• Black Past



    Released by: Massacre Video
    Released on: December 13th, 2016.
    Director: Olaf Ittenbach
    Cast: Olaf Ittenbach, Andrea Arbter, Andre Stryi
    Year: 1989
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    The Movie:

    Olaf Ittenbach wrote, directed and starred in this 1989 low budget camcorder epic of chaos and carnage! Here he plays a young man named Thommy who sports a frizzy mullet and wears aqua colored shirts and tan colored Dockers - but before we get to him we should know that some time ago a guy killed a young girl. Got it? Okay, back to Thommy and his wardrobe problems – he finds a mirror and somehow this mirror winds up taking an evil hold over our hero. Before you know it, he’s a hero no more. In fact, he’s downright evil and he goes around killing people in increasingly gory ways. Complicating things is the presence of his girlfriend, Petra (Andrea Arbter), who gets killed in a car accident but then rises from the dead.

    Thommy, presumable under control of the evil mirror which is channeling the negative energy from the guy who killed the young girl and other deviants of the past, tries to kill her again. But, in grand Evil Dead style, no dice. As the mirror’s grip on Thommy intensifies, he finds himself quite literally on a one way trip to Hell.

    Ittenbach’s first feature isn’t a particularly advanced film by any stretch but once it starts moving it delivers loads of wacky bloodshed and gore – which is basically the whole point. There’s a pretty basic story here, sure, but the acting is, to be blunt, terrible and the production values pretty slipshod. This is more of an effects reel than anything else and while Ittenbach’s later films would see him grow as a storyteller without moving too far from his gore auteur roots, this directorial debut shows him struggling to get there.

    The film is padded, particularly in the first half where poor tortured Thommy spend a lot of time... walking around. This is probably to show us that he’s deep in thought but it isn’t particularly exciting to watch. As the character development goes nowhere, these scenes are unnecessary and don’t wind up adding anything to the picture except minutes. On top of that there are logic gaps large enough to drive a jetliner through and moments where you kind of get the impression that Ittenbach might want to consider paying Raimi and Campbell royalties. Original this film is not.

    Let’s not over think this one, however. Because despite it’s very obvious flaws, Black Past kind of rules, blood spurting nail dongs, dead babies, chainsaw massacres and all.

    The highlight of the film is, just as it is in Burning Moon and most of the director’s other early pictures, a trip to Hell where all manner of horrible atrocities are committed for his camera’s unflinching eye to capture in as much detail as the low resolution analogue format will allow for. It’s here, in this finale drenched in grue, that we see Ittenbach really pushing the envelope not just in his bargain basement atrocity exhibit but in terms of his creativity as well. If this is an effects reel, he wisely saves the best for last so that the buildup actually has a payoff worth waiting for. Black Past has problems to be sure, but it’s made with such spirit and determination that fans of low budget splatter films should have no trouble looking past them to appreciate just how grisly this picture gets in its last twenty minutes.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Black Past looks about as good as a micro-budget camcorder gore fest probably can, given that the tape source elements obviously aren’t going to offer up the kind of detail you’d get from film or even digital video. The source used for the DVD was in good shape, there aren’t any tape rolls or tracking lines and while the image is soft and the colors are often kind of screwy looking, the picture is certainly stable enough and perfectly watchable.

    A German language track is provided in Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional subtitles provided in English only. Again, the limitations of the source material are apparent here but overall the audio is fairly clear. The levels are properly balanced and there aren’t really any issues to note.

    Extras start off with “Shitfucker Present’s Black Mold” which is a ten minute short in which a man clad all in leather gains entrance to a club where a creepy old guy in a mask smokes and fools around with someone else in a mask as spooky old dolls look on. He asks the bartender if he’s seen his friend after showing him a nude picture of the guy – turns out that this guy has been into some ‘dark shit.’ Bartender gives leather guy an address (213 Ittenbach Ct.!) and he splits, cruising through a bad Detroit neighborhood looking for his friend, who we learn is named Dick. He heads into the abandoned house, unaware that he’s being followed! Some metal plays on the soundtrack and… things get gory and weird(er).

    There are no credits for this one but it looks like this was put together by, as you’d guess, Shitfucker. Who are Shitfucker? A crusty black/death/thrash/punk band from Detroit. Check’em out here. Black Mold is in keeping with another one of their videos, Sex Dungeon, it has the same lo-fi style and awesome over the top insanity to it. Aside from the address presented in the video, it’s got nothing to do with Black Past, but it’s a pretty great music video worth checking out. For those keeping score, the track Black Mold is from the band’s split with Abigail called Bloody Your Lovely Pussy released in 2015 through Hell’s Headbangers.

    We also get a seven minute collection of early clips from some of Ittenbach’s early splatter videos. He provides an intro and outro for the reel, noting that he made them when he was seventeen and that they’re not very good – but they’re fun, and his fans will appreciate seeing them there.

    Rounding out the extras are trailers for a couple of other Massacre Video releases (Nurse Jill and Women’s Flesh My Red Guts), menus and chapter selection. Oh, and dig that reversible cover art! Always a nice touch.

    The Final Word:

    If you’re not too concerned with storytelling or character development you can have some fun with this ultra-cheap gorefest from Ittenbach and company. It’s goofy and dated to be sure but it delivers plenty of splattery thrills and surprisingly intense gore effects. As base as that may seem, they go a long way towards making this one far more entertaining than it has any right to be.