Monday, May 18, 2015

SATAN'S BLADE (1984)


SATAN'S BLADE (1984) 

Label: Olive Films/Slasher//Video
Rating: R
Duration: 82 Minutes
Video: HD 1.33:1 Full Frame 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Director: L. Scott Castillo Jr
Cast: Tom Bongiorno, Stephanie Leigh Steel, Thomas Cue, Romona Andrada, Diane Taylor, Ski Mark Ford

Satan's Blade (1984) is a movie I have long wanted to see but never could find, the title has been written on a scrap of paper I carry in my wallet alongside about a dozen other obscure movies I am looking for, now it is making it's DVD/BD debut courtesy of team-up between Slasher//Video and Olive Films. Watching it now I can say that fans of trashy cult cinema are in for quite a '80s treat, a somewhat corny supernatural slasher hybrid dripping with blood, boobs and all the standard tropes you would expect from an early slasher cycle entry. 

We begin with a bank robbery, two gunmen enter a bank and force the bank tellers to hand over the cash, but not before forcing one to partially undress at knife point. It appears were heading into a rapey direction until the robbers shoot the tellers dead, their death scenes are deliciously over-acted, which totally sets the pace for this cheesy stab-a-thon. The robbers make off with the loot to a rental cabin in the mountains and we discover the thieving murderers are a pair or young ladies, which I thought was a nice touch. At the cabin we get plenty of awful acting and an eyeful of titty before the maybe-lesbians turn on each other with one shooting the other. While removing the body the back-stabber is stabbed in the back by an unseen assailant, which seems appropriate. 

The local cops arrive on the scene and we get some back story about a similar crime occurring in the area some fourteen years earlier. Now arriving at the cabins are two groups of twenty-somethings looking for a holiday weekend of fun, now that we have our victims we need the harbinger of doom, enter the mother of the property manager who goes on about the local legend of a cursed mountain man who lives in the mountains and kills trespassers, which sort of puts the group on edge, but not enough to deter them from staying at the very same cabin where the girls were murdered just the night before!

From here we get some very minimal character development establishing the two of the couples who are staying in one of the cabins. We definitely know that one of theme are always hungry and the other one is way beyond faithful to his slightly annoying wife, despite a very strong and persuasive come-on from one women staying in the cabin next door. Other than that we don't get much more fleshing-out of the characters, but in a corny slasher film none is needed. I thought the overly faithful husband was a nice touch, in fact most of the group are decent people, no one is so vile you just cannot wait for them to die, maybe because they're such awful actors no one could muster up enough character to come off as a horrible person. 

Pretty soon the groups find themselves being stalked by a knife-wielding madman who takes them out one by one, a pretty typical slasher formula. Unfortunately the deaths are uninspired with no gore but at least we get a decent amount of bloodshed. The murders are disappointing but there are a few nice touches to the story, the aforementioned tale of the cursed mountain man inspires a nightmare, in an evil looking mountain man murders the girls in the cabin, it's a fun stuff, and probably the most suspenseful and best shot sequence in the film. 

Technically this is a mess of poor editing, poor pacing and even poorer acting, you sort of have to be a bad film buff to enjoy it, heck out that sweet cameo from boom mic, but somehow it limps along just barely getting by on a heady concoction of blood, titties and a trashy synthesizer score, the usual low-budget 80's slasher aesthetic. I also loved that is was somewhat set in the snow-covered mountains, the snow coverage seems patchy at times but I do love snowbound horror and I will take it where I can find it. Unfortunately the slasher elements while there are sub-par and that combined with the low-rent production will turn many of the less adventurous viewers away. However, if you're an intrepid movie fan and crave obscure eighties slashers this might be a fun watch, one best viewed with friends and large quantities of alcohol.

Audio/Video: Satan's Blade arrives on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time ever courtesy of a Slasher//Video and Olive Films team-up, a brand new transfer minted from a 2K scan of a 35mm print. Presented in the original 1.33:1 framing the film is surprisingly good looking, way better that what  had expected. There's some print damage and deterioration by way of speckling and scratches but overall the restoration looks great. While not on par with a modern film I think fans will be quite surprised by the quality of the HD image, just keep in mind that 1080p cannot makeup for the low-budget limitations of the source material. The same can be said for the DTS-HD MA 2.0, source material imperfections like poorly recorded sound and distorted screams are evident throughout and are the product of the source material and original audio mix, with the synth score drowning the dialogue and effects. 

Onto the extras on the disc we have quite an assortment, way more than one has come to expect from Olive Films, pretty sure we can thank Jesus Terden and the Slasher//Video crew for this. There are two on-camera interviews with director L. Scott Castillo Jr. totalling about 50 minutes in length. The director provides some history about the creation, making and distribution of the film, including some shady distribution practices. He seems like quite a character is enthused to be talking about the movie some thirty years after the fact, showing off a 35mm film can and reels of the film, two incarnations of the film on VHS and assorted artwork and ephemera. He speaks about the original VHS artwork also being used for the film Satan's Blood, which he was not happy about, and  then shows off a Dutch poster for Satan's Blade that seems to use cropped artwork from William Lustig's Maniac (1980), there seems to have been a lot of strange and shady distribution practices back in the day, and I am sure there still are.   

Additionally there scenes from the both the Dutch and Japanese VHS releases, which appeared identical to me but do serve to point out what a nice restoration Slasher//Video and Olive Films have afforded it. There are also two selection of music from the film, a scrapbook of behind-the-scene pics and a gallery of images, including various VHS artwork and the original reversible artwork planned for this 30th Anniversary release, which unfortunately didn't happen. 

Special Features:
- Director's Narrative with L. Scott Castillo Jr. and Jesus Terden (16 Mins) 
- Remembering Satan's Blade (33 Mins) 
- Photo Gallery (11 Mins) 
- Satan's Blade Scrapbook (3 Mins) 
- Dutch Home Video Scene (2 Mins) 
- Japanese Home Video Scene (14 Mins) 
- Instrumental I(1 Min) 
- Instrumental II (1 Min) 
- Satan's Blade Trailer (1 Min) 

Slasher//Video and Olive Films have afforded this z-grade slasher a very fine restoration that is honestly far beyond what it may deserve, which is not to say that Satan's Blade is without a certain low-budget charm, to a certain sub sect of trash cinema fans this is guaranteed to be a ton of slashery goodness. There's no doubt the die-hard slasher fans will want this one on their movie shelf and I congratulate both Slasher//Video and Olive Films for bringing this obscure slasher to Blu-ray for the first time. I am eagerly looking forward to what this team-up brings forth next. 3/5

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