• Wacko (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: February 26th, 2019.
    Director: Greydon Clark
    Cast: George Kennedy, Joe Don Baker, Andrew Dice Clay, Stella Stevens, Julia Duffy, Charles Napier
    Year: 1981
    Purchase From Amazon

    Wacko – Movie Review:

    Greydon Clark’s 1981 horror parody Wacko opens thirteen years ago where, at the Halloween Pumpkin Prom, a lunatic in a pumpkin mask with a big nose dubbed The Lawnmower Killer went on a killing spree. One of the victims was Pam Graves, the older sister of Mary Graves (Julia Duffy of Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker and Battle Beyond The Stars), who is now attending the same high school as her dear, departed sister. Mary lives at home with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Doctor Graves (George Kennedy and Stella Stevens respectively). Mary’s also dating a classmate named Norman (Scott McGinnis of Joysticks) who has serious mother issues and makes a lawnmower sound any time that he becomes aroused. Around the same time, the students of Hitchcock High School are getting excited for the big football game where The Birds are going to face off against the De Palma Knives. Dr. Moreau (Victor Brandt) is going to do whatever it takes to make sure the team wins their first game in over a decade.

    On the thirteenth anniversary of the murders, a cop named Dick Harbinger (the mighty Joe Don Baker) is certain that the killer is going to strike again and is bound and determined to catch him before he does, even if his superior, Chief O’Hara (Charles Napier) and everyone else thinks he’s nuts. Elsewhere, the vice principal, a religious zealot named Harry Palms (Jeff Altman), clamps sinning students’ heads in a vice grip in his office where he rants behind a pulpit. Meanwhile, Tony ‘The Schlong’ Schlongini (Andrew Dice Clay), Bambi (Elizabeth Daly) and Rosie (Michele Tobin) are getting ready for the prom while creepy janitor Zeke (Anthony James) pokes about and a flasher (Sonny Carl Davis) makes his presence known!

    “Death to all teenagers who fuck!”

    Every bit as stupid as it sounds, Wacko is nevertheless frequently laugh out loud funny. If think of it doing for slashers what Airplane! did for disaster films and what The Naked Gun did for cop movies, you’ll be on the right track – it works very much on the same level. The jokes and sight gags are nearly constant, the film never slows down and there’s a lot of nonsense going on in the background that you might not even pick up on the first time you see the movie. The movie skewers horror, thriller and slasher movie tropes by the dozen, sometimes with painfully bad results, but even then, you can’t help but laugh. No one in their right mind would go into this one expecting anything but complete nonsense, and complete nonsense is exactly what the movie offers up. Everything is over the top, from Norman bringing his taxidermied mother’s corpse to dinner with Mary’s parents to Schlongini’s erection knocking over the table to the flasher’s mad dash/chase scene across the school football field.

    The performances reflect all of this. George Kennedy, who has one of the best running jokes of the entire movie, is a kick and he and Stelle Stevens are hilarious together. Andrew Dice Clay is… well, he’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect cast here as the sex-obsessed jock, but he does a good Travolta impersonation and he’s pretty funny in his part. Julia Duffy and Scott McGinnis are both pretty amusing here as well, McGinnis in particular has a few of the film’s more ridiculous moments to his credit, and it’s fun to see Elizabeth Daly show up here too. The real star of the show, however, isn’t Charles Napier (though he’s great in his short cameo) but Joe Don Baker. He’s perfect here as the sweaty, schlubby cop who everyone thinks is off his rocker. He barrels his way through the film like a bull in a china shop but he’s pretty hysterical to watch and clearly having a good time with the part.

    Wacko – Blu-ray Review:

    Wacko arrives on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome on a 50GB disc in a 1.85.1 widescreen transfer taken from a new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative and presented in 1080p high definition. It’s a very nice transfer, showing little in the way of print damage but plenty of depth and detail throughout. Colors look nice, black levels are solid and skin tones are just fine. There are no problems with any compression artifacts, nor are there any issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement. It’s another high quality, pleasingly film-like transfer from Vinegar Syndrome.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track is solid. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The audio here is fine. Some scenes sound a tiny bit flat but that’s likely owing to the original recording. For the most part, the dialogue sounds just fine and there’s decent range here for an older single channel mix. The sound effects and score have a good amount of power behind them. The track is free of any obvious hiss or distortion.

    Extras on the disc start off with a new audio commentary from director Greydon Clark that’s pretty interesting. He talks about the locations and spends quite a bit of time talking about the casting of the film, the shooting schedule, and what it was like working with the different stars hired for the shoot including Kennedy and Clay. He talks about the musical numbers, reception to the film, its distribution history and quite a bit more. No false pretenses here, but it’s a fun and informative track.

    From there, check out Die Laughing, an interview with cinematographer Nicholas von Sternberg. He speaks here for seven-minutes about his experiences on the shoot, working with Clark, some of the difficulties that occurred during the shoot, having to set up on the different locations and more.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is the film’s original theatrical trailer, ten-minutes’ of silent outtakes from the film, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release, we also get a DVD version of the movie and Vinegar Syndrome packages this with some nice reversible cover artwork.

    Slip cover collectors will be interested in buying directly from Vinegar Syndrome where they can get a limited-edition slip featuring exclusive artwork from Earl Kessler Jr..

    Wacko – The Final Word:

    Check your brain at the door and give Wacko a shot. You can’t, for one second, take any of this seriously but thankfully you aren’t supposed to. It’s just stupid enough to work and Vinegar Syndrome has done a very nice job bringing this unlikely candidate to Blu-ray in great shape and with some nice extra features too. Recommended!

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

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      I really wanted to like this, but I thought it was pitiful. I had a really tough time getting through it.

      According to the Mondo Digital review, this is the R-rated version that's 3 min. longer than the PG version.