• Pigs (Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack)

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: March 29th, 2016.
    Director: Marc Lawrence
    Cast: Toni Lawrence, Marc Lawrence, Jim Antonio, Walter Barnes, Paul Hickey, Erik Holland
    Year: 1972
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Mark Lawrence in 1972 and also known under the title Daddy’s Deadly Darling and Love Exorcism (for more on this check out the extras), Pigs (titled The Thirteenth Pig on the elements used for this transfer!) has the distinction of being one of only two features he helmed. The second feature Nightmare In The Sun, made with Aldo Ray in 1965. The picture also stars Mark Lawrence’s daughter Toni Lawrence, a full decade before she appeared in Soul Survivor. So while this one is semi-obscure, it’s got a bit of a pedigree behind it.

    Toni plays a young woman named Lynn Hart. She suffers from some ‘issues’ and, at the beginning of the movie, escapes from a mental hospital. It seems that some time ago she was raped by her father and in return, she killed him and was locked up for her crimes. Lynn snatches a nurse's uniform, swipes a car and hits the road to get as far away from the hospital as possible. Her travels take her to a small town in rural California where she meets a strange, aging farmer named Zambrini (director Marc Lawrence, our lead actress’ father). He not only works the land but he also runs a small motel and restaurant just off of the highway. He’s kind enough to put her up and Lynn can’t help but notice that behind his house is a ramshackle old pig pen, complete with a small army of hungry hogs.

    Shortly after her arrival, Lynn starts to mingle with the townsfolk but quickly starts playing old tapes and offing any poor bastard who bares even the slightest resemblance to her dear, departed pervert of an old man. When she realizes that Zambrini’s Pigs will east anything tossed into their pen, she finds a quick and easy way to hide the bodies of her victims. Soon enough, and not so surprisingly, the town’s sheriff (Dan Cole) starts to wonder just what the heck is going on around his otherwise peaceful little town. He knows all of this mayhem started when Lynn showed up and so he starts, with the aid of a private investigator hired by the hospital to capture her, snooping around in her business. But will they catch her before she can kill again – and just what exactly is that weird Zambrini guy up to?

    Shot out in the middle of nowhere and set to a strange bluegrass style soundtrack, Pigs is nothing if not quirky. It’s not always good, but it is usually always interesting and often quite atmospheric in its own strange way. Though the titular pigs aren’t used nearly as often or as well as they should be given the title and cover art, there are a few decent murder set pieces here. The real star of the show, however, is Marc Lawrence as Zambrini, a former circus performer now farmer and a man with some seriously strange habits. He latches on to Lynn and soon begins to exploit her for various reasons, and Lawrence really gets into the role here. He plays the weirdo well – sadly the same can’t be said for Toni Lawrence, who tries to emote more often than she should but who often comes across as a bit flat, though there are some scenes where she succeeds in bringing some depth to her part.

    The story is a bit all over the place, shifting tone frequently and jumping back and forth between plot devices. It’s not complicated, mind you, just paced in a very haphazard way. There are some eerie moments here, mostly when the lights go down and the Pigs, ravenously hungry, start to squeal for the meat they know is coming their way. Morbid? Yep. And while the film wears its flaws as obviously on its sleeve as it does its low budget origins, there’s still plenty of weird seventies entertainment value to be had here.


    Pigs was released on DVD by Troma in a fullframe transfer taken from what looked like an older tape master. It kind of looked like shit, but this new transfer from Vinegar Syndrome? It’s a ‘new 2k scan from the 35mm interpositive with select shots sourced from 35mm theatrical prints’ and it blows that old DVD out of the water. The bits taken from the 35mm inserts understandably look a bit less detailed and pristine than those taken from the interpositive but the bulk of the movie looks great. Detail is generally very strong while color reproduction is impressive throughout. There’s plenty of grain here but it’s never overpowering or distracting while only minor print damage shows up here and there. Skin tones look good, black levels are rich enough to work and the transfer is free of any obvious compression artifacts, edge enhancement and noise reduction.

    Audio chores are handled by a DTS-HD Mono track. Optional closed captioning is provided for the feature only in English. This track is a bit erratic, with occasionally foley and sound effects higher up in the mix than the dialogue, score or ambient background noises but it works in the context of the story being told. Hiss and distortion are non issues and there’s more depth, range and presence here than there was on the older DVD release.

    The previous Troma DVD release was pretty weak in the extra department, but again, Vinegar Syndrome give fans of this picture reason to celebrate. The supplemental package starts out with a fourteen minute featurette entitled Back On The Menu in which actress Toni Lawrence appears on camera to talk about working on this feature with her father behind the camera. She talks about the film’s quick, low budget shoot, working alongside her father who also appeared in the film himself, her father’s career and lack thereof thanks to McCarthyism bullshit and quite a bit more. This is interesting stuff, well worth checking out – particularly when she explains why she sees it as a love story rather than a horror picture. A second featurettes, the fourteen minute long Somewhere Down The Road, interviews Charles Bernstein, the man who scored the film. He gives us a quick career overview, talks about his work on this particular film, the meaning of the opening theme song, the movie’s scattered and screwy release history, and his thoughts on the picture, what he tried to bring to the films’ music and more.

    Also worth checking out if an eighty-one minute long audio interview in which Vinegar Syndrome's Joe Rubin talks to Pigs’ cinematographer Glenn Roland. This is available as an alternate audio track that plays, commentary style, over the feature film and it’s interesting stuff even if the audio quality is a little rough. Roland has a pretty sharp memory as he discusses how he got into the film business after helping out a friend in the sixth grade, how that led to his getting involved in doing lighting and cinematography. From there he talks about setting up shop in Newport Beach as a teenager, odd jobs that he did during that time, his work on some sexploitation films like Dandy in the late sixties, and then eventually how he got involved in Pigs. He then shares some stories about the locations used in the film, working with Lawrence on the film, how and why certain shots were setup the way that they are and more. He also shares some great stories about working with Duke Mitchell on Massacre Mafia Style, how they shot that film on 35mm and how he was paid one day at a time, the intricacies of shooting a scene where a middle aged man sings a song about pasta, and loads more. Great stuff, even if they probably should have edited out Roland’s occasional coughing fits.

    As noted earlier, Pigs existed under a few alternate titles and the rest of the extras on this release do what they can to document those alternate versions. The Promotional Artwork Gallery is a four minute still gallery style slideshow that shows off the various titles that the film was advertised under as well as a wealth of other promotional materials. The three minute alternate Love Exorcism opening sequences shows off how the film was reissued with some additional footage in hopes of cashing in on the box office success of a certain William Friedkin picture while at the same time exploring why Lynn acts the way she does in the movie. It shows a priest preparing to enter a bedroom and a man trying to prevent him from doing that because it’s too dangerous. There are hoof marks on the wall and a bunch of stuff flying through the window, a deadly storm outside complete with low budget lightning effects and pig sounds. In the room our possessed girl snorts and grunts and flails about on the garbage ridden floor – the devil in the form of a swine, this man of the cloth tells us, before our possessed woman starts screaming out ‘FUCK ME!’ and ‘I WANT YOUR COCK! YOUR PRICK!’ Nutty stuff.

    The alternate ‘Daddy's Girl’ opening scene runs just under six minutes and it’s a second revamp that tries to make Pigs into a different sort of movie, this time more of a softcore/sexploitation picture. Fascinating to see but definitely the wrong way to market this movie! A man brings his newborn baby daughter home from the hospital, a goofy toddler wanders around with a wig on, she grows up and dances around the lawn with her old man and he squeezes her ass cheeks! Fuzz guitar blasts on the soundtrack and an old lady disapproves of some inappropriate behavior. DAD RAPES DAUGHTER, DIES OF KNIFE WOUNDS the newspaper tells us! Then, through the magic of the movies, we see Lynn talking to a shrink then shipped off to the state loony bin for electroshock therapy and some sleazy voyeurism before making a daring escape!

    Taking us further down this road we also get an alternate ‘Daddy's Girl’ ending that runs just over five minutes. It runs with the same premise established by the opening sequence and it’s amusingly trashy. Lynn talks to a recording on the other end of the phone, telling the recording ‘I love you, daddy’ over and over again. Meanwhile, the pigs outside feast on a corpse, someone in a bad wig hacks up the body and then jumps right in. We then learn from the sheriff that only small parts of the body were recovered before some discussion of her patricide and crazy family and then some pig wrangling footage end this alternate version. But is she really dead? No, she’s cruising around in a blue Volkswagen Beatle looking for her next victim!

    Trailers are also included for the feature in both its Love Exorcism form and in its intended Pigs version. As this release is a combo pack release, we also get a DVD version of the movie included with identical extras found in the supplement section. Reversible cover art is also included – minor things, maybe, but it helps to round out the presentation and is certainly worth mentioning.

    The Final Word:

    Pigs is a weird little low budget seventies oddity that, while hardly any sort of masterpiece, has enough strange atmosphere and weird characters in it to make it worth a watch. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack release blows the previous Troma DVD out of the water, presenting the movie in its intended form in great shape and with some impressive supplements rounding out the package. Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Scyther's Avatar
      Scyther -
      I fucking love this movie. It blew me away when I first watched it (on one of those EastWest flipper discs; a better print than the Troma disc!), and I can't WAIT to get my hands on this disc. I particularly can't wait to dive into the extras. Always thought Toni Lawrence was a capital babe in this movie, and delivered a great performance, to the point where I bought Soul Survivor just because she was in it. Really wish she would've done more films. Great review, Ian.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      I've never seen this but have wanted to for quite a few years. Think I'll make this a 'blind' purchase.
    1. Scyther's Avatar
      Scyther -
      It's totally worth it, in my humble opinion. Blew me away, and I only saw it for the first time I think last year.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      It'll have to wait till payday (Thursday) but I'll definitely take the plunge
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      This may be my fave VS release. Excellent job all around, and the movie lays so much better like this than in any of the it's bastardized forms. Toni's not much of an actress but I found her to be a 'grower'. The interview with her was nice and informative as well.