Saturday, July 23, 2022

L.A. AIDS JABBER (1994) (Visual Vengeance Collector's Edition Blu-ray)

a/k/a JABBER 
Visual Vengeance Collector's Edition Blu-ray

Label: Visual Vengeance
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 78 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Fullscreen (1.33:1) OAR
Director: Drew Godderis 
Cast: Jason Majik, Marcy Lynn, Justin Mack, Joy Yurada, Gene Webber 

L.A. AIDS Jabber (1994) a/k/a Jabber has long been one of the rarest and difficult-to-find exploitation movies of the SOV era - so much so that I'd only heard of it and never actually seen it until today. Supposedly the only previous home video release was a self-financed released by director-writer-producer Drew Godderis (Uncle Namtut from Blood Diner). The simple but heinous bad-taste story involves a mentally unstable young man named Jeff (Jason Majik, A Dangerous Place) who has been diagnosed with having AIDS by his doctor. Unable to figure out how he contracted the disease he unleashes his directionless anger and frustration upon the L.A. community, filling a hypodermic needle with his own tainted blood and needle-jabbing victims on the seedy streets of L.A.! 

Arriving at the height of the AIDS epidemic this nasty little flick was a pretty timely slice of exploitation, with our acid-washed denim clad AIDS-jabber venting his frustration upon an unsuspecting public, at a time when there truly was a public panic hysteria about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I clearly recall it being on my mind quite a bit as a teen on through my twenties, and the kernel of the idea is exploitation gold, the timing was perfection, even if the execution leaves much to be desired.  A pair of cops are on the case, after a series of needle-jabbings on the street they slowly put the pieces together, but can they stop this angry needle-jabbing Jeff before he infects others with his disease? 

I think this has a very interesting set-up, the idea might have been ripped from the headlines as I now there have been numerous people through the years who knew they were HIV positive and purposely infected multiple partners with it. This HIV terrorism is not unheard of by any means, sadly, but I think this bad-taste gem was ahead of it's time, as I could not find a case that pre-dated it, though to be honest I did not research it all that much - who needs that in their Google browser history? That kernel of idea, even if it's not super fleshed out here, was enough to carry me through the film even with it's myriad technical and storytelling shortcomings. The best stuff for me was the idea and it's exploitation, how angry the character of Jeff was, the shocker punch line at the finale, and a pretty bad-ass score that was out of this movie's league, I sort of wish we had a CD soundtrack for it as an extra - someone out there needs to do a 7" single at least!  

Audio/Video: L.A. AIDS Jabber (1994) improbably arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Visual Vengeance, the premium arm of Wild Eye Releasing, in 1080p HD in the original fullscreen (1.33:1) aspect ratio, sourced from archival master taken from master SD tape. The dated source shows it's crapulence with interlacing video, its murky... it's 90's videotape and looks like a cruddy VHS but hey, it's watchable, 'nuff said. Audio on the disc is lossy (not lousy) Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English subtitles. The audio is decent but not great, mic-ing is not always on-point but it was serviceable enough and the dialogue was always discernable, though I appreciated the subtitle option. 

We get a thoroughly fantastic set of extras for L.A. AIDS Jabber which should please viewers with a probative nature, starting off with both a new 1-min Intro and Audio Commentary Track with Director Drew Godderis moderated by Robert Hauschild from Wild Eye Releasing. It's a solid track that gets into writing the script in a Winchell's donut shop, the director's connection to Fred Olen Ray, casting, shooting locations, and some fun stories about the making of this scrappy bit of filmmaking. Godderis also shows up for the 10-minute Lethal Injection: The Making of L.A. AIDS Jabber in which he talks about how he got the Blood Diner role through his connection with Fred Olen Ray, other films he acted in like Evil Spawn, Deep Space and Cannibal Hookers, and having to quit acting when his wife died to raise his 2-year old children, but then getting into writing/producing/directing with this film, and lots of great stories about the challenges of making this one. 

Next up, the 16-minute L.A. AIDS Jabber - 2021 Locations Visit with some cool side by side shots of locations and interiors used in the film with some fun commentary from Godderis as he takes us on the narrated tour. Cast are crew are represented as well, star Jason Majic shows up for the 28-min Bleeding The Pack: An Interview with Lead Actor Jason Majik, he talks about reading for another horror film for Godderis he found about through Drama-Logue ad, a small role as a skater, and getting cast in that, but when that fell through the director pulled him into this SOV flick in the starring role! 

We also gets a 6-min Interview with Actress Joy Yurada who played a reporter. She fondly recalls this era of her life, remembering Godderis as a great collaborator, her opinion on film versus video, the guns on set, and she even digs up her scripted lines and does a line reading from it, and is moved almost to tears while recounting her experience making it. In the 4-min Interview with Actor Gene Webber, who played one of the investigating officers, the actor speaks very briefly about his "extensive" theater career, what sticks out in his mind about the film and having a crush on Marcy Lynn, it being a fun shoot and how Godderis was a cool guy you could have a beer with, and how terrifying the early days of the AIDS epidemic was. Up next is the 6-minutes with Cinematographer Rick Bradach Interview who gets into how he came to work on the film, it originally supposed to have been shot on 16mm but due to technical issues was downgraded to shot-on-video. The director's now adult son, who has a small part in the film, shows up for the 9-min Growing Up On Set: Justin Godderis, talking about what he remembers about the making of the film at that young age, remembering specific days on-set, props,  and seeing his dad writing the script at the donut shop where they would hang out. It's very sweet the way he admires his dad for following his passions while being a single dad, and his thoughts on the film, particaurly how it didn't scapegoat the LGBTQ community when it came to AIDS, which was sort of standard at the time it was made. 

A very cool "get" was a 9-min Interview with Blood Diner Director Jackie Kong who worked with Godderis on her film Blood Diner, he played Uncle Namtut, recalling how he was one of the few working actors on that film, and noting she didn't know he was making SOV films until only the last few years - he never told her, and noting how the film pushes boundaries and how it was timely then and prescient now during the age of COVID. The disc is buttoned-up with a 2-min image Gallery and a 5-minutes of Visual Vengeance 
Trailers for FeedersL.A. AIDS JabberSlaughter Day and 
Suburban Sasquatch - which have me seriously stoked for the insanity yet to come! This is an awesome set of extras for what you could call, if I am being honest about it, is a shoddy movie. It's got a great kernel of an idea, but it's just cash-strapped and the production values are limited. That said, the story behind the making of it is absolutely fascinating - the people behind and in front of the camera had a goal and despite having little money they persevered and made a damn film, and any film, no matter how small it is, be it good or bad, is a minor fucking miracle. 

As usual Visual Vengeance is top-notch with the packaging presentation, we get Limited Edition Slipcase (first pressing only) with killer artwork, plus a Reversible Sleeve of artwork featuring original VHS art and a new illustration by Stem Art who has done artwork for all three VV titles so far (and many Wild Eye Releasing titles, with more on the way) -  so we actually get three artwork when you include the slip! Inside there's a 'Stick Your Own' VHS sticker set (the same sheet as the previous two Visual Vengeance releases), plus a 4-Page Booklet with new Liner notes by Tony Strauss of Weng's Chop Magazine. Notably, the wrap and slip indicates  it has a Collectible Mini Folded Poster, but in actuality its the 4-page booklet with the Jabber artwork in the cover. While I miss getting the condom or video store membership card like the previous releases I do hope we get more booklets with essays moving forward. The disc inside has the same artwork as the slipcover. 

Special Features:
- Director's Introduction to Movie (2021) (1 min) 
- Audio Commentary Track with Director Drew Godderis moderated by Robert Hauschild from Wild Eye Releasing 
- Lethal Injection: The Making of L.A. AIDS Jabber with Director Drew Godderis (10 min) 
- Bleeding The Pack: An Interview with Lead Actor Jason Majik (28 min) 
- L.A. AIDS Jabber 2021 Locations Visit (16 min) 
- Interview with Blood Diner Director Jackie Kong (9 min)
- Growing Up On Set: Justin Godderis (9 min) 
- Actress Joy Yurada Interview 7 min)
- Cinematographer Rick Bradach Interview (6 min) 
- Interview with Actor Gene Webber (4 min)  
- 4-Page Booklet with Liner notes by Tony Strauss of Weng's Chop Magazine
- L.A. AIDS Jabber Photo Gallery (2 min)
- Blood Video Fanzine Essay by Billy Burgess
- L.A. AIDS Jabber Trailer (2021)
- Limited Edition Slipcase (First Printing Only)
- 'Stick Your Own' VHS stickers
- Reversible Sleeve of artwork featuring original VHS art and a new Stem Art design. 
- Visual Vengeance Trailers: Feeders (1 min), L.A. AIDS Jabber (1 min), Slaughter Day (1 min), Suburban Sasquatch (1 min), 
- Archival master taken from master SD tape

I love this film, and I love the SOV gems that Visual Vengeance are curating, even if my wife has not been so thrilled to be watching what she calls "hillbilly movies" - whatever that means! To me these are the future SOV superstars, the scrappy DIY films that came after the 80's shot-on-video heyday with stuff like Boardinghouse, Beyond the Seventh Door, Killer Workout, and the mind-melting Things - what we are seeing here are the second wave of SOV trash-cinema classics that maybe aren't as well recognized by the general masses, but thanks to the die-hard dedication, deep love and awesomeness of Wild Eye Releasing and the Visual Vengeance imprint are now able to be re-evaluated, appreciated, and maybe even be shit-upon, by fresh eyes hungry for fevered no-budget cinema from the depths of the no-budget underground! 

Screenshots from the Visual Vengeance Blu-ray: