Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Vinegar Syndrome - DEATHROW GAMESHOW and HOBGOBLINS on Blu-ray ""

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Vinegar Syndrome - DEATHROW GAMESHOW and HOBGOBLINS on Blu-ray

This one is a cult movie from way back and by that I mean the kind of outlandish flick that would be stacked side by side with DEATH RACE 2000 and STAY TUNED in some specialty section on some video store shelf. It’s one of those crazy dark comedies from the VHS era that plays on the idea that people will watch anything on television even if they find it reprehensible. The premise is that a popular TV show called “LIVE OR DIE” features prison inmates with life or death sentences being brought on to entertain audiences with a chance to save their own lives or be executed in various ways on the air. It’s something like a very twisted version of Let’s Make A Deal where the convicts answer questions or choose what’s behind the curtain to see if they might get some sort of reprieve or get killed in some horrible way instead.
Interestingly the movie doesn’t just stick to the studio and also shows the life of LIVE OR DIE host Chuck Toedan outside of his highly rated program. What’s unexpected is that while the world that the show exists in is certainly strange and heightened, there is also a lot of backlash against LIVE OR DIE that Chuck has to deal with. Every day he is accosted by protesters, drivers in traffic and is even brought on talk shows to defend his work. While he says that violent crime has dropped by thirty percent since LIVE OR DIE has been on the air, many people are still outraged by it and find it morally corrupt and horrifying. Funny thing is, you’d never know from the crowds that pack the three tapings a day that go on at  the TV Station KSICK. During the segments of the film where the show is playing, we see this cheeky and upbeat approach to the death and dismemberment of the inmates. Off the air though, there is a sarcastic, but somewhat “real” (if goofily comic) approach to what the response would be to such a horrifying show. Chuck gets 47 phone threats a week as well as in-person attempts on his life on a regular basis. I was reminded vaguely of THE GONG SHOW MOVIE and Chuck is very much like Chuck Barris and how he is similarly shown being approached all the time about being on his show as well. This movie is much darker of course, as I mentioned and it makes for an intriguing jet-black comedic take on FACES OF DEATH and a game show combined. The craziness of the behind-the-scenes on LIVE OR DIE together with the outrageousness of the show itself makes for a memorable and still relevant statement on popular media.

Disc Features:
As with all VS releases, this disc has some nice supplements. The commentary track is good and the making-of is solid too. From an early low-budget feature (A POLISH VAMPIRE IN BURBANK) that found it's way into the hands of an exec at the notorious Crown Interntational Pictures on through production and cast recollections - it's provides a nice picture of how DEATHROW GAMESHOW came to being and what the day-to-day was like.

• Region free Blu-ray and DVD combo pack
• Scanned, restored & preserved in 2k from 35mm original camera negative.
• Commentary track with director Mark Pirro, John McCafferty (actor) & Robyn Blythe (actress).
• “Revisiting Deathrow Gameshow” – 32 minute making-of documentary featuring interviews with 
John McCafferty, Robyn Blythe, Darwyn Carson, as well as Mark Pirro, Craig Bassuk, David Vaughn and Glen Campbell.
• 2015 director’s cut of DEATHROW GAMESHOW
• Multiple director introductions.
• “Buns” 1978 (short film directed by Mark Pirro)
• “The Spy Who Did it Better” 1979 (short film directed by Mark Pirro)
• Original theatrical trailer
• TV spot
• Image gallery
• Director bio
• Reversible cover artwork
• English SDH Subtitles
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HOBGOBLINS (1988; Rick Sloane)
As is the case with many people, I first came upon this movie via the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 gang and found it to be one of the most hilarious things I'd ever seen. In the wake of the massive success of GREMLINS, we saw tons of other films trying to cash in on the "little creatures" type of story. Movies like GHOULIES, CRITTTERS, and MUNCHIES popped up en masse and some became franchises of their own. Others became nothing but videotapes to occupy video store shelves. Since the VCR boom of the 80s was so huge, a lot of lower budget movies could easily be produced and recoup their costs quickly. Director Rick Sloane had already made a couple movies (BLOOD THEATRE and THE VISITANTS) prior to digging out an old script idea for HOBGOBLINS. He had apparently written it prior to GREMLINS with no puppets in it and it was something more inspired by DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK and the like. The idea of these creatures that could enrapture people by making their fantasies come to life before their eyes was all there, but he added the creatures as puppets that were very much designed to look like Gremlins. He would go on to direct the VICE ACADEMY series (six films!) after this one. HOBGOBLINS is part of his early campy work and the tongue-in-cheekness is turned up to eleven for sure. I think that the first time I saw it, I just thought it was goofy and inept, but after going through this Blu-ray (with a great transfer by the way), I see more now of what Sloane intended and was doing intentionally. It's still a tiny-budgeted movie with a cast of iffy actors, but it is nonetheless quite funny and can easily be enjoyed outside of a MST3K context. Oh, and just in case you didn't realize it, Sloane made a sequel to HOBGOBLINS in 2009 (see the trailer at the bottom of this post).

Disc Features:
• Region free Blu-ray and DVD combo pack
• Scanned, restored & preserved in 2k from 35mm original camera negative
• Archival commentary track with director Rick Sloane
• “Hobgoblins Revisited” brand new making-of featurette
• Brand new interview with hobgoblin creature fabricator, Kenneth J. Hall
• “Hobgoblins: The Making of a Disasterpiece” featurette
• “Hobgoblins Invade Comic-Con” featurette
• Trailer
• Reverse cover artwork
• English SDH Subtitles

or here:
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