Director: Douglas Curtis
Shriek Show/Media Blasters

Originally released as THE HAZING featuring poster art selling the film as a sports drama (the lead character is a track runner), THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE CAMPUS CORPSE is not a horror film despite subsequent attempts to sell the film that way. A hard picture to classify, after limited theatrical play and an airing on “The CBS Late Movie,” it did show up on home video (as THE CAMPUS CORPSE), with a skull face on the cover which again emphasized the horrors not to be found within. Media Blasters has now rescued this interesting little film from obscurity as a special edition with plentiful extras.

Young level-headed Craig Lewis (onetime Disney star Jeff East) gets a scholarship to attend the same college his older brother David Hayward (EATEN ALIVE) was thrown out of years earlier for protesting the war. Craig becomes friendly with Barney (Charlie Martin Smith, AMERICAN GRAFFITI), as both are to be pledges for the Delts fraternity. Delts brothers Rod (Brad David, THE CANDY SNATCHERS) and his bullying sidekick Phil (Jim Boelsen) concoct an initiation where the two pledges are to run down a mountain wearing nothing but jockstraps and their sneakers. Barney falls and is injured badly, so Craig leaves him behind and brings back help in the form of Rod and Phil. On return, Barney is found dead, and Craig unwillingly follows his would-be frat brothers’ scheme to freeze the body and falsify his presence back at the university.

Again, since it’s not a horror film (not a drop of blood is witnessed) and it mixes drama with black comedy, THE CASE OF THE CAMPUS CORPSE is a tough film to classify and was a disappointment for those who rented the VHS tape in the 1980s, thinking it was some sort of slasher yarn. The PG-rated independent film’s strong points come from its storyline (it was originally written for television) and its prankish antics, but there’s a lot of filler to make up the running time. The performances by the young yet experienced cast also makes it more fun to watch (who doesn't like Charlie Martin Smith?), but anybody expecting a gorefest (even the new DVD cover suggests just that) will be disappointed. It’s interesting to note that the vampire’s Californian abode from COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE is seen here as the Delts fraternity house, and there’s small appearances by Hal Smith (“The Andy Griffith Show”) as an ice man and the late “Eight is Enough” star Lani O'Grady as a student waiting in line for books.

Although there is a disclaimer at the beginning of the DVD stating that age has not been kind to the print materials used for this transfer, THE CASE OF THE CAMPUS CORPSE looks decent enough here. It’s presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement and colors are nicely saturated, though fleshtones sometimes look a bit muted (it seems as though the original print source was faded but colors have been boosted). There are a number of abrasions on the print source, but nothing at all too distracting, if anything, giving the proceedings more of a “grindhouse” feel. The English mono audio track is adequate but does have some scratchiness and hiss on occasion.

Most of the supplements on the disc were produced in association with Code Red, whose regular DVD releases are now being distributed by BCI, so as can be expected, the extra mile was went. Lee Christian moderates the commentary with director Douglas Curtis, as well as actors Jeff East, David Hayward and Jim Boelsen. The commentary is a very jovial one (especially with Boelsen’s sharp sense of humor thoughout) and it seems the film was a happy experience for all involved. All four participants are also interviewed on camera for an extended documentary entitled “Directing the Campus Corpse: a Look Back at The Hazing.” There are some nice personal reflections and anecdotes here, much of it not covered in the commentary. A shorter featurette, “Campus Corpse: Alive & Well at the New Beverly Cinema,” features Curtis, Hayward and Boelsen doing a Q&A after a theatrical showing, and then greeting and signing autographs for fans outside the theater. Rounding out the extras is the alternate opening title sequence under original THE HAZING title (the one the director prefers), a rare original trailer, a photo/artwork gallery (including shots from the 2008 commentary reunion) and a batch of trailers for other Shriek Show releases. (George R. Reis)