• Champagne And Bullets (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 29th, 2021.
    Director: John De Hart, James Paradise
    Cast: John De Hart, Wings Hauser, William Smith, Pamela Jean Bryant
    Year: 1993
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    Champagne And Bullets – Movie Review:

    John De Hart is a one man wrecking crew in this feature film masterpiece of insanity from 1993, and thankfully when he made this picture he had the foresight and the budget to cast, alongside himself, Wings Hauser, William Smith and a Playboy Playmate!

    The film opens with the Champagne And Bullets theme song (written by De Hart and sung by David Grummet vocals) and it’s rad. From there, we meet two cops – Rick Bode (De Hart) and Huck Finney (Hauser) and rough and ready boss, Normad (William Smith). It doesn’t matter if Normad is this guy’s first name or last name. All that matters is his name is Normad and that he is a bad, bad man. Anyway, they get into some trouble when their drug raid on an abandoned trailer in the middle of nowhere goes wrong. Rick has great catch phrases like “not a problem.”

    Sometime later and both Rick and Huck are off the force. Rick has also broken up with his girlfriend, Cindy (Pamela Jean Bryant – Playboy’s Miss April of 1978), but he’s doing okay for himself and he and Huck are still best buds. Later, pantsless Huck, sporting a white cowboy hat and a very jangly looking cowboy shirt, irons his pants while chugging cans of Budweiser and talking to a life-sized Native American doll of some sort placed on his couch. They watch TV together and hang out. Rick shows up and it’s time to hit the town.

    This brings us to The Shimmy slide. This, the most important scene in the entire movie, is set inside a bar that looks like it was set up in someone’s basement. An electric guitar plays on the soundtrack while two man strum acoustic guitars on stage and a confused looking woman plays a keyboard. We also have a bass player and a drummer. The stage is set, and the music starts up. People stare at a fireplace only to have their gaze interrupted by a quartet of line dancers. Rick, sporting leather pants, gets on stage and ‘sings’ all while ‘dancing’ (wiggling around a little bit)… The Shimmy Slide… which is a song about making love to a woman. He does this while Huck chugs back some Coronas. Bad dudes, one of whom has Guy Fieri hair, harass Cindy, who is kind of dressed like Freddy Mercury in this scene. When Rick finishes, he yells out ‘HOT DAMN’ and then a woman with oddly mismatched bazongas gets up on stage and strips. This causes a younger woman in the audience to get offended and call the cops. A fight breaks out with the bad guys as Rick empties a bottle of Corona on Flavor Town and Rick clumsily punches another guy. Then the cops show up, Huck cusses them out and gets arrested.

    De Hart and an older woman bail him out, and it’s game on. Then he takes his Cindy out for a fancy dinner at what appears to be a Mexican restaurant where the Italian owner, a guy named Vinnie, is wowed by De Hart’s terrible dirty jokes. A female singer takes a Polaroid of the happy couple. Then they leave.

    Next, Rick and Cindy talk about their relationship. Then, holy shit, we flashback to that time when a cult sacrificed a baby to Satan! Cindy was affiliated with this cult in her past and Normad was its leader!!! After Cindy confesses this to Rick, they make love as De Hart can be heard singing a duet with a female vocalist (credited as Lisa Ver Duft) on the soundtrack. Rick strokes Cindy between her legs and lifts up his fingers and grins, as if to indicate how impressed he is with her moistness, and then he rubs an ice cube over her nipples. He is a sex master.

    Back at the basement bar, an instrumental version of The Shimmy Slide plays as a drunken Huck struggles with a dartboard. Later, Huck’s ex-wife shows up to tell him to pay her what the court ordered him to pay her. He doesn’t like that idea. The cops come and he’s in trouble again. There’s going to be a court case.

    Elsewhere, Normad spanks a woman! Wings winds up in court and Normad, now a judge, is set to hear the case. That’s not going to work so Rick and Cindy decide to get married. Cindy’s dad tosses out her clothes and then she makes love to Rick in a hot tub while he once again sings in the background, this time a song called ‘I’ll Be With You’ and it’s awesome. Again, he is a sex master. It goes on a very long time.

    Then Huck gets drunk in a pool, his hair now partially orange, and has an intense conversation with two women about Huckleberry Finn’s tenacity, comparing him to ‘Moses leading the Israelites’ (Hauser has trouble pronouncing Israelites) only for Rick to show up and insist Huck be his best man at the upcoming wedding. Rick gets married in his finest track suit. That night on their honeymoon Cindy strips to the sexy sounds of The Shimmy Slide and they have sex again, this time to another duet with De Hart singing alongside that unnamed female. He is a sex master.

    But Cindy’s past soon catches up with her! We won’t spoil where it goes from here but let it suffice to say that one of the alternate titles for this movie is Road To Revenge and that Rick and Huck’s past experience with firearms and ass-kicking is going to come in very handy.

    With Champagne And Bullets (better known under the titles GetEven and Road To Revenge), John De Hart didn’t just make a movie, he made HIS movie. This vanity project may seem completely misguided more often than not, but the man’s stamp is all over it. He wrote it, co-directed it with the mysterious James Paradise, produced it, did most of the vocals on the music in it and just clearly threw every fiber of his being into the project. And while the end result may be startlingly imperfect, in many ways this picture is exactly what it should be. As a showcase for De Hart’s talents the movie is spot on, even if how much talent De Hart has is debatable. But again, that almost doesn’t matter because the guy set out to make his own movie his way on his own terms and damn it all, he did it. Even finishing a project like this is noteworthy, and on top of that he got Wings ‘Ramrod’ Hauser, William ‘Conan’s Dad’ Smith and Miss April 1978 to show up in this thing? Our cowboy hats should all be off to De Hart for making this work.

    And yeah. Fine. The script might deal in nonsense and clichés. Wings Hauser may seem to be on a different planet from the rest of the cast, but damn it all if he isn’t an absolute blast to watch in this movie. William Smith grimaces and scowls his way through the movie and seems to have a great time throwing his weight around the chewing the scenery. The sex scenes are creepy and awkward and the stunts are awful. The songs in the film, a mix of horrible new country and seriously weird crooning, is amazingly off but somehow completely on, and the whole thing is just off the rails – but you’ve got to love that about the movie, which is presented here in its never commercially released 16mm version.

    Champagne And Bullets – Blu-ray Review:

    Champagne And Bullets arrives on region free Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 on a 29.4GBs of space on 50GB disc “newly scanned and restored in 2k from its 16mm original camera negative.” This looks like the low budget 16mm production that it is, and that’s a beautiful thing. The picture is gritty and grainy but there’s pretty nice detail here, all things considered. Expect the occasional scratch and some nicks here and there, but the elements seem to have been kept in pretty nice shape overall. Colors are nicely reproduced, black levels are good and there aren’t any issues with noise reduction or compression. This looks quite good compared to the DVD release that was floating around a few years ago.

    A 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track lets you hear all of John De Hart’s perfectly written dialogue as well as the dulcet tones of his musical contributions in pretty much perfect clarity. An optional Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track, also in English, is included on the disc presumably for those who can’t handle lossless audio, and optional English SDH subtitles are also provided.

    The first extra on the disc is feature length commentary with the man himself, John De Hart moderated by Vinegar Syndrome’s Douglas Hausdale. They start right off by talking about how the project came about, with De Hart straight up saying he just wanted to make a movie and rushed it into production. They cover the opening scene and drug bust, De Hart describing it as ‘a touch of genius,’ and they then go on to talk about De Hart’s thoughts on the characters in the movie, how Smith was great because he nailed the character and didn’t really need any direction, shooting the movie without seeing any dailies, some of the locations that were used for the movie, how great he thinks Hauser was in the film, how he personally wore a lot of leather suits in the nineties, how the bar was in fact his game room in his house (De Hart used to run a video arcade and kept some of the arcade machines we see in the bar scenes), not doing very many rehearsals for the film, how De Hart made the movie as a demo reel that he hoped would catapult him into stardom which is why the Shimmy Slide scene is in the film and how he couldn’t really dance when shooting it because he was having back problems after he tried to pick up Wings Hauser (he was also on pain killers at the time which is why his eyes look like they do!). He talks about always intending to have an R-rating for the film, how he feels the film deals with a lot of serious issues like religion and criminality, getting kneed by a jealous bit-part player, shooting some scenes at a studio, how the movie presented in this cut is pretty much exactly how it was scripted, how much he enjoyed getting brunch and going to the Beverly Hills Polo Lounge, what went into setting up and staging the Satanic ritual scene and how this ties into his high school reunion, how he meant for the movie to be ‘surrealistic,’ his own training and education in the acting business, his thoughts on method and system acting, shooting the love scenes and how Bryant was completely comfortable during these scenes and that she knew ahead of time what the part required, how Dennis Hopper was considered for the part of Huck at one point, how he transitioned into being a lawyer and was in law school at the time the movie was made, how his girlfriend at the time left him after the Jacuzzi scene was made and lots, lots more. De Hart has some interesting theories about acting, theater and film and is pretty open here about every detail of making the movie and while it’s delivered in a very unassuming and laid back manner there’s a lot of good info here (though I do wish that the track offered up more info about who De Hart was and what he did before he made this movie).

    Mr. De Hart also is also featured in an audio interview that clocks in at just over twenty-five minutes in length. It covers some of the same ground as the audio commentary but also has some material unique to this featurette. He covers his acting, how the project evolved, the music in the film, keeping morale strong on set, the film’s budget, working with his three co-stars, getting screwed by four different distributors and how the movie was pirated all over the place, the film’s growing cult audience, writing The Shimmy Slide song and scene specifically, his thoughts on the other songs that he wrote and performed in the movie, how the Road To Revenge cut of the movie is almost a ‘Disney version’ of the movie that he prepared to soften the film, shooting a few additional scenes and reissuing the film as GetEven, the serious issues that the film deals with and more.

    If that wasn’t enough, the disc also includes standard definition, video-sourced versions of both the shorter Road To Revenge and GetEven cuts of the film. The 16mm Champagne And Bullets cut runs 1:38:59 and features sex scenes that are a lot longer and more graphic and there’s an assault at the bar that isn’t in the other versions. The Road To Revenge cut funs 1:14:57 and features different opening and closing credits and different music over those credits, and the ending is completely different. The GetEven cut runs 1:29:59 and again features different opening and closing credits with different music over those sequences. GetEven also has some little bits and pieces that aren’t in the other cuts of the movie. The fact that all three cuts of the movie are here is a big deal for fans of this picture.

    A video trailer, menus and chapter selection are also provided. The 16mm cut features sex scenes that are a bit longer and more graphic and there’s an assault at the bar that isn’t in the other versions. The ending is also different, but we won’t spoil that.

    This release also comes with a poster folded up inside the Blu-ray case as well as some reversible cover sleeve art.

    Champagne And Bullets - The Final Word:

    Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release of Champagne And Bullets, which is limited to 6,000 copies, will make fans of John De Hart’s amazing film shimmy slide with happiness! Not only does it include the two video versions of the film but it also offers the original version newly restored with a commentary and an interview with the man himself that explores and explains the bizarre history of one of the most amazing B-movies you’ll ever lay eyes on. Highest possible recommendation!

    Click on the images below for full sized Champagne And Bullets Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      This is the greatest day of my life. 3 different cuts? HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!!
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      Wow! The Shimmy Slide is getting the deluxe VS treatment. Glory days are here.

      The more Wings in HD the better.