Sunday, June 5, 2022

STRANGLER VS STRANGLER (1984) (Mondo Macabro Blu-ray Review)


Label: Mondo Macabro 
Duration: 96 Minutes 
Rating: Unrated 
Region Code: A
Audio: Serbian & English-dub PCM 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director:  Slobodan Šijan
Cast:  Taško Načić, Nikola Simić, Srđan Šaper, Rahela Ferari, Sonja Savić, Radmila Savicević, Maria Baxa, Pavle Minćić
This offbeat serial killer flick is set in the mid-1980s in the Serbian city of Belgrade, a burgeoning metropolis that's missing one important elements that would put it on the level of places like New York, Paris and London - a noteworthy serial killer. The film starts off like a documentary with narration that depicts previous attempts of locals to establish themselves as metropolis worthy peepers, robbers, rapists, and murderers - all of which have failed to attain the notoriety required. 

We are then introduced to a deranged flower seller named 
Pera Mitic (Peter in the English version), played by Taško Načić, who frustrated by an overbearing and abusive mother, begins strangling women on the streets of Belgrade, at least those who have refused to buy his carnations. Načić is pretty great in the manic role of the schlubby killer, equal parts Peter Lorre (Mad Love) and Sydney Lassick (The Unseen), a bug-eyed nut who takes offense to the women's lack of interest in his homegrown flowers, 

With his boy count grows it seems that Belgrade finally has a serial killer that seems Metropolis-worthy, but as his notoriety grows a local new wave rocker named Spiridon (Srdjan Saperbe) becomes obsessed with the murder. The awkward teen rocker pens a song and releases a single dedicated to “The Belgrade Strangler”, praising him, much to the chagrin of a local DJ who is appalled by the song and the killer who inspired it. In the wake of the hit song and the notorious series of strangling The Belgrade Strangler finds he has some spirited competition, that's right, it's stranger versus strangler! 

The tone of the film is offbeat, it's a black comedy that does deft work balancing it's thriller elements with a macabre sense of humor, with the deranged carnation strangler Pera racking up quite a body count, while the Clouzot-esque 
Inspector Ognjen (Nikola Simic), sporting a goofy Hitler moustache for some reason, comes onboard to sleuth the killer, but becoming so obsessed himself that he ends up in the sanitarium for a spell. 

Strangler vs Stranglers offers a delirious mix of horror and pitch black comedy that is so very watchable, an absolute delight, I've seen it three times now and it gets better with each watch. This is a very well-made and well-acted slice of deranged serial killer comedy, and it comes highly recommended, particularly if you have a taste  for offbeat serial killer films along the lines of Man Bites Dog (1992), Serial Mom (1994), American Psycho (2000), and The Greasy Strangler (2016), but it's still quite unique in it's own way.  

Audio/Video: Strangler vs Strangler (1984) arrives on Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro in 1080p HD framed in 1.85:1 widescreen, sourced from a new 2K scan and restoration of the original camera negative. It's a very attractive looking transfer with organic grain qualities, deep blacks and strong colors that look accurate and well saturated. A few of the opening scenes show some wear and fade but it's momentary and generally is quite pleasing throughout. Audio comes by way of original Serbian PCM 2.0 mono and English-dubbed PCM 2.0 mono with optional English subtitles, both sound great. I thought the dubbed English was more slightly more robust and potent, but it's dubbed and the sync is not perfection.

Extras include a brand new audio commentary from author Dejan Ognjanović and director Igor Stanojević, a half-hour on-camera interview with the director, plus the always stunning Mondo Macabro Preview Reel that never fails to wow. The single-disc standard release version arrives in a standard keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork. 

Special Features:
- Brand new 2k restoration from original negative.
- New interview with director Slobodan Šijan (30 min) 
- Audio commentary from Dejan Ognjanović and Igor Stanojević
- Rare English language version
- Mondo Macabro Previews (13 min) 

Screenshots from the Mondo Macabro Blu-ray: