• Evil Town (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 24th, 2019.
    Director: Curtis Hanson, Larry Spiegel, Peter S. Traynor, Mohammed Rustam
    Cast: James Keach, Dean Jagger, Robert Walker Jr., Doria Cook-Nelson, Michele Marsh, Lynda Wiesmeier, Regis Toomey, Hope Summers
    Year: 1977
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    Evil Town – Movie Review:

    The evil town in question is actually Smalltown – no really, there’s a road sign that alerts us to the fact that we’re entering a place literally called Smalltown, with a population of 666! One such member of the population is Earl (E.J. André) – he runs a gas station that is not all that it seems. When a vacationing family stops by for a fill up, he abducts them and soon enough they’re being drained of their blood in some sort of strange medical clinic!

    From there, a quartet of flower children - Christopher (James Keach) and Julie (Michele Marsh) and their pals Mike (Robert Walker Jr.) and Linda (Doria Cook) – get stuck in Smalltown when their van starts having some engine trouble. The bring it to Earl – who else? – to take a look at and decide to spend the night camped out in the nearby woods. When they catch someone spying on them, they get spooked! Regardless, the next day they head back to see Earl only to be told that it’s going to take a few more days before he can have their sweet ride back on the road. An elderly couple named Lyle (Dabbs Greer) and Mildred (Lurene Tuttle), who lost their son some time ago and seem unusually hospitable, offer to put them up and our hippies take them up on that offer.

    Oddly enough, Smalltown is full of old people like Lyle and Mildred but suspiciously devoid of any kids. The hippies notice this, but not in time – with his three friends drugged and out of it, Chris manages to escape and hopes to find help only to soon learn the truth about the town and one Dr. Schaeffer (Dean Jagger). While all of this is going on, two mechanics named Harry (Keith Hefner) and Wally (Greg Finley) are out causing trouble for horny couple Dianne (Lynda Wiesmeier) and Tony (Scott Hunter) and unlucky friends Terrie (Christie Houser) and Karen (Noelle Harling).

    A strangely entertaining mishmash of a film, Evil Town began its life in the late seventies as God Bless Grandama and Grandpa and/or God Bless Dr. Shagetz and/or God Damn Dr. Shagetz before then more or less disappearing. A decade or so later, it was reborn on VHS through a release courtesy of Trans World Entertainment (whose back copy makes it sound like a zombie film) that clearly had newly shot footage spliced into it to spice things up (this explains how four directors wound up working on this at various points). The most obvious inserts are the shots involving Playboy Playmate Lynda Wiesmeier, who offers up some welcome nudity, and some odd inserts with a nurse named Dorothy (Jillian Kesner) who mostly stands around in a hallway acting concerned.

    Interestingly enough, one of the ‘directors’ of the newly shot footage was Mohammed ‘Mardi’ Rustam, who basically took the concept for this picture and made his own version of it – 1985’s Evils Of The Night – which actually came out before Evil Town wound up on VHS in the first place.

    The whole thing is pretty weird, but not without plenty of entertainment value. If slow motion footage of old people attacking hippies and horny types in slow motion sounds appealing to you – and it should – then you’ll probably find this amusing. The newer footage sticks out like a sore thumb but to be fair, the continuity here works better than it really has any right to. The acting in the seventies footage is better than the insert material, however. It’s kind of neat to see actors like Regis Toomey of The Big Sleep and Hope Summers of Rosemary’s Baby acting alongside Dean Jagger from Bad Day At Black Rock. Some great character actors in the cast add to the fun. Also look out for The Long Riders’ James Keach, Easy Rider’s Robert Walker Jr. and Fiddler On The Roof’s Michele Marsh appearing in the film.

    Bonus points for a manic hippie campfire dance off sequence at the twenty-four-minute mark!

    Evil Town – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Evil Town to Blu-ray on a 25B disc framed at 1.85.1 in a transfer taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. The transfer looks pretty strong considering the origins of the film. It’s grainy, sure, and the slow motion footage does tend to show some white specks, but generally speaking the image is quite clean. Detail is really solid here, and there’s good depth too. Colors, overall, look really good, though they do fluctuate a bit in some scenes, while black levels are fine.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track, which comes with optional English subtitles, is fine. The dialogue is clean and the track is free of any hiss or distortion. Range is limited, as you’d expect, but there aren’t any problems here. Levels are balanced and the film’s score, which is impressively wonky (there’s some weird new wave songs on the soundtrack!), sounds good too.

    Director Larry Spiegel kicks off the extras with an audio interview that lasts thirty-two-minutes and was conducted by Brandon from Vinegar Syndrome. Conducted over the phone, we learn how Spiegel got his start in the film business, and then how he wound up becoming the second director to work on Evil Town. He talks about writing some Planet Of The Apes TV show material, what it was like working with a mix of younger and older actors and working with Dean Jagger in particular, his thoughts on the producers that he was involved with during the making of the movie, the significance of the word Shagetz in Yiddish, working on some tax shelter productions in Canada, how difficult certain scenes were and why, differences between the original version of Dr. Shagetz and Evil Town and plenty more.

    The disc also features a piece called Compare And Contrast that runs sx-minutes and is essentially a comparison between this film and the aforementioned Evils Of The Night. This starts off by explaining how the film began in the early seventies as God Bless Grandma And Grandpa and was to be directed by Curtis Hanson, and how it was turned over to Larry Spiegel and retitled God Damn Dr. Shagetz and then how… neither version was every really released. We then learn that Mardi Rustam acquired and recut the film, added the new material and released it as a new film called Evil Town. From there, we got some shockingly funny clips that show just how closely the Evils Of The Night mirrors quite a bit of Evil Town.

    Menus and chapter selection finish things off. The packaging for this is also worth mentioning – not only do we get a great double sided cover sleeve but we also get a poster featuring the same art on both sides, and a slipcover that loads from the bottom, just like an old VHS sleeve would.

    NOTE: This release is part of the new Vinegar Syndrome Archive line, which is described by Vinegar Syndrome as follows:

    “We are pleased to present the Vinegar Syndrome Archive line, celebrating forgotten cinematic oddities from the video store era. This collection was inspired by our own video store, The Archive, and is designed to be extra appealing and affordable for all local brick and mortar video stores by offering them below market wholesale pricing.

    Unique to this line, each hand numbered limited edition release will come fitted in a specially designed, bottom loading VHS inspired slipcase, featuring the original video art used for the film, while also including a double-sided poster.

    These releases will ONLY be available on our website and at participating brick and mortar retailers. Absolutely no other online stores will be stocking them. Each release is strictly limited to 2,500 units and will never be re-released in another version. We are allocating 2,000 units to sell on our website and 500 units to be sold at participating retail video stores.”

    Evil Town – The Final Word:

    Evil Town is a pretty kooky horror picture but it’s not without its considerable low-budget charm. Some interesting cast members elevate this a bit, but even if you remove that there’s some interesting ideas and atmosphere here. If it isn’t a genre classic, it’s definitely an entertaining oddity and Vinegar Syndrome has done a fine job bringing it to Blu-ray with an impressive transfer and an interview that does a great job in explaining the film’s genuinely confusing history!

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

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      When I watched EVILS OF THE NIGHT a few years ago I immediately was thinking WTF, I've already seen this movie. I like EVIL TOWN more. Looking forward to the "Compare and Contrast" segment.

      I'm always down for more of Lynda Wiesmeier's tits in HD. The film has a few slow spots but its a lot of fun.