• The Severed Arm (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 22nd, 2020.
    Director: Tom Alderman
    Cast: Deborah Walley, Paul Carr, David G. Cannon, Marvin Kaplan, John Crawford, Vince Martorano
    Year: 1973
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    The Severed Arm – Movie Review:

    Tom Alderman’s 1973 film The Severed Arm opens with an amazing scene where a shadowy figure cuts the arm off of a body in a morgue and then has it delivered, vis USPS of course, to a man named Jeff Ashton (David G. Cannon)! Oddly enough, Jeff calls a few buddies to let them know what has happened… instead of calling the police.

    From there, we travel back in time a half-decade where he and five pals - Herman (Marvin Kaplan), Ted Rogers (Ray Dannis), Ray Sanders (John Crawford), Bill Hale (Vince Martorano) and Mark Richards (Paul Carr) – go out on a cave expedition. Annoying loud-mouthed Herman causes a cave-in and the five men find themselves trapped inside. With no food, it only takes a week or two before it’s decided that in order to sustain themselves, they’ll hack off Ted’s arm and eat it. Ted isn’t down with this and that night he opts to try and kill Herman but he’s stopped by the rest of the men who succeed in cutting off his arm, only to hear a rescue team arrive almost immediately after. Some luck, huh?

    Anyway, rather than admit to the authorities that they’ve just tried to eat their friend, the group tells them that Ted’s arm got mangled during the cave-in and that they had to cut it off. When Ted pipes up, they convince the rescue team that he’s nuts and, as such, nobody listens to him and, in fact, he winds up locked away in an asylum shortly after. Cut back to the present day and the gang, minus Ted, is back together discussing what to do. It’s decided that they’ll keep the truth buried, after all, they’ve gone on to lead successful lives, and that to finalize things once and for all they’ll murder Ted. Shortly after the meeting, someone breaks into Ray’s house and cuts off his arm…

    A proto-slasher of sorts, The Severed Arm wears its low budget on its sleeve but proves to be a pretty effective and genuinely off beat horror oddity. The acting is decent enough even if the effects are less than convincing. Alderman, who also worked on the screenplay, does a nice job pacing the picture, it’s weird enough throughout that it never feels dull even during the slower sequences. No one in the cast is going to win an Oscar for their work here, but they all do decent enough work, convincing us of a manly camaraderie before it all hits the fan and ruins things for the bunch. The film also moves to an impressively grim conclusion that, even if you see it coming, still packs a bit more of a punch than you’d probably expect it to. The way that the film builds an increasing sense of dread for the central characters as the story plays out also works quite well.

    There are some decent scenes of moderate gore in the film and a bit of legitimate suspense as well. And on top of that? The movie features a legitimately amazing score from Phillan Bishop (who also did Kiss Of The Tarantula and Messiah Of Evil) that is just flat out bizarre and yet somehow absolutely perfect for the feature itself.

    Note that this release of The Severed Arm is completely uncut. The Code Red DVD release wasn’t trimmed of any violence but it was missing roughly eight-minutes of footage trimmed from throughout the film. This release from Vinegar Syndrome runs 91:53 and does appear to be completely intact.

    The Severed Arm – Blu-ray Review:

    The Severed Arm debuts on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome on a 50GB disc with the feature taking up just over 27GBs of space. Newly restored in 4k from the original 35mm negative, the image is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and it leaves past releases of the film in the dust. Not only is it uncut, but you can see what’s going on in the darker scenes now, which is definitely a plus. There’s some mild print damage here, small white specks and the like, but nothing more serious than that. Black levels are nice and deep and color reproduction looks really, really good. There’s no noticeable noise reduction and no problems with any edge enhancement or compression artifacts to complain about. It retains an appropriately gritty look throughout, plenty of natural film grain here, but the increase in detail, depth and texture over what we’ve had before on home video is, in a word, substantial.

    The 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track sounds great. Audio is nice and clear. That utterly bizarre soundtrack has good depth and range to it. Some of the dialogue can sound a little canned but the movie has always sounded that way and that would seem to be due to the original elements. Otherwise, no problems here, the track is nicely balanced and free of any hiss, distortion or sibilance. But man, that soundtrack. So good, and better than ever in proper lossless audio. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. An English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track is also included.

    Extras start off with A Cut Above The Rest, a nine-minute interview with Producer Gary Adelman who talks about working on this picture after working on The Candy Snatchers and how he and his team were looking to do a project on a ‘modest budget’ and how he was put into touch with the writers and bought the treatment and had it tweaked before bringing it to feature production. He talks about working with Tom Alderman on the picture, how they got funding for the picture from an advertising company which lead to having a decent budget for the picture, yet things were still definitely very tight as far as money was concerned. He talks about the film’s theatrical and television runs, the graphics used for the campaign and the press releases, how some of the different cast members were like to work with and more.

    Severing The Past, a new interview with actor Vince Martorano that runs eight-minutes, lets the actor talk about his experiences working on the film. He talks speaks about the film’s low budget, shooting using a lot of the cast members’ homes as locations, how he got into acting and went to drama school in New York before doing off-Broadway and then getting into theatrical films with The Candy Snatchers and then The Severed Arm, which required a move to Los Angeles. He talks about how fortunate he was to get a good agent, how everyone did the best they could on the film with what they had, the influence of the ‘slashing’ in the film and how he’s been doing real estate in California to subsidize his film work in order to make sure his family was well taken care of.

    Aside from that, the disc also includes a promotional still gallery, menus and chapter selection and it comes packaged with some very cool reversible cover artwork.

    The Severed Arm – The Final Word:

    The Severed Arm is an atmospheric and scuzzy little low-budget horror picture that offers a few twists and surprises and some decent scenes of suspense as well. Vinegar Syndrome has done a very nice job bringing this one to Blu-ray, completely uncut, and with some interesting interviews to document its history. All in all, a very strong release for an underrated horror picture.

    Click on the images below for full-sized The Severed Arm screen caps!