Sunday, July 19, 2015

DER TODESKING (1990)

DER TODESKING (1990) 
Label: Cult epics
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 76 Minutes
Audio: German Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Fulsscreen (1.33:1) 
Director: Jorg Buttgereit
Cast: Bela B., Hermann Kopp, Heinrich Ebber, Michael Krause, Eva-Maria Kurz, Angelika Hoch, Nicholas Petche, Susanne Betz, Mark Reeder, Hille Saul, Ades Zabel, Jörg Buttgereit

Buttgereit's follow-up to Nekromantik is a series of seven vignettes that are all driven my the theme of death and suicide, which probably won't come as a surprise fort anyone familiar with the Nekromantik movies, the smell of death was strong on both. This time out however there's far less emphasis on the gore as we are treated to seven entries, each happening on a different day of the week. The anthology of death is framed by both the drawing of the "Death King" figure by a young girl which both open and close the story, plus the interstitial scene of a decomposing corpse. 


Each short vignette is a tiny slice of arthouse macabre, in the first story taking place on Monday a young man comes home and writes a suicide note before downing a handful of drugs and drowning himself. On Tuesday a young man returns home from the VHS rental shop with a naziploitation film, his girlfriend comes home and starts to argue with him, he takes pistol and blows her brains against the wall. This one has a nice movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie framing that I enjoyed, and the naziploitation movie is another Buttgereit creation with a gristly castration scene which is by several measures the most grotesque scene in the film aside from the transitional decomposition scenes. 

Come Wednesday a man and a woman are seated on a park bench having a discussion about his miserable life and the death of his lover at his hands, the segment was brief and didn't do much for me. On Thursday we have a haunting entry bereft of any onscreen characters, instead we have long tracking shots of a notorious bridge in Germany, as the camera glides over it from multiple angles the names and occupation of various suicides who leaped to their deaths from it appear onscreen, it's an affecting piece of minimalism. 

The weekend arrives with Friday as a lonely woman eats chocolate in her apartment, she occasionally spies the young lovers across the way through her window as they are wrapped up in each others arms. When she receives a chain letter at her door encouraging her to kill herself things take a turn for the worse for someone, this one takes an unexpected detour and doesn't go quite where you might expect, we are also treated to a strange dream from an encounter during the woman's youth. 

Saturday brings a young woman busy in her apartment strapping a camera rig to her body before attending a rock concert where she goes on a murderous shooting spree, for some reason this one brought to mind the unfortunate murder of Pantera's Dimebag Darrell which added a bit more weight to it. The week of death ends with a troubled young man alone in his apartment, he lays in bed crying for reasons unknown. He crawls along the floor to a nearby wall where he smashes his head repeatedly against the hard surface, screaming a series of anguished cries before succumbing to the head trauma he has inflicted upon himself, it's a chilling entry and I got the feeling he was not quite right in the head, there's an unsettling realism about it.

While the anthology of death lacks the visceral punch of Nekromantik carries with it a haunting and heavy weight, and again it falls into the arthouse horror category of Nekromantik> while the results are a bit uneven it is unsettling across the board, infused with confusion and sadness, and it definitely strikes a chord that stays with you for a while. 

Cult Epics have been doing a fantastic job with the Jorge Buttgereit releases, presenting Der Todesking on uncut on DVD/BD for the first time with a new HD master struck from the original 16mm negative. Having never watched the VHS I can only surmise that this is quite a uptick in A/V quality with some nice heavy grain and clarity. The German language score comes by way of both a Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 and a more immersive Surround Sound 5.1 option with optional English subtitles. The mix is solid and well-balanced but not that notable, a lossless audio option would have been appreciated but considering the low-budget nature of the movie I think the Dolby Digital options are suitable. 

Onto the extras we have a new Introduction by Jorg Buttgereit plus an audio commentary by Jorg Buttgereit and co-author Franz Rodenkirchen. A 15-minute making of documentary that goes into the making of the movie and creating the shots and special effects used in the making of the film, including the castration scene and the decomposing corpse seen throughout. 

Also included on the disc is the documentary Corpse Fucking Art which goes into the making of Nekromantik, Nekromantik 2 and Der Todesking, plus a collection of Buttgereit trailers, a still gallery and the option to listen to the complete score for the film. 

The first 3000 copies of the Blu-ray include a limited edition 25th anniversary silver foil slipcase plus a Corpse Fucking Art postcard 


Special Features: 
- New Director’s Approved HD transfer (taken from the original 16mm negative)
- New Introduction by Jorg Buttgereit (2015) (1 Mins) 
- Audio Commentary by Jorg Buttgereit and co-author Franz Rodenkirchen
- The Making of Der Todesking (15 Mins) 
- Still Photo Gallery (13 Mins) 
- Jorg Buttgereit HD Trailers: Nekromantik (2 Mins), Nekromantic 2 (2 Mins), Der Todesking (2 Mins), Schramm (2 Mins), Hot Love (1 Mins), Corpse Fucking Art (1 Mins), Angst (3 Mins) 
- Corpse Fucking Art (Documentary) (58 Mins) HD
- Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (28 Mins)

Der Todesking (1990) (aka The Death King) is a haunting meditation on death and a pretty compelling watch for fans of a Jorge Buttgereit's certain type of macabre cinema, while not quite as grotesque or shocking as Nekromantik this is still not for everyone, but it's certainly a interesting slice of arthouse depression. Coming in between Nekromantik and Nekromantik 2 you can see here the advancements Buttgereit was making in form and technique that he applied to the superior Nekromantik 2, which has me excited to check out his follow-up Schramm: Into the Mind of a Serial Killer (1993), which I hope we will see coming from Cult Epics next. 2.5/5  

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