This is the second feature film from director Jeff Lieberman, whose first was SQUIRM (1976), one of the better "nature strikes back" thrillers of the 70s. Here he takes a turn for the weirder and delivers BLUE SUNSHINE, a unique and memorable horror flick with an unusual concept: very bad acid having an effect on trippers a decade after the fact, causing them to loose control in the most extreme manner. Feeling something like the better vintage work of David Cronenberg at times (without the overdone gross-outs), it's easy to see why BLUE SUNSHINE has garnished a considerable cult following despite a limited theatrical release quickly followed by buried late-night TV airings.
Various suburbians are acting very strange, losing their hair and going bonkers and worse yet, killing family and friends in rages of superhuman strength. At a party in a secluded house, an obnoxious crooner (Billy Crystal's brother Richard) goes nuts when his toupee is yanked, causing him to scram. After various partygoers go searching for him, he comes back and slaughters three women that stayed behind, shoving one of them in the fireplace! Jerry Zipkin (future director Zalman King of "Red Shoe Diaries" fame) witnesses his old pal's psychotic nature, and after fighting him off in the middle road, he gets propelled in the way of an oncoming truck. Now suspected for murder of the chrome-domed maniac and the trio of young ladies, Jerry becomes a fugitive on the run.
Hiding out in the city, Jerry gets help from a girlfriend (Deborah Winters) who was at the party early on and knows that he is innocent. In the meantime, Jerry puts together his own investigation and after putting two and two together, discovers that all the cases have ties to a form of acid called "Blue Sunshine" an experimental LSD which was distributed around Stanford University in 1967. A local politician (Mark Goddard of "Lost In Space" fame) represents a common link, and his ex-wife becomes a crazed babysitter (Ann Cooper), and his campaign manager (Ray Young) transforms into a hulking madman gone berserk in a discotheque!
BLUE SUNSHINE is a low budget effort that is extremely creepy and unnerving in its execution without having to be graphic, thanks to the true talent behind the cameras. It's definitely an indescribable, energetic genre piece with some disturbing images and scenarios (the thought of what ghastly site could be hiding under a hairpiece is indeed a frightening motif initself). Zalman King is an unlikely yet effective lead in the Hitchcock"Wrong Man" vein, and the rest of the supporting cast is made up of some excellent TV actors who you usually don't see in low budget horror films: Robert Walden ("Lou Grant"), Charles Siebert ("Trapper John, M.D."), and in a cameo, Alice Ghostley(!) ("Bewitched").
Synapse Films has presented BLUE SUNSHINE in a fully remastered Anamorphic edition, letterboxed at 1.78:1. The transfer was supervised by the director, and although the film's negative no longer exists, a 35mm print source was used. All things considered, the quality looks very satisfying with stable colors, minimal grain and an extensive digital cleanup was performed (shown in a remarkable "before and after" comparison added as a supplement). The audio is flawless, and both a 5.1 track and a mono track are included.
There are a number of great extras here, starting with a full length commentary with director Lieberman and moderator Howard Berger. This commentary stays right on track from beginning to end, and a lot of interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits are revealed. Lieberman also gives a 30-minute video interview ("Lieberman on Lieberman"), in which he discusses his entire career, and longtime fans (and low budget horror fans in general) are gonna love this. Also included is a short film (also with director's commentary) called "The Ringer" that Lieberman shot on 16mm in the early 70s. It's an anti-drug "message" short with an a unique angle, and features David Groh from the old "Rhoda" series! A still gallery of rare production photos is included, as is the original trailer and a booklet with some affectionate liner notes. On a separate CD is the original soundtrack with music by Charles Gross. A long out of print gem has finally made it to DVD, and what a wonderful package it is! (George R. Reis)
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