LUTHER THE GEEK, a "film with a foul bite!", is the latest of the Troma pick-ups to hit special edition Blu-ray/DVD combo courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome.
The next time you call someone a geek, reflect on the origins of the word in early twentieth century American sideshows where men who hit the bottom of the barrel were willing to bite the heads off of live chickens and drink their blood for a swig of booze. LUTHER THE GEEK is a story about a different kind of "geek", the titular character (Edward Terry), a serial murderer who bites out the throats of his human victims with razor-sharp metal dentures. No sooner is paroled after serving twenty years as a model prisoner than he exhibits antisocial behavior from stealing to ripping out the throat of an elderly lady waiting for the bus. Stowing away in the backseat of the Widow Lawson's (Joan Roth) car, Luther has a go at her chickens before attacking her. He is forced to leave her tied up when her daughter Beth (SUPERBOY's Stacy Haiduk) makes a surprise visit from college with her boyfriend Rob (Thomas Mills, GANG RELATED). They fail to take note of the house's disarray and jump into the shower together while mom is tied up in the next room. Lurking Luther decides he will need to split them up to have some fun, but a vengeful mother and a concerned trooper (Jerry Clarke, ROAD HARD) are determined to deliver the "Chicken Man" to Colonel Sanders.
An unexpectedly effective Troma pick-up (it actually went out on VHS originally from short-lived Quest Entertainment who also released HAPPY HELL NIGHT and THE NIGHT BRINGS CHARLIE) from the director of THE CHILDREN, LUTHER THE GEEK has an original madman who remains menacing despite his clucking and crowing, some surprising gore (the animal violence is entirely simulated), and a suspenseful third act followed by one of the most WTF resolutions. The film's slick lensing is the work of David Knox who got his start on THE TOXIC AVENGER and then served as camera and Steadicam operator on a several mainstream films throughout the nineties – including genre titles like THE EXORCIST III, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and IN DREAMS – and more recently on network television. The make-up effects artist is uncredited since, according to the director, he was not proud of the work, but IMDb lists him as Mike Tristano who did effects on THINGS but has far more prolific credits as an armorer on independent and mainstream films; but the brutality is really more disturbing than the gore. Director Carlton Albright's son Nathaniel (billed as "Nat KT") appears briefly as a grocery store stock boy (was also one of THE CHILDREN) while his younger son William appears as a young Luther in the prologue.
Released on VHS in 1990 by Quest Entertainment and then by Troma on DVD, LUTHER THE GEEK has been scanned and restored in 2K from the original 35mm negative by Vinegar Syndrome, and their 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 transfer shows off just how slick this film was meant to look over Troma's aged master with the use of light and shadow in the climactic chicken coop sequence looking more professional than it did on video. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track is very clean, teasing out the more the synth score and what few subtle effects the sound design has to offer during the suspense scenes. Optional English SDH subtitles are also available.
All of the relevant extras from Troma's DVD release have been carried over while discarding the dreadful Troma promotional stuff. Director Albright (5:12) appears in short video interview in which he reveals that the concept for the film came from a discussion with his children about the origin of the word "geek" and that the original title was THE FREAK. Albright's son Will appears in a shorter interview (2:40) discussing his role, his friendship with actor Terry, and being on set for much of the production to pick up Terry's mannerisms to play the younger version of him. Albright provides onscreen commentary to four sets of outtakes, revealing how the farmhouse's shower was a set and how he got the Haiduk and Mills at ease with each other during the "Shower Scene" (7:30), he reveals that he made a mistake letting the uncredited effects artist film the "Old Lady Bite Scene" (2:38), and that the two stunt double he hired looked nothing like Terry and Clarke but ended up choreographing the fight for the actors to perform themselves in the "Fight Scene" (8:50), and discusses Terry's reticence to be squibbed for the final scene (1:12). Also included is a video trailer for THE CHILDREN (0:55).
New to Vinegar Syndrome's package is an optional introduction by Albright (0:38) and "A Conversation with Carlton" (6:36) in which he reiterates some of the same factoids from the earlier extras while also expanding on his problems with the effects technician who wanted to leave two weeks early and ultimately did not want credit on the film even though Albright ended up liking the effects. The main extra is a new audio commentary by Albright but he has told several of these stories so many times that he repeats them almost verbatim during the track while also revealing that his mother-in-law allowed him to shoot at her farmhouse because the renters had trashed it, they had to change the title from THE FREAK because of the threat of a lawsuit regarding Tod Browning's THE FREAKS, and that Whitey Styles is an actual person and not a pseudonym for him as IMDb suggests on the credits for both LUTHER THE GEEK and THE CHILDREN (the latter film also warrants some discussion on the track and has us hoping Vinegar Syndrome has it on their slate). Actor Jerry Clarke appears in a new interview (10:17) in which he discusses how the film (which got him his SAG card), his work as an artist and a singer, and how having other talents to fall back on can keep an actor sane between intermittent gigs. The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (2:26). The package includes a reversible cover and a DVD copy of the film and extras. (Eric Cotenas)
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