• Boardinghouse (AGFA) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: AGFA/Bleeding Skull
    Released on: October 26th, 2021.
    Director: John Wintergate
    Cast: John Wintergate, Kalassu, Lindsay Freeman, Joel Riordan, Brian Bruderlin, Selma Kora, Tracy O’Brien
    Year: 1982
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    Boardinghouse – Movie Review:

    Directed by John Wintergate, 182’s Boardinghouse earned its place in the horror movie history books by being the first shot on video production to get theatrical play. Although it was shot on tape, 35mm prints were made and it did get a pretty wide theatrical release before then going on to be a mainstay on home video, getting a VHS release, two different DVD releases (one from Code Red and then a second from Slasher//Video) and now, courtesy of AGFA, a Blu-ray premiere.

    As to what the movie is all about? Let’s give it a shot…

    Jim (director John Wintergate credited as Hawk Adley) is a weird, perpetually horny guy who inherits a house with a past – it was once the sight of some brutal, confusing murders! Either way, Jim figures the place is pretty big and so he puts out an ad in a local newspaper advertising rooms for rent at a cool hundred bucks a month to attractive, unattached women! Even in 1982 this should have been a huge red flag, but nope, soon enough, Jim’s got himself a veritable gaggle of hotties - hotties like Lindsay (Debbie Hoffman), Sandy (Selma Kora), Cindy (Mary McKinley), Suzie (Tracy O'Brien) and a few others, notably Victoria (played by Kalassu!).

    When Jim isn’t practicing telekinesis, he’s hitting on his boarders but they don’t seem to mind, in fact, some of them seem to be pretty into him! When it comes time to throw a housewarming party, Victoria gets her band members to agree to play a gig poolside in the backyard, but before that happens, people start experiencing strange supernatural phenomena and then dying!

    Boardinghouse (or Boarding House if you prefer, though we’re going to go with what the title card reads) doesn’t typically make a whole lot of sense but if you’re into psychotronic horror, it does prove to be a whole lot of fun. The movie has the benefit of being shot in ‘Horror Vision’ working in its favor too! This means that when someone is about to get murdered weird analogue video effects will be used, presumably in an attempt to give these scenes a sort of supernatural look. It isn’t used very effectively or very consistently, but when it does happen, it’s hard not to smile. This doesn’t compensate for the complete lack of acting ability here, but then, that’s all part of the movie’s considerable charm as well. This was clearly made by a bunch of people without a whole lot of professional experience, and the fact that nobody let that stop anyone from unleashing this upon an unsuspecting public definitely elevates the film’s curiosity value considerably.

    Most of the female cast members are attractive, but forgettable outside of that, the one exception being Kalassu, who just so happened to be Wintergate’s wife and, with her husband, half of the rock band Lightstorm (who formed in the late sixties – read a fascinating overview of their career here or enjoy some of their music here!). Maybe she didn’t win an Oscar for this movie or anything, but she’s at least got some charisma and her chemistry with John does a lot to carry the movie – case in point, a scene where they hang out in the bathtub together and talk about cosmic energy while Jim makes a bar of soap levitate. As to Wintergate himself, the man’s performance is dedicated and enjoyably loopy. His European accent, impish grin and ability to perform in nothing but a banana hammock kind of offset some of his character’s creeper qualities and the two of them just come across as likeable both in the feature and in the disc’s many extra features.

    So yeah, the end result may be pretty nonsensical, made up of awful acting, questionable camerawork, cheapjack gore effects and a soundtrack that we’ll charitably describe as wonky, but Boardinghouse somehow manages to retain that ‘it’ factor that makes a good cult movie a good cult movie. Oh, and it’s got a creepy gardener in a leather biker jacket too, and lots of silly, overdone ‘computer’ scenes in the beginning that sort of explain the house’s backstory in addition to a bit of nudity and some suggestive banana consumption.

    Boardinghouse – Blu-ray Review:

    AGFA brings Boardinghouse to all its high definition glory on region free Blu-ray in a two-disc set. The first disc contains the original theatrical cut, ‘preserved in 2K from an original 35mm release print’ framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p with the transfer using up 20.6GBs of space on the 50GB disc. It looks pretty much like you’d expect a transfer of a print taken from a VHS source forty years ago to look, which is a bit rough. That said, there’s decent enough detail here and it’s admittedly very cool to basically have the theatrical experience replicated here. Expect a bit of print damage throughout and variations in color reproduction, but overall this feels very true to source and despite the obvious and unavoidable flaws in the source material, it makes for a perfectly fine viewing experience!

    The English language 16-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track sounds fine, but again shows the limitations of the source material. There’s some occasional hiss here and there but overall the track is mostly pretty clean, if definitely limited in range. Again, the film’s low-fi origins definitely play a factor here, but it sounds fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras on the first disc start off with a partial commentary for the theatrical cut with AGFA/Bleeding Skull's Joseph A. Ziemba “& friends.” The friends here include edited in clips from participants like the Wintergates themselves, but the vast majority of the commentary is Ziemba explaining the film’s quirky history and passionately extolling its many virtues. He goes over the making of the movie, details the Wintergates’ background, notes the distribution of the picture and discusses its importance in the world of SOV horror and beyond. The theatrical cut also gets a commentary with star Maryel McKinley, Sean King and Mike Justice. There are some audio issues at the start but things get better as the track progresses, and it turns out to be a pretty interesting talk. This track goes over what it was like on set and working with the Wintergates, the casting of the picture, some of the characters in the film, the locations and quite a bit more. Between the two talks, a lot of ground is covered.

    Disc one also houses the original home video cut of the film, presented in 1.33.1 fullframe and taken from the ¾” master tape. Where the theatrical cut runs 1:27:56, this version runs 1:38:45 and is offered up in AVC encoded 1080p using up 21.4GBs of space, the audio once again handled by a 16-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track in English, with English subtitles. This version actually looks quite a bit better than the theatrical cut. It’s tape sourced, of course, but it doesn’t have the print damage on top of the softness inherent in the elements used for the transfer.

    Finishing up the extras on disc one are a 35mm theatrical trailer, a few home video trailers and some TV spots in addition to menus and chapter selection options.

    As to what is on the second disc, first up we get Psycho Killer, which is a previously unreleased alternate cut of Boardinghouse from 1984 transferred from the 1" master. This version runs 1:38:08 and it is slightly different from the video cut in how it rearranges the order of a few scenes. Again, it’s an interesting curio. The credits are also different and this version is touted as a ‘twisted comedy.’ It’s also offered up in AVC encoded 1080p, framed at 1.33.1 and takes up 21.3Gbs of space. It’s got 16-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono English audio and English subtitles. Some text on the screen tells us that this is based on a true story,

    If that wasn’t enough, AGFA also throws in Sally & Jess, a previously unreleased film from 1989 from Wintergate and Kalassu transferred from the 16mm answer print in 2k. This is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, the transfer using 20.7GBs of space and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with 16-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono audio and once again with English subtitles. This movie is the polar opposite of Boardinghouse, it’s a completely family friendly picture that tells the story of a boy and a girl who wind up out in the woods when things go bad with their home life after an unexpected tragedy. Being kids, it makes sense that they'd wind up essentially becoming wards of the state to the extent that a social services organization steps in to help, but the system has its flaws and things don't always go right for our poor kids. John and Kalassu both have prominent role in this one as well and while it doesn’t have the cult appeal that Boardinghouse does, it’s actually a massive step up in terms of competency and general filmmaking. The acting is still all over the place but the cinematography, lighting and woodsy locations all help to make this look quite good. And dig that scene in the tavern with the country and western band doing their thing!

    Extras for Sally & Jess includes a commentary with Kalassu, John Wintergate and Sean King that does a nice job of detailing how this film came to be, its history, who appeared in it and why, locations that were used for the shoot, some of the themes and ideas that it explores and more.

    We also get a selection of twenty-one minutes of on-set footage shot during the making of Sally & Jess. Rounding out the extras on the disc are twenty-six minutes of some mighty fine music videos from Kalassu and Wintergate’s various musical endeavors from throughout the years. These are very much worth exploring and run the gamut from simple pop songs to more aggressive rock tracks, sometimes even toying with psychedelia.

    For better or worse, the two-hour-and-thirty-eight minute cut that was contained on the now out of print Slasher//Video DVD release has not been included on this Blu-ray edition, so Boardinghouse completists will want to hold onto that disc for that reason. Ziemba mentions this in his commentary and notes that it isn’t considered to be a legitimate version of the movie, but regardless, it remains a pretty interesting curio for fans of the movie.

    Boardinghouse – The Final Word:

    Boardinghouse is essential for anyone with an affinity for psychotronic horror nonsense or SOV cult film oddities. AGFA have really rolled out the red carpet for this one with their two disc set, loading it up with three different cuts of the film, a bonus feature film in the form of Sally & Jess and a whole lot more! This might not be one you buy to show off your handy home theater system, but those in the know will understand that the content here is worth its weight in weird movie gold.

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

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      Waiting for the six hour cut to be found and released.