• Blood Theatre



    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: June 26th, 2018.
    Director: Rick Sloane
    Cast: Mary Woronov, Jenny Cunningham, Jonathan Blakely, Andrew Cofrin, Joanna Foxx, Stephanie Dillard, Rob-Roy Fletcher, Daniel Schafer
    Year: 1984
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    The Movie:

    The directorial debut of Rick Sloane, the man who would later grace our eyeballs with such cinematic achievements as Hobgoblins and the Vice Academy series, 1984’s Blood Theatre opens with a scene wherein a male theater owner finds his girlfriend screwing around with another man behind his back. After he sees this, he sets a fire and escapes, leaving the theater and many of its inhabitants to die in the subsequent blaze.

    Decades later, Dean Murdock (Rob-Roy Fletcher), the owner of the Spotlite Theater chain, and his delightfully bitchy secretary Blackwell (Mary Moronov), transfer three of his employees - Adrian (Andrew Cofrin), Malcolm (Daniel Schafer), and Jennifer (Jenny Cunningham) – off to clean up the old theater and get it ready for his takeover. Shortly after their arrival in the beautiful old building, strange things start to happen. And after competing – and slightly dippy – employees Darcy (Stephanie Dillard) and Selena (Joanna Foxx) show, things go from bad to worse.

    Of course, it all ties in to the theater’s past and that killing long ago and blah blah blah… hey look, boobies!

    Sloane’s is a chore to get through, but it does have a few saving graces aside from the aforementioned nudity. First off, the old movie theater that was used as the primary location for the shoot is great. It’s a beautiful old movie palace, ridiculously ornate in the way that more modern ones rarely are, and it gets a lot of attention here. Secondly, there’s Mary Woronov, playing the type of smart-mouthed character that she’s so good at playing. She gets quite a bit of screen time here and is by far the best part of the movie. The rest of the cast? Well, Rob-Roy Fletcher is amusing in spots and Ms. Foxx is kind enough to take off her top but outside of that, there’s not much of note. The characters are poorly written and most of the acting, especially from the three younger leads, reflects that.

    The cinematography is serviceable is unremarkable and while there are a couple of amusing murder set pieces, the film’s attempts at comedy tend to fall flat (though a recurring gag where Murdock is bootlegging his prints by recording them with a camcorder is at least kind of interesting to see). The pacing is rough, the middle stretch is a bore and even at under eighty-minutes it still feels a bit too long. We’ll cut Sloane a break, this was basically a student film for him, but it lacks the inspired lunacy that made some of his more enjoyable films the reasonably entertaining endeavors that they are. Blood Theatre had potential but it mostly just falls flat, even if some of the subtext about the ways that multiplexes were cannibalizing smaller theaters around the time it was made is quite interesting.

    Also included on the disc as a second feature is Sloane’s second film, 1987’s The Visitants. This picture follows two aliens, Exeter (Jordana Capra credited as Johanna Grika) and Lubbock (Jole Hile), who decide to stop for a while on Earth. They land in the Los Angeles of the 1950’s and soon find themselves blasting away at teenagers with their laser guns. Eventually they get to a TV set where they receive a message from their leader only to learn that the invasion they were to be a part of has been postponed thirty years!

    Eventually next-door neighbor Eric (Vaughter) winds up with their laser gun, which throws a monkey wrench into the invasion plans, and a whole lot of wackiness ensues.

    This is actually a tighter, funnier film than the feature attraction. It was made for peanuts and that’s obvious from the opening scene (look for dryer hoses galore and a few dinner plates substituting for alien spacecraft technology) but it’s better paced and the humor is more effective. Capra and Hile are quite good in their roles, even if they’re not given a whole lot to work with. If there isn’t a lot of character development they do at least seem to be having fun and that translates to the audience. Is it a masterpiece? No, but you can get a few laughs out of it all while appreciating Sloane’s ability to create something with a reasonably large scale for the price of a used car.

    Production value might be threadbare but there’s some amusing animation in here that adds some character to the film. There are also some very obvious references to various other sci-film films, from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and more. It’s also worth noting that this film is referenced at one point in Sloane’s later film, Hobgoblins, the picture he’s no doubt most associated with thanks to the MST3K treatment it received.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Blood Theatre to Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. As you’d expect if you’re familiar with the label’s output at this point in the game, it looks great. There’s some minor print damage here and there but it’s small white specks and nothing more substantial than that. The picture is film-like throughout, retaining a nice amount of natural grain, while both detail and texture are quite strong. Colors are reproduced very nicely and we get solid black levels as well. The image is free of any noise reduction or edge enhancement and there are no compression issues to note.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track, which comes with optional English subtitles, is fine. The audio is a bit flat in spots but that’s got everything to do with the original recording. Otherwise, no issues here. For an older mono mix of a micro-budget movie, this one fares quite well. Dialogue is easy enough to understand and the wonky, overly repetitive score sounds just fine.

    Extras start off with a commentary track for Blood Theatre with the members of the The Hysteria Continues! podcast team. These guys are pretty upfront about the quality of the film but still find some interesting things to comment on, such as how it plays to certain slasher movie conventions at times, the fantastic location, the quality of the varied performances and a fair bit more. Rick Sloane provides his own commentary tracks for both Blood Theatre and The Visitants. Sloane’s tracks are obviously more historically interesting as he talks about shooting Blood Theatre in an old movie palace that his since been torn down, how he got Woronov onboard, the contributions of the cast and crew, where he got the equipment from, budgetary issues and more. His track for The Visitants is similarly detailed, as he talks about making the lowest budgeted picture of his career, where the players came from, the story ideas, props, locations, costumes and plenty more.

    Also included on the disc is a nine-minute featurette shot at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles with Rick Sloane, actresses Mary Woronov, Jordana Capra and actor Marcus Vaughter in which they introduce a screening of the film. This is complement by a post film Q&A with: Rick Sloane and Mary Woronow that runs fourteen-minutes. Sloane talks about shooting his first two features without any money, the Theatre that was used as the main location in Blood Theatre and getting Woronov onboard while Woronov herself talks about her thoughts on the film and her experiences making it.

    Outside of that we get menus and chapter selection options, as well as some nice reversible cover featuring the Blood Theatre art on one side and the artwork for The Visitants on the reverse.

    The Final Word:

    Blood Theatre is an undeniably awful film made semi-watchable thanks to Mary Woronov’s performance, a great location and a couple of interesting murder set pieces. The Visitants is slightly more entertaining and actually rather amusing in spots. How much enjoyment you get out of this release will really depend on your tolerance for low budget pictures – if you’re interested in them and can appreciate them despite their flaws, this is a solid package as it presents both features in great shape and with a nice array of interesting extra features. If you aren’t into low budget filmmaking, this release won’t likely do anything to make you change your mind.

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