MAY 31, 2012
As I've said before, I'm not the world's biggest fan of Herschell Gordon Lewis' films. I like the IDEA of what he does, and the films I've seen have their charms, but they were all "once was enough" affairs at best, and I wouldn't go out of my way to see others beyond daily HMAD requirements. Thus, I'm probably not the target audience for Smash Cut, which is basically a full length homage to his career in splatter movie form, packing in references and even a cameo from the man himself while telling a typically HGL-ian story of a murderous "hero" and the detective trying to nail him for his crimes.
In fact it's apparently close to a remake of HGL's Color Me Blood Red, which I haven't seen. In that film, an artist kills folks for their blood in order to create his masterpieces (thus being a bit of a Bucket Of Blood remake in turn), and here a down on his luck film director (the late David Hess in what appears to be his final film role) seeks realistic body parts for his horror film by using the real thing. So if he needs hands, he kills the screenwriter and uses his, a fresh heart can be found in his producer's bimbo girlfriend, and so on. It's an admittedly fun idea for a movie, and Hess is a perfect choice to play this kind of anti-hero, being that he's the sort of actor you fear on sight thanks to his 70s exploitation work, but also a decent enough actor where he can get you to almost feel sorry for him at times (particularly in the opening scene, where he is openly mocked by audience members attending his newest film as he sits unnoticed in the back of the theater).
But, like HGL's films, it's just too repetitive for my tastes. The detective angle mixes things up a bit, but not nearly enough to overlook that the bulk of the film is just a series of loosely connected sequences in which Hess kills someone who annoyed him (including a film critic!) in order to get some revenge on their personal problem and improve his next film at the same time. But unlike something like Dr. Phibes, the scenes aren't unique or interesting on their own, nor is his motive anywhere near as interesting. And the detective scenes are mostly "I wonder who the killer is" variety, so they fall flat since we already know (luckily, there aren't too many of them, but since they're the only thing breaking up the repetition of the "kill someone and then shoot a scene" cycle of the rest of the movie, it's sort of a shame either way).
However, his fans will likely be in heaven, as it would fit nicely in HGL's oeuvre both on a creative level as well as a technical one. While shot digitally, the garish color scheme apes the look of his (shot on) films quite nicely, and actor Ray Sager (the original Wizard of Gore) is on board for good measure. And according to the commentary, background props, key lines of dialogue, and other bits and pieces are straight out of an HGL film, and it's important to know that none of this stuff distracted me in any way while watching, so you don't NEED a crash course in his films to follow (or even possibly enjoy) this one. That said, it is a bit disheartening to find out that some of the coolest things in this movie (such as a girl who dies blowing a bubble with her gum, which fills up with blood) were just taken from another (The Gore Gore Girls, in that case).
The commentary is one of many extras, and probably the most interesting. Director Lee Demarbre and several cast/crew members (I can't recall them all; the disc menu simply says "director commentary") point out the references, explain why Hess wears a sea captain outfit in one scene, and discuss the usual production stories that commentary fans will expect. Demarbre also heaps praise on adult film actress Sasha Grey, making a rare performance in a non-porn (and keeping her clothes on the entire time), though at times it sounds more like he's in love with her than praising her as an actress; there's a particularly "uh..." bit where he boasts about going to her hotel room and seeing clips from her upcoming movies.
The rest of the stuff is standard fare as well: a whole bunch of deleted scenes that are mostly unnecessary (but thankfully given some "leader" so we know where they would go in the film), a brief but mildly entertaining making of, and some trailers. We also see (part of?) the real killer clown film that Demarbre made on VHS back in the day (it's kind of awesome - I'd love to see one done for real as the clown is a toy, so it could be like Child's Play if done right), and some of Grey's behind the scenes diaries. Needless to say if you dug the film you'd get some value for your DVD purchase, which is all I ask in this day and age with so many low budget films coming along sans any insight into the production at all. Granted, I actually can appreciate not having a lot of extras to wade through on a disc, but most folks don't watch one every day. There are movies I didn't even like much that I got just to enjoy all the supplemental material depicting the work that went into it (i.e. the Star Wars prequels), so keep those extras coming, folks!
What say you?