• Electric Chair, The



    Released by: Wild Eye Releasing
    Released on: 10/19/2010
    Director: Mark Eisenstein
    Cast: Victor Argo
    Year: 1985
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    The Movie:

    Victor Argo, the late character actor who is definitely one of those “oh THAT guy” actors, is featured in a rare leading role as an unnamed shoe salesman who decides to make an attempt at revitalizing his failed career as a stand-up comic. His act follows that of a female singer’s, and once he’s on stage it is quickly evident that this is not a happy man.

    The comic spends his time in the lights waxing philosophic, revealing himself as a depressed, lonely, and angry man, with many regrets in life. Accompanying him on the stage is a jazz drummer, adding some rhythm to his monologue, and an empty electric chair. The electric chair is slowly brought into the picture as what seems to be a symbol of the end of his life, with a guy off stage telling him now and then not to sit in the chair, not to strap himself in, not to say “throw the switch”. This anonymous man may well be a representation of his conscience. And the audience members seem to contain certain portions of his psyche as well. As a young boy, sitting with his molly-coddling mother (Jessica Dublin, Devils In Mykonos, Toxic Avenger II and III), as a young man in love (a young couple is having sex without regard to the people around them in the club), just as a couple of examples. The comic pretty much delivers what seems to be an hour and a half long manifesto/suicide note, and the room fills up as people come in to see what is being promoted on the streets as a live public execution.

    This one may be a tough one for some to sit through. It’s very slow in pace and there’s not a lot happening, visually speaking, on the screen. Though mentally there seems to be a lot to chew on. Originally created as a one-man stage play, The Electric Chair certainly plays out like one, with minimal camera movement and long static scenes, but the film certainly has its interesting points. Victor Argo is at times very intense and does an amazing job with the one-man show scenario. It’s not something too often seen, especially in this era of visual onslaughts moviegoers sit through, and it certainly must be a lot of pressure on an actor to be the only real character in a movie without much else on the screen. It certainly can’t be easy to pull off, but Argo seems masterful at it, at least in this film.

    Also of interest is the mood the director establishes for the film. 15 years or so before filming the movie, Eisenstein filmed random scenery on Block Island which comes across as desolate and empty, run down a tired, and depressed. These scenes are added at various times and really help to establish the tone of the flick at the beginning, as well as maintain that tone throughout. It may also be there to help the viewer get a sense for how the comic feels inside. It’s a great tool and used effectively.

    This one is not for everybody, but for those who enjoy something different, something out of the mold, this may be of interest. It is certainly an exercise in film endurance, but one that gives the viewer lots to think about once it ends.


    Video/Audio/Extras:

    This is a black-and-white film, shot with two different cameras (and 15 years apart) and so the quality varies. The Block Island footage was shot in 4:3 Full Frame, while the club scenes were shot 1.66:1. The Block Island stuff has lots of dirt and debris, a weird fuzzy right border, and is bleached looking. The club footage is very dark and noir-like and at times leaves a lot to be desired. Lots of grain too. It helps add to the mood of the piece, and it’s no big deal really. This movie doesn’t set out to wow anyone with technically wizardry. The audio is a simple 2.0 Dolby Digital track, although it seems like the same sounds are coming out of both speakers, which leads one to think the film was made with mono sound. No authoring issues to report. Any pops and crackles are from the print, not the dvd.

    Wild Eye added lots of extras to sift through, mainly short films by Mr. Eisenstien. Aside from the shorts, there is a trailer for The Electric Chair, plus trailers for other releases from the company: Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated, Gold, Gothkill, The Bloody Ape, and Blitzkrieg. The short films are as follows:
    • Roach (24:17)- about a young man who is actually a roach, somehow put into a human body.
    • God Is On the Other Side trailer (1:32)- a movie with Buster Poindexter that was never released
    • Smog (6:36)- a 1967 film that is seen through a thick haze of smog.
    • Eight Tragedy Term Papers Plus 3 (14:53)- another one from 1967 where Eisenstein reads a poem by a former (and soon afterward, deceased) student, while the words are typed on a typewriter.
    • The Professor (5:04)- this one is filmed in the fashion of a classroom lecture. Filmed in 1972.
    • Mark Eisenstein: Inventor of the Frame (1:45)- the director bragging that he invented the film frame. 1982.
    • Citizen Eisenstein (3:27)- a combination of illustrations, photos, and film. Made in 1996 and directed by Lee Kazista.




    But the best extra on this disc is the commentary. Mark Eisenstein talks about his movie with another filmmaker Keith J. Crocker and moderator Rob Hauselt (forgiveness asked if this is incorrect) from Wild Eye. The commentary is great. Mr. Eisenstein tells some great stories about the film’s origins and the making of it and Crocker, an obvious fan, is very enthusiastic and asks some good questions. He and Hauselt keep things from dragging and pull out some great info from the director. It is definitely worth a listen and really helps to enhance the film. Great job.

    The Final Word:

    Wild Eye’s release of The Electric Chair delivers a long lost art house film with an outstanding performance by Victor Argo. Again, it’s not for everyone, but is certainly deserving of some merit. This one is off the beaten path, but a real thinker of a movie. The extras are plentiful: the commentary is a good one and “Roach” being the most interesting of the short films. The overall DVD release is a good value for the money… IF you enjoy watching this type of material.
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Jeff D's Avatar
      Jeff D -
      This is easily my favorite Wild Eye disc.
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      I've only seen two so far and the first was sucked. So I agree with you. Did you listen to the commentary?