Tuesday, September 29, 2015

ANGST (1983) (Cult Epics Blu-ray Review)

ANGST (1983)

Label: Cult Epics

Region Code: 
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 87 Minutes
Audio: German DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, German DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo, French DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Gerald Kargl 
Cast: Erwin Leder, Sylvia Rabenreither, Edith Rossett, Rudolf Gotz, Robert Hunger-Bihler

The Gerald Kargl directed film Angst (1983) begins with a psychopath having just being released from prison after serving time for the unprovoked shooting of an elderly actress. Now set free he walks the unfamiliar streets of Vienna looking for an opportunity to kill again. His mad thoughts and murderous intentions are expressed through first-person narration as he sits in a diner chewing schnitzel while fantasizing about the murder of two young women. When this fantasy proves to not be an option he leaves and hails a taxi, while in the backseat he pulls a shoelace from his shoe with the intention of strangling the woman driver, but when he is about to make his move the driver catches him in the rear view mirror, slamming on the breaks and forcing onto the street.

Once again he finds himself walking the unfamiliar streets, when through an open gate he takes note of a large home set away from the street - perhaps a perfect opportunity for a bit of the old ultra-violence, away from prying eyes of the streets. He sneaks around the perimeter of the home looking for signs of anyone at home, when he is satisfied no one is home breaks into the house, inside he finds a handicapped man in a wheelchair (Rudolf Götz) who poses no immediate threat. He explores the home while he waits for someone else to arrive, so he can satisfy his hunger for violence. A short time later an old woman (Edith Rosset) and who I assume to be her daughter (Silvia Rabenreither) arrive, not realizing an intruder is in their home the disturbed killer unleashes his fury upon them. 

Angst is also known as Schizophrenia, which is a more appropriate title, the murderer is clearly disturbed and not in full control of his actions. Actor Erwin Leder is disturbingly brilliant in the role of the psychopath, maybe channeling a little bit of the bug-eyed madman Klaus Kinski into his performance, which is unsettling to say the least, the way the violence is portrayed is honest, it's awkward and messy, the strange camerawork from Oscar-winning cinematographer Zbig Rybczynski makes you complicit in the killings in a way, you feel dirty, and the dizzying POV perfectly conveys the inherent insanity of the main character. Leder does a lot with very little dialogue, instead we have a lot of that first-person narration as the unsavory events play out, set to the pulsing electronic score of Tangerine Dream synth pioneer Klaus Schulze. 

The invalid young man is drown in a tub without mercy, while the women are dispatched of more viscerally, the attack on the old woman for a moment brought to mind Alex's attack on the cat-lady from Stanley Kubrick 'A Clockwork Orange', the younger woman frees herself from her bondage only to be dragged down and sliced open, the sexually excited killer pulling his pants down in excitement and drinking blood from her neck wounds, it is harrowing stuff, and it makes for an uncomfortable viewing experience, thanks in no small part to the intense performance from Erwin Leder. 

Audio/Video: Angst comes to Blu-ray in the U.S. courtesy of distributors Cult Epics with a solid AVC encoded transfer, presenting the movie with a very nice layer of film grain, the movie is mostly crisp and sharp but does show some softness at times with some minor white speckling from time to time, but looks pretty fantastic on Blu-ray. The disc offers three audio options, we have German DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround and 2.0 Stereo, plus a French DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo option. As per the suggestion of Gaspar Noé I went with the French option, but switched back and forth throughout. Dialogue and score are crisp and clean, the electronic score from Krautrock legend Klaus Schulze (of Tangerine Dream) sounds best to my ears on the French audio options, optional English subtitles are provided. 

The release from Cult Epics is stuffed with extras beginning with optional playback of the movie with or without the prologue, offering some insight into the mind of the characters early life and the contributing factors that lead to his mental illness. There's also a fan appreciation from Director Gaspar Noé (Into the Void) who admits to having watched the movie at least forty times.

There's also a new 21-minute interview with star Erwin Leder, plus vintage interviews with cinematographer Zbigniew Rybzcynski from 2004 and an interview with director Gerald Kargl by Jorg Buttgeriet (Nekromantik). Kargl also shows up in an Audio Commentary by conducted by film critic Marcus Stiglegger.

There's also a pretty hefty card stock 40 page booklet containing print interviews with Gerald Kargl, Erwin Ledger, Sylvia Babenreither. It is also illustrated with rare behind-the-scenes photographs, plus a macabre collection of the original Werner Kniesek murder news articles with English translations for each one. Additionally we have a collectible Blu-ray slipcase cover

Special Features:

- New HD Transfer
- Optional playback with or without Prologue
- New Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
- Introduction by Gaspar Noé (2012)
- Featurette: Erwin Leder in Fear (2015) (21 Mins) HD 
- Interview with Gerald Kargl by Jorg Buttgeriet (2003) (27 Mins) 
- Interview with cinematographer Zbigniew Rybzcynski (2004) (34 Mins) 
- Audio Commentary by Gerald Kargl conducted by film critic Marcus Stiglegger
- New HD Trailers: Schramm (3 Mins) HD, Angst (2 Mins) HD 
- 40 Page Booklet includes Interviews with Gerald Kargl, Erwin Ledger, Sylvia Babenreither. Illustrated with Rare Photographs and Werner Kniesek Original Killer Articles
- Collectible Blu-ray Slipcase and Sleeve

Angst is intense stuff, well-directed and attractively shot, it seems so strange that this is not a film I had even heard of before the announcement by Cult Epics a few months back. Director Gerald Kargl would never again direct a film after this one, which is a damn shame, he crafted a visceral slice of cinema shot with a steady hand and with a unique voice. The movie came out at the peak of the '80s slasher cycle, and sort of fits into it in a way with the stalking and slashing, but this goes way deeper, it;'s a character study of a killer that predated Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) by a few years, and stands an an equal to it in every way. Cult Epics have assembled a Criterion-worthy release that goes beyond even their already excellent Nekromantik Blu-rays. 4/5