• The Eleventh Commandment (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: July 28th, 2020.
    Director: Paul Leder
    Cast: Bernard White, Dick Sargent, Greg Mullavey, James Avery, Marilyn Hassett, Haunani Minn
    Year: 1987
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Eleventh Commandment – Movie Review:

    Robert Knight (Bernard White) is a troubled young man. When we meet him, he’s been institutionalized by his Uncle Charles (Dick Sargent), locked away in a state mental hospital where it’s assumed he won’t cause the family any more trouble than he already has. Fanatical about his Catholic faith to the point where he’s dangerous, Robert manages to escape from the hospital by sneaking out when a guard (James Avery – yep, Uncle Phil!!!) falls asleep on his night watch. Killing a cruel nurse on the way out, he makes his way into downtown Los Angeles, buys himself some sweet new duds and a knife, and then hits up the ballet school where he knows his nine-year-old cousin Deborah (Lauren Woodland) will be finishing up.

    Deborah is expecting to be picked up by the family chauffer – who Robert has stabbed and stashed in the trunk - and brought back home to her mother, Joanna Knight (Marilyn Hassett), but when Robert shows up instead she couldn’t be happier to see him. He takes her for lunch, then dinner at a soup kitchen where the feed the homeless for a bit. Then he keeps her overnight at a cheap hotel, killing a Miller High Life loving prostitute along the way, telling her all the while that he’s spoken to her mother and that she’s fine with it. Meanwhile, as Charles sets out to make some clandestine deals, Joanna’s maid, Kim (Haunani Minn), starts to get concerned about Deborah’s real whereabouts. All of this is going on while a sleazy, pill popping cop named Tom Leary (Steven Ford) starts working the case.

    Also known as Body Count, The Eleventh Commandment opens with a strange opening sequence where, as we stroll through the asylum, a beautiful woman in a flowing red gown plays a violin, making you wonder if you’re in for an art film, rather than the horror film that the lurid cover art promises. To be fair, the movie has horror movie elements to it for sure, a few of the killings are fairly bloody, but it plays out as more of a wonky melodrama than anything else. The script from William W. Norton, who wrote Night Of The Juggler and Day Of The Animals, is pretty messy, keeping details of Robert’s past intentionally vague but at the expense of the story. A little more explanation as to the whole family dynamic that plays such a big part in Robert being the way he is would have gone a long way, but we never get that and the narrative is murky at best, asking us to pity Robert and then moments later showing him stabbing someone completely undeserving of such a fate. We’re never given enough information about who Robert is for this to work and while we can understand why he’d want to go after Charles the way he does, there isn’t enough of a backstory constructed to make us care as much as we should.

    That said, for less discerning fans of those slasher fanatics who have to see anything even remotely related to the sub-genre, this is watchable enough. It never rises to greatness but it’s passably entertaining, a big reason being Bernard White’s genuinely weird performance. His interactions with Deborah are so sweet that at times you wonder what he’s really up to, something that isn’t lost on the prostitute at the hotel, and you start to question the sincerity of his motives. It isn’t even necessarily a good performance so much as it is just plain weird, but there’s something there that makes it interesting. The rest of the cast are fine, if unremarkable. Dick Sargent plays the cranky, greedy old guy well enough and Marilyn Hassett is more than decent as money-obsessed MILF keen to use her body to get what she wants. Haunani Minn is okay effective as the film’s only sympathetic adult character, we don’t want anything bad to happen to her at least, and Steven Ford makes for a decent enough sleazy cop. Uncle Phil is sadly underused.

    The score is oddly out of place and the movie is shot without a whole lot of style. On top of that, unless I missed something, we never do find out what the ‘Eleventh Commandment’ actually is. But somehow, this is oddly watchable even if it’s never remotely scary of even suspenseful.

    The Eleventh Commandment – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings The Eleventh Commandment to Blu-ray “restored in 2k from its 35mm interpositive” taking up 27.5GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, the transfer looks very nice despite the presence of some small white specks throughout. Detail is really nice, often times quite impressive and the film’s color scheme, which is pretty bright for a horror movie, is reproduced quite nicely. Black levels look good, skin tones are fine and there are no noticeable issues with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or noticeable compression artifacts.

    Audio chores are handled by a 24-bit English language DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track. The audio is clean and clear and nicely balanced, no trouble with any hiss or distortion to note. The track sounds just fine. An alternate Dolby Digital Mono track, in English, is also provided as are English subtitles.

    Extras start off with A Lifetime Of Preparation, a new interview with actor Bernard White. Shot remotely during the Covid-19 epidemic, he speaks for seventeen-minutes about preparing for the role in odd ways such as re-reading Hamlet and The Bible, how actors prepare for roles that have often times already been prepared for them by their lives, thoughts on the character that he plays and how he feels Robert regresses in the movie, how he got along with the rest of the cast on the picture and how unusual it was for a man of color to get a lead role, how working with kids helped him prepare for the movie, how much he enjoyed shooting around the Pacific Ocean, how he got along personally with James Avery, drawing from his family members' experiences for the role and plenty more.

    Through The Eyes Of A Child interviews with actress Lauren Woodland. Also shot remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic, in this piece she talks for twelve-minutes about growing up in Arizona, how an acting class led to her getting an audition that in turn led to some commercial work. She then talks about moving to Los Angeles, getting an agent, getting the part in the feature and how excited she was to land it, how she got along with Bernard White who she considers to be a very talented and educated actor, how she got along with the cast and crew and how everyone was so careful and concerned when working with her, thoughts on her character, how she was naturally cautious around strangers and grown men and how that fed into her work, some of the locations used for the shoot and other bits and pieces.

    A promotional still gallery, menus and chapter selection round out the extra features on the disc.

    As to the packaging, Vinegar Syndrome supplies some nice reversible cover sleeve artwork and, if you buy the film directly from their website, with an embossed, spot varnished slipcover designed by Earl Kessler Jr. and limited to 2,500 pieces.

    The Eleventh Commandment – The Final Word Review:

    The Eleventh Commandment isn’t really that good but White’s weird enough in the role to make it watchable and some of the supporting players are fun. This is bottom of the barrel stuff for sure, but it’s probably got its fans. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds very nice and the interviews are decent. All in all, a fine release for a film of very questionable quality!

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