Sunday, December 14, 2014

GRADUATION DAY (1981)

GRADUATION DAY (1981) 

Label: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 96 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Herb Freed
Cast: Christopher George, Ruth Ann Llorens, Michael Pataki, Vanna White, Patch McKenzie, Linnea Quigley 


Ann Ramstead (Patch McKenzie) is a young woman in the armed forced who returns to the small California town where she was raised to bury her younger sister Laura (Ruth Ann Llorens), who promptly dropped dead after winning a high school track meet. George Michaels (Christopher George) is the over-driven track and field coach an he draws some criticism for pushing Laura, and the other student athletes, a bit too hard to win. With senior graduation fast approaching the student and staff try to carry on but when someone donning a fencing sword and mask arrives on the scene and starts bumping off the track team the week leading up to graduation is marked with the bodies of dead teens.  

The film doesn't stray far from the tried and true slasher formula of the era, we have a group of teens and a demented masked killer murdering them for reasons unknown, with no shortage of suspects to choose from. Could it be the hard-driving coach, Principal Guglioni (Michael Pataki), the creepy truancy officer or maybe even the older sibling of the fallen track star... or maybe someone far more obvious!

The high school setting is pretty great and feels plenty authentic with rowdy track meets, a rollicking roller skate party, plus horny teens and a rocking soundtrack with plenty of hard driving eighties cheesiness from the band Felony, you just gotta love that twin-neck guitar! 

Sure, the story is a bit hackneyed but we do have a great cast, which includes the venerable Christopher George (CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD) as the track coach and he chews up the scenery quite nicely. Patch McKenzie as the older sibling is quite capable too but disappears for a large stretch before returning for the final moments for a damn decent final stretch. Her scenes at home with her grieving mom and asshole stepfather are fun to watch, the dad is a complete and total jackass - the whole thing reminded me of the Strode family dynamic from HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS. 

Being a slasher film the kills are pretty important, and they are fun but the execution is not the greatest, though I do give the crew high marks for creativity, a few of the deaths involve a fencing sword and my favorite would be the football tipped with the fencing sword and thrown for a touch down in the death zone, that was awesome, but just know going in that the deaths are a bit tame. 

B-movie queen Linnea Quigley (THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) shows up in a small role as a teen who lusts for a goofy lounge-lizard music teacher, her inclusion provides some fun nudity during a pretty great stalk and slash scenario. She's not the only one, there's also some fun nudity in the locker room. The film definitely musters up a a few tense moments and some decent atmosphere which make this cheesy slasher quite a bit of fun. 

The identity of the killer is not the best kept secret despite the plethora of red herrings thrown upon us, it's pretty much given away during the opening scene, but that didn't stop me from enjoying it. Generic though it may be it won me over with the creative kills and general eighties goofiness. One thing that went a long way towards saving it for me was the unique style of editor Martin Sadoff who punched up a few of the sequences with some disorienting editing tricks. 
  
BLU-RAY
GRADUATION DAY (1981) has been afforded a new 4K restoration from 35mm elements from the cult-cinema archivist at Vinegar Syndrome and the end result is quite satisfying. Presented in the correct aspect ratio - for the first time - we can now enjoy this 80s slasher the way it was meant to be seen. The grain structure is nicely managed with accurate skin tones and vibrant color reproduction with a pleasing amount of depth clarity. There's some white speckling throughout but overall the 35mm answer print used for the restoration is in fantastic shape. 

The DTS-HD MA Mono does a decent job exporting the dialogue, score and effects of the film with some minimal hiss and pop, you will no doubt be rocking out to the sweet eighties sounds of rockers Felony all night long. No subtitles are provided.

Onto the extras we have the option of two commentaries, one with Producer David Baughn and a second with The Hysteria Continues Podcast crew who know a thing or two about slasher films. At this point I have only listened to the Hysteria Continues track and can conform that is both fun and informative and I highly recommend fans of slashers subscribe to their podcast. 


There are also thirty-minutes of interviews with director Herb Freed, actress Patch McKenzie, producer David Baughn and editor Martin Sardoff, plus the original theatrical trailer. 

SPECIAL FEATURES:
- BD/DVD Combo Pack
- 4K Restoration from the Editor’s 35mm Answer Print 
- Video interview with Director Herb Freed (12 Minutes) HD
- Video interview with Star Patch Mackenzie (9 Minutes) HD
- Video interview with Producer David Baughn (12 Minutes) HD
- Video interview with Editor Martin Sadoff (7 Minutes) HD
- Commentary track with Producer David Baughn moderated by Elijah Drenner (12 Minutes) HD

- Commentary track with The Hysteria Continues
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2 Minutes) 


VERDICT:

While there are quite a few better crafted slashers with gorier kills but this one is just so eighties and goofy I cannot help but love it, plus we have Christopher George classing it up. A fun high school slasher and recommend for fans of slasher whodunits. Vinegar Syndrome have done a great job cleaning this up and presenting it with some entertaining extras with superior audio and video - this is the definitive edition of this one. Great to see Vinegar Syndrome branching out from the vintage porn and restoring a few cult horror films. The Christmas cult-classic CHRISTMAS EVIL is available now and the b-movie masterpiece DON'T GO N THE WOOD in 2015. 

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