Saturday, 23 December 2017


Vinegar Syndrome are specialising in restoring films (horror, exploitation, and sex) that most other labels would not even glance at, and in doing so they occasionally exhume a real gem.  Disconnected is one such product in my mind.  The first feature of Gorman Bechard (VS have also put out another of his early films, Psychos in Love), Disconnected was made in the early 80s for very little money and actors/crew that were largely friends of one another.  I first came across it in the video collection of someone I knew in the 90s, and was quite intrigued with it at the time.  I later saw it again online before being surprised when VS announced they had rescanned the 16mm source in 2K for a Blu-ray release - I never thought I would see this one!

The story, based on a tale by Virginia Gilroy who never appeared to write anything afterwards, concerns a young woman called Alicia (played by Francis Raines who later turned up in The Mutilator) who accepts a date with someone who spotted her in a nightclub, not realising that he has a fetish for butchering his girlfriends.  She is also being plagued by strange phonecalls that appear to be the doing of the nut who will be wanting to bring her life to an end before long, but it doesn't turn out to be quite so 'straightforward'.
Frances Raines is great here, taking on both the role of Alicia and her more glamorous sister.  She is appealing as a person as well as a woman, almost reminding me of a slightly more normal-looking version of the young Jennifer Connelly.  Because Alicia is so appealing, the viewer actually ends up caring about her to some extent, and does not want Franklin to get his murdering mitts on her!  She's also pretty cool in the sense that she's into movies and works in a video store.  The film is clearly super low budget, but manages to conjure up a grindhouse atmosphere that's quite thrilling for those of us into that kind of thing.  The 80s-esque soundtrack is a lot of fun, and there are plenty of amusing segments, whether it is the cheese-fest disco scene early on, or the intercut sequences of the detective on the case who is quite looking forward to a holiday once it's all over.  Not at all a slasher movie, it worms its way almost into Repulsion territory by its final act.  The film does not conclude itself in a conventional fashion, which may frustrate some viewers, but I personally like the surreal edge that wraps things up.

Vinegar Syndrome have yet again hit the ball out of the park with the package.  Available online as a web exclusive, the slipcase edition is beautiful, the case itself very high quality (a non-slip version will possibly be out at some point).  VS have scanned the 16mm elements at 1.85:1, which is probably the director's preferred means of viewing, although part of me does lament the absence of an opened-up 1.33:1 option (it makes an appearance in some of the extras) - a small complaint all told.  Despite the 2K credentials don't expect an exquisite image: this one is very rough, grainy, and frequently obtuse.  The mono audio track, transferred at a massive 96kHz in DTS-HD MA, does well in its own right, the oppressive ticking of the clock in Alicia's room much more pronounced than you will probably remember it from viewing via video cassette.  Quite an important constituent of the feature, the music sounds quite good also.

The pack contains a booklet with an essay by Art Ettinger, alongside reversible cover art for the amaray case itself, while the discs (both Blu-ray and DVD here) include a commentary track, 40 second introduction to the film from Berchard and his associate producer/assistant director Carmine Carpobianco, an interesting 11 minute interview with Berchard, a further 11 minute interview with Carpobianco, a 'short' film called Twenty Questions by the director which he himself thought lost, and a 17 minute Q&A that took place earlier in 2017 during a screening of the piece.  Twenty Questions, shot around 1988, actually runs for an hour, and features non-stop interviews with random people who answered a newspaper ad as they sit alone in a room with video monitors simply providing personal perspectives on such eclectic topics as fur coats, racial slurs, etc.  I thought it was going to be tough viewing, with no variation in technique, but it turns out to be quite a compelling and candid look at the minds of a cross-section of Americans in the late eighties.  As a collector's package and for the main film itself, this release is a must-get for fans of grindhouse American horror.

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