• Buddies (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: July 31st, 2018.
    Director: Arthur J. Bressan Jr.
    Cast: Geoff Edholm, David Schachter, Damon Hairston, Joyce Korn
    Year: 1985
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    Buddies - Movie Review:

    Written and directed by Arthur J. Bressan Jr., 1985’s Buddies introduces us to David (David Schachter), a college student with a conscience – when he’s able to, he volunteers to be a ‘buddy’ for terminally ill AIDS patients. This work brings him into contact with Robert (Geoff Edholm), a fiercely political gay man who has spent almost his entire adult life as an activist. Once he contracted AIDS, however, he was quickly abandoned by those closest to him, essentially left alone to die in a hospital bed.

    As David and Robert get to know one another, the manage to open each other’s minds to the other’s point of view on some subjects. They bond, grow quite close in their own interesting way, and manage to learn and to change from their shared experiences. David becomes more politically aware of a need for change, while Robert gets more in touch with his emotions. But of course, Robert isn’t long for this world, and neither can fight back against the inevitable.

    Noteworthy as the first full length narrative picture made about the AIDS epidemic of the eighties, Bressan’s picture is both moving and thought provoking. The film, which makes its home video premiere with this release, is an interesting snapshot of its time. AIDS research has improved over the years, the stigma surrounding it has been lessened and improvements have been made in general (though we as a society still have a long way to go in this regard) but back in the eighties people were very much truly terrified of what this all meant. It was a near constant on news reports and in the papers and in hindsight, while it was absolutely wrong for it to have happened, it isn’t hard to see how those who didn’t know any better would want to disassociate with those who may have contracted it. This makes the whole idea of the film an interesting one, and it allows for an exploration of the vulnerability of the two main characters in believable and heartfelt ways.

    The performances here are excellent. Both actors have a very grounded, human element to their work here that makes things quite real. No one goes over the top, but nor do they underplay things. The direction is a bit stagey and it’s clear that Bressan wasn’t working with a huge budget here, but the end result is a strong picture deserving of the rediscovery that this release will hopefully encourage.

    Buddies – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome’s transfer is ‘newly scanned and restored in 2k from 16mm camera negative’ and framed at 1.33.1 fullframe. It looks excellent – in fact, it’s hard to imagine it looking much better than it does here. The expected amount of film grain is present and accounted for but never distracting, it just gives the image that beautiful film-like texture that it should have. Detail is very strong for an older, modestly budgeted picture – a testament to the quality of not just the transfer but the film’s cinematography – and colors look great too. Black levels are fine and the image is free of any digital manipulation of compression artifacts.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track is fine. Limited by the original recordings there isn’t a whole lot of range here but dialogue sounds natural enough and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion to complain about. The score sounds quite good. Optional subtitles are available in English only.

    Extras start off with a newly shot thirty-two-minute video interview with actor David Schachter who speaks about how he got into the business, his relationships both romantic and profession with Arthur J. Bressan Jr., shooting the film over nine days and its stage production-esque qualities, the speed that the cast and crew had to work under to get the film done as quickly as Bressan wanted, what it was like working alongside Geoff Edholm and what he’s been up to since getting out of the acting scene.

    A second video interview gets film historian Thomas Waugh in front of the camera for a twenty-minute talk about the history of gay films leading up to the production of Buddies and what makes this particular entry stand apart from others made around the same time. He also talks up the career of Bressan and gives some insight into what he feels makes Buddies as effective as it is. Both interviews are quite good and welcome additions to the disc.

    Rounding out the extras is the film’s original theatrical trailer, a still gallery of ephemera, menus and chapter selection. The disc also comes packaged with some nice reversible cover sleeve art – always a nice touch.

    Buddies - The Final Word:

    Atypical of most of Vinegar Syndrome’s titles but certainly worthwhile for anyone who can appreciate a moving and well-made drama, Buddies is to be admired not just for how good it is, but for its unflinching approach to its subject matter. The Blu-ray release benefits from an outstanding transfer, solid audio and a nice selection of extras.

    Click on the images below for full sized Buddies Blu-ray review screen captures!