MAY 22, 2007
During the first week of this whole ‘Horror Movie a Day’ thing, I looked at my Tivo “Horror” wishlist and saw that Bob Clark’s Deathdream (also known as about 900 other titles) would be airing. Naturally, I… did whatever you do to schedule a Tivo recording on your wishlist (seriously, it’s like a 9 step process. "Record?" Badoop! "Confirm?" Badoop! "OK, it’ll record." Badoop! "Go back?" Badoop!)
Anyway, after it had recorded, I sat down to watch it and saw that it was actually airing as the movie for a sort of syndicated horror variety show called "Horror Kung Fu Theatre". At first I was quite excited, as I am a big fan of Zacherley, Elvira, etc. and frequently bemoan the seeming demise of “Horror Hosts”. So I began to watch. After a few minutes I realized that these guys lacked the charm and talent of Elvira and such, so I mentally (or maybe verbally; with me it’s a strong possibility) thanked them for their effort and fast forwarded to the start of the actual movie. After 20 minutes of “Kung Fu” elements, Deathdream finally began. Five minutes in, they went to commercial. When they came back, it was the Kung Fu people again. After another 10 minutes of their shtick, they went back to the movie. Having never seen it, I wasn’t sure if the film was just poorly edited or if the Kung Fu folks had just skipped a chunk, as everything seemed to be further along in the story. Not thinking much of it, I continued to watch, when all of a sudden, mid-scene, they faded to a bad magician. What the fuck?
Make a long story short, this continued throughout the entire film. All in all, maybe 25 minutes of the 80+ minute film was actually shown. The rest was commercials and skits. Even the ending of the movie was cut out in order to show a ninja singing or something. Needless to say, I was appalled. Smoothly cutting out a scene or two to fit a two hour block w/commercials and host segments (like MST3k does) is forgivable. Cutting away in the middle of scenes (and bizarrely, sometimes they would cut away from their ‘talent’ in the middle of their performance and go back into the movie!!!), removing entire 10-20 minute chunks of the movie with no rhyme or reason, and cutting out of the movie for good with 10 minutes left is just asinine. Via their Myspace, I emailed the show host and fairly politely asked why they bothered showing a movie at all since they were clearly more interested in showcasing their friends, and he berated me and more or less told me to fuck myself. Well hey, who am I to question a singing ninja who airs at 2 in the morning.
Luckily, the New Beverly showed the film in its entirety last night, so I was able to see the whole thing. And I liked it a lot. While Joe Dante’s Homecoming episode of Masters of Horror basically remade it with better makeup and a shorter running time, it’s still an effective and quite depressing film about the effects of the Vietnam War on the average American family. Sure, being a Clark film, there’s a lot of offbeat humor, but it doesn’t take away from the impact. The ending, which the singing ninja deemed less interesting than him and his friends goofing off on sub-public access quality video, is particularly haunting/sad.
I urge everyone to seek out and watch this film. Some of the titles it may be listed under are The Night Andy Came Home, Dead of Night, Night Walk, The Veteran, Whispers (???), and Soif de Sang. Whatever the title, just be sure you don't watch it on anything involving a ninja.
It’s a shame Bob Clark focused more on comedies (and then, family comedies) in his later years, as all three of his horror films are highly entertaining and completely unique (at the time anyway). I would have loved to have seen more from him. But alas.
Eli Roth is supposedly involved in a remake of this. With the current political nature (whatever it may be) the film could be quite interesting, as long as Eli retains the (subtle, unlike Dante’s film) social/political angle in lieu of exploiting Jordan Ladd (whiich I don't have any problem with otherwise, for the record). Clark himself was planning on a remake of Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, so I have no idea if that is going forward, but that too could be hilariously updated for today. Have a group of interpretive dancers get killed by zombies! I’ll love it!!
What say you?