• The Weirdo (Garagehouse Pictures) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Garagehouse Pictures
    Released on: December 14th, 2018.
    Director: Andy Milligan
    Cast: Steve Burington, Jessica Straus, Naomi Sherwood, Shawn Player, Patrick Thomas, Dennis Robbins, Lynne Agnus
    Year: 1989
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    The Weirdo – Movie Review:

    Teenaged Donnie Raymond (Steve Burington) doesn’t fit in. He’s had a hard life – born to an alcoholic mother who didn’t want him, he never knew his father. He was sent off to live with his mother’s friend, an old lady named Miss Martins (Naomi Sherwood), who was kind enough to let him live in her shed. When Miss Martins’ gets a boarder in the form of pretty Lisa (Lynna Agnus, who also appears in Milligan’s Surgikill), Donnie can’t help but be attracted to her, and while she’s clearly not interested, at least she’s nice to him. Miss Martins warns Lisa though… she tells him that sometimes Donnie can get violent when he’s angry.

    Things change when he meets Jenny (Jessica Strauss), a kindly and shy girl about his age who needs a leg brace to walk. They hit it off and soon enough he’s taking her out for soda’s and day-old turnovers. Reverend Cummings (John Miranda, credited as John Rand, who would also appear in Surgikill and Bloodthirsty Butchers as well as loads of mainstream film and TV projects like Murder, She Wrote and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home!) warns Jenny not to hang around with Donnie but she’s savvy enough to tell him to mind his own business. But of course, their love is doomed. Not only is there a trio of bullyish thugs to deal with in the form of Nails (Shawn Player), Dean (Patrick Thomas, who not only appeared in Surgikill but who also has a small role in Death Wish IV: The Crackdown) and Vic (Dennis Robbins) but Donnie’s own mother intends to sell him off to a man who is going to take him to Mississippi! All Donnie wants to do is run off to Colorado with Jenny, but the fates have conspired against him, and soon enough, Donnie gets angry….

    With Donnie, The Weirdo (of, if you prefer, Weirdo: The Beginning) creates a character that is unusually sympathetic for an Andy Milligan movie. We know early on he is imperfect but many of his problems stem more from the actions of those around him than from his own doing. Steve Burington plays the part surprisingly well, creating a character, while damaged, is likeable in his own quirky way. Of course, when he gets a little forceful with Jenny he gets what is coming to him, but even here she seems to understand that his actions aren’t out of malice or disrespect but more out of confusion and longing. Burington and Strauss have an interesting chemistry together. They deliver their stagey dialogue well enough and even if their relationship seems just sort of thrown together on Milligan’s part, you do feel that they care about one another - two misfits, shunned by society, finding comfort together. It’s cute in its own quirky way.

    Everyone else in the film is basically a bad guy on some level, the guy who owns the diner and serves them turnovers being the exception here. Even Reverend Cummings, who may have had earnest intentions, comes across as a little creepy when he starts prodding Jenny about her personal life and her relationship with Donnie. The three thugs played by Player, Thomas and Robbins are fun in their roles. They don’t bring anything original to their parts but they play the tough bully types with enough stereotypical charisma that, as despicable as they are, they’re entertaining to watch. Also be on the lookout for porn star Gina Carrera (of Suburbia, Showdown and Beyond Desire) as Boots, the girl who hangs around with Nails and company and gets her top off in a barn!

    There isn’t much style to the film. Like almost all of Milligan’s films this is shot more like a stage play than a proper cinematic endeavor, but if it is rough around the edges it isn’t without its charm. The pacing is fine. We know where it’s all headed, the ending isn’t a big shock despite Milligan’s best efforts to create one, but there’s no shortage of entertainment value here. The score, a collaboration between Michael Maros and Jeff Peters, works well enough for what it is. The movie might be more than a little primitive in terms of its style, but it compensates for that with quirk.

    The Weirdo – Blu-ray Review:

    The AVC encoded 1.33.1 fullframe transfer is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc. Taken from a new restoration from the original negative, The Weirdo doesn’t look perfect but given its history and shooting conditions, it does look damn good. There’s some flicker here and there and some print damage that couldn’t be removed but for the most part this is clean and stable. Detail varies from one shot to the next, far more likely because of Milligan’s own camerawork than the transfer itself, but there’s generally pretty strong detail here. Colors fluctuate from scene to scene as well, again, Milligan wasn’t the most careful guy behind the camera, but they’re reproduced quite well and black levels are pretty decent. Some contrast quirks show up but the transfer looks very film like, showing natural grain and no evidence of any noise reduction, edge enhancement of compression artifacts. What the restoration comparison included on the disc (more on that in a few paragraphs) to see what a difference Garagehouse’s efforts have made here and you’ll appreciate the picture quality a lot more.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 mix. There are no alternate language or subtitle options provided. Levels bounce a little bit but overall the audio is balanced well. There’s a bit of hiss in a few spots but generally speaking the track is pretty clean. Dialogue is easy enough to follow and understand and the score sounds fine. Range is, not surprisingly, a bit limited, but the audio, overall, is fine here.

    Two commentary tracks are included on this disc, the first of which is with executive producer Paul Maslak and producer Neva Friedenn, makeup effects man Rodd Matsui, and actor Patrick Thomas. They start off by talking about the ‘Weirdo: The Beginning’ title card that is used in the opening of the film, Milligan’s directing style, how Donnie’s character is in fact supposed to be an autistic kid, the physicality of the opening bullying scene, the locations that were used for the shoot and how Donnie’s shed was actually behind one of the producer’s homes. They also talk about how Milligan’s mother issues were worked into the script and some of the characters, how Thomas didn’t get paid as much as the other two thugs because they brought their own motorcycles to the shoot, how the production had to be put on hold when the camera broke, the shooting schedule, how things can get tricky when an actor uses a real knife in a scene, the difficulties of casting a rushed production, how Gena Carrera, who they refer to as Julie, wound up in the film and how her scene was shot ‘bra on/bra off’ depending on where the movie was going to play. They also mention she was a country singer. They talk about getting the film processed at a lab called Film Service, where they did the post production work, the effects work that was featured in the film and how Matsui didn’t do all of them (some things came from ‘Andy’s treasure box’) and lots, lots more. Some really great stories in here about what it was like to work on the film and what it was like to work with Milligan specifically.

    The second commentary track features filmmaker Keith Crocker (who also created the Exploitation Journal fanzine) and DVD Drive-In's George Reis. They start off by talking about the movie’s home video release through Raedon Video and offer up some information about that label. From there, they offer up some thoughts on Milligan’s script and how it asks us to have sympathy for Donnie, Milligan’s sense of sadism and how that played out not just on screen but also in her personal life, how his stage and theatrical background plays a big part in the look of his films, and how in fandom Milligan’s work does seem to be a ‘love it or hate it’ affair. They talk about the budget for the film, how and why Milligan moved to California for the later part of his life and the state of the film industry at the time and how the home video market changed the scene for independent players like Milligan. Other subjects covered in the talk include the challenges involved in shooting on film, plenty of info on John Miranda and his association with Milligan, how a lot of Milligan’s films have a voyeuristic quality sometimes as they focus on the seedier side of life, Gena Carrera’s appearance in the film and her adult film career (and how Milligan also used a porn star in Surgikill by casting Joey Silvera), how Milligan knew how to ‘manipulate and mess with money,’ his military experience, his complicated relationship with his producers – the Mishkins in particular and quite a bit more. Crocker dominates the track and occasionally goes on a rant here and there but it’s all good, these two clearly have a genuine appreciation of Milligan’s work and an interest in his career and that definitely comes across in this informative talk.

    Up next is Matsui’s Monstrosities: An Interview With A Make-Up Man Part 2, an eight-minute featurette that gets Rodd Matsui to continue his stories about working with Milligan (part one is included on the Monstrosity disc). Here he talks about the miniscule effects budget he had to work with, how Milligan used an alias for the makeup work he did on the film, how he got along with people on set and the foils of ordering a beer with lunch.

    Garagehouse has also included a six-minute restoration comparison that shows just how horrible the condition of the original negative was before they did their restoration work on it. Seriously, even if you have no interest in how film is restored, watch this piece just so you can appreciate how much better the movie looks on this disc than it did before these guys got their hands on the materials.

    Rounding out the extra features is a nice still gallery, a collection of Andy Milligan trailers (Monstrosity, Guru The Mad Monk, The Man With 2 Heads, The Rats Are Coming The Werewolves Are Here), a collection of Garagehouse Pictures trailers (The Dismembered, Ninja Busters, The Satanist and a few of the Trailer Trauma compilations), menus and chapter selection.

    As to the packaging, this release includes some new cover art by Stephen Romano. The first 1000 copies of the movie also come with a very nice slipcover that features artwork from Justin Miller on the front panel.

    The Weirdo – The Final Word:

    There’s a lot that cult fans should like about Andy Milligan’s The Weirdo. It’s got the same sort of zany, low budget charm that most of his films feature but on top of that it’s also got some genuinely interesting characters and enough of the director’s trademark twisted set pieces to easily hold our attention. Garagehouse Pictures has gone all out on this release, giving the film a very impressive restoration and jam packing the disc with interesting and informative extra features.

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