ON DVD & BLU-RAY
Absurd (1981) Blu Ray (88 Films)
Greek national Mikos Stenopolis (George Eastman) is being pursued across America by a mysterious priest (played by Edmund Purdom). When Mikos tries to pull himself over a metal gate to lose his pursuer he ends up being impaled on the spikes. He then shows up at the front door of the Bennett family and collapses in their hallway as his intestines spill out.
When he is taken to the local hospital the doctors are amazed at how quickly his flesh regenerates. Unfortunately, they learn the hard way that Mikos is a psychotic genetically-modified killer as he pushes a cranial drill through the head of one of the nurses. The priest - who has been taken into custody by Sgt. Engleman (Charles Borromel) on suspicion of seeking to harm Mikos - spills the beans about the latter’s dangerous powers to him and his lieutenants. He says that the only way to stop this crazed monster is to shoot him right in the brain.
By this time however he has escaped and is on the rampage again. When he is accidentally run over by the Bennetts’ neighbour he seeks revenge, and ends up busting into the family’s house and killing their babysitter (Cindy Leadbetter) with a well-placed pickaxe. It’s up to young son Willy (Kasimir Berger), older daughter Katia (Katya Berger) - who is confined to a stretcher due to a physical affliction - and the latter’s nurse Emily (Annie Belle) to fend off this “boogieman”, or die trying.
Watch a trailer:
This 1980 Italian gore flick Anthropophagus was evidently lucrative enough to warrant this pseudo-sequel. I say “pseudo-sequel” since, while the plot and characters have no nominal connection with the original, Absurd focuses on another crazed, monstrous Greek man - again played by George Eastman (real name Luigi Montefiori), who again also wrote the script. Again Joe D’Amato (real name Aristide Massaccesi) is the director. Again the extreme gore scenes caused it to be banned as part of the early 1980s “Video Nasty scare” in the UK, thus netting it considerable notoriety.
As with Anthropophagus, the budget is paltry even by early 80s Italian exploitation standards, the camerawork is largely perfunctory and the pacing is slow. There are far too many scenes involving characters just walking and/or talking without ever really adding anything beyond padding out the thin story to feature length. For example, there are no less than three separate lines of dialogue where we’re told that Mikos needs to get shot in the head to stop him regenerating. I think we’ve got the message on that one!
The film is supposed to be set in America but it’s quite clearly shot in Italy with the few accoutrements the production could afford to make itself look like it was set there: one police car, a couple of red fire hydrants and some stock footage of an American football game seen playing on the TV. The houses, furnishings and other cars are all clearly European. D’Amato seems to be deliberately poking fun at the whole production situation when he shows a family sitting down to a dinner of spaghetti in front of the TV playing American football!
On the other hand, whereas Anthropophagus was painfully boring for the most part this is at least somewhat more entertaining. Sure, it’s still a bit yawn-inducing at times, but at least the gory moments are more evenly placed throughout the film. Gruesome as hell it most certainly is as various characters suffer from an array of implements being embedded in their heads in a series of lengthy closeups, and one unfortunate woman gets cooked inside an oven - her face becoming visibly more blistered as the scene goes on. The gore isn’t always convincing but the sheer intensity of some of the scenes manages to be effectively disturbing. D’Amato also injects some pacing and tension into the last half hour, climaxing in a rather suspenseful battle of wits.
On the whole however there’s little reason to watch Absurd apart from the gore. Carlo Maria Cordio’s Goblin-style synth-rock score is less nerve-jangling than irritatingly bombastic. Eastman’s acting is similarly OTT with a heavy emphasis on glaring into the camera. It’s strictly for fans of this sort of trashy horror.
Runtime: 94 mins (English version)/88 mins (Italian version)
Dir: Joe D’Amato
Script: George Eastman
Starring: George Eastman, Annie Belle, Edmund Purdom, Charles Borromel, Katya Berger, Kasimir Berger, Hanja Kochansky, Ian Danby, Ted Rusoff, Cindy Leadbetter, Michele Soavi
Definitely at the better end of the scale when it comes to picture quality in 88 Films releases. This crowdfunded 2K restoration generally looks fabulous with lots of rich hues of yellow and brown standing out in the house interior scenes. The blood looks incredibly moist and viscous, the reds eye-burningly cherry-bright, and during one moment we can see the very fibres in the upholstery of an old sofa. Some of the darker scenes are a bit weak but overall it’s a very sterling job.
Comparatively disappointing, with some soundtrack crackle.
We get an enclosed booklet with an article called “Video Nasties: Sleazy Does It” by Calum Waddell. It’s an enjoyable essay which looks at the reactionary politics that kicked off the “Video Nasties Scare”, the legal proceedings placed against films of Absurd’s ilk and the resultant trade in contraband versions of these newly-banned items. Calum also looks at some titles and (by and large) wonders what all the fuss was about. There are also brief reviews of the 39 films that were successfully prosecuted during the scandal. An essential read for horror fans.
On the disc itself are the following:
Audio Commentary by The Hysteria Continues
This lively and hilarious commentary by The Hysteria Continues team talks about Absurd’s censorship history, the slasher movie era that it fitted into, and the prolific career (including countless porn movies, often under pseudonyms) of Joe D’Amato. Lots of fun pieces of trivia here, including that the son, daughter and mother in the family terrorised by Eastman’s character were the real-life family of William Berger, an Austrian-born actor who appeared in countless Italian movies. We also learn that the soap opera scenes the young son watches with his babysitter were in fact taken from a D’Amato porn film called Sesso Nero - a film none too appropriate for his age. Lots of fun.
The Absurd Files: An Interview with Luigi Montefiori aka George Eastman
Luigi talks about his long-term screenwriting and acting relationship with director Aristide Massaccesi aka Joe D’Amato, and a little about Michele Soavi (who can be briefly seen playing a biker in Absurd). He’s a frank but modest interviewee who ends on a sad note by mentioning Aristide’s fatal heart attack that resulted from a nervous breakdown after the American film producers he was working for lost some reels of footage he shot.
Michele Soavi Interview
Michele talks about his career, starting from his small role as a biker in Absurd (where the production budget was so small that he had to bring his own bike). He goes on to talk about his directorial debut Stagefright which was produced by Aristide Massaccesi’s company Filmirage. The film won a prize at the Le Festival international du film fantastique d'Avoriaz, and brought him to the attention of Terry Gilliam (whom he worked as assistant director for on The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and The Brothers Grimm).
This one’s strictly for a certain cult horror audience - but that audience will certainly appreciate the presentation here. It’s a solid effort from a generally erratic Blu Ray label.