Saturday, June 5, 2021

TOURIST TRAP: UNCUT (1979) (Full Moon Blu-ray Review)


Label: Full Moon Features
Region Code: Region-Free
Duration: 90 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround with No Subtitles 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: David Scmoeller
Cast: Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Keith McDermott, Dawn Jeffory, Jon Van Ness, Robin Sherwood, Tanya Roberts

A group of teens on a road trip through the back roads of Texas end up stranded on the side of the road when their VW Things breaks down near a defunct roadside attraction, a place called Slausen's Desert Oasis. There the girls in the group skinny-dip in a small pond before the shotgun-toting proprietor Mr. Slausen shows up and warns them not to wander around the area at night, as there are dangers. The old man offers them refuge for the night at his creepy wax museum, the down side being that the teens end up being picked off one at a time Slausen's demented brother, a weirdo with telekinetic powers and a predilection for wearing creepy mannequin styled masks.

Tourist Trap is a creepy PG chiller that scared the bejeezus outta me when I was younger, but I find it considerably less frightening these days, but its still a weird bit of cult-cinema that wears it's love for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The House of Wax on it's sleeve. Chuck Connors (TV's Werewolf) indulges his inner creep here as not only the troubled proprietor of a wax museum, but in a dual role as his evil brother, giving a thoroughly unhinged performance, much of it from behind a series of masks, at least one of which has a distinct Leatherface vibe about it. The killer here is telepathically gifted, deeply disturbed, and likes to put on deadly puppet shows with an assortment of mannequins on the property - some of which are quite unsettling, and the shrill cackling voices that accompanies the performances are unnerving.

The group of teens is pretty serviceable, we have Molly (Jocelyn Jones, The Enforcer) is the mousy one of the bunch, which you can tell because she wears a friggin' bonnet. Then you have the sex-bomb Becky, played by the late Tanya Roberts, The Beastmaster, a total hottie with electric blue-eyes, rocking a pair of cut-off jean shorts and an overstuffed halter-top. I was rooting for Becky to the final girl, but Robin Sherwood (The Love Butcher) makes for a a very solid final girl as Eileen.

The effects are pretty low-budget but effective for the time. we have lots of animated mannequins with hinged jaws that frightened me a bunch as a kid, and it's still pretty dang creepy. The late Bob Burns who worked on Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes did some of the special effects as well as the set-dressing for this film, and it is similarly sparse and dark looking, and gives the flick an unnerving scuzzy vibe with more than a few similarities to the Sawyer House from TCM.   

Audio/Video: The new uncut, remastered Blu-ray from Full Moon is presented in 1080p and framed in 1.78:1 widescreen. The low-budget chiller a looks good, though it does have a few issues beginning with a very soft and gauzy shooting style which doesn't result in the most razor-sharp image you've ever seen on the HD format. Compression flattens fine detail, as it's already a grainy looking film shot on the cheap with poor lighting conditions the artrifacting certainly doesn't do it any favors. That said the source is in good shape with very few blemishes, though it does look like there are upsampled standard definition inserts to give us the complete, uncut version of the film, and they do look considerably worse, which I am fine with that if no other elements were available. Colors looks natural throughout, skin tones are pleasing and the black levels are nice and deep, but the restoration and encoding certainly could have been better. 

Again, Full Moon go with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround in place of the industry standard uncompressed  DTS-HD, which is always unfortunate. Things as they are come off clean and well-balanced, but Pino Donaggio's score would have benefited greatly from an uncompressed boost. As it is the 5.1 offers only modest depth and channel separation, so I suggest sticking with the 2.0 stereo which more effective and truer sounding. 

Extras include an archival audio commentary from director David Schmoeller who talks about the good and bad of making the low-budget production, and covers a lot of ground. There's also the handsomely produced 25-minute documentary from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures Exit Through the Chop Shop: The Making of Tourist Trap, which is comprised of a half hour interview with Schmoeller inter-cut with clips from the film and behind-the-scenes images, covering much of the same ground as the commentary. The director gets into the casting, the origins of the project, the production and the performance of the film at the cinema, and he gets into how Bob Burns sent handwritten letters to his friends and family notifying them of his reason that he committed suicide, and how the letter was how he found out about Burns suicide. Additionally there's a 3-minute still gallery of script pages, lobby cards, movie posters and home video releases, plus a selection of rare Full Moon trailers, some of them VHS sourced. 

The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork. The new red-tinted artwork feels a bit chintzy to be honest, compared to the original artwork featured on the initial cut-version Blu-ray that Full Moon issued back in 2014. I do wish they'd included a reversible artwork with the original movie poster design as an alternative, but it is what it is. The same artwork is also featured on the Blu-ray disc inside. 

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary by Director David Schmoeller 
- Exit Through the Chop Shop: The Making of Tourist Trap - Interview with David Schmoeller (25 min) 
- Still Gallery (4 min) 
- Trailers: Tourist Trap (2 min), Blade: The Iron Cross (2 min), Crash and Burn (1 min), Crash! (4 min), Intruder (2 min), Mansion of the Doomed (2 min), Prehysteria! (2 min), Shrunken Heads (2 min), Weedjies! Halloweed Night (2 min) 

Tourist Trap is a PG-rated horror film with very little blood and no gore whatsoever but it does have a generous amount of creepy atmosphere thanks in part to the Pino Donaggio (Blow Out) orchestral score and some decent cinematography. It loses points for what I would say is the overly obvious identity of the killer, but it still wins me over with how weird and demented it is, a very strange film, and it is great to have it on Blu-ray in it's complete and fully uncut version for the first time in the U.S.. 

Screenshots from the Full Moon Blu-ray:



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