Friday, September 27, 2013

Blu-ray Review: AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL (1972) Deluxe Limited Edition 3-Disc Set

Deluxe Limited Edition 3-Disc Set 

Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 93 Minutes 
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 1.0, English Dolby Digital 5.1 with Optional Hebrew Subtitles 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Amos Sefer 
Cast: Asher Tzarfati, Schuel Wolf, Shmuel Wolf, Tzila Karney

Synopsis: Originally filmed in 1972, AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL stars Asher Tzarfati as a dope-smoking Vietnam vet wandering through an insane desert landscape of “machine-gun wielding mimes, robots, bloodthirsty sharks, free-loving debauchery and poignant anti-war monologues”.

An American hippie Mike (Asher Tzarfati) arrives in Israel after a gut-churning stint in Viet Nam to spread love and peace when he's picked-up alongside the road 
by Elizabeth (Lily Avidan) and pretty soon the two meet-up with like-minded free loving hippies where they engage in free-love and folk-singing until two evil machine gun-toting mimes arrive at their love shack (a warehouse) and spray the room with hippie-ending hot lead. The only survivors are Mike, Elizabeth and a young couple (actors Shmuel Wolf and Tzila Karney), they flee the carnage at the warehouse and end-up on a stony outcrop of an island, it's just a barren rock of a place with only the ruins of an ancient building atop a small hill. It's here that the four hippies convince themselves that this is the place where they can escape from the hate of the world and live in peace far from the corruption of society... until they realize that they're stranded and have no food and no water to sustain themselves, things devolve quickly and it's not too long until our free-thinking hippies transform from peace-lovers into barbaric cave-men leading to an apocalyptic end.

What a weird watch, his is 70's hippie cult cinema at it's worst (or best, you decide), full of nutty hippie monologues about living free and loaded with anti-war rants, ya it's a bunch of dope-smoking hippie bullshit and the dialogue is delivered in the most deliciously awful straight-faced way, these guys were serious about what they were doing, they just weren't doing it very well, the acting is straight-up awful but it's fun in a bad cinema sorta way, if you love shitty films I am pretty sure I just watched you're next favorite film. It's pretty fun stuff as only a bad movie can be, unintentionally funny, with shitty production values with some entertaining low-rent surrealism tossed-in plus some wonderful nudity, which almost (but not really) made-up for the ear-shredding folk soundtrack. 

Blu-ray: It's been quite awhile since we've seen a home video release from Grindhouse Releasing and for their initial Blu-ray offering they've unearthed quite a rarity, a film I have never heard of until they announced it, a very strange cult obscurity that gets it's first-ever home video release of any kind. The psychedelic oddity, which is limited to just 2,000 individually numbered copies is presented in 1080 widescreen (1.78:1) with an AVC encode and it's not he most pristine 1080 image you've ever seen but it looks pretty nice for what it is, and what it is is a super low-budget cult film hat's been sitting around for forty years gathering dust, the hi-def restoration can only do so much and this is a fairly flat hi-def presentation, there are some occasional  moments of depth but don't expect too much, okay. Colors are faded and the contrast is poor, the print itself is is decent shape, there's some minor scratches and instances of dirt and white specks but it's not too shabby. 

There are two audio options, an English language DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track and the Bonus 5.1 Audio Track - The Beverly Cinema Experience, which puts you right in the theater seat watching the films with an audience, a nice option when you're feeling lonely and wish you had some like minded friends to watch movies with, pretty neat. The mono track like the image is pretty flat and not dynamic at all, the dialogue was dubbed so it has that odd disconnect which might actually enhance the viewing of this particular film, it's a strange trip.  

Grindhouse does not disappoint with the extras, pretty extensive stuff for such a strange and obscure title, that's why we love Grindhouse Releasing, a;ways going the extra mile! This is a 3-disc set, a Blu-ray and DVD featuring the theatrical film and extras, mirrored on both discs. A third disc, available exclusively on the limited edition 3-disc set, features the longer running uncensored director's cut with burned-in Hebrew subtitles presented in fullframe (1.33:1), the video and audio quality is pretty shabby, it makes for a fun grindhouse viewing, warts and all. 

There's also screen test without an audio track, nearly an hour's worth of interviews with co-stars with Asher Tzarfati and Shmuel Wolf recorded in 2009, interviews with actress/singer Susan Devore (7:08) and assistant production manager Moshe Berman (4:00), a Channel 10 Tel Avi News Segment (10:22)A Cult Is Born - Featurette On Revival In Tel Aviv (4:09), a poor quality 16mm short film called Be Careful Children by Amos Sefer (6:53), Asher Tzarfati - An Israeli Actor In Israel - Bonus Featurette (17:53), the aforementioned Beverly Experience 5.1 audio track and Liner Notes By Acclaimed Horror Novelist John Skipp and a couple of fun Easter Eggs if you have the urge to seek them out, I recommend that you do, one of 'em is pretty funny. 

Special Features: 
- Spectacular New Hi-Definition Digital Restoration Of The Original U.S. Theatrical Version

 - THE HITCHHIKER, The Uncensored Director's Cut
- Six Controversial Scenes Deleted From The Original Release (10:05)
- In-depth Interviews With Stars Asher Tzarfati And Shmuel Wolf (56:08
- Asher Tzarfati - An Israeli Actor In Israel - Bonus Featurette (17:53)
- Interview With Production Manager Moshe Berman (4:00)
- Interview With Singer/Co-Star Susan Devore (7:08)
- Channel 10 Tel Avi News Segment (10:22)
- A Cult Is Born - Featurette On Revival In Tel Aviv (4:09)
- 16mm Screen Tests (9:11)
- Be Careful Children - Amos Sefer 16mm Short Film (6:53)
- Bonus 5.1 Audio Track - The Beverly Cinema Experience 
- Liner Notes By Acclaimed Horror Novelist John Skipp
- Still Galleries (5:00)
- Trailer (3:02)
- Filmographies
- Optional Hebrew Sub-Titles
- Grindhouse Releasing Prevues Of Coming Attractions
- Easter Eggs 

Verdict: Certainly a wacky watch, I enjoyed it and strongly recommend this to the brave devourers of strange cinema, definitely a drunken group viewing with weirdo friends, I can see this appealing to fans of such disparate filmmakers as Ed Wood (Plan 9 from Outer Space), Alejandro Jodorowsky (Holy Mountain) and Jose Mojica Marins (Coffin Joe), whom are all different but equally strange directors who've gifted the world with surreal slices of cinema. Honestly, not a huge fan of the film, it's pretty shit but that's exactly what's so damn enjoyable about it. It's a pretty great set from Grindhouse Releasing, great to see 'em back on the market with new and weird stuff, even if I can think of about a few hundred other films I'd rather see get the deluxe Blu-ray treatment. Speaking of which, up next from Grindhouse Releasing is the Peter Cushing horror-shocker Corruption (1967) making it's U.S. debut on home video! 2.75 Outta 5