Replicating a Continental VHS double feature, Vinegar Syndrome gives their limited edition crowdfunding perk Blu-ray/DVD combo set THE EXECUTIONER, PART II/FROZEN SCREAM a standard DVD edition.
Although it would seem an attempted cash-in on THE EXTERMINATOR, THE EXECUTIONER, PART II is actually an in-name-only sequel to Sam Wannamaker's THE EXECUTIONER (1970) which was apparently popular enough with Italian funders to request a follow-up from German war bride turned independent producer/actress Renee Harmon (CINDERELLA 2000) as part of a three-picture deal. This time around "The Exterminator" is a masked vigilante beating, slashing, and shooting pimps, punks, and pushers before blowing them up with grenades. While the public at large applauds his efforts, The Exterminator is hunted by the police and by the city's one and only crime lord Casallas (Frisco Estes, KISS DADDY GOODBYE) – also known as "The Tattoo Man" by the hookers he is fond of maiming – since the police crackdown has brought all of his operations to a standstill. On the case is Detective Roger O'Malley (Chris Mitchum, THE DAY TIME ENDED) who is under pressure by the corrupt police commissioner (Aldo Ray, HAUNTED) and dogged by reporter Celia Amherst (Harmon) who believes "The Executioner" will inspire vigilante copycats. O'Malley is so preoccupied with the investigation that he overlooks both the increasing instability of fellow Vietnam vet turned mechanic Mike (Antoine John Mottet, BRUCE LEE'S DRAGONS FIGHT BACK) and the drug habit of his gap-toothed teenage daughter Laura (Bianca Phillipi) whose desperation has made her vulnerable to dealer/pimp Vance (Frank Albert) who procures young girls for "The Tattoo Man".
Shot on 35mm short ends with heavy post-dubbing mostly by actors who could not give a decent performance much less dub one – with results that seem amateurish even in comparison to director James Bryan's earlier DON'T GO IN THE WOODS – THE EXECUTIONER, PART II isn't good bad, but it certainly is never dull. The opening Vietnam flashback features helicopters and a lot of gunfire but is just as unconvincing in setting as Mike's nickname "Psycho" written on his helmet in magic marker on a piece of adhesive tape. The film's sex and violence (and sexualized violence) is heavier on jostling and the overlapping jeers of its punk characters than T&A or gore beyond splashes of paint, and the grenade explosions utilize the same explosion insert. The script seems uncertain as to the identity of The Executioner, seeming to set up Mike as a red herring through a killing that seems more personally motivated, and even suggests the possibility that Roger himself – haunted a lesser degree by his experience in Vietnam – could be the vigilante but his character seems too honorable to want to falsely pin the killings on his best friend once he links him to the death of one of the punks. Vance's apartment is decorated with a poster for Zachary Youngblood's HOT TEENAGE ASSETS (aka DEBBIE DOES ANAL).
Although IMDb lists the production date as 1975 for FROZEN SCREAM and at times looks like a regional production from even earlier in the decade, Bryan states in the interview that this film was produced by Harmon while he was working on DON'T GO IN THE WOODS (also available from Vinegar Syndrome) which had a somewhat protracted production period before its release in 1981. Detective Kevin McGuire (Thomas McGowan, DIE HARD DRACULA) is investigating the disappearance of two medical students (Bill Oliver and Bob Rochelle, both of director Frank Roach's only other directorial effort NOMAD RIDERS), leading him to Dr. Tom Girard (Wolf Muser, HOLLYWOOD SINS), the husband of McGuire's former fiancée Ann (Lynne Kocol). The doctor is murdered before McGuire can question him, but the detective decides that solving his murder might be a way of winning Ann back if he can get to her. Although Tom's death was determined to be a heart attack, Ann claims to have been attacked and drugged after she found him by two hooded men who she believes also murdered her husband. Ann is now under the care of Dr. Sven Johnsson (Lee James, THE FEMALE BUNCH) and Dr. Lil Stanhope (Harmon again) who are conducting a study in extended consciousness. As Ann and McGuire look into the link between her husband – who they discover confessed to friend Father O'Brian (Wayne Liebman) and was refused absolution for whatever he said – and the missing students, she is tormented by Tom's apparition and threats from the hooded men. At Dr. Johnsson's annual Halloween party which always culminates in an All Saints Day pagan bonfire, Ann and McGuire must discover whether magic or science is responsible for the horrors they are about to confront.
Although the premise might have been more effectively handled by just about any other seventies/eighties exploitation director, FROZEN SCREAM does possess some intermittent atmosphere with its mix of science and esotericism in a sunny California setting and its downbeat finale. This, however, is quickly undone by mostly poor performances that have been post-dubbed by the actors matching their already poor inflections (Sunny Bartholomew's nurse Catharin is supposed to be icy, but she loses any allure as soon as she speaks). McGuire's narration comes in at the oddest points, even interrupting spoken dialogue, suggesting it was written to fill in holes in the plot rather than to give a noir-ish touch to the original script. The amateurish 16mm photography of Roberto A. Quezada (light years away from the slick imaging he provide to THE UNSEEN the same year, but James Bryan is also credited with additional photography and may be more to blame) manages a couple creative angles during the climax, but the tension is more effectively aided by some of the same cues composer H. Kingsley Thurber supplied for Bryan's DON'T GO IN THE WOODS. Johnsson's party features some cheesy, scene-stealing dancing to dire Doo Wop accompaniment while Bill Luce (Harmon's later NIGHT OF TERROR) provides some graphic if serviceable gore effects.
Released theatrically by Tom Ward's 21st Century Film Corporation, THE EXECUTIONER, PART II and FROZEN SCREAM arrived on VHS as part of a $49.95 double feature that also included THE SLAYER/SCALPS, JAILBAIT BABYSITTER/THE STUDENT BODY, and SWEET SUGAR/ESCAPE FROM A WOMEN'S PRISON (all paired down slightly to fit both features on a T-160). Mastered in 2K from the original 35mm camera negatives, THE EXECUTIONER PART II looks bright, crisp, colorful, and virtually spot-less in Vinegar Syndrome's progressive, anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen encode. The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track has a trace of hiss but is generally clean, with post-dubbed dialogue coming across more clearly than the music and ill-synchronized sound effects (a defect of the mix not the disc). At just under eighty-six minutes, the film runs seven minutes longer than the version on Amazon Prime (which is presumably the Continental double-feature cut). The film is accompanied by a theatrical trailer (2:44) and "The Executioner's Song" (15:21), the aforementioned Bryan interview in which he describes how war bride Harmon went from organizing the army wives in theatrical productions while her husband was stationed in Texas to teaching acting when her husband became a Sunkist executive in Los Angeles. Coming up with an idea to produce a film with her students contributing money for parts in front of and behind the camera, Harmon approached Scott Sound for equipment and met Bryan who would helm her first feature LADY STREETFIGHTER. Of THE EXECUTIONER, PART II, he recalls coming onto it with two weeks of prep time and the substantial contributions of stuntman/stunt coordinator Dan Bradley (THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM). Mastered from the original 16mm negatives, FROZEN SCREAM looks as underexposed, grainy, and grimy as it always did but the blood reds reveal that the otherwise subdued colors are part of the art direction and wardrobe choices. The post-dubbed Dolby Digital 1.0 track does what it can with post-dubbed dialogue and Thurber's familiar music coming across more forcefully than the rest of the sound design. (Eric Cotenas)
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