• Saint Bernard (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: May 14th, 2019.
    Director: Gabriel Bartalos
    Cast: Jason Dugre, Katy Sullivan, Peter Iasillo Jr., Warwick Davis
    Year: 2013
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    Saint Bernard – Movie Review:

    One of only two features to have been directed by special effects maestro Gabriel Bartalos, 2013’s Saint Bernard is, in a word, insane. Clearly a very personal project that took him a few years to get finished, the film tells the story of an insane orchestra conductor named Bernard (Jason Durge). As Bernard’s mental state quickly begins to deteriorate, he runs about in his white tuxedo looking as if he’s prepared to conduct his next symphony, experiencing a series of events and meeting a collection of increasingly strange characters like a troll called The Chief (Peter Iasillo, Jr.), a man named Uncle Ed (Jack Doroshow), a potential girlfriend named Miss Roadkill (Katy Sullivan), a priest named Father Steele (Bob Zmuda) and a little person named Othello (Warwick Davis).

    What is real and what is hallucinated is debatable, but it’s clear that Bernard has more than a few screws loose as he carries with him a pillow case containing the severed head of a St. Bernard her refers to as ‘faith.’ Oh, and The Damned show up at one point

    You can’t really say that this film is plotless per se, but it’s obvious that a whole lot of what Bartalos has conjured up here has been left open to interpretation. The film opens with the shot of a chicken carcass preparing to skydive and then fills us in a bit on Bernard’s background. We see him aspiring, as a child, to conduct, and being rewarded with a hand-carved baton which he wields almost as if it were a weapon. Bernard has some savant-like tendencies, but also suffers from what may or may not be social anxiety of some sort. He can conjure music out of the sounds of every day items, but has trouble holding down anything even remotely resembling a normal conversation. As Bernard’s journey into insanity intensifies, his once lily-white tuxedo becomes increasingly filthy, making it an interesting metaphor for his progressively fracturing psyche.

    Bartalos’ experience as an SFX creator on scores of films like From Beyond, The Cremaster Cycle, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Darkman have clearly given him plenty of real-world experience in terms of how to conjure up striking and disturbing visuals, and that’s probably what Saint Bernard does best. It’s a freakishly creative and undeniably intense watch, but it’s the bizarre creature design and makeup effects that really stand out. At times it almost feels like how a cyberpunk movie directed by David Lynch might have turned out, but the film has a tone and a style all its own. Bartalos’ strength for creating unsettling and truly weird imagery is not wasted here, there’s plenty of it to go around and it serves as a showcase for just how off the wall unbridled creativity can get.

    Saint Bernard – Blu-ray Review:

    Saint Bernard comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Severin Films who present the picture in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation framed at 1.78.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc. Shot on film, there’s good texture and detail here. Some minor compression artifacts can be spotted in a few of the darker scenes but otherwise, no complaints. Colors look good and the image retains an appropriately film-like appearance throughout, meaning we get a bit of grain, but it stays clean and crisp looking, free of obvious print damage or digital anomalies.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track is fine. It’s properly balanced, it’s clean and it is free of any hiss or distortion. Dialogue is easy to understand and to follow, no problems here at all. Optional subtitles are offered up in English only and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo option, also in English, is included on the disc as well.

    The main extra on the disc is The Making Of Saint Bernard, a seventeen-minute featurette that is made up of interviews and behind the scenes footage. We even hear from Bartalos while he’s being worked on by a dentist at one point. Jason Dugre and Katy Sullivan pop up here as well, talking about the insanity of the sets and props, how Bartalos impersonated a fire department employee to get away with shooting a certain scene, the joys of being run over by a car, some of the film’s insane gore, the creature design that is key to the film’s look and more. Photographer Joe Jennings also pops up in the featurette to talk about the skydiving chicken sequence and what went into getting some of the shots right and VFX man Al Magliochetti chimes in on how the ‘fleshcicle’ was created for the film.

    Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    Saint Bernard – The Final Word:

    Saint Bernard is crazy, it’s shocking, it’s gory and it’s off the fucking wall. A movie that you really need to see for yourself if you have any interest in the stranger side of cinema. It doesn’t always make sense, but it never fails to hold your attention and pull you in. Severin Films has done a nice job bringing this legitimate cinematic oddity to Blu-ray – recommended!

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