• American Nightmare (Katarina’s Nightmare Theater)

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: 11/6/2012
    Director: Don McBrearty
    Cast: Lawrence Day, Lora Staley, Michael Ironside, Larry Aubrey, Page Fletcher
    Year: 1983 (copyright is 1981)
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    The Movie:

    An accomplished pianist named Eric Blake (Lawrence Day) is in the big nameless city (which is Toronto) looking for his sister Isabelle (a very young Alexandra Paul of Baywatch fame), who sent him a note expressing her fear of being in danger. Once arriving to the city he meets a detective looking into the case of some murdered young women (played by genre heavy Michael Ironside), and a stripper named Louise (Lora Staley) who roomed with Eric’s sister. Getting any real help from Louise concerning Isabelle is limited, until her other roommate Tina (Lenore Zann) turns up dead and an attempt is made on her own life. She becomes a bit more interested in working with Eric on finding out who the killer is and bringing him to justice, with or without the law’s assistance.

    Really, that’s the story in a nutshell without giving anything away. And there is a pretty unexpected outcome to the tale, which elevates the sleaziness of the movie. Was it mentioned this movie is wonderfully sleazy? Right from the get-go the mood is established that continues throughout the entire picture, and that mood is grimy. Part slasher, part giallo, and 100 percent grubby, which is the real hero of the movie and makes American Nightmare worth watching.

    Where it lacks in an engaging story and consistent acting, it totally makes up for with working with the uglier side of the underbelly of city life, specifically the red-light district. There are lots of street scenes with skin-flick marquees and sex shops, as well as some footage shot inside an actual sex shop. The female lead is a stripper, as are her friends, and they all show their stuff, resulting in a few prolonged strip teases to pad the movie nicely.

    As mentioned the acting is inconsistent, with guys like Michael Ironside (under used) working circles around the stiff-boarded chops of Lawrence Day (he’s just dull), but that sort of range in effectiveness is pretty typical of low budget quickies, so its easily looked past. Kudos to Larry Aubrey as the transvestite neighbor to Louise, as he does a nice job with his character. And keep your eyes peeled for a number of recognizable Canadian actors scattered throughout, such as Page Fletcher (the Hitchhiker in the great late-night TV series of the same name).

    The strippers all have themes (sexy devil, sexy detective, juggler) and the patrons wear toques and smoke like fiends. It oozes with slime and delivers the goods (although if you’re out for a gory time, this one will disappoint); American Nightmare should keep you entertained for the duration.


    Scorpion provides a disclaimer at the beginning of the film: “The elements provided by the licensor were the only elements available for this film. It is below our usual standards, but we hope this won’t deter you from enjoying the film.” It absolutely does not deter from enjoying the film. It looks like a tape source (4:3), and is certainly below their typical standards, but this movie would lose a lot of its inexplicable charm if it looked too nice. There are no glitches, the sound is clear, and it’s like the old days watching it on cassette, but better.

    This one’s got a nice dose of extras, and it’s all great stuff for those into the first-hand history of these little treasure movies. Host Katarina Leigh Waters moderates a commentary with the film’s producer Paul Lynch. Mr. Lynch is animated and incredibly interesting to listen to. He shares more than just a play-by-play of the movie and adds in some social commentary of his own. The guy is just really engaging, even through the end credits when he spews out what all the various crew members went on to do or are currently doing.

    Next is a phone interview with the screenwriter for the movie, John Sheppard. As with Lynch, he recalls lots from the movie and fills just less than 20 minutes with info, while a slow screenshot gallery plays on the screen. He shares memories about the film and talks about his movie writing career as well as what he’s doing present day. It’s pretty interesting and although she may not be able to pronounce "giallo", Katarina does her job effectively.

    The third item of interest is an on-camera interview with producer Paul Lynch that runs nearly 24 minutes in length (16:9 aspect ratio). He touches on some of the items from the commentary, but is no less interesting. Interspersed throughout are some movie posters reflecting the film he’s talking about. A number of trailers for other releases from the label are included: Humongous, Death Ship, The Pyx, Double Exposure, and The Incubus. And like all movies under the “Nightmare Theater” banner, an optional intro-outro by the hostess is available. This time around she go-go dances to the hosers that leer at the strippers in the movie.

    The Final Word:

    Definitely one for the exploitation/drive-in/midnight movie crowd, American Nightmare covers the gambit with giving its target audience what they want and serving it on a dirty plate. The extras are solid and the disc is well worth the dough.