t get my bearings straight.

A 1980s tax photo of the Elks Lodge on Richmond Avenue, showing that the building’s overall design has similarities to the porch seen in the film, but doesn’t contain any exact matches.

A few days later, after studying all the tax photos I could find and consulting old satellite images of the vicinity, I finally got a pretty accurate fix on where all the action took place.

A 1996 satellite image of block 5613 before the BSA center was torn down. The red arrow shows the couple’s walking path from the porch, the large red rectangle is the location of the bus, the smaller rectangle is the car, and the X is where the killer stood. (Click image to enlarge.)

But one part that kept puzzling me was the last shot from this scene where the women get into their car. Since I knew that area had changed quite a bit since 1979-1980, I thought it was possible the building in the background had since been demolished. But I also couldn’t find any matches when I looked through the old tax photos from that area.

Finally, a breakthrough came when I realized it could’ve been shot at a different location altogether. Once I embraced that concept, I almost immediately thought I recognized that building in the background to be the one that appeared in the following “Dance Studio” scene.

A still from the end of the “Dance Studio” scene (left) compared to the end of this “Elk Lodge” scene (right) both featuring the building at 31 New Dorp Plaza.

So with my fingers crossed, I checked out that other scene and quickly determined the building was, in fact, a perfect match.

 

The Dance Studio

Amy and her friends Nancy and Joyce do dancing exercises at a studio at 5 New Dorp Plaza.

 

On their break, Amy expresses doubt about getting married so soon.

 

After class, Nancy tells Amy that she’s going to spend the week with her at her house while Phil is away.

 

Just then, they notice their philosophy professor, Carl, and his wife walking towards them from Cloister Place.

 

When Carl see Joyce, whom he’s having an affair with, he tries to hide his face.

 

But it doesn’t work, and he’s stopped by the three ladies who make him uncomfortable in front of his wife.

 

He finally is able to get away from the situation and he and his wife walk towards 31 New Dorp Plaza.

 


This location was pretty easy to identify, thanks to a clearly visible street sign for Cloister Place, which is only a couple blocks long. So, within a few seconds on Google Maps, I was able to pinpoint the dance studio featured in this scene, which is still in operation.

Named “Mrs. Rosemary’s” after its founder, this modest dance studio has been teaching and lecturing thousands of dance students and educators on Staten Island since 1959.

A wide shot of Mrs. Rosemary’s New Dorp Dance Studio, looking in the reverse direction from what was seen the film.

Coincidentally, “Mrs. Rosemary” Cappozalo had another peripheral connection to this movie. Turns out, it was Mrs. Rosemary who was the main force behind saving the St. George Theatre (featured in the opening sequence to this film), donating her time and life savings to the cause.

Mrs. Rosemary passed away in 2009, but by the looks of things, the studio is still going strong under the leadership of her three daughters.

 

Window Shopping

After leaving her friends, Amy decides to do some window shopping, passing a random guy struggling with a parking meter in front of 294 New Dorp Lane.

 

Amy stops in front of an appliance store at 135 New Dorp Lane to watch herself on the display TVs.

 

She then gazes at bridal items at a shop at 166 New Dorp Lane, next to what used to be the Lane Theater. 

 

Amy crosses the street towards the garage at 157 New Dorp Lane, but stops short when she’s almost hit by a passing car.

 


This short sequence of Amy going window shopping was basically made up of three different locations, all of which I figured took place on New Dorp Lane since that’s the major retail strip in that part of Staten Island.

In the first shot where Amy passes a guy struggling with a parking meter, the location was a little tricky to figure out but I eventually got there. The biggest clue to go on was the open lot that appeared next to the actors.

After sifting through the 1980s tax photos of New Dorp Lane, I found one of an open lot at no. 294 whose neighboring building looked a lot like the white brick wall that appeared in the film. Then, after looking at tax pics of other addresses on that block, I could see several matching elements, including a series of narrow alleyways in between the buildings.

A still from the 1980 film (top) and a pair of circa 1984 tax photos (bottom) with red arrows showing matching gaps between the buildings . (Click to enlarge.)

The second bit where Amy looks at TV sets in a store window was the very last location I found for this film, and like the previous bit, I guessed it took place on New Dorp Lane. So, the first thing I did was virtually cruise up and down the street in Google Street View looking for a matching building. But after several passes, I couldn’t find anything that stood out.

Next, I went through the 1980s tax photos of New Dorp Lane looking for a match, but again, nothing stood out. So I decided to see if I could dig up some info on any appliance stores that were in that neighborhood at the time. A couple keyboard clicks later, I found a 1966 ad for an appliance shop at 135 New Dorp Lane. The store seemed especially promising since its address was close to a couple other verified filming locations.

Even though the building that’s at no. 135 today looks very different from what was in this scene, I knew it could’ve gotten a major renovation at some point since the winter of 1979. By the looks of the 1980s tax photo of that address, there was still an appliance store there, but it was hard to tell if it was the same one from the film.

That’s when I decided to focus on the reflection in the store window and see if the buildings across from 135 New Dorp Lane looked similar. While the reflection in the glass was a little hard to see, I could make out several matching details from across the street, making me confident I found the right appliance store.

A reversed still from the film with a pair of tax photos of the buildings across the street with red lines highlighting matching details. (Click to enlarge.)

When it came to the third bit from this sequence where Amy gazes into a little bridal shop, it turned out to be the easiest to find. This was thanks to what looked like the bottom of a large marquee next door, which I assumed was the old Lane Theatre.

A 1983 photo of the Lane Theatre on New Dorp Lane where the bridal shop from this scene was to the right of it.

To further confirm things, I matched up the extant building at 183 New Dorp Lane with what appeared in the reflection of the bridal store’s window.

A still from the film showing a reflection of the building at 183 New Dorp Lane, compared to a modern photo of the same building (inset).

As a nice little bonus, I also found a 1990 ad for a business called the Wedding Place, whose address was 166½ New Dorp Lane, verifying that there was a real bridal shop in the building adjacent to the Lane Theatre.

 

Ice Cream Shop

Sensing that she’s being followed, Amy ducks into an ice cream shop at 314 New Dorp Lane.

 

Inside, she orders a single scoop of ice cream in a sugar cone.

 

For some reason, one of patrons pays close attention to Amy and her ice cream order.

 

Once again feeling like she’s being followed, Amy cautiously steps outside onto the corner of Clawson and New Dorp Lane.

 

Suddenly, her ex-boyfriend Marvin pops out of nowhere, causing her to spill her ice cream onto his “favorite” shirt.

 


This ice cream shop was one of a few locations already identified on IMDb, which at the time I started researching this film, was the only website that had any specific addresses listed for it.

It was pretty easy to confirm, especially since there’s still an ice cream shop there today, although the name has since changed.

Prior to 2009, the corner building was home to Sedutto’s, a local ice cream chain that was first established in Manhattan in 1922 by Italian immigrant, Joseph Sedutto. In the 1930s, the business expanded to Staten Island and eventually opened a retail space at 314 New Dorp Lane sometime in the late-40s/early-50s.

Owned and operated by the Sedutto family for several decades, the business was a favorite for locals, particularly for its ice cream party cakes (which were delivered with small pieces of dry ice, offering the customers a little smokey fun when they added it to water).

A 1984 photo of Sedutto Ice Cream at 314 New Dorp Lane (top) compared to a still from the film (bottom).

By the 1980s, Sedutto had nine locations in the New York area as well as one shop in Alexandria, Virginia.

In 1992, the New Dorp location encountered a bit of a setback when the building collapsed after a driver lost control of his car and careened into it. Nobody inside the parlor was hurt, but a  45 year old pedestrian was injured when he became pinned between two cars.

The corner building was subsequently rebuilt, but by the mid 2000s, operation costs were becoming too burdensome for its local owners.

A circa 2006 photo of the rebuilt Sedutto Ice Cream parlor on the corner of New Dorp Lane and Clawson Street.

In the summer of 2008, the shop owners decided to close their doors for good. Today, all that’s left of this century-old ice cream franchise is one lone shop up on First Avenue (whose signature dish is a rum-based Hotel Black Bottom Pie).

The ice cream shop that’s on New Dorp Lane today —Something Sweet Homemade— opened in 2011 and seems to be a popular destination. Whenever I find myself in that neighborhood, I always make a point to stop there (even if it’s in the dead of winter) and enjoy a little local Staten Island hospitality.

 

Bridal Shop

After leaving the ice cream shop, Amy gets fitted in her wedding dress at Renaissance Fashions at 357 New Dorp Lane, where Ralph the co-owner is stabbed to death by the killer just as she’s leaving.

 


This is another filming location already listed on IMDb, and once I dug up a 1980s tax photo of the address, I was convinced it was correct.

A circa 1984 tax photograph of 357 New Dorp Lane.

However, I couldn’t dig up much background on the former Staten Island bridal shop, Renaissance Fashions. The only thing I found was a 1979 print ad from the Daily News, promoting an upcoming fashion show they were hosting in their store.

One of countless scenes from this movie where Amy stops and looks around, sensing someone’s stalking her.

 

Church

Getting cold feet about her wedding, Amy visits Our Lady Queen of Peace Roman Catholic Church at 90 3rd Street (on the corner of New Dorp Lane), where she gets some comforting words from her priest

 


The church from this scene was easily found simply by being so close to several other filming locations along New Dorp Lane, in particular, Mrs. Rosemary’s Dance Studio, which is on the same block.

In addition to He Knows You’re Alone, Our Lady Queen of Peace Roman Catholic Church was also featured in the Rodney Dangerfield 1983 comedy, Easy Money, co-starring Joe Pesci.

 

Amy’s House

After a long day of activities, Amy returns to her home at 242 Ward Avenue.

 

Once inside, she is surprised by an impromptu bridal shower in her living room.  

 

The next morning, Marvin comes by to give Amy some new goldfish for her aquarium, then makes himself comfortable at the dining room table.

 

In the kitchen, Amy makes some coffee, where she sees out the window the bride killer lurking in some bushes.

 


Amy’s home (or rather, Amy’s parents’ home) was thankfully already established on IMDb, saving me some serious legwork. I’m sure I would have eventually found it, especially since you can see the street number 242 on one of the porch columns.

Generally speaking, if I have an address number but not a street name, I will usually go to the tax records and do an image search, using the website’s “building number” filter. While not always perfect, it can be a useful tool in these circumstances.

What’s interesting is that until I was able to see this filming location in person, I had no idea it was on top of such a steep hill with a dramatic set of steps leading up to it. Most of the angles used in the film hid the sharpness of the hill, shooting the wide shots of the home from a side street which made things look much flatter.

A 2019 view of 242 Ward Avenue, looking at the steep steps leading to the front porch.

While not a earth shattering revelation, it was a fascinating surprise after having watched this film so many times while growing up and having a certain picture of the landscape stuck in my head.

A still from the 1980 film (top) compared to a 2017 view of the kitchen (bottom).

Built in 1899 in Staten Island’s Tompkinsville neighborhood, this three-story Victorian house was for sale when I first visited it in 2017.

Judging by what it looked like inside, I deduced the house was being sold by the same family who owned it when this movie was being made. Not only were some the “outdated” fixtures still in place, like the odd countertop burners in the kitchen, but there were even some matching pieces of furniture, like the table and chairs in the dining room.

A still from the 1980 film (left) compared to a 2017 view of the dining room (right) with matching table and chairs.

The house eventually sold for $750,000, which more or less jibed with the market values of that year. But I’ve always wondered if the real estate agent disclosed the house’s somewhat obscure place in movie history to the buyers.

 

Jogging

While jogging in High Rock Park, Amy once again stops and looks around, sensing someone following her.

 

It turns out it was just a random female jogger, who obliviously runs past Amy and up a small incline.

 

Relieved, but still shook up, Amy catches her breath then runs out of the park.

 

She returns to her home at 242 Ward Avenue where the bride killer watches from Austin Place.

 


A couple online sources asserted that these jogging scenes took place at High Rock Park in central Staten Island, though none of them gave any specific details. Since there are plenty of wooded areas on the island, I knew I had to dig a little deeper to makes sure those sources were correct.

Really the only thing I could do was go to the woods in person and look around.

When I went to the park in 2019 on a cold March afternoon, things looked pretty much like what appeared in the movie — lots of bare trees and a complex of dirt paths through rolling knolls and pockets of marshy land. Of course, that didn’t necessarily mean the movie was shot there, and I figured the only way to confirm things was to find at least one matching shot.

Granted, I knew finding an exact location in a 94 acre forest would be a little like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but I thought it was still worth a shot.

After roaming around in 40 degree weather for about an hour, I couldn’t makes heads or tails of anything. My original hope was to find the color blazes that appeared in these scenes and use them as a guide. But the colors had since changed, so I had no idea what blaze was for what path.

I even stopped at a rangers station to see if anyone there could help me out, but the only advice they had was to just keep looking around.

As the sun started to set and I began to lose daylight, I figured I’d have to abandon my search for the day and return at another time. But before I left, I made one last ditch effort to find a matching shot when I noticed a series of planks laid out in a wetlands section of the park.

Remembering seeing some similar planks in the movie’s last jogging scene, I quickly scanned the area for any familiar trees or terrain. Amazingly, just as the sun was dipping below the horizon, I stumbled upon a promising tree that looked like the one actress Caitlin O’Heaney leaned against. Just like in the movie, the tree was at the intersection of two different paths near a series of planks and a small incline, making me somewhat optimistic that I found a match.

When I returned home and studied the photos I had just taken, I started to become even more optimistic — spotting several surviving trees that seemed to line up with the ones in the film.

I would’ve loved to had been able to find the spot where a young Tom Hanks makes his first appearance, but the fact I found anything in that vast woodland is truly extraordinary.

 

Amusement Park

Later that afternoon, Amy, her younger sister Diane, her friend Nancy and Elliot visit the former South Beach Amusement Park which was approximately at 320 Sand Lane.

 

With the camera pointing northwest towards Lansing Street, we see the park’s Paratrooper ride in action.

 

Amy and her group get in line for the Scrambler ride, which was approximately where a condo at 115 Oceanside Avenue now sits.

 

While waiting, Elliot talks about people’s innate fascination with fear, then psychoanalyzes Amy’s “delusion” that a man is following her.

 

After Elliot and Nancy go back to his place to “play backgammon,” Diane convinces Amy to go on the dark ride at 11 Quincy Avenue. 

 

 


This was another filming location that was listed on IMDb but didn’t have a specific address — it just said it took place at a “Sand Lane Amusement Park.”

Fortunately, there were many nostalgic New Yorkers out there with fond memories of this Staten Island amusement center, so I was able to find a bunch of websites that offered some details about the place,

The park, which was commonly referred to as South Beach Amusements, first opened in 1941 on Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk in Staten Island’s South Beach. Then in 1953, a new ordinance was issued prohibiting businesses from operating within 400 feet of the boardwalk, forcing the park to move a few blocks north on Sand Lane where these scenes from He Know You’re Alone were eventually filmed.

The South Beach Amusement Park shortly after it was relocated on Sand Lane, c 1955.
A similar view of South Beach Amusements, c 1978.

Most of its rides catered to young children, including a merry-go-round and a scaled-down rollercoaster, but it also had a few attractions that appealed to older kids and young adults, such as the Scrambler which was featured in this film.

Probably from the mid-1990s, the Scrambler at South Beach Amusements, sporting a more colorful paint job than what was in the film.
Looking northwest at the amusement park from Sand Lane, circa 1980.

Knowing roughly where the park was situated on Sand Lane, it still took me a little while to get the specific orientation of the rides and buildings, which would later help me figure out where all the scenes took place.

Probably taken in the early 1970s, a photograph of South Beach Amusement Park, also known as Beachland Amusements, looking south towards the shore.

The first thing I got a decent fix on was the Paratrooper ride, whose location I figured out by lining up the background houses in the film with the current houses along Lansing Street.

A modern view from Quincy Avenue looking north (top) and a cropped frame from the movie (bottom), each showing matching houses on nearby Lansing Street.

After that, I looked up a 2007 Google Street View of the block and determined that what used to be the dark ride and arcade center is now a Key Food supermarket.

Then, after analysing a 1992 home movie of the park I found on YouTube, I got a rough idea of where the merry-go-round and Skyfighters ride were situated and their relation to the dark ride/arcade.

A 2007 Google Street View of the former arcade and dark ride on the corner of Sand Lane and Quincy Avenue with two frames from a 1992 video of the amusement park, showing matching buildings.

As all these pieces were slowing coming together, I was getting a better sense of the park’s overall layout.

The last thing I needed to nail down was the location of the Scrambler. That’s when I rewatched the part of the movie where Amy is on the ride. Partly shot on the Scrambler itself, you can clearly see its relation to the Paratrooper ride as well as a large activity building which I was able to pinpoint earlier from a 1996 satellite image of the park.

A 1996 satellite view of the amusement park on Sand Lane. The FH indicates where the dark ride (called Fun House at the time) was located, the C indicates where the carousel was located, and the S indicates where the Scrambler was located.

And with that, I had a solid fix on three key locations from these amusement park scenes. Of course, the property is unrecognizable today since it’s now occupied by residential homes that went up shortly after the park closed in 1999 (at which time a ride ticket was a mere $1.25).

Even though the main amusement park was gone, the dark ride and arcade center were under different management and were able to remain open until 2006.

Front entrance to the dark ride on Quincy Avenue, called the Fun House at the time, shortly before its closure in 2006. (Photo from the Laff in the Dark website.)

The dark ride, which was a pivotal set piece for this film, was always an independent entity, but was connected to South Beach Amusements ever since its times on the boardwalk. Originally titled “Laff in the Dark,” the family-run ride was renamed “Tunnel of Laughs” when it was moved to the Sand Lane location next to the owner’s arcade.

A 1983 view of the arcade building on the corner of Sand Lane and Quincy Avenue which also housed the dark ride.

Operating with five Classic Pretzel cars, “Tunnel of Laughs” was originally a pretty tame ride with simple stunts. But then, a couple years before this movie was shot, the owners decided to update the ride, installing scarier props purchased from a “Land of the Giants” ride at West View Park in Pennsylvania. However, the props that appear in this scene were most likely provided by the film crew, as the monsters in the actual ride were a little less sophisticated looking.

A couple stunts from the updated South Beach dark ride, renamed “Land of the Giants” before finally being called, “Fun House.” (Photos from the Laff in the Dark website.)

One definite prop supplied by the crew was a glowing skull that horror fans might recognize as one of the three baneful masks in the 1983 feature film, Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

At first, I was a bit perplexed as to how a prominent, plot-driven prop from a 1983 Universal feature appeared in an independent movie that was produced three years prior. It turns out, two of the latex masks used in Halloween III (the skull and witch) were adaptations of masks already being sold by Post Studios.

One of the ride’s supposed stunts in 1980’s He Knows You’re Alone (left) and a scene from 1983’s Halloween III (right), both featuring Don Post’s skull mask.

In business since the 1930s, Post Studios is recognized for creating some of the first rubber masks to be worn over the head. Of their creations, the best known ones are the eerie Tor Johnson mask from the 1970s and the Captain Kirk mask which was infamously altered to become the Michael Myers mask in the original 1978 Halloween film,

A couple of Pretzel cars for the Fun House, shortly before its closure in 2006 (left) compared to a still from the 1980 film, featuring actress Dana Barron (right).

 


While these amusement park scenes in He Knows You’re Alone are a nice time capsule of South Beach from the late-1970s, probably the most exciting thing about them is seeing Tom Hanks in his first feature film role. Even though his character doesn’t have much to do, Hanks manages to get in a few quirky moments during his brief screen time.

It’s been said that his character Elliot was originally supposed to be murdered later in the story, but the scene was never filmed. There are different accounts as to why that happened, but according to Hanks, his murder scene was ditched simply because the producers ran out of money.

This lack of funds seems to be the most logical explanation as the production was clearly on a tight budget.

Case in point, most of the extras in the movie were friends and family of the crew, which included the cameraman’s 7-year-old son for these amusement park scenes..According to the film’s unit manager, Bob Millman, they wanted a close-up of the kid with some cotton candy, but when production couldn’t scrounge up the real thing, they just put pink fiberglass insulation in a big paper cone. His father was apparently not pleased.

 

Car Chase

Amy drops off her little sister Diane at her friend’s house at 241 Ward Avenue for a sleepover.

 

On her way back home, Amy drives past 99 Water Street, where she realizes that someone is tailing her.

 

Trying to lose whoever’s on her tail, Amy races through the intersection of Water and Canal Streets.

 

The other car, which was being driven by Detective Gamble, gets tied up with the oncoming traffic.

 


I thought finding the location of Diane’s friend’s house was going to be hard since the “scene” is made up of just one single wide shot of a residential home at night. But on a hunch, I started my search near the location of Amy’s home and almost immediately noticed a similar-looking building directly across the street.

Even though the facade had changed a little, the door and window placements matched up perfectly, and when i looked up a tax photo of the house, it was pretty much identical.

When you think about it, using the house directly across the street from Amy’s made total sense for logistical and budgetary reasons. In fact, it’s fairly obvious that the crew just grabbed a quick high-angle shot of the house while in the middle of shooting other stuff at the Amy location on top of that steep hill.

A still from the 1980 film (left) compared to a c 1984 tax pic of 241 Ward Ave. (right).

When it came to finding the location of the car chasing scene, there were fortunately a couple store signs visible in the background which I hoped would be of some use to my search. Plus, the action culminated at what looked like a T intersection, which I thought could also be a useful clue.

A brightened-up and cropped-in frame from this scene, featuring a sign for a “Long Shot Inn.”

The first sign I focused on was the one at a bar that said, “Long Shot Inn.” There was a street sign in that shot, too, but I couldn’t read what it said, although I could tell is was probably a five or six letter name.

Unfortunately, when I did a Google search for “Long Shot Inn” and “Staten Island,” I got zero results. Zero. Which surprised me. So, I decided to instead focus on the long, red sign a couple buildings over.

Even though I couldn’t get a clear picture of the sign, I could make out a couple W’s on it, making me suspect it was for the retail store, F. W. Woolworth.

Another brightened-up frame from this scene featuring a sign for what looks like F.W. Woolworth.

After doing a Google search for any Woolworth’s on Staten Island, I got a bunch of hits, but the only specific address I could find was on Port Richmond Avenue, which didn’t match the film. I did find an illustrated postcard of a Woolworth’s in the Stapleton neighborhood that looked like it could be a match, but there wasn’t an address listed with it.

So, having hit a minor dead end, I decided to do a Google search again for “Long Shot Inn,” but this time including the phrase, “Stapleton.” And to my surprise, that one minor change netted me a hit, leading me to a want ad in a 1982 issue of The Daily News. In the paper, the ad gave an address of 113 Water Street, which just so happened to be located at a T intersection.

A pair of circa 1984 tax photos of some buildings along Water Street that were featured in this scene.

After checking out the street in Google Maps as well as the 1980s tax records, I found numerous matching buildings and was 100% satisfied that I found the right location.

 

Final Chase

After discovering her friend Nancy’s severed head in the fish tank, Amy runs out of her house at 242 Ward Avenue, followed by the killer who sees her getting into her car.

 

Amy escapes to the morgue at 460 Brielle Avenue where Marvin works, and manages to trap the killer in one of the storage units right as the police arrive.

 


This final chase sequence was known for predominantly taking place at the old Seaview Hospital — a large complex that used to be a tuberculosis sanatorium in the early 20th century. Located in the Willowbrook section of Staten Island, the complex was the largest municipal facility for the treatment of tuberculosis in the United States and played a primary role in eradicating TB.

The main reason the filmmakers decided to shoot there was to take advantage of its huge network of shadowy underground tunnels. Although, it wasn’t a particularly easy shoot.

According to the film’s unit manager, to get the “morgue set” ready, production had to remove several bottles of tuberculosis lung samples that still remained in the room. Other hazards they had to deal with was high levels of asbestos, a degraded electrical system and basic structural instabilities.

Today, the 350-acre complex is a national historic district where several of the buildings have been restored and given various new usages. However, a chunk of the structures still remain unoccupied and at a state of disrepair.

In 2009, location scout Nick Carr took a tour of several of these abandoned structures and posted a bunch of fascinating photos on his scoutingny website.

The bride killer skulks down a tunnel from the 1980 film (left) compared to a 2017 view of a tunnel leading to the former morgue and laboratory (right), which was likely used for that shot.

I knew figuring out the all the different tunnels used in the film would be nearly impossible, but at the very least, I hoped I’d be able to find the exterior building that appeared at the beginning and ending of this climatic sequence.

My biggest fear was that the building might’ve been demolished, and if not, located in an inaccessible section of the property. After sifting through an array of recent photos taken at the hospital, I finally found one of the building seen in the film. After doing some background work on it, I was delighted to find out that not only was the building still standing, but it had been restored and repurposed as a ballet center.

It was sort of my own personal happy ending to a not-so-happy ending slasher flick.


While I’ve admitted my fondness for He Knows Knows You’re Alone is mostly rooted in childhood nostalgia, as well as my fascination with old Staten Island locations, I do think the film is better than most people give it credit. To be sure, it’s not a great horror film —I think it could’ve done with one or two fewer shots of a frightened Amy stopping and looking around— but it’s a lot better than most of the slasher films that came out in the late-70s/early-80s.

I think most horror fans’ biggest objection to the film —whether they’re conscious of it or not— is that it lacks almost any gore. Granted, there’s a decapitation scene near the end of the film, but that consists of an off-camera kill and a one-second shot of a pretty fake looking head in a fish tank.

Of course, if He Knows Knows You’re Alone didn’t feature Tom Hanks, this film would’ve probably disappeared into a pit of obscurity that has befallen most slasher films from this era.

But aside from Hanks, movie goers might recognize some of other actors on this film, including a young Dana Barron who would later play Audrey Griswold in the 1983 comedy, National Lampoon’s Vacation. Other notable cast members include James Rebhorn and Paul Gleason, who had long careers playing the bad guys in motion pictures, the latter being best known as the belligerent assistant principal in 1985’s The Breakfast Club.

Don Scardino poses with a prop skull while filming at Seaview Hospital.

Elizabeth Kemp, who played Amy’s friend Nancy, might not be a very recognizable name, but apparently was an influential acting coach for many performers, including Bradley Cooper, Hugh Jackman and Lady Gaga.

After she passed away in 2017, the 2018 film A Star Is Born was dedicated to her memory.

When it comes to Don Scardino, who played the goofy Marvin character, he may not be terribly well known as a performer, but he’s had a prolific career as a TV director, most recently working on the Hulu series, Only Murders in the Building. I had the good fortune to work with him a couple times on the TV show 30 Rock, where he directed the show in the same goofy, carefree way Marvin behaved in He Knows Knows You’re Alone.

Caitlin O’Heaney from 2017.

And finally, there’s the movie’s lead, Caitlin O’Heaney. Although she had a decent run as a performer in the 1980s, these days she spends most of her time in Upstate New York, working for environmental not-for-profits, designing perfumes, and occasionally teaching acting classes at the local community center.

O’Heaney reportedly lives not too far from Beacon, NY, and used to frequent a local health food store there where a close friend of mine happens to work.

As told by friend, during one of her visits, she got a super bargain when the canned mangoes were priced much lower than what they should have been — presumably the result of a price gun error. But the folks who worked there were nice about it and even though they knew it was a mistake, they let her purchase the items at the bargain price.

All in all, my friend said she seemed pleasant enough, and not once did she stop and look around the store, thinking someone was following her.

 

 

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